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Everything Cloud at Dell EMC

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This Microsoft Ignite 2019, we at Dell EMC are excited to announce two preview programs that showcase our continued commitment to deliver a differentiated platform enabling our customers to accelerate their business transformation goals with Microsoft Azure Stack.

 

GPU Preview

At Dell EMC, we are excited to introduce our GPU preview program in partnership with Microsoft. For customers running training and inference workloads on Azure or looking to run applications on Azure N-Series virtual machines, this preview will bring those capabilities to Azure Stack Hub.  Visualization is another targeted use case where customers are looking to leverage GPU capabilities to render large amounts of data on specific targets closer to where the data is generated.

To address these scenarios, we are looking to bring configurations that include a choice of NVIDIA v100, AMD MI25 GPUs to our customers over the preview period.

At the preview stage, we look forward to working closely with our customers in partnership with Microsoft to understand their scenarios and developing the right GPU configuration to ensure a successful outcome.

We expect the public preview to start in January 2020.

Call to action:

Submit request to Microsoft: http://aka.ms/azurestackgpupreview

For any questions for Dell EMC please contact us at mhc.preview@dell.com

 

Data Protection-aaS Preview

As customer adoption of Azure Stack Hub matures, data protection becomes a critical need in order to take a workload to production. At Dell EMC, we have taken a differentiated approach to offer external backup integrated into Azure stack. With this Preview, our goal is to deliver Backup-aaS from within the Azure Stack portal.

As a Cloud Admin, you will have the ability to create plans and offers with backup quotas and policies along with the ability to metering usage.

Tenants will be able to add backup services to their existing workloads from the Azure Stack Hub tenant portal.

Out-of-the-Box, you get an external Data Domain Backup Vault and Networker Backup Software integrated into Azure Stack Hub with Image-level snapshot capabilities.

Combined with Azure Stack BCDR foundational patterns (ref Microsoft), our goal is to offer a powerful Azure consistent Backup service for our customers.

 

We expect to start public previews in January 2020.

 

Call to action:

You can find more information on the Azure Stack BCDR foundational pattern under this link.

For more information on Dell EMCs approach and our preview program, check out this link.

To participate in the preview, please contact us at mhc.preview@dell.com

CSP.png

 

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.

 

Direct CSP: DirectCSP.png

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.

 




Indirect CSP:IndirectCSP.png

          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.

 

Persona

Subscription Type

Azure Stack Operator

Usage and Billing

Selling

Support

Direct CSP

APSS

Direct CSP

Direct CSP

Direct CSP

Direct CSP

Indirect CSP

or

Distributor

APSS

Distributor

Distributor

Reseller

Distributor

or

Reseller

Reseller

CSP

Reseller

Indirect CSP

or

Distributor

Reseller

Distributor

or

Reseller

End Customer

CSP

End Customer

Indirect CSP

or

Distributor

Reseller

or

Distributor

Distributor

or

Reseller

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 phase.

 

  • 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

CSP-Flow.png


  1. First create a CSP or APSS Subscription depending on the CSP operating model that best fits your organization from Microsoft Partner Center
    1. For Azure Partner Shared Services subscription (APSS) - Please go through Microsoft documentation on How to create APSS Subscription
    2. CSP Subscription - Please go through Microsoft documentation on How to create CPS Subscription
  2. Register Azure Stack against the CSP subscription as opted in Step 1. Steps on how to register Azure Stack can be found here
  3. 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
  4. 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.
    1. You can refer to the Microsoft documentation on How to add tenants in Partner Center as shown below

                   Add_Customer.png

    1. 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

                    AddSub.png

    1. 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.
    2. 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
    3. 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
    4. 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.

 

Sources:

Manage usage and billing for Azure Stack as a Cloud Solution Provider

All you need to know about CSP by Alfredo Pizzirani and Tiberiu Radu

How to Register and Manage Tenants on Azure Stack for CSPs

Dell EMC Azure Stack

 

Azure Stack is designed to help organizations deliver Azure services from their own datacenter. By allowing end users to ‘develop once and deploy anywhere' (public Azure or on premises), customers can now take full advantage of Azure services in various scenarios that they otherwise could not, whether due to regulations, data sensitivity, latency, edge use cases, or location of data that prevents them from using public cloud.

