Tag: Hyper-Converged

Microsoft Learn Azure Stack HCI foundations

Learn about Azure Stack HCI on Microsoft Learn!

Last week the general availability of the new Azure Stack HCI, our new hybrid cloud hyper-converged platform was announced. With the release of this new platform, the team also released a new Microsoft Learn learning path called Azure Stack HCI foundations. In this learning path, you will be introduced to the Azure Stack portfolio and describes basic architecture, core capabilities, and primary use cases of its products. You’ll also learn about the differences and similarities between Azure Stack HCI, Azure Stack Hub, Azure Stack Edge, and Azure.

If you want to get an overview of the Azure Stack portfolio or the new Azure Stack HCI 20H2 version, check out my blog posts.

The new Azure Stack HCI foundations learning path on Microsoft Learn currently has 4 modules:

Introduction to Azure Stack

This module introduces you to the Azure Stack portfolio and describes basic architecture, core capabilities, and primary use cases of its products. You’ll also learn about the differences and similarities between Azure Stack HCI, Azure Stack Hub, Azure Stack Edge, and Azure. You can check out the module here.

Introduction to Azure Stack HCI core technologies

This module introduces Azure Stack HCI technologies. You’ll learn about the core Azure Stack HCI technologies, including Hyper-V, Windows Server software-defined storage, and Windows Server software-defined networking. You can check out the module here.

Plan and deploy Azure Stack HCI

This module introduces you to planing for and deploying Azure Stack HCI. Content includes identifying suitable workloads, determining the optimal configuration to host these workloads, stepping through the deployment process, validating post-deployment operational status, and evaluating Azure integration options. You can check out the module here.

Integrate Azure Arc and Azure Stack HCI

In this module, you will learn the fundamentals of Azure Arc and how is it used to bring new capabilities to the management and monitoring of your Azure Stack HCI clusters at scale. You can check out the module here.

Conclusion

I hope this provides you with a great opportunity to learn about Azure Stack HCI on Microsoft Learn. You can also follow my blog and you with some posts about this new solution in the pipeline. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment.



Microsoft Azure Stack HCI version 20H2

Get and Download Azure Stack HCI now!

Yesterday, the Azure Stack HCI team shared some great news; the new Azure Stack HCI is now generally available. Azure Stack HCI is a new hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) operating system delivered as an Azure service that provides the latest security, performance, and feature updates. You can deploy and run Windows and Linux virtual machines (VMs) in your datacenter or at the edge using your existing tools, processes, and skillsets. It extends your datacenter to the cloud with hybrid cloud services like Azure Backup, Azure Monitor, and Azure Security Center. It also allows you to take advantage of the extended security updates offering for Windows Server and SQL Server 2008/2008 R2. Let’s have a look at where you can get and download Azure Stack HCI.

Azure Stack HCI offers a great hyper-converged infrastructure stack with Azure hybrid services built-in:

  • Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI) – Hyper-converged infrastructure stack for secure, efficient virtualization of Windows and Linux guests. Offers from small two-node systems for edge deployments in branch offices, factories, and retail stores, to large scale and high-performance clusters for your enterprise virtualization environment.
  • Flexible hardware offerings – You can choose the deployment scenario and hardware offering, which works best for your environment. Azure Stack HCI offers more than 20 hardware partners with over 200 solutions.
  • Hybrid Cloud built-in – You can extend your datacenter with Azure Hybrid Cloud services to make your on-premises environment even better. Azure Stack HCI has Azure Arc built-in. You can seamlessly connect to Azure services such as Azure Backup, Azure Security Center, Azure Update Management, Azure Site Recovery, Azure Monitor, and many more. It also offers a tightly-integrated Kubernetes service with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) on Azure Stack HCI. This allows you to deploy and manage containerized apps with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) on-premises, and you can take advantage of AKS consistent experience, extend to Azure with hybrid capabilities, run apps with confidence with built-in security, and use familiar tools to modernize Windows apps.
  • Familiar management and operations – You can use your existing skillsets to manage and operate your Azure Stack HCI infrastructure. You can use the built-in deployment GUI and familiar Windows Server and Hyper-V skills to build your hyper-converged infrastructure. And you can use the cross-platform PowerShell framework to automate your environment.
Azure Stack HCI operating system

Azure Stack HCI operating system

Obviously, there is much, much more. If you want to learn more about the new Azure Stack HCI offering, check out my blog post: Azure Stack HCI version 20H2 – everything you need to know!

