Microsoft Azure Stack and CSP Uncovered
Mon, 17 Aug 2020 18:55:28 -0000|
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Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program allows partners to completely own their end-to-end customer lifecycle, which may include activities such as deployment of new services, provisioning, management, pricing and billing. The CSP program helps value-added resellers (VARs) and managed service providers (MSPs) sell Microsoft software and Cloud Service licenses with additional support so that you can become more involved with your customer base. This means that every cloud solution from Azure to Office 365 could be resold to your customers at a price that you set, and with unique value added by you. The goal of the CSP program is not simply to resell Microsoft services, but to enhance them and deliver them in a way that makes sense for you and your customers.
What's the fuss all about Azure Stack CSPs?
As an Azure Stack Product Technologist, one question I am frequently asked by customers who are existing Microsoft CSPs is, how to operate and offer services on Microsoft Azure Stack in a CSP model. Although this information is available through Microsoft Azure Stack online documentation and videos from various events, I am trying to consolidate that information into this blogpost as well as trying to explain the various CSP operating models in Azure Stack and the steps required to successfully manage and operate Azure Stack as a CSP.
The key difference between operating as an Azure CSP vs Azure Stack CSP is the additional responsibility of managing the Azure Stack Integrated system. Really? well, it really depends on the CSP operating model which we will discuss in detail in the subsequent sections in this blog.
What's the Business Opportunity here?
Today, Azure services are available in 54 regions spread across various geographical locations. Which also means that Azure services are not available in every nook and corner of the globe. This could be due to poor internet connectivity or no connectivity or customers want to operate in a disconnected mode or to simply meet the regulatory compliance, adhering to the policy guidelines and laws in the respective country of origin. Most importantly it is your geographical presence that differentiates you as a CSP who can deliver consistent Azure services in that region. With the rise of Edge computing, it becomes more and more critical that data is processed as close to the edge as possible, and as a result we see more and more cloud services moving back towards the edge. As a result, as a CSP not only is your geographical location important, but you can also provide differentiated or specialized applications while serving the needs of certain industries with a specific requirement.
What are the various CSP operating models for Azure Stack?
When you make the decision to be an Azure Stack CSP, you will need to explore and understand the two CSP operating models. You must ensure that you understand which model aligns best with your organization. So let's try and understand the two CSP operating models.
In this model CSP operates Azure Stack and has a direct billing relationship with Microsoft. All usage of Azure Stack is directly billed to the CSP. The CSP in turn generates a bill for each customer or tenant who is consuming the services offered by the CSP. The period of billing, the amount you bill, and what you bill for are entirely in your hands as a CSP.
In this model, Indirect CSP is also referred to as Distributor, is responsible to operate Azure Stack. Here a network of Resellers can help sell CSP offered services to the end customers. Indirect CSP has direct billing relationship with Microsoft and hence all usage of Azure Stack resources are billed to the Indirect CSP. The indirect CSP in turn bills either the reseller or the end customer
Now that you've familiarized yourself with Azure Stack CSP operating models, it is important to understand the two types of CSP subscriptions that are available.
- Azure Partner Shared Services (APSS) Subscription
According to Microsoft's definition, Azure Partner Shared Services (APSS) are the preferred choice for registration when a direct CSP or an indirect CSP, also known as CSP distributor operates Azure Stack. This means a CSP directly purchases Azure subscription from Microsoft for their own use. This creates opportunity for CSPs to build differentiated solutions and offer them to their tenants.
- CSP Subscription
This is the most common subscription model. In this either a CSP reseller or the customer operates the Azure Stack admin and tenant spaces, or in many cases splits the responsibility, with CSP managing the Admin space and customer managing the Tenant.
Roles and Responsibilities in a CSP Model:
With so many myriads of options available in a CSP model involving various personas such as Direct CSPs, Indirect CSPs, Resellers and End Customers along with two types of CSP subscriptions, let's try and understand from the chart below on the various roles and responsibilities associated with each persona and the right CSP subscription applicable for each scenario.
Azure Stack Operator
Usage and Billing
Note: When End Customer operates Azure Stack, multi-tenancy is not required. The end customer needs a CSP subscription from the CSP partner, then uses it for the initial (default) registration. Usage is billed to the Distributor or Indirect CSP.