 

Dell EMC co-engineers this solution with Microsoft, with added value in automation of deployments, patches and updates, along with integration of various key solutions to meet our customers’ holistic needs. One such value add which we're proud to have now launched is off-stack backup storage integration, with Data Domain.

 

Backup in Azure Stack

 

Backup of tenant workloads in Azure Stack requires consideration both from an administrator (Azure Stack Operator), and tenant perspective. From an administrator perspective, a mechanism has to be provided to tenants in order to perform backups, enabling them to protect their workloads in the event that they need to be restored. Ideally the storage used to hold this backup data long term will not reside on the Azure Stack itself, as this will a) waste valuable Azure Stack storage, and b) not provide protection in the event of outage or a disaster scenario which affects the Azure Stack itself.

 

In an ideal world, an Azure Stack administrator wants to be able to provide their tenants with resilient, cost effective, off-stack backup storage, which is integrated into the Azure Stack tenant portal, and which enforces admin-defined quotas. Finally, the backup storage target should not force tenants down one particular path when it comes to what backup software they choose to use.

 

From a tenant perspective, protection and recovery of IaaS workloads in Azure Stack is done by in-guest agent today, often making use of Azure Stack storage to hold the backup data.

 

Azure Backup

 

Microsoft provides native integration of Azure Backup into Azure Stack, enabling tenants to backup their workloads to the Azure Public cloud. While this solution suits a subset of Azure Stack customers, there are many who are unable to use Azure Backup, due to…

 

  • Lack of connectivity or bandwidth to Public Azure
  • Regulatory compliance requirements mandating data resides on-premises
  • Cost of recovery - data egress from Azure has an associated cost
  • Time for recovery - restoring multiple TB of data from Azure can just take too long


Data Domain

 

Today, Dell EMC Data Domain leads the purpose-built backup appliance market, holding more than 60% of the market share. Data Domain provides cost-effective, resilient, scalable, reliable storage specifically for holding and protecting backup data on-premises. Many backup vendors make use of Data Domain as a back-end storage target, and many Azure Stack customers have existing Data Domain investments in their datacentres.

 

1.png

 

Data Domain Azure Stack Integration

 

Extending on our previous announcement of native Isilon integration into Azure Stack, Dell EMC have continued work with our partner CloudAssert, to develop a native resource provider for Azure Stack which enables the management and provisioning of Data Domain storage from within Azure Stack.

 

This resource provider enables Azure Stack Operators to provide their tenants with set quotas of Data Domain storage, which they can then use to protect their IaaS workloads. Just like with other Azure Stack services, the Operator assigns a Data Domain quota to a Plan, which is then enforced in tenant Subscriptions.

 

In the tenant space, Azure Stack tenants are able to deploy their choice of validated backup software - currently Networker, Avamar, Veeam, or Commvault - and then connect that backup software to the Data Domain, with multi-tenancy* and quota management handled transparently.

 

With a choice of backup software vendors, industry leading data protection with Data Domain, and full integration into the Azure Stack Admin and Tenant portals, Dell EMC is the only Azure Stack vendor to provide a native, multi-tenancy-aware, off-stack backup solution integrated into Azure Stack.

 

Delving Deeper

 

Data Domain data protection services are offered as a solution within the Azure Stack admin and tenant portals, by integrating with the VConnect Resource Provider for Azure Stack.  Data Domain integration with the VConnect Resource Provider delivers the following capabilities:

 

  • Managing Data Domain storage quotas like maximum number of MTrees allowed per Tenant, or storage hard limits per MTree
  • Managing CIFS shares, NFS exports and DD Boost Storage units
  • Honoring role-based access control for the built-in roles of Azure Stack - Owner, Contributor, and Reader
  • Tracking the usage consumption of MTree storage and reporting the usage to the Azure Stack pipeline

 

 

2.png

 

 

From within the Azure Stack Tenant portal, a tenant can configure and manage their own backup targets. From the create backup target wizard, the connection URL and credentials are specified which will be used to connect to the Data Domain infrastructure.

 

 

3.png

 

 

The three protocols supported by Data Domain - namely CIFS, NFS and DD Boost protocol - can be optionally disabled or enabled.  Creation of CIFS shares, NFS export, and DD Boost storage unit is allowed based on this configuration.

 

 

4.png

 

 

A full walkthrough of how to configure and manage Data Domain functionality in Azure Stack is included in the Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack Data Domain Integration whitepaper.