You can also find the official announcement blogs on Azure.com and a technical blog on Microsoft Tech Community.

Get and Download Azure Stack HCI

You can download Azure Stack HCI directly from Azure.com with a free 30-day trial period. If you want to learn more about the pricing, check out the official Azure Stack HCI pricing page. To pick the right hardware for your scenario, check out the Azure Stack HCI hardware catalog.

You can also find more information on how to install an Azure Stack HCI host on my blog.



Install Azure Stack HCI

How to install and set up an Azure Stack HCI Host

A couple of months the Azure Stack HCI team announced a new version called Azure Stack HCI version 20H2, which is currently in public preview. As part of the Azure Stack portfolio, Azure Stack HCI is a hyper-converged cluster solution that runs virtualized Windows and Linux workloads in a hybrid on-premises environment. Some of the most popular use cases are datacenter modernization, Remote/Branch office scenarios, SQL Server based virtual applications, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), and running Kubernetes clusters. Azure Stack HCI comes now with a specialist operating system (OS), which is based on core components from Windows Server, and it is designed and optimized on being the best virtualization host and hyper-converged platform. It is enhanced with Azure software that includes our latest hypervisor with built-in software-defined storage and networking that you install on servers you control on your premises. This provides additional functionality, features, and performance. This blog post is part of a series of blogs on how you can set up Azure Stack HCI clusters. In this first post, we will cover how to set up an Azure Stack HCI host.

Prerequisites and Azure Stack HCI system requirements

Before you deploy Azure Stack HCI hosts, make sure you follow the following prerequisites:

  • Determine whether your hardware meets the requirements for Azure Stack HCI clusters. You can find Azure Stack HCI hardware in the Azure Stack HCI Catalog. Keep in mind that the nodes must have the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). For testing purposes, you can also set up Hyper-V Generation 2 virtual machines.
  • Gather the required information for a successful deployment. Here is a quick checklist of information you will need to deploy an Azure Stack HCI cluster
    • Server names: Get familiar with your organization’s naming policies for computers, files, paths, and other resources. You’ll need to provide several servers, each with unique names.
    • Cluster name: Name for the Azure Stack HCI cluster
    • Domain name: Get familiar with your organization’s policies for domain naming and domain joining. You’ll be joining the servers to your domain, and you’ll need to specify the domain name.
    • Static IP addresses: Azure Stack HCI requires static IP addresses for storage and workload (VM) traffic and doesn’t support dynamic IP address assignment through DHCP for this high-speed network. You can use DHCP for the management network adapter unless you’re using two in a team, in which case, again, you need to use static IPs. Consult your network administrator about the IP address you should use for each server in the cluster.
    • RDMA networking: There are two types of RDMA protocols: iWarp and RoCE. Note which one your network adapters use and if RoCE, note that the version (v1 or v2). For RoCE, also note the model of your top-of-rack switch.
    • VLAN ID: Note the VLAN ID to be used for the network adapters on the servers, if any. You should be able to obtain this from your network administrator.
    • Site names: For stretched clusters, two sites are used for disaster recovery. You can set up sites using Active Directory Domain Services, or the Create cluster wizard can automatically set them up for you. Consult your domain administrator about setting up sites.
    • Cluster witness: You will need to set up an Azure Stack HCI cluster witness. There are two witness types you can use.
      • Cloud witness – Azure storage account name, access key, and endpoint URL, as described below.
      • File share witness – file share path “(//server/share)”
    • Microsoft Azure credentials and subscription: Azure Stack HCI is delivered as an Azure service and needs to register within 30 days of installation per the Azure Online Services Terms. Azure Stack HCI comes with native Azure Arc integration for monitoring, support, billing, and hybrid services.
      • Internet Access – The Azure Stack HCI nodes need connectivity to the cloud to register to Azure.
      • Azure Subscription – If you don’t already have an Azure account, create one. You can use an existing subscription of any type:
        • Free account with Azure credits for students or Visual Studio subscribers
        • Pay-as-you-go subscription with credit card
        • Subscription obtained through an Enterprise Agreement (EA)
        • Subscription obtained through the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program
      • Azure Active Directory (AzureAD) permissions – You will need Azure AD credentials with permissions to complete the registration process. If you don’t already have them, ask your Azure AD administrator to grant permissions or delegate them to you. See Manage Azure registration for more information.
  • Install Windows Admin Center on a management PC or server
  • For Azure Kubernetes Service on Azure Stack HCI requirements, see AKS requirements on Azure Stack HCI.

