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AzureStack Admin Portal

Microsoft Azure Stack – Azure Extension in your Datacenter

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to attend the Microsoft Azure Certified for Hybrid Cloud Airlift in Bellevue WA, which is close to the Microsoft campus in Redmond. I had the chance to spend the week there and talk with the Microsoft PG about different Azure Stack scenarios. Most of the discussions and presentations are under NDA, but there are a few things I can share, since they are publicly announced. I prepared this blog post already a couple of months ago, when I was talking to a lot of different customers about Azure Stack, and since then Microsoft also shared some new information about the release of Azure Stack Technical Preview 3.

The Azure Stack Announcement

Azure vs Azure Stack

Microsoft announced Azure Stack at Microsoft Ignite in May 2015. Back at this time Microsoft did only mention about the vision of Azure Stack and that Azure Stack will bring cloud consistency between the Microsoft Azure Public Cloud and your Private Cloud. But Microsoft did not really announce exactly what Azure Stack will be and how it will be implemented in your Datacenter.

During the Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference (WPC 2016), Microsoft announced more information about the availability of Azure Stack. For more information, you can read the Microsoft blog posts, but I tried to summarize the most important parts.

Building a true Hybrid Cloud and Consistency with Microsoft Azure

Azure Stack

This is probably the most important part about Azure Stack today. Microsoft Azure Stack will bring Azure consistency between the Microsoft Azure Public Cloud and your Private Cloud or your Hosters Service Provider Cloud using the Azure Resource Manager. So you will be able to not only operate an Azure-like environment, like you could with Windows Azure Pack and System Center, you now get real consistency between Azure and Azure Stack. You not only get the exact look and feel from the Microsoft Azure Public Cloud, you also can use the same Azure Resource Templates and deployment methods as you can in the Public Cloud. This allows customers to really operate in a Hybrid Cloud environment, between the Microsoft Public Cloud, their own Private Cloud and also local Service Provider Clouds.

Bring the agility and fast-paced innovation of cloud computing to your on-premises environment with Azure Stack. This extension of Azure allows you to modernize your applications across hybrid cloud environments, balancing flexibility and control. Plus, developers can build applications using a consistent set of Azure services and DevOps processes and tools, then collaborate with operations to deploy to the location that best meets your business, technical, and regulatory requirements. Pre-built solutions from the Azure Marketplace, including open source tools and technologies, allow developers to speed up new cloud application development.

The Integrated System Approach

Azure Stack Integrated System

(picture by Microsoft)

Microsoft announced that Azure Stack will be available as an appliance from different hardware vendors in Mid 2017. The confirmed hardware providers delivering Azure Stack Appliance at this point in time will be: Dell, HPE and Lenovo and later in 2017 we will also see an appliance from Cisco.

The big difference here is that Microsoft delivers the Azure Stack platform first in an appliance way, which is really different from the way they delivered Windows Azure Pack. Windows Azure Pack was based on System Center and Windows Server and every customer could design his own environment based on their needs.

This was great, but also had some huge challenges for customers. Clouds needed different designs, this ended up in very complex design workshops where we basically discussed the customer solutions. The installation and configuration of a Windows Azure Pack platform was also very complex and a lot of work which needed a lot of resources, knowledge and of course a lot of project costs. Before customers could start saving money, they had to invest money to get things up and running. Of course, system integrators like itnetX and others, built automation to spin up clouds based on Windows Azure Pack, but still the investment needed to be done.

The use of an appliance approach not only helps to spin up clouds faster, but also build environments on tested hardware, firmware and drivers. Another point here which makes a great case for an appliance solution, are management and operations. Management and operation of a cloud-like environment is not easy, doesn’t matter what software you are using. Keeping the platform stable, maintained and operational will end up in a lot of work, especially if every cloud looks different. The last thing I want to mention here is upgrading, if you want real Azure consistency, you need to keep up with the ultra-fast pace of the Azure Public Cloud, which is basically impossible or extremely expensive. An integrated system scenario can really help you keep things up-to-date, since updates and upgrades can be pre-tested before they are released for you to deploy. This will help you save a huge amount of testing since every environment looks the same.

Operating Azure Stack

Azure Stack Administration and Operation

As already mentioned, Azure Stack will be delivered as an integrated system. OEMs, will help you to setup and install your Azure Stack appliance in your datacenter, but they will not fully manage the Azure Stack environment. You will need to have some Cloud Operator managing and operating your Azure Stack. With this all the host will be sealed and administrators do not have access to the hosts or Hyper-V Manager or Failover Cluster Manager to mange the systems. Instead, Administrators or Cloud Operators will manage the system for a management portal.