How do you get started?
Once you have made the decision on the type of CSP model you will be operating Azure Stack, we will now dive into the nitty-gritties of how to make Azure Stack operational in this model. To be able to successfully operate and run Azure Stack, you will need to take some steps to plan on how you want to offer services and configure Azure Stack. Let's look at what are some of the key steps in this planning
- Billing: During this phase, you will need to come up with a plan on how you want to bill your end customers based on the usage of services you offer. This is where you will need to plan on how to register Azure Stack and plan the integration of your billing system. You will also need to plan on coming up with appropriate pricing model for the services you offer. During this phase you may also want to explore some of the third party billing services offered by ISVs.
- Services: In this phase you will come up with a plan on what are the various native Azure Stack services you would want to offer your end customers. You may also plan on offering differentiated value added services to your end customers. This will determine how you configure quotas, plans and offers on the Azure Stack system. For more information on how to create quotas, plans and offers please refer to this video.
- On boarding End Customers: Once you have planned on billing and services for your end customers, you will need to onboard new customers and users to your Azure Stack system. Let's look at how to do this in the following section.
Note: This blogpost assumes that you already have access to the Microsoft Partner Center and have some knowledge on CSP Program. If you need access to training materials on CSP Program please refer to the Microsoft Partner Center documentation.
Customer On boarding Flow
- First, create a CSP or APSS Subscription depending on the CSP operating model that best fits your organization from Microsoft Partner Center (For Azure Partner Shared Services subscription (APSS) - Please go through Microsoft documentation on How to create APSS Subscription)
- CSP Subscription - Please go through Microsoft documentation on How to create CSP Subscription
- Register Azure Stack against the CSP subscription as opted in Step 1. Steps on how to register Azure Stack can be found here
- After Azure Stack is registered, you need to enable multi-tenancy if you are planning to offer Azure Stack services to multiple tenants. If you don't enable multi-tenancy, all usage will be reflected against the subscription which was used for Azure Stack registration. You can refer to Microsoft documentation on How to Enable multi-tenancy
- Once multi-tenancy is enabled, you will need to first create End Customers or tenants in the Partner Center portal so that when those End Customers consume the services you offer, Azure Stack reports the usage to their CSP subscription. (You can refer to the Microsoft documentation on How to add tenants in Partner Center as shown below)
- Create an Azure subscription for each End Customer you created in the above step in Partner Center. You can refer to Creating New Subscriptions as shown below
2. Create guest users in the End Customer's directory: The reason you do this is because by default, you as a CSP will not have access to the End Customer's Azure Stack subscription. If the End Customer wants you to manage their resources they can add your account as owner/contributor to their Azure Stack subscription. In order to do that they will need to add your account as a guest user in their Azure AD tenant. It is recommended that you as a CSP use a different account other than your CSP account to manage your Enc Customer's Azure Stack subscription.
3. Update the registration in Azure Stack with the End Customer's Azure Stack subscription. By doing this End Customer's usage is tracked using the customer's identity in Partner Center thereby ensuring that usage tracking and billing is made easier. You can refer to this link on How to update Azure Stack registration
4. On board tenants to Azure Stack to enable users from multiple Azure AD tenant directory to use services you offer on Azure Stack. You can refer to the link How to Enable multi-tenancy
5. As a last step you need to ensure you are able to create a resource in the End Customer's Azure Stack subscription using the guest user account created in Step c
By now you should be all set to successfully operate and offer services on Azure Stack. To track usage and billing, CSPs can use APIs or use the Partner Center. CSPs can also work with third party billing solution providers like Cloud Assert or Exivity for a more customized billing solutions for those who need more flexibility in the pricing and billing model.
Related Blog Posts
The challenging Edge: Dell Technologies to the rescue with Azure Stack Hub – Tactical
Mon, 26 Jul 2021 12:46:04 -0000|
Read Time: 0 minutes
Some context for a turbulent environment
In August 31, 2017, Microsoft launched Azure Stack Hub and enabled a true hybrid cloud operating model to extend Azure services on-premises. An awesome and long expected milestone at that time!