You can find a full list of System requirements for Azure Stack HCI on Microsoft Docs.

Operating system deployment options

After you have prepared the hardware for deployment, you have multiple options to deploy the Azure Stack HCI OS on your physical nodes, depending on your environment and processes. You can deploy the Azure Stack HCI operating system in the same ways that you’re used to deploying other Microsoft operating systems:

  • Server manufacturer pre-installation – nodes come with the Azure Stack HCI operating system preinstalled.
  • Headless deployment using an answer file – Check out my blog about unattend.xml installations.
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) – You can use System Center Virtual Machine Manager Bare-metal deployment to install the Azure Stack HCI nodes.
  • Network deployment – You can use the Windows Deployment Service (WDS) to deploy the operating system over the network.
  • Manual deployment – Connecting either a keyboard and monitor directly to the server hardware in your datacenter or by connecting a KVM hardware device to the server hardware.

Install and set up an Azure Stack HCI host manually

If you want to manually deploy the Azure Stack HCI operating system, you can use your preferred method to boot the installation from a DVD or USB drive. You can download the latest version of Azure Stack HCI from here.

Install Azure Stack HCI

Install Azure Stack HCI

You can follow through the Azure Stack HCI OS installation wizard. Select “Custom Install” to install a new version of Azure Stack HCI.

Custom Install the newer version of Azure Stack HCI

Custom Install the newer version of Azure Stack HCI

Select the disk the operating system should be installed on.

Select disk for the Operating System

Select disk for the Operating System

After that, the installation will run for a couple of minutes to install the Azure Stack HCI operating system.

Installing Azure Stack HCI host

Installing Azure Stack HCI host

After the installation is complete, you will need to set up the local administrator password.

Set Administrator Password

Set Administrator Password

After the installation is completed, you set the password for the local administrator and you logged in, you will be prompted by the welcome screen and the sconfig tool. The sconfig tool is part of Windows Server Core and was completely rewritten for Azure Stack HCI. Sconfig helps you to quickly configure your Azure Stack HCI nodes, such as name, domain join, network configuration, installing updates, and much more.

Welcome to Azure Stack HCI sconfig

Welcome to Azure Stack HCI sconfig

You can find more information on how to deploy Azure Stack HCI hosts on Microsoft Docs.

Conclusion and next steps

As you can see, there are multiple ways to set up and install your Azure Stack HCI hosts. You can even use the same tooling to deploy the operating system, as you have used to deploy Windows or Windows Server, In the next blog post we will have a look at how we build an Azure Stack HCI cluster, register it with Azure using Azure Arc, how we connect Azure hybrid cloud services, and how we build an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster on Azure Stack HCI. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.



Microsoft Azure Stack HCI version 20H2

Azure Stack HCI version 20H2 – everything you need to know!

Microsoft just announced the new Azure Stack HCI, delivered as an Azure hybrid service, at Microsoft Inspire 2020. Azure Stack HCI, as a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solution, is expanding the Azure Stack portfolio to offer a comprehensive and flexible lineup of edge infrastructure and hybrid cloud environments. In this blog post, I want you to provide you with an overview of the new Azure Stack HCI, version 20H2.

You can also find the full announcement blog on Azure.com.

What’s Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack HCI is a hyper-converged cluster solution that runs virtualized Windows and Linux workloads in a hybrid on-premises environment. Some of the most popular use cases are datacenter modernization, Remote/Branch office scenarios, SQL Server based virtual applications, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, and running Kubernetes clusters.

  • Hyperconverged infrastructure stack – The Azure Stack HCI operating system is based on core components from Windows Server, and it is designed and optimized on being the best virtualization host and hyper-converged platform. It is enhanced with software from Azure that includes our latest hypervisor with built-in software-defined storage and networking, that you install on servers you control, on your premises. This provides additional functionally, features and performance.
  • Delivered as an Azure hybrid service – Azure Stack HCI is now delivered as an Azure service with a subscription-based licensing model and hybrid capabilities built-in. You can enhance the cluster with Azure hybrid capabilities such as cloud-based monitoring, site recovery, and backup, as well as a central view of all of your Azure Stack HCI deployments in the Azure portal.
  • Familiar for IT to manage and operate – Runs on your choice of hardware, from your preferred vendor, and continue using the tools and processes your team already knows to manage virtual machines, including Windows Admin Center, System Center, and PowerShell.