 

Backup Vendors

 

While Data Domain functions as the backend storage target for IaaS backups, backup software still needs to be deployed into the tenant space to manage the backup process and scheduling. In this release, we support the following backup vendors:

 

Backup Provider

Targeted Version

NetWorker

NetWorker 9.x

Avamar*

Avamar 18.1

Commvault

Commvault Simpana v11

Veeam

Veeam backup and replication 9.5

 

*Avamar currently supported for single tenant scenarios, not multi-tenancy.

 

A tenant, or a cloud operator providing a fully managed service, will deploy their backup software of choice in their tenant space, configure it to use Data Domain as the backend storage target, and immediately have the ability to store their backup data off-stamp, in a secure, protected, and cost-effective platform which respects Azure Stack storage quotas.

 

Conclusion

 

With the release of the VConnect resource provider for Data Domain in Azure Stack, Dell EMC is reaffirming its commitment to the Azure Stack market and to our customers, by continuing to innovate and lead the market in Azure Stack innovation. The understanding that Azure Stack does not live in a silo, but instead needs to integrate and extend into the wider datacentre landscape is a key tenet of the Dell EMC Azure Stack vision, and we're committed to continuing to uniquely innovate in this important space.

 

To find out more about Data Domain integration for Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack, please contact kenny.lowe@dell.com.

 

 

 

 

 

By Karthik Angamuthu | Dell EMC | Sr. Product Manager for Azure Stack


Dell EMC Azure Stack

The Dell EMC Azure Stack is an extension of Azure to consistently build and run hybrid applications across cloud boundaries. Dell EMC's commitment to innovate along with Microsoft continues and our primary investment is focused on simplifying the operations for both cloud administrators and tenants on Azure Stack. With today’s announcement of 'Dell EMC Azure Stack Native Integration with Data Domain', we have taken a step towards simplifying the backup and DR experience for both admins and tenants.

 

Please stay tuned to this blog series for more details, use cases and demo videos.

 

Data Domain

Dell EMC Data Domain is purpose-built backup target appliance that speeds up your backup and recovery, protecting data on-premises and in the cloud, and delivers a lower cost-to-protect with leading data deduplication and bandwidth utilization. More details on data domain can be found here.

 

User Experience

Azure Stack delivers a true cloud experience, allowing you to build and run Azure native cloud applications consistently whether on-premises or in Azure Public. However, Azure Stack operators today leverage a collection of third-party backup solutions that may not yield that same level of consistency. The native integration between Data Domain and Azure Stack streamlines the end-to-end experience for tenants by enabling self-service capability of their workloads.

 

Integration with Data Domain

So, how does the integration help? Backup and DR with Azure Stack require careful consideration and implementation. There are primarily two roles involved with data protection of Azure Stack:

1) Cloud Operator (Azure Stack administrator) who is responsible for protecting the Azure stack infrastructure and configuring backup storage and policies

2) Cloud user (tenant) who is responsible for protecting the workloads running inside Azure Stack

 

Integration of Data Domain with Dell EMC Azure Stack leverages Azure Stack native tooling to provision Data Domain natively as a backup storage target from within Azure Stack, vastly simplifying on-premises cloud operations. In a multi-tenant environment where tenants may bring their own backup software to protect their respective workloads, they will be able to self-serve their backup needs end-to-end, confident in the fact that their backup data resides in an industry leading Dell EMC Data Domain platform. Additionally, from admin perspective, they will be able to enforce storage quotas against specific plans and offers, all from within the Azure Stack portal. From a service provider perspective, this allows one common method for delivering quota enforced and trackable backup storage to tenants without mandating what backup tools those tenants use within their subscriptions.

 

Opportunities

Both service providers and enterprise customers can now offer simplified backup service via Azure portal or power shell or ARM template to your respective customers with enterprise class backup target Data Domain platform.

 

How to order

This solution is currently available for purchase through our solution partner CloudAssert. You can reach out to your Dell EMC Azure Stack sales specialist Kenny Lowe at kenny.lowe@dell.com, phone# +44 7747 209567 to purchase this.

