Azure Stack Family – An Overview – Part 2

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This is the continuation of our discussion about the Azure Stack portfolio products and how they fit in your hybrid cloud story. In part 1 we established a few reasons as to why you would want to implement a hybrid cloud in the first place, now we will focus more on the actual products and a brief description about them. The family consists of 3 products – Azure Stack Hub, Azure Stack Edge and Azure Stack HCI.

Azure Stack is essentially a piece of the bigger Azure cake in your own datacenter. You get to use a lot of Azure’s services and all the benefits that come with it, while also retaining control over the security and integrity of your data.

You can also use the Azure console for unified management and monitoring of your workflows across cloud and on-prem estate.

Microsoft offer 3 products as part of it Azure stack portfolio –

  • Azure Stack Hub
  • Azure Stack Edge
  • Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack Hub

Let’s start with Azure Stack hub.

As I like to think of it, Azure Stack hub is like an azure.exe file! Microsoft will ship you this big unit of hardware that has some Azure services “installed” in it. You can run a subset of Azure services even in completely disconnected mode. That basically means you can run your own little private Azure cloud anywhere even if there’s no internet connectivity like very remote locations like airports, top of the mountains, or bottom of the seas if you wanted to. Everything you’ll need to run these workflows like compute/storage/networking devices are shipped to you and are all software defined so they’re easy to work with, almost as if working on a public cloud.

One thing to note here though is that since you’ve essentially purchased this from Microsoft, or one of the partners, hardware and all, you are now in charge of it. It is your responsibility that it runs well and efficiently. You deploy these services on your own URL too, which is the URL your users will access when they want to consume these services, and not the standard public portal.azure.com URL.

Some of the major Azure Stack Hub services include VMs, Azure DevOps, Azure Monitor, Security Center, Sentinel etc. and Microsoft is adding more and more services to this list as we speak.

Azure Stack Edge

Azure Stack Edge in comparison a bit lightweight and offers a smaller subset of services than the hub. Edge also can run in disconnected mode, but you have to connect it to Azure every once in a while. Also as opposed to the hub which runs it’s own management plane, Edge is managed via the public cloud. So you can run your edge devices in remote locations like stores or checkpoints or extreme locations, and yet manage them centrally from the one Azure console.

Edge is mainly used for processing data at source, often due to it’s time or value-critical nature and then sent to Azure for storage and analysis. A great example of this is the medical sector, where you need absolutely minimum latency in data processing and calculations when you’re performing critical operations.

Edge can also be used as a storage gateway to quickly upload your on-prem data to Azure to facilitate your Azure migration.

There is no upfront cost to using Stack edge and you will be billed only for what you use.

Azure Stack HCI

Last, but not least we’ve got Azure Stack HCI. Stack HCI offers something that is much more relatable to most companies which is why it’s also being invested in heavily by Microsoft.

HCI stands for Hyperconverged infrastructure which in simple English means everything is combined in one rack. Your compute, storage, network is all part of a single device and it is all software defined so you don’t have to wrestle with the cables and the disks and CPUs and all that trouble.

You can think of it as a virtualization platform that runs it’s own specialized OS. You deploy your own VMs just like you do it on-prem on Hyper-V, and you manage them with Windows admin center. Once you register your HCI cluster to Azure, you can leverage Azure Arc to centrally manage your VMs. You can also start using services like ASR, Azure Backup, Azure Monitor, and so on. You can also deploy a K8s cluster on HCI and hook it up to Azure Arc.

Important thing to keep in mind here is that these are NOT the Azure IaaS Virtual Machine service as you deploy in Stack Hub and Stack Edge. These machines are deployed, administered, backed up, and monitored by you.

Final Thoughts

The difference in these products lies in the answer to the question – when you say you want to run hybrid Azure, what do you mean?

  • If you answer is I literally want Azure services in my datacenter (possibly air-gapped) – you go for Azure Stack hub.
  • If you answer is I want to process data locally but then use Azure services for easier deployment and management, you go for Azure Stack Edge.
  • And finally, if your answer is I want to modernize my datacenter which I don’t mind deploying myself while leveraging some basic Azure services, you go for HCI.

 

That’s all for now. Hopefully this was helpful!

Until next time!

Cheers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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