This new Azure Stack HCI product takes its name from a program that Microsoft has run for several years with recent versions of Windows Server. That program was very popular, and it’s what inspired this new product.

Azure Stack HCI - Inspired by its popular predecessor

Azure Stack HCI – Inspired by its popular predecessor

Part of the Azure Stack Portfolio

Azure Stack HCI joins the growing family of Azure Stack solutions, which offers a comprehensive and flexible lineup of edge infrastructure. The Azure Stack portfolio ranges from Azure Stack Hub, which is an extension of Azure, bringing the agility and innovation of cloud computing to your on-premises environment, to Azure Stack Edge, which brings Azure compute for AI and machine learning at the edge.

Azure Stack HCI version 20H2 - Part of the Azure Stack portfolio

Azure Stack HCI version 20H2 – Part of the Azure Stack portfolio

You can learn more about the Azure Stack portfolio on Azure.com.



Azure Unblogged - Azure Stack HCI and the Future

Azure Unblogged – Azure Stack HCI and the Future

You might have seen last week’s Azure Unblogged video with Holly Lehman where we talked about Microsoft feedback and customer engagement programs. This week, I had the honor to publish an Azure Unblogged video with Carmen Crincoli (Senior Program Manager) to talk about the Azure Stack HCI solution program, why it was created, the value it provides to customers, and some of the work we’re doing to engage with customers to improve future versions of the product.

You can watch the video on Microsoft Channel 9.

Azure Stack HCI is a hyper-converged Windows Server 2019 cluster that uses validated hardware to run virtualized workloads on-premises. And allows you to optionally connect to Azure Hybrid services for cloud-based backup, Site Recovery, and more. This allows you to take advantage of the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud services to make your on-premises environment even better.

If you want to learn more about Azure Stack HCI, check out the following links:

You can also watch other episodes of Azure Unblogged on Microsoft Channel 9 and check out my blog at ITOpsTalk.com.

Let me know if you enjoyed the Azure Unblogged – Azure Stack HCI and the Future video and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel here.



Azure Stack Familiy - Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack HCI – New Member of the Azure Family

Today, the Azure team is proud to announce a new member to the Azure Stack family, the Azure Stack HCI solutions. Microsoft Azure Stack HCI is Microsoft’s hyper-converged solution available from a wide range of hardware partners. Azure Stack shipped in 2017, and it is the only solution in the market today for customers to run cloud applications using consistent IaaS and PaaS services across public cloud, on-premises, and in disconnected environments. With adding the Azure Stack HCI solutions, Microsoft is offering customers a great new choice for their traditional virtualized workloads.

Today, I am pleased to announce Azure Stack HCI solutions are available for customers who want to run virtualized applications on modern hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) to lower costs and improve performance. 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.

Adopting hybrid cloud is a journey and it is important to have a strategy that takes into account different workloads, skillsets, and tools. Microsoft is the only leading cloud vendor that delivers a comprehensive set of hybrid cloud solutions, so customers can use the right tool for the job without compromise.

It is built on a hyper-converged Windows Server 2019 cluster that uses validated and certified hardware to run virtual machines and workloads on-premises. Azure Stack HCI also allows you to optionally connect Azure services for BCDR, management and more. Azure Stack HCI solutions use Microsoft-validated hardware to ensure optimal performance and reliability. It includes support for technologies such as NVMe drives, persistent memory, and remote direct memory access (RDMA) networking, to get the best possible performance if needed. You can find more about this Hyper-converged system on azure.com.

What is behind Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack HCI Product Overview

Azure Stack HCI is based on Windows Server 2019, parried with validated hardware from OEM partners. With the Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition, customers get Software-Defined Infrastructure and Software-Defined Datacenter technologies like Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct and many more, which are the base of Azure Stack HCI. Paired with Windows Admin Center, you can use existing skills, gain hyper-converged efficiency, and connect to Azure services.