 

For general inquiries, questions and comments, please reach out to Dell EMC Azure Stack Product Manager Karthik Angamuthu at karthik_angamuthu@dell.com

 


 

By Karthik Angamuthu | Dell EMC | Sr. Product Manager for Azure Stack


While Data Domain acts as the storage target, customers are not locked to a specific backup technology. Customers may use Avamar, Networker, Commvault, and Veeam as backup products integrated with Data Domain.  In a service provider environment, each tenant may have a choice of their own backup software, but ultimately, they can all be backed up to same target which is configured with multi-tenancy in a secure manner.

  Detailed documentation on how to configure various backup software is available here. The integration is built using VConnect from Cloud Assert, who is a proud partner of Dell EMC that has extended VConnect to enable Data Domain and Isilon OneFS integrations within the Azure Stack portal.

1.pngOn July 9th , 2019, support for SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 will end - at the time of writing this blog, this is tomorrow. By the time you read this, it'll likely have passed.

 

This means the end of regular security updates, leaving your heritage SQL server workloads unprotected from the latest security vulnerabilities. Note that this is end of support (EOS), not end of life (EOL), as there are still options available for you to protect these workloads, and further extend their lifespan.

 

Today there are effectively four options available to customers in this situation:

 

Upgrade and modernize your SQL server workloads


This is the best solution - while it's tempting to simply extend the life of existing workloads, SQL 2008 is over 10 years old now, and the features and capabilities available in modern versions put it to shame. If it's possible to upgrade and modernize, this represents your best path forward.

 

We recognize though that there are many workloads which simply cannot be upgraded - sometimes this is due to technical dependencies, sometimes it's due to the sheer scale of the task. Regardless of the reason, there are three additional options available for those who cannot upgrade their 2008 workloads.

 

Pay for extended support

 

As with any Microsoft product which has reached EOS, the option exists to purchase extended support, to buy some more time to either upgrade or retire the product, and ensure security protection for the duration of those activities. This is not a cheap option, and adds a significant overhead to already hefty SQL Server licenses - typically adding 75% to the cost of licensing.

 

Recognizing this, Microsoft have made additional options available to customers, to help them avoid the additional (and often unplanned) overhead of paying for extended support.

 

Migrate workloads to Azure

 

SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 workloads migrated or 'lifted and shifted' into Azure are eligible for three years of free security updates. In addition, any SQL Server 2008 Enterprise licenses with Software Assurance can make use of Azure Hybrid Use Benefits (AHUB), and can be migrated directly into Azure with no licensing impact.

 

While this is a superb offer, it falls short for many enterprise customers in a few key areas.

 

Firstly, SQL server workloads never operate in isolation - they're part of a wider application stack, and often other parts of an application cannot be migrated to Azure. Moving a database backend into an Azure datacentre and leaving other components on-premises typically introduces unacceptable latency, particularly when discussing older versions of SQL Server like 2008 and R2.

 

Secondly, while AHUB is great for those customers who operate Enterprise Core licenses and have maintained Software Assurance (SA), all of those companies with investments in other licensing mechanisms and who don't have SA will need to re-purchase their licenses, often not at insignificant cost, in order to move their workloads to Azure.

 

Thirdly, even for customers who can technically move their workloads to Azure, and who have the appropriate licenses in place to avoid having to buy them again, there are often a myriad of regulatory compliance reasons preventing migration into Public Azure datacentres. For these customers, migration to Azure just isn't an option, and yet paying for extended support is unpalatable from a cost perspective.

 

For customers who fall into any of these three categories, a fourth option exists.

 

Migrate workloads to Azure Stack for three years of free extended support

 

Azure Stack is an extension of Azure on-premises, and as such delivers the same extended support for Windows and SQL 2008/R2 as Public Azure, with three years of support included for all such workloads migrated into Azure Stack.

 

Azure Stack doesn't live in isolation or at arm's length from the rest of your infrastructure, it operates within the same four walls as your existing systems, and as such can integrate with them easily without the latency penalties which can come from Public Cloud solutions.

 

In addition to bringing some Azure licensing benefits on-premises - for example pay as you use licensing for Windows Server - Azure Stack also obeys many of the same licensing laws as other on-premises solutions. So while Azure Hybrid Use Benefits only apply to Enterprise Core licenses with Software Assurance in Public Azure, typically existing licenses can simply be migrated into Azure Stack with no impact, regardless or version or presence of SA. As ever, make sure to validate your licensing position with your licensing reseller/specialist to ensure you're in compliance with all requirements.