Implementing Azure Stack Hub in our customers’ datacenters under normal circumstances is a pretty straightforward process today if you choose our Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack Hub.
But there are certain cases where delivering Azure Stack Hub may be complex (or even impossible), especially in scenarios such as:
- Edge scenarios: semi-permanent or permanent sites where there is no planned decommissioning, that can include:
- IoT Applications: Device provisioning, tracking and management applications
- Efficient field operations: Disaster Relief, humanitarian efforts, embassies
- Smarter management of mobile fleet assets: Utility and maintenance vehicles
- Tactical scenarios: strategic sites stood up for a specific task, temporary or permanent, that can experience:
- Limited/restricted connectivity: submarines, aircraft, and planes
- Harsh Conditions: combat zones, oil rigs, mine shafts
The final outcome in these environments remains the same: provide always-on cloud services everywhere from a minimal set of local resources.
The question is… how do we make this possible?
The answer is: Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack Hub – Tactical
Dell Technologies, in partnership with Microsoft and Tracewell Systems, has developed Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack Hub – Tactical (aka Azure Stack Hub – Tactical): a unique ruggedized and field-deployable solution for Azure Stack tactical edge environments.
Azure Stack Hub – Tactical extends Azure-based solutions beyond the traditional data center to a wide variety of non-standard environments, providing a local Azure consistent cloud with:
- Limited or no network connectivity
- Fully mobile, or high portability (“2-person lift”) requirements
- Harsh conditions requiring military specifications solutions
- High security requirements, with optional connectivity to Azure Government and Azure Government Secret
Azure Stack Hub – Tactical is functionally and electrically identical to Azure Stack Hub All-Flash to ensure interoperability. It includes custom engineered modifications to make the whole solution fit into just three ruggedized cases that are only23.80 inches wide, 41.54 inches high, and 25.63 inches deep.
The smallest Azure Stack Hub – Tactical configuration comprises one management case plus two compute cases, each of them containing:
- Management case:
- 1 x T-R640 HLH management server (2U)
- 1 x N3248TE-ON management switch (1U)
- 2 x S5248F-ON Top-of-Rack switches (1U each)
- Total weight: 146 lbs.
- Compute case:
2 x T-R640 servers, based on Dell EMC PowerEdge R640 All-Flash server adapted for tactical use (2U each)
Two configuration options for compute servers:
- 2 x Intel 5118 12-core processors
- 384 GB memory
- 19.2TB total raw SSD capacity
- 2 x Intel 6130 16-core processors
- 768GB memory
- 38.4TB total raw SSD capacity
- Total weight: 116 lbs.
- Heater option for extended temperature operation support:
- The Tactical devices are designed to meet MIL-STD-810G specification
- Dell Technologies in collaboration with Tracewell systems has designed a fully automated heater which, when fully integrated, can provide supplemental heating to the device when needed.
Compute cases can grow up to 8, for a total of 16 servers (in 4-node increments) -- the scale unit maximum mandated by Microsoft.
You can read the full specifications here.
Azure Stack Hub – Tactical is a turnkey end to end engineered solution designed, tested, and sustained through the entire lifespan of all of its hardware and software components.
It includes non-disruptive operations and automated full stack life cycle management for on-going component maintenance, fully coordinated with Microsoft’s Update process.
Customers also benefit from a simplified one call support model across all solution components.
Desperate “edge-cuts” must have desperate “tactical-cures”, and that is exactly what Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack Hub – Tactical delivers to our customers for edge environments and extreme conditions.
Azure Stack Hub – Tactical resolves the challenges of providing Azure cloud services everywhere by allowing our customers to add/remove deployments with relative ease through an automated, repeatable, and predictable process requiring minimal local IT resources.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more blog updates in this space by visiting Info Hub!
GPU-Accelerated AI and ML Capabilities
Mon, 14 Dec 2020 15:37:06 -0000|
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Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack Hub has been extending Microsoft Azure services to customer-owned data centers for over three years. Our platform has enabled organizations to create a hybrid cloud ecosystem that drives application modernization and to address business concerns around data sovereignty and regulatory compliance.
Dell Technologies, in collaboration with Microsoft, is excited to announce upcoming enhancements that will unlock valuable, real-time insights from local data using GPU-accelerated AI and ML capabilities. Actionable information can be derived from large on-premises data sets at the intelligent edge without sacrificing security.