Azure Stack Platform

Since this is an integrated system, you don’t even need to care what it is running in the background. But still for a lot of us it is still very interesting to see how Azure Stack is built. In the back Azure Stack runs on “common” rack mount servers from HPE, Dell, Lenovo and Cisco, for HPE this is the DL380 Gen9. From the software stack it is running Windows Server 2016, and the Software Define Datacenter features such as Storage Spaces Direct, the new Windows Server 2016 Software-Defined Networking Stack an Hyper-V. In the release version of Azure Stack we will see a Hyper-Converged Storage Spaces Direct architecture starting from 4 nodes. On top of this Microsoft used code from Azure to bring the Azure Resource Manager, Azure Resource Providers and the Azure Portal to the Azure Stack.

Azure Stack POC – Microsoft Azure Stack Development Kit

Azure Stack Development Kit

Very early in the development process of Azure Stack, Microsoft releases Technical Previews to customers, so they could test Azure Stack on one node deployments. This is called the Azure Stack POC and you can download it today on a single physical server, and it was only designed for non-productive, non-HA environments. Microsoft officially announced that they will rename the Azure Stack POC to Azure Stack Development Kit after the General Availability of Azure Stack Mid 2017. This is really a great solution to quickly spin up a test environment of Azure Stack without having to invest in hardware.

Azure Marketplace Syndication

Azure Stack Marketplace Syndication

You will be able to create your own Marketplace items in Azure Stack, building your own templates and images and offer them to your customers. One of the greatest editions Microsoft made in the Azure Stack Technical Preview 3 is the Azure Marketplace Syndication. This allows you to get Marketplace items from Azure and offer them in your Azure Stack offering to your customers. With that you don’t need to build all Marketplace items by yourself.

Azure Stack Identity Management

Azure Stack has to be integrated into your datacenter. In terms of Identity, Microsoft allows you to use two ways to integrate. First, and from my site the preferred option, is Azure AD (AAD) which allows you to integrate with an existing Azure Active Directory. Azure AD can be synced and connected with your on-premise Active Directory and this will allow you to login to Azure as well as Azure Stack. The other option Microsoft is offering is using ADFS to bring identities to your Azure Stack.

The Azure Stack Business Cases

Since Azure Stack is consistent with Microsoft Azure, the question comes up, why are we not just using Azure. There are many good reasons to use Azure, but there are also some challenges with that. Azure Stack can make sense in a couple of scenarios.

  • Data Sovereignty – In some cases data cannot be stored outside of a specific country. With Azure Stack, customers have the option to deploy in even their own datacenter or on a service provider within the same country.
  • Latency – Even Microsoft offers a solution to reduce network latency to Azure, with using Azure Express Route, in some scenarios latency is still a big issue. With Azure Stack can customers place Azure very close to the location where resources are accessed from.
  • Disconnected Scenarios – In some scenarios you really want to benefit form the consistent deployment model, and for example use Azure Resource Manager (ARM), but not everywhere on earth do you have access to Azure or sometimes you have a very bad connection. Think about cruise ships or other scenarios where you need to run IT infrastructure but you are not able to connect to Azure.
  • Private Instance of Azure – For some companies shared infrastructures can be challenging, even security standards in Azure are extremely high, it is not always an option. With Azure Stack, companies can basically spin up their completely own instance of Azure.
  • Differentiation – Service Providers or even Enterprise companies cannot only use the Azure Marketplace, but they can also build their own solutions for the Azure Stack and make them available to their customers.

Pricing and Licensing

As mentioned Microsoft will offer Azure Stack from 4 different OEMs. HPE, Dell and Lenovo will deliver a solution at Azure Stack GA in mid-CY17 and Cisco will be available later in 2017. The hardware needs to be bought directly from the OEM or Partner. Some of the also offer a flexible investment model like the HPE Flexible Capacity. For the pricing model of Azure Stack software, Microsoft decided to deliver the licensing of Azure Stack on a pay-per-use base. This meets of course the cloud economics and there will be no upfront licensing costs for customers. Services will be typically metered on the same units as Azure, but prices will be lower, since customers operate their own hardware and facilities. For scenarios where customers are unable to have their metering information sent to Azure, Microsoft will also offer a fixed-price “capacity model” based on the number of cores in the system.