 

Because you own and operate Azure Stack, the regulatory compliance issues which can prevent migration to Public Azure simply don't exist within Azure Stack, and companies can migrate their workloads while remaining in full compliance with country, region, or industry regulations. Additionally, Azure Stack can operate in a fully disconnected mode, making it a great choice for both highly regulated dark sites, and sites with limited/no connectivity.

 

As if this wasn't compelling enough, customers are finding that when comparing the cost of implementing Azure Stack vs the cost of paying for extended support, not only do they get a modern, evergreen, Azure-consistent IaaS and PaaS ready platform, but it's actually saving them substantial amounts of money while providing significant benefits!

 

Going beyond End of Support

 

Over and above extending the life and value of SQL 2008 workloads though, Azure Stack is a fantastic platform for operating SQL Server workloads in general. Azure Stack offers some unique capabilities not offered by other on-premises environments, as well as unlocking some of the greatest value adds in modern SQL Server variants.

 

Infrastructure as Code

 

One of the most valuable capabilities in any cloud-native platform is the ability to define your infrastructure in Infrastructure as Code (IaC) templates. In the same way that the same source code should always generate the same binary when compiled, an IaC template will always generate the same environment every time it's applied. Infrastructure as code removes the problem of configuration drift, and enables the DevOps concept of cattle vs pets.

 

Because Azure Stack is an extension of Azure, we benefit from much of the extensive Azure ecosystem already in place, including pre-defined IaC templates. In the Azure Stack Quickstart Templates gallery there are templates for deploying a SQL 2014 Always on Availability Group in non-HA mode, SQL 2014 Standalone server, and SQL 2016 Always on Availability Group with HA enabled. These templates can be very easily edited and moulded to your individual purposes.

 

1.png

 

In order to deploy this SQL 2014 template, only four parameters need to be filled in - a domain name, a SQL Service account name, an admin username, and a password. After entering these parameters, the template will deploy a full end to end SQL environment.

 

1.png

 

Not only does the template provision and configure a SQL server, but also an Active Directory environment, public IP Address, load balancer, and a network security group to manage north/south/east/west traffic external to the VMs. In short - a fully functional end to end SQL and AD environment, with just a few clicks.

 

1.png

Of course there are existing templates for deploying full always on availability groups, different versions of SQL, and extensions for joining to an existing domain rather than deploying a new one.

 

For SQL 2008R2 workloads, there is a marketplace image available to deploy SQL 2008 R2 SP3, so instead of migrating in a full VM, it's often worth looking at deploying a fresh VM and just migrating in the database or databases. Further down in this blog you'll see some of the benefits to this approach come to light.

1.png

 

Azure Stack benefits massively from being a part of the wider Azure ecosystem, where there's a plethora of official and community content to build on top of. With Azure Stack you don't start from scratch, you stand on the shoulders of giants and reap the efforts of a decade-old community.

 

Backup and Recovery

 

As ever, Backup and Recovery remains a critical consideration with any SQL Server workload, and in this regard Azure Stack has you covered as well.

 

Built into the SQL IaaS Extension in Azure Stack (and of course in Public Azure) is the ability to configure automated backup of your SQL server workloads. You can backup user databases and system databases, configure a retention period, encrypt your backups, configure frequency of full backups, tweak the backup window… all of this and more is available out of the box and manageable via the Azure Stack portal, via ARM templates, or any automation tooling of your choice.

 

1.png

 

This means that when you deploy a SQL workload from Infrastructure as Code template, you can include the backup configuration in that template, and know that your workload is protected immediately from time of deployment. Backup isn't an additional step, it's just an inbuilt part of  your deployment process.

 

By default, these backups will be stored in a storage account within your Azure Stack scale unit - you may want to keep some recent backups locally on the Azure Stack itself to enable rapid restore activities, while you probably want to store older backups outside the Azure Stack itself, both to take advantage of lower cost storage, and to protect from failure of the scale unit itself.

 

1.png

 

The means to achieve this automatedly exists within Azure Stack as well - an Azure Functions Blob Trigger set to run whenever a new item is added to a storage container is a very lightweight way to manage automatically copying or moving your backups to an external storage device. In the example below I'm using a simple Batch script, but this could be any one of a number of languages, be it C#, Javascript, Typescript, or more!

