A couple of months ago the Azure team announced a new member of the Azure Stack family called Azure Stack HCI solutions. Azure Stack HCI is a hyper-converged Windows Server 2019 cluster that uses validated hardware to run virtualized workloads on-premises. Optionally, it allows customers to connect Azure services to use features like Azure Site Recovery, Azure Backup, Update Management, Azure Monitor, and many more. In this blog, I want to give you a quick overview of how Azure Stack HCI fits into the Azure Stack family and how you can easily connect Azure Hybrid services.
The hardware is highly tested and validated to make sure customers get the best performance and resiliency. In terms of software, Azure Stack HCI is based on Windows Server 2019, using the Software-Defined Datacenter features and roles like Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct, Failover Clustering, and more. Azure Stack HCI uses the same underlying infrastructure as the original Azure Stack integrated system.
There are good reasons to use the Azure Stack HCI solutions in your datacenter.
- Replace aging server and storage infrastructure with Azure-inspired hyper-converged solutions on Microsoft-validated hardware.
- Consolidate existing server and storage workloads and reduce datacenter footprint.
- Achieve industry-leading virtual machine performance with Hyper-V and Storage Spaces Direct technology with built-in support for non-volatile memory express (NVMe), persistent memory, and remote direct memory access (RDMA) networking
- Connect virtualized applications to Azure for cloud management and security services and start building cloud skills today.
If you want to know more why the Azure Stack HCI solutions are the right choice for you, check out the official Azure Stack HCI page or check out the Azure Stack HCI documentation page.
Extending the Azure Stack family
While the Azure Stack integrated system is designed to let you run and operate cloud services on-premises and in locations where you aren’t able to use Azure services, because of technology, compliance or regulations reasons. Azure Stack HCI lets you start using the cloud for your hyper-converged infrastructure management with Azure integration built into the Windows Admin Center.
Microsoft’s hyper-converged technology based on Windows Server is already the foundation of Azure Stack. Azure Stack HCI is an evolution of the Windows Server 2016-based Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) solutions previously available from our hardware partners. And now being part of the Azure Stack family, it provides you with new options to connect seamlessly with Azure for infrastructure management services.
What do Azure Stack and Azure Stack HCI solutions have in common?
Azure Stack HCI solutions feature the same Hyper-V based software-defined compute, storage, and networking technologies as Azure Stack. Both offerings meet rigorous testing and validation criteria to ensure reliability and compatibility with the underlying hardware platform. With the Azure Stack update 1908, the underlying operating system on which Azure Stack runs has been updated to Windows Server 2019 as well.
How are they different?
Both family members have a lot in common. However, both are designed for different scenarios and serve different purposes.
Azure Stack enables you to run cloud services on-premises. You can run Azure IaaS and PaaS services on-premises to consistently build and run cloud applications anywhere, managed with a portal consistent to Azure on-premises.
Azure Stack HCI is designed to let you run virtualized workloads on-premises, managed with Windows Admin Center and familiar Windows Server management tools. By using the Windows Admin Center, you can optionally connect to Azure hybrid cloud services, such as cloud-based site recovery, monitoring, and others.
Build on the latest hardware Innovation
Azure Stack HCI solutions use Microsoft-validated hardware and include support for technologies such as NVMe drives, persistent memory, and remote direct memory access (RDMA) networking. Depending on your needs, you can build cluster solutions from 2 to 16 nodes, from high performance to high capacity and everything in between. If you need larger-scale setups, you can use features like Cluster Sets in Windows Server 2019 to manage multiple clusters.
This allows you to make sure that you can use the latest hardware innovations, like persistent memory, and also get the flexibility to build the perfect solution for your needs.
As of today, you can purchase validated Azure Stack HCI solutions from 19 partners. If you have a look at the Azure Stack HCI catalog, you can find 140+ Azure Stack HCI hardware solutions from partners like: ASUS, Axellio, bluechip, DataON, Dell EMC, Fujitsu, HPE, Hitachi, Huawei, Lenovo, NEC, primeLine Solutions, QCT, Cisco, New H3C Technologies, Thomas-Krenn.AG, Sugo, SecureGUARD, Supermicro, and zStor.
Windows Server Software-Defined Infrastructure
To make sure you can use the latest hardware innovation and benefit from your investment, you also need a software solution which can leverage these features and is optimized for it. The Azure Stack HCI solutions are using Windows Server 2019, and the included Software-Defined Datacenter features, such as:
- Hyper-V Virtualization (Compute)
- Storage Spaces Direct (Storage)
- Failover Clustering
- Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
Together with our hardware partners, Azure Stack HCI solutions allow you to run an industry-leading hyper-converged infrastructure platform. Check out the Microsoft Azure Stack HCI Review (DataON HCI-224 with Intel Optane NVMe) by StorageReview.com.
Connect Azure service to build a Hybrid Cloud environment
Windows Admin Center is not just the management solution for the Hyper-Converged Infrastructure, like hypervisor, storage, networking, and the virtual machines, Windows Admin Center also allows you to extend your on-premises workloads with Azure services.
Check out our video series about how to connect Azure Hybrid services with how to configure Azure Hybrid Services in Windows Admin Center, and you can find out more about the Azure Stack HCI hybrid capabilities here.
Microsoft Azure Stack HCI solutions are not only an industry-leading hyper-converged platform with huge flexibility in hardware, sizes, and specifications choices, based on validated hardware. It also enables customers to easily connect with Azure Hybrid services and extend the on-premises environment with the power of the cloud.
What do you think? Do you have any experience with Azure Stack HCI, or do you have any questions? Feel free to leave a comment.