Attending Microsoft Ignite always makes you think.
Although primarily a showcase for Microsoft’s products and services for the enterprise market, it also has a huge training agenda and as such you come away from the conference having networked with big thinkers and fired up about how you will be able to help your clients further develop their services in the cloud.
This year one of the highlights was the unveiling of the second technical preview of Azure Stack (TP2). Since the announcement of the first technical preview back in January of this year, we’ve all been waiting for more and now we have it.
Here are some of the key services that are coming with this release of Azure Stack.
The main features for network will be the ability to create resources directly from the Azure Marketplace. Other highlights include:
- iDNS for internal network name registration and DNS resolution without the need for additional infrastructure.
- Virtual Network Gateways to provide connectivity options to Azure or on-premises resources.
- User Defined Routes to route network traffic through firewalls, security or other appliances.
The storage provision in Azure Stack is all about consistency with Azure and security. Highlighted features include:
- Azure Queues to enable reliable and persistent service messaging.
- Storage analytics capture storage performance data. This can then be used to trace requests, analyse usage trends and diagnose issues.
- Blob storage to support Append Block operations.
- Premium Storage to provide API account support, while the tenant storage service will offer support for common tools and software development kits such as Azure CLI, PowerShell, .NET, Python, and Java SDK.
- Shared Access Signatures to enable granular delegation of access to storage services without needing to share a full account key.
- Storage services will use Group Managed Service Accounts for strong security with a low management overhead.
- The ability to reclaim unused tenant resources on-demand and recover deleted tenant storage accounts.
- Deleted storage account retention length will be configurable.
The ability to add new capacity and services is a big part of Azure Stack. The focus is on system reliability and management for the whole stack. With this in mind the key compute features are:
- The ability to de-allocate virtual machines.
- The ability to redeploy VM extensions for troubleshooting and configuration management.
- The ability to re-size virtual server disks.
- Virtual machines can have multiple network cards.
The recent announcement of new regions in Europe is part of a big push by Microsoft to pave the way for more business use of Azure. Here’s how Azure Stack fits in to access to their global network of data centres:
- Azure Stack Regions are a logical unit of management within Azure Stack. In this preview, information on compute, network, and storage by region can be viewed by region.
- The updates interface is in preview.
Here’s how Azure Stack will address security concerns around applications:
- Key Vault provides secure management of keys and passwords for cloud apps.
- Key usage by apps and VMs can be audited and monitored.
Billing and usage
Management of Azure cloud services has traditionally been complex. Azure Stack aims to address that:
- Billing and consumption APIs will expose data on how services are being consumed.
- Delegated Providers will enable resellers to offer Azure Stack services to customers.
Monitoring and health
New monitoring capabilities will be available in the Azure Stack portal and APIs will allow admins to proactively view and manage alerts on the environment.
As with the first technical preview, the TP2 Proof of Concept for Azure Stack can be run on a single server to demonstrate management and functionality. A future preview is expected to run on multiple nodes. At Microsoft Ignite it was announced that the production deployment will still only be available pre-installed on hardware from Dell, HPE and Lenovo at launch, although it was hinted that others will follow.
The overall ambition of Microsoft with Azure Stack is about helping business and organisations to grow and innovate using Azure while still maintaining control over their IT systems.
As lead architect Jeffrey Snover stated in his TP2 blog, “Because Azure Stack is truly consistent with Microsoft Azure, it can be used in situations where business goals bump up against business realities such as regulatory constraints, data sensitivity concerns, latency, and custom functionality requirements. A consistent cloud platform means that applications, processes and skills can be equally applied without translation between environments – paving the way for the cloud IT revolution to take place behind the corporate firewall as well.”
If you’re curious to know more, we’re previewing Azure Stack at IP Expo at ExCel London over the next couple of days. Our director of cloud services Marc Esmiley will be doing a live demonstration at 2pm on both days. We’re also demonstrating automation in Azure.
Be sure to visit us on our parent company iomart’s stand F20 if you’re going.
By Simon Creasey, Cloud Solutions Architect, SystemsUp.
If you want to know how SystemsUp can help you design, implement and manage Azure do get in touch.
What’s new in Azure Stack Technical Preview 2