Azure Stack HCI is a custom-built Azure stack that runs on hyperconverged infrastructure.

Todd R. Weiss

March 29, 2019

4 Min Read
Cloud Data Center

Microsoft Azure customers who want to run their critical virtualized business workloads on hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) can now accomplish that task with the company’s latest offering — Azure Stack HCI.

Designed to work alongside a myriad of existing Azure products and services, Azure Stack HCI is available immediately form some 15 Microsoft partners which offer Microsoft-validated hardware systems that will run the new services reliably for customers.

The Azure Stack HCI services were announced by Arpan Shah, general manager of Microsoft Azure.


Microsoft’s Arpan Shah

“Azure Stack HCI solutions feature the same software-defined compute, storage and networking software as Azure Stack and can integrate with Azure for hybrid capabilities such as cloud-based backup, site recovery, monitoring and more,” wrote Shah in a blog. “Azure Stack HCI solutions are designed to run virtualized applications on premises in a familiar way, with simplified access to Azure for hybrid-cloud scenarios.”

For customers, the new service allows IT departments to more easily run virtualized applications on new hyperconverged infrastructure while taking advantage of cloud services, building cloud skills and using their existing IT staffs.

“Customers that deploy Azure Stack HCI solutions get amazing price/performance with Hyper-V and Storage Spaces Direct running on the most current industry-standard x86 hardware,” wrote Shah. “Azure Stack HCI solutions include support for the latest hardware technologies like NVMe drives, persistent memory, and remote-direct memory access (RDMA) networking.”

Because Azure Stack HCI is tied in with other Azure services, IT admins can use the Windows Admin Center for integrated connections with Azure Site Recovery, Monitor, Backup, Update Management and a wide range other components in the Azure product family.

Azure Stack HCI is an evolution of Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) products the company previously made available through its hardware partners. Now that earlier technology has been brought into the Azure Stack family to build on connections within Azure that can help bolster infrastructure management services for customers.

Justin Warren, an IT analyst with PivotNine, told Channel Futures the new offering reinforces the idea that lots of data won’t live in the big centralized data-center form of public cloud, but will instead require people to rethink what they mean by cloud or edge computing and hybrid computing.


PivotNine’s Justin Warren

“I say that because the strength of cloud computing is based on the operational model, not the deployment location,” said Warren. “If you want to work in a cloud way, but at the edge or in your own data center, then you want to operate it the same way you operate things in public cloud. Microsoft and AWS are both providing on-site ways of deploying cloud now, so you get used to their way of running things.”

What will be interesting, he added, is what the response will be from …

… Google for these new Azure services.

“One challenge for the Azure Stack HCI will be that it runs Hyper-V, and there’s a very big install-base of VMware out there,” said Warren. “I can’t see people switching from VMware to Hyper-V; however, the point of cloud is that the hypervisor of the infrastructure itself should be pretty much invisible. If you’re operating in a cloud way, then you shouldn’t care that Azure Stack HCI is Hyper-V.”

For VMware users who really care about running VMware, they aren’t really operating in a cloud way, said Warren, but are just running things in virtual machines.

“Cloud is still a tiny part of the overall IT spend, so there’s a lot of change still to come,” he added.

The new Azure Stack HCI products will be interesting for channel partners because they will give them more useful product SKUs to sell, said Warren.

“I’m sure Microsoft [is] hoping it’ll help people to get used to using Azure who previously wouldn’t have because they didn’t want to move to the public cloud, and that’ll reduce their resistance to the subscription services model of cloud over time.”

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About the Author(s)

Todd R. Weiss

Todd R. Weiss is an award-winning technology journalist who covers open source and Linux, cloud service providers, cloud computing, virtualization, containers and microservices, mobile devices, security, enterprise applications, enterprise IT, software development and QA, IoT and more. He has worked previously as a staff writer for Computerworld and, covering a wide variety of IT beats. He spends his spare time working on a book about an unheralded member of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves, watching classic Humphrey Bogart movies and collecting toy taxis from around the world.

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