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Microsoft Azure Stack tweaks causing delays, IT pros still hopeful

Improvements to Microsoft's Azure Stack hybrid cloud platform are coming slower than anticipated, but IT shops still hope to get their hands on it sooner rather than later.

Microsoft has finally pushed out an updated preview of its AzureStack hybrid cloud platform, but users still must...

wait until sometime in the first half of next year for the finished product. 

The upcoming product -- considered perhaps the most strategically important product in the company's cloud portfolio -- essentially allows organizations to deliver Azure-based services from their own data centers, while giving IT shops public cloud resources they can scale up and down depending on demand.

Originally Microsoft hoped to deliver the finished version by the end of this year but said in July it would not deliver it until the first half of 2017.

"It has proved to be a bit more work than they anticipated," said one analyst at this week's Microsoft Ignite conference.  "They are still in the phase of carrying on conversations with developers and users as to what they would like to see in the finished product and it maybe is causing some confusion."

Microsoft remains "very committed" to delivering AzureStack and making sure all the pieces fit together as a turnkey solution for the company's hardware partners, which "is very key to the overall cloud solution, particularly with enterprise customers," said one source familiar with the company's plans. "But it is just taking longer to get it out there."

Some of the new features in Technical Preview 2 include foundational services such as Azure Queue storage for application messaging and Azure Key Vault for managing "application secrets." Company officials said they plan to deliver updates for other services including the App Service over the next several weeks.

The new update also includes new infrastructure management technology that is sculpted for a single server deployment, better allowing cloud operators to better see how the system works. Microsoft will make the single-server option commercially available even after the finished product is released.

Think outside the box

Some corporate IT pros attending Ignite were impressed with demonstrations and look forward to putting the product through its paces in their respective organizations.

"After hearing their pitch, it's clear this product is going to be pretty strategic for them [Microsoft]," said a senior systems engineer with an Atlanta-based insurance company. "But something like this takes a lot of testing and technology adjustments before we can see how it best fits into our existing infrastructure environment," he said.

Also in July Microsoft shifted its strategy for Azure Stack to be a turnkey offering bundled with server hardware from only three suppliers: Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo. Initially, Microsoft had planned to allow users and business partners use the product on any hardware platform of their choice.

While not strongly objecting to that decision, some Ignite attendees said they hoped Microsoft would revert to its original plan and allow IT shops to choose their own hardware platforms.

"We have HP and some Dell servers so it's not that big a deal for us," said one purchasing agent with a large Jacksonville, Fla. based transportation company. "But thinking down the road as white boxes may become more attractive [to us], I would like that option to go that way. I'm not sure I understand why they are being so parochial about this."

Ed Scannell is a senior executive editor with TechTarget. Contact him at escannell@techtarget.com. 

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