Azure Stack Roadmap

At the Azure Stack GA release this summer, Microsoft will deliver Azure Stack hardware with provides from HPE, Dell and Lenovo. Later in 2017 Microsoft will also deliver Azure Stack with Cisco hardware.

After GA, Microsoft  will continuously deliver additional capabilities through frequent updates. The first round of updates after GA are focused on two areas: 1) enhanced application modernization scenarios and 2) enhanced system management and scale. These updates will continue to expand customer choice of IaaS and PaaS technologies when developing applications, as well as improve manageability and grow the footprint of Azure Stack to accommodate growing portfolios of applications.

The choice for your datacenter

Windows Azure Pack

Obviously, Microsoft is pushing Azure Stack since it will bring consistency to the Azure public cloud, which means your companies and people need to understand the advantages of using methods like DevOps and Infrastructure in code. This will help you to make the most out of Azure Stack and the Azure Resource Manager. If you already have Microsoft Azure know-how, this is great, because it will also apply to Azure Stack.

No worries, if you are not there yet, or for some reason this doesn’t make sense to you, Microsoft still has a great solution to build traditional Virtualization platforms together with automation using System Center, Windows Server and if needed Windows Azure Pack. Both solutions, System Center and Windows Azure Pack, will be supported in the future and will get updates.



E2EVC Lisbon

Speaking at E2EVC 2016 Rome

I just came back from the Microsoft MVP Summit in Redmond and this week I will travel to Rome for the Experts 2 Experts Virtualization Conference. On Friday I will talk about Windows Server 2016 and what is new in the RTM versions.

The best of Windows Server 2016

The best of Windows Server 2016 – RTM. Join this session for the Best of Windows Server 2016 — The New Foundation of your Datacenter. You’ll be one of the first to know about new, exciting improvements that are coming in Windows Server 2016 and how they’ll improve your day-to-day job.

E2EVC Virtualization Conference is a non-commercial, virtualization community event. The main goal of the E2EVC is to bring the best virtualization experts together to exchange knowledge and to establish new connections. E2EVC is a weekend crammed with presentations, Master Classes and discussions delivered by both virtualization vendors product teams and independent experts. I am happy to be part of the community and listen to other industry leading experts.

I am looking forward to the E2EVC and hopefully see you in Rome.



SCU Asia and Australia

Speaking at SCU APAC and SCU Australia 2016

Yesterday I had the chance to announce that I will be speaking at the local Microsoft TechDays 2016 in Baden, Switzerland. Today I am pround to announce that I will speak at System Center Universe Asia and Australia 2016 both in March. After speaking at SCU Europe 2013, 2014 and 2015 I am sure my first visit to SCU APAC and SCU Australia will be great.

System Center Universe APAC 2016

This 2 days event will be showcasing upcoming System Center solutions and Cloud Technologies with integration of the latest Windows 10!

Over the past 4 years, SCU APAC have attracted attendees throughout the APAC region. Being the only event that is centered on System Center, made the decision for the team running the event to host several viewing parties across APAC region in the second year. These parties made registration for the second year double. SCU 2014 was even better and bigger although it did not have the viewing parties. It played host to more than 200 registered participants with international renowned speakers. These speakers are well known in the industry and are regulars at Tech Ed.

I will present two sessions about some new features in Windows Server 2016:

What’s new in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V?

With the next version of Microsoft hypervisor Microsoft released some great new features for your Cloud infrastructure. Come to this session to get the details of all the new stuff that is in Hyper-V and learn about how you can play with it “hands-on.”

What’s new in Windows Server 2016 Storage?

With the next version of Microsoft hypervisor Microsoft released some great new features for your Cloud infrastructure. Microsoft announced several new feature on Windows Server 2016 including a lot of new Storage features, such as Storage Spaces Direct, ReFS, Storage Replica and much more. In this session you get an overview about the new Storage technologies in Windows Server 2016 and Hyper-V.

SCU APAC 2016

Date: March 8 & 9, 2016 Conference Venue: Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

System Center Universe Australia 2016

For the FIRST time ever, System Center Universe is coming to Australia in 2016! This is a first-class community conference where you can mingle with experts and fellow industry professionals to explore new technologies. The conference has been running for many years in Asia, typically Singapore and Malaysia and also in Europe and USA.

