What is Azure Stack, and how does it work

You may well have heard that there is a way to run Microsoft’s Azure public cloud service in your own data center. You would have paid it for lip service and would not have believed anything like that, but it is here and it works! It also has the opportunity to do this on-site with its own hardware and provides many Azure services to its own employees and customers.

What is Azure Stack?

Now as you probably already know, Microsoft Azure now has over 50 regions, made up of more than 100 data center buildings worldwide. There are millions of compute cores providing services as diverse as Traffic Manager, Content Delivery Network, Machine Learning, HDInsight, SQL Data Warehouse and many more.

There is no way that a common data center, or even a large data center, can house all these services for you, and the Azure stack is not designed to do so. Azure stack will provide a growing subset of Azure services for use in hybrid (connected) or even disconnected scenarios.

Azure Stack is currently available in two deployments.

The first is the Azure stack licensed for use in production, with Azure stack provided as an integrated system.

The integrated system is available at least through hardware partners, currently Cisco, Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo. This allows hardware vendors to offer a combined system of hardware and software to provide the necessary flexibility and control over your system. This is for deployment of production workloads in new and innovative ways.

Licensing an Azure stack integrated system is dependent on the way you use it, and can vary in many ways from pay as a consumption model to a disconnected scenario. A future post will explain these in detail.

Deployment of ASDK

This is not a trivial practice! I have installed ASDK several times (it will only work for the 180 days you install it), and it takes me between 7 and 10 hours each time. However, this is not a complicated task if you know PowerShell.

First of all you have to download the development kit package, so you have to register first. After downloading and extracting the files, you need to copy the CloudBuilder.hvdx file to the host machine.

Set up the host to boot from this VHD and you’re good to go.

There is now a GUI installer or powershell option if you wish. At this point you can choose to use Azure AD or ADFS to provide an identity solution for your deployment (I personally use Azure AD). You will be left with Hyper-V servers included in a domain with the following virtual machines (VMs), which form the infrastructure of your Azure Stack Dev Kit. The diagram below shows the logical architecture of ASDK.

How to use Azure Stack

However, the best way to learn is to dive into it; Apply this by understanding the difference between Azure and Azure stack operations yourself. It can also be deployed on a blue VM if you like!

The concept of admin portal does not really exist in Azure, but in the Azure stack you have both admin portal and operator portal, as shown below:

The admin portal allows you to create your own marketplace, as shown in the first graphic of the post. It also allows administrators to plan resources, then present them to users who can create or accept subscriptions based on those offers.

Once a user is subscribed they can deploy resources in exactly the same manner and resources as Azure. You can see above the Ubuntu VM that I showed in the Hyper-V Manager graphic.

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