In December 2020, Microsoft announced the new Azure Stack HCI experience with features designed to transform traditional IT environments into highly agile hybrid cloud ecosystems. At its core is a purpose built hyperconverged infrastructure operating system delivered as an Azure service. Azure Stack HCI was deliberately created to deliver enterprise-class software defined capabilities to support any workload at the optimal price-performance ratio. IT organizations can elect to leverage familiar tooling, processes, and competencies for life cycle management. They can also natively integrate with Azure management, governance, data, and application services using Azure Arc.
The entire Azure Stack HCI architecture is inspired by Azure, using Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct, and Software Defined Networking technologies that have operated at massive scale in Azure for years. Traditional monolithic, cloud-native, microservice-based applications run securely, reliably, and at the desired performance levels within Windows and Linux-based virtual machines (VMs) and containers. A new feature exclusive to Azure Stack HCI is stretch clustering for disaster recovery. This stretch clustering solution provides automatic failover of VMs to restore production quickly and without the need for manual intervention.
Azure Stack HCI is hybrid by design. Each cluster is a unique resource manageable by Azure Resource Manager (ARM) using the Azure portal or through programmatic means such as Azure PowerShell and Azure CLI. Since it is a discrete Azure service, Azure Stack HCI always remains current with a rapid cadence of feature and security updates. It also uses an Azure subscription-based billing model at the host layer – charging a set fee per month for each core enabled on the cluster.
Microsoft Windows Admin Center is used as the always-on, edge/local management console. Complementary and consistent with Windows Admin Center is Azure Arc, which allows technologists to manage and operate their entire IT estate at scale from Azure. Azure Arc-enabled infrastructure technologies project non-Azure resources into Azure so they can be managed with services like Azure Monitor, Azure Security Center, Azure Backup, and Azure Site Recovery. With Azure Arc-enabled services – including data and application services – software developers can build their applications in Azure and deploy them to Azure Kubernetes Service on Azure Stack HCI clusters located anywhere.
Two different deployment options are available for Azure Stack HCI. Customers can choose to obtain validated nodes based on standardized reference architectures or integrated systems. Integrated systems provide the fastest time to value, as they include the Azure Stack HCI operating system pre-installed in the factory with the hardware partners’ firmware and drivers applied. At Dell Technologies, we take the integrated system approach and include capabilities that ensure success at each stage of the solution life cycle.