This one days event will be showcasing upcoming System Center solutions and Cloud Technologies with integration of the latest Windows 10!

I will present a session about the next version of Windows Server 2016 Storage:

What’s new in Windows Server 2016 Storage?

With the next version of Microsoft hypervisor Microsoft released some great new features for your Cloud infrastructure. Microsoft announced several new feature on Windows Server 2016 including a lot of new Storage features, such as Storage Spaces Direct, ReFS, Storage Replica and much more. In this session you get an overview about the new Storage technologies in Windows Server 2016 and Hyper-V.

SCU Australia 2016

Conference Date March 11, 2016 Conference Venue: Crown Promenade Melbourne, Australia

If you are interested in going, please contact me and may can give you a promo code. Hopefully see you there!



SCU Europe 2015 Azure Pack

You can now watch my System Center Universe Europe 2015 Sessions on Channel9

Great news today, some of my sessions I did at System Center Universe Europe 2015 in Basel, are now available on Microsoft Channel9. You can watch them directly on Channel9 with a lot of other great sessions from SCU Europe 2015, or you can just watch them here:

Nano Server the next generation of Cloud Server in your datacenter

In this session we will walk you through how Nano Server is changing the fundamental way we look at fabric Servers and workloads. Nano Server will change the way we build servers and solve fundamental challenges which we have encountered over the pact years embracing cloud fundamentals. Speaking together with Kristian Nese (Microsoft MVP)

What’s new in Windows Server 2016 for Hyper-V


With Windows Server 2016 Microsoft adds again exiting features to its Virtualization Platform. Learn in this session what Shielded VMs, Rolling Cluster Upgrades, Storage Spaces Direct, Hyper converged, PowerShell Direct, Windows Containers, and much more is and how you can profit from these new technologies. Speaking together with Carsten Rachfahl (Microsoft MVP)

Azure Site Recovery, 365 days later

Disaster Recovery, everyone talks about it – everyone claims they have it! But does it really work as expected?! Join us in the session about Azure Site Recovery, the business continuity service from Microsoft for all cloud platforms, on-premise – service providers – public cloud. You will learn how your company or customers can use ASR in their datacenter and which new scenarios have been added in the last 365 days, since we presented this topic at SCU 2014. Speaking together with Michel Lüscher (Microsoft)

Are ITIL and System Center BFFs?


In the modern world where organizations are facing new challenges to be more competitive, they are looking for better ways to improve the quality and efficiency of their IT Service delivery using the ITIL framework. Gain valuable insights and best practices on how you can adopt the ITIL framework to Microsoft System Center and OMS from real world experiences together with Savision, Jonas Lenntun, CEO and Solution Architect at Approved Consulting, and Microsoft MVPs: Robert Hedblom, Kristian Nese, Kevin Greene and Thomas Maurer.

 



SCU Europe Thomas Maurer

System Center Universe Europe 2015 – Recap

I finally recovered from the conference and found some time to write about System Center Universe Europe 2015. I live 20 minutes from the city center it was easy for me to get there. I already enjoyed some evenings before the event with some of the speakers and attendees in Basel. It is always a great chance to talk to other experts and share some experience with people you only met online or just see 2-4 times a year at conferences.

On Monday the SCU Europe 2015 finally kicked off and we had 3 days fully packed with System Center, Windows Server, Azure, OMS and other sessions, industry experts from around the world, networking and other parties. Three to five days which need a lot of your time and energy but which are totally worth it.

On Monday, I had the chance to be part of session hosted by Savision – Are ITIL and System Center BFFs? by Jonas Lenntun, Kevin Greene, Kristian Nese, Robert Hedblom and Thomas Maurer. The session moderated by Jonas Lenntun was a lot of fun, had some great discussions and interaction with the audience about ITIL and especially ITIL in the Cloud first world.

Tuesday morning started early with Kristian Nese and me talking about Windows Azure Pack and Cloud OS deployments in the early morning discussion about Windows Azure Pack.

SCU Europe 2015 Azure Pack

After the early morning discussion Kristian and me switched to our next session about Nano Server – the next generation Cloud Server in your datacenter.

Later in the afternoon I had the chance to talk with Carsten Rachfahl about What’s new in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V.

After we enjoyed the attendees networking party on Tuesday evening, Michel Lüscher and myself started the day with our session about Microsoft Azure Site Recovery.