Partnership with NVIDIA
Today, customers can order our Azure Stack Hub dense scale unit configuration with NVIDIA Tesla V100S GPUs for running compute-intensive AI processes like inferencing, training, and visualization from virtual machine or container-based applications. Some customers choose to run Kubernetes clusters on their hardware-accelerated Azure Stack Hub scale units to process and analyze data sent from IoT devices or Azure Stack Edge appliances. Powered by the Dell EMC PowerEdge R840 rack server, these NVIDIA Tesla V100S GPUs use Discrete Device Assignment (DDA), also known as GPU pass-through, to dedicate one or more GPUs to an Azure Stack Hub NCv3 VM.
The following figure illustrates the resources installed in each GPU-equipped Azure Stack Hub dense configuration scale unit node.
This month, our Dell EMC Azure Stack Hub release 2011 will also support the NVIDIA T4 GPU – a single-slot, low-profile adapter powered by NVIDIA Turing Tensor Cores. These GPUs are perfect for accelerating diverse cloud-based workloads, including light machine learning, inference, and visualization. These adapters can be ordered with Dell EMC Azure Stack Hub all-flash scale units powered by Dell EMC PowerEdge R640 rack servers. Like the NVIDIA Tesla V100S, these GPUs use DDA to dedicate one adapter’s powerful capabilities to a single Azure Stack Hub NCas_v4 VM. A future Azure Stack Hub release will also enable GPU partitioning on the NVIDIA T4.
The following figure illustrates the resources installed in each GPU-equipped Azure Stack Hub all-flash configuration scale unit node.
Partnership with AMD
We are also pleased to announce a partnership with AMD to deliver GPU capabilities in our Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack Hub. Available today, customers can order our dense scale unit configuration with AMD Radeon Instinct MI25 GPUs aimed at graphics intensive visualization workloads like simulation, CAD applications, and gaming. The MI25 uses GPU partitioning (GPU-P) technology to allow users of an Azure Stack Hub NVv4 VM to consume only a portion of the GPU’s resources based on their workload requirements.
The following table is a summary of our hardware acceleration capabilities.
An engineered approach
Following our stringent engineered approach, Dell Technologies goes far beyond considering GPUs as just additional hardware components in the Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack Hub portfolio. We apply our pedigree as leaders in appliance-based solutions to the entire lifecycle of all our scale unit configurations. The dense and all-flash scale unit configurations with integrated GPUs are designed to follow best practices and use cases specifically with Azure-based workloads, rather than workloads running on traditional virtualization platforms. Dell Technologies is also committed to ensuring a simplified experience for initial deployment, patch and update, support, and streamlined operations and monitoring for these new configurations.
There are a couple of additional details worth mentioning about our new Azure Stack Hub dense and all-flash scale unit configurations with hardware acceleration:
- The use of the GPU-backed N-Series VMs in Azure Stack Hub for compute-intensive AI and ML workloads is still in preview. Dell Technologies is very interested in speaking with customers about their use cases and workloads supported by this configuration. Please contact us at email@example.com to speak with one of our engineering technologists.
- The Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack Hub configurations with GPUs can be delivered fully racked and cabled in our Dell EMC rack. Customers can also elect to have the scale unit components re-racked and cabled in their own existing cabinets with the assistance of Dell Technologies Services.
Resources for further study
- At the time of publishing this blog post, only the NCv3 and NVv4 VMs are available in the Azure Stack Hub marketplace. The NCas_v4 currently is not visible in the portal. Please proceed to the Azure Stack Hub User Documentation for more information on these VM sizes.
- Customers may want to explore the Train Machine Learning (ML) model at the edge design pattern in the Azure Hybrid Documentation. This may prove to be a good starting point for putting this technology to work for their organization.
- Customers considering running AI and ML workloads on Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack Hub can also greatly benefit from storage-as-a-service with Dell EMC PowerScale. PowerScale can help enable faster training and validation of AI models, improve model accuracy, drive higher GPU utilization, and increase data science productivity. Visit Artificial Intelligence with Dell EMC PowerScale for more information.