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Microsoft hopes an Azure Stack deployment will ease hybrid cloud angst

It's a hybrid cloud world, and Microsoft wants to get in while the getting's good. With its Azure Stack offering, Microsoft wants to ease hybrid cloud integration frustrations.

Microsoft has its eye on the hybrid cloud market, and it aims to ease common integration issues, such as software complexity, high costs and data migration struggles. Microsoft hopes companies will consider an Azure Stack deployment to address some of those hybrid cloud concerns.

A core tenant of any hybrid cloud environment is a unified tool set -- using the same tools and features to monitor and manage resources and workloads, no matter the location. Here's a look at some native tools admins can use to monitor and manage Azure Stack in anticipation of its availability planned for the second half of 2017.

Azure Stack emulates the Azure cloud model

Microsoft Azure uses the concept of regions -- independent groups of resources and services. And Azure Stack mimics this setup; the data center that houses the Azure Stack deployment is considered its own region. Azure Stack includes a management feature, called the Region Management tile, which monitors and manages the Azure Stack region and region-specific components in an on-premises data center.

The Region Management tile is divided into five key segments.

  1. Resource menu: offers quick links to management activities, allowing administrators to view and manage storage, network and other resources in the infrastructure
  2. Alerts area: presents system alerts and details of each one
  3. Updates area: reports the update status of the Azure Stack, showing the current versions, updates available and update history
  4. Resource providers area: enables administrators to manage the components of Azure Stack, show relevant alerts and establish monitoring metrics for each resource
  5. Infrastructure roles area: shows the components needed to run Azure Stack, along with alerts and roles where the components are running

PowerShell is another tool to manage both Azure and Azure Stack. PowerShell functionality doesn't support Azure Stack natively, so administrators must install Azure Stack-compatible PowerShell modules.

You can find AzureStack-Tools in a GitHub repository. The AzureStack-Tools installation adds a variety of modules that determine cloud capabilities, such as reporting API versions. It also can administer compute instances (VMs) in Azure Stack, manage Azure Stack infrastructure VMs and activities, establish Resource Manager policies for Azure Stack, register Azure Stack with Azure, execute an Azure Stack deployment, connect to Azure Stack, create tenants for resource allocation and validate templates.

Azure Stack pricing and support

Azure Stack is designed for ready-to-run integrated systems from hardware partners, such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Dell EMC and Lenovo. Currently, you can't download, install and use Azure Stack from Microsoft, but you can purchase Azure services from Microsoft and then buy Azure Stack hardware and hardware support from partner vendors.

Microsoft has a per-use Azure Stack model that mirrors Azure; organizations don't pay for the software upfront but do pay for services they use. For example, Microsoft bills Azure blob, table and queue storage per GB -- with no transaction fees. Azure functions are billed at GB-per-second execution times and per million executions.

Azure Stack also supports a bring-your-own-license model. This means that the OS and applications, such as SQL Server, which already have existing Enterprise Agreements or Service Provider License Agreements, can run in a VM at just the cost of the VM. The software also uses the same metering technologies as Azure, which means usage information is combined with Azure usage information in a single invoice. Azure Stack uses a different region notation, making it easy to differentiate Azure Stack and Azure service charges.

Organizations can license Azure Stack through Microsoft directly; they also can license it from the Cloud Solution Provider program or through managed service providers that offer Azure services.

Azure Stack has two support options. Azure Stack hardware -- the preintegrated system -- is supported through a hardware vendor, such as HPE or Dell. Microsoft supports Azure Stack software; it's already covered if you have a Premier or Azure support contract.

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