SCU Europe 2015 Azure Site Recovery

The session recordings not just for my sessions but also for all the sessions at System Center Universe Europe 2015 will be available in the next weeks. As soon as they are available I will post them on my blog, so make sure you subscribe.

SCU Europe 2015 Party

Other highlights were the official Speaker and Sponsor party on Monday, the closing note, where Marcel Zehner and Andre Pflaum presented how to automate and Manage your Tesla using PowerShell, System Center and OMS, and the closing party on Wednesday. The feedback I got so far is that this was an absolutely great event with awesome sessions, perfect organization and a lot of fun.  I really can’t wait to be back next year for System Center Universe Europe 2016 which will take place in Berlin next year.

Pictures by Michael Seirer Photography

 

SCU 2015 Pizza

Fun Fact: I also started a second career as a pizza delivery boy



System Center Universe Europe

Speaking at System Center Universe Europe 2015

I already had twice the honor to speak at System Center Universe Europe, the first time at SCU Europe 2013 in Bern and the second time at SCU Europe 2014 in Basel. As I mentioned in a blog post a couple of months ago, System Center Universe Europe 2015 is just around the corner and you still can get tickets!

At SCU Europe 2015 I have again the great honor to speak together with some other great community leaders about the Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter solutions.

My Sessions at SCU Europe 2015:

Nano Server the next generation of Cloud Server in your datacenter

In this session we will walk you through how Nano Server is changing the fundamental way we look at fabric Servers and workloads. Nano Server will change the way we build servers and solve fundamental challenges which we have encountered over the pact years embracing cloud fundamentals. Speaking together with Kristian Nese (Microsoft MVP)

What’s new in Windows Server 2016 for Hyper-V

With Windows Server 2016 Microsoft adds again exiting features to its Virtualization Platform. Learn in this session what Shielded VMs, Rolling Cluster Upgrades, Storage Spaces Direct, Hyper converged, PowerShell Direct, Windows Containers, and much more is and how you can profit from these new technologies. Speaking together with Carsten Rachfahl (Microsoft MVP)

Azure Site Recovery, 365 days later

Disaster Recovery, everyone talks about it – everyone claims they have it! But does it really work as expected?! Join us in the session about Azure Site Recovery, the business continuity service from Microsoft for all cloud platforms, on-premise – service providers – public cloud. You will learn how your company or customers can use ASR in their datacenter and which new scenarios have been added in the last 365 days, since we presented this topic at SCU 2014. Speaking together with Michel Lüscher (Microsoft)

There are a lot of other great sessions as well, so make sure you get your ticket!



Windows 10 Task View

The best Windows 10 Features – Why you will love Windows 10

Since the first release of the Windows 10 Preview in the Insider program, I was using the Technical previews on my Surface Pro 3, and it is great how Microsoft is improving Windows 10 over the last several months based on research and feedback from the Windows Insider program.

In some days, at July 29, Microsoft will release Windows 10 to the public, and here are some reasons why you will love Windows 10:

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge Browser

With Windows 10 Microsoft released a new browser called Microsoft Edge (before Project Spartan) which is amazing fast and brings a lot of new features to the table such as Cortana Integration, Web notes which allow you basically draw your notes on websites and share them and Microsoft also promised to allow browser extensions. Secret: you can also switch from a Light Theme to a Dark Theme.

Task View & Virtual Desktop

Windows 10 Task View

Most of the IT Pros reading this blog already knew about Task view in previous version of Windows using WIN + TAB, but only a few other users did know about this features. Microsoft not only improved the Task view, Microsoft also promoted it much better  with an icon in the Taskbar.

In Windows 10 WIN + TAB does not only offer you Task View it also allows you to create and switch between Virtual Desktops. With Virtual Desktops you can now finally create multiple workspaces on your PC, which should bring you the productivity boost you need. Secret: You can switch between different Desktops using the Shortcut: CTRL + WIN + ARROW (LEFT and RIGHT).

Hyper-V

Hyper-V vNext Runtime Memory Resize

Microsoft build Hyper-V directly into the Windows Client since Windows 8. This is great if you want to run Virtual Machines on your Windows Client. Windows 10 Client Hyper-V brings you the great performance and features Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V will bring you. Of course some features are only available in the server build of Hyper-V, but you get some great features such as Enhanced Session mode to copy & past between your PC and your Virtual Machine. Secret: Windows 10 will allow you to run Hyper-V and use Connected Standby at the same time.