 

1.pngWhen combined with Dell EMC support for Isilon storage natively managed within Azure Stack, you can have a fully automated end to end off-stack backup solution for SQL server workloads, all managed natively from within Azure Stack and deployable from ARM template.

 

Restore operations are just as important as backup operations, and here we can use native features to rapidly recover from our backups as well. Within SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), or using your choice of PowerShell or other automation tools, databases can be restored directly from Azure blob storage accounts, and this includes Azure Stack blob storage.

 

1.png

 

Because backups will always be relatively local to the SQL server - either running in the same Azure Stack on the same physical storage, or off-stack in an Isilon or similar storage device in the same premises - restore time can be significantly enhanced vs restoring from a Public Azure blob storage account, where bandwidth and hence restore time is limited by your connectivity outside the datacentre.

 

1.png

 

As you can see, just running SQL Server workloads in Azure Stack confers upon them a host of protection options and benefits, every one of which can be automated.

 

Patch and Update

 

Patch and update of any IT environment is vital, and so it is with SQL workloads too, with maintenance of security updates and minor patches being both important, and traditionally a drain on IT resources. The SQL IaaS Extension within Azure Stack provides the opportunity to automate the deployment of these Windows and SQL updates - those marked important - while still allowing IT admins to choose if and when to deploy major releases which could have potential workload impact.

 

Within the SQL Configuration Blade in the VM Configuration, a patch schedule can be enabled and configured, with a defined maintenance window to ensure updates are completed or rolled back in an acceptable and known timeframe.

 

1.png

 

If you have a need to delve deeper and automate additional patch and update capabilities, including deployment of new major releases or cumulative updates, Azure can be used to enable full Update Management of Azure Stack workloads. For SQL Server alone though, the built in functionality described here can provide an auditable and automated mechanism for keeping on top of important updates, with no dependencies outside your datacentre.

 

SQL Server 2019 - Polybase

 

Within SQL Server, from 2016 onwards, there exists a wonderful feature called Polybase. While we won't do a deep dive into it here - instead saving that for a future blog - it's something that's very much worth considering in the context of Azure Stack, given some of the new scenarios it can unlock in the on-premises datacentre.

 

We know that one of key inhibitors to customers moving wholesale to public cloud providers is the problem of data gravity - where large datasets on premises are just too large to migrate to the public cloud, and where an application ecosystem has built around and is now sticky to and 'orbiting' those datasets, precluding their migration as well.

 

As we know, Azure Stack provides the ability to run Azure services within the existing four walls of your datacentre, delivering significant management, automation, and development benefit both to IT Pros and to Developers. Deploying Azure Stack adjacent to a location locked data-gravity bound environment can in and of itself unlock new opportunities for application modernisation, however it's in conjunction with Polybase in SQL Server 2019 that some of the coolest opportunities come to light.

 

We've seen already that running SQL Server within Azure Stack confers upon it certain benefits by default, around patch and update, backup, monitoring, automated and repeatable deployment and scaling, and more. Data gravity often precludes existing workloads moving into Azure Stack though, and often times the workloads aren't SQL workloads anyway. This is where Polybase comes to the rescue.

 

In a nutshell, Polybase enables the querying of and access to data in external data sources - some of which are detailed in the below diagram - without moving that data into SQL Server itself. Developers can use features like the Azure App Service, Azure Functions, or Azure marketplace images in Azure Stack IaaS, query 'external tables' in SQL 2019, and communicate with these external data sources entirely through T-SQL.

 

All operations are offloaded from the SQL environment to the data source which holds the data, so load addition to the Azure Stack environment is minimal, and developers now no longer need to maintain different libraries for different data sources. The requirement for ETL is removed or at least minimsed, and querying against multiple disparate data sources becomes a significantly simpler proposition.

 

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In short - by delivering an Azure Stack solution in conjunction with SQL Server 2019 Polybase, IT Pros can deliver their developers a platform which allows them to develop in an Azure consistent way, using Infrastructure as Code and Azure Marketplace images, as well as some hugely powerful Azure PaaS features, while significantly simplifying the way they access existing data sources.

 

As Azure Stack continues to grow and mature, we'll see less of Azure Stack being discussed as a silo, and more of these integration scenarios, where Azure Stack is not just the enabler for otherwise untenable scenarios, but also the core driver to data centre modernisation, standardisation, and developer agility in the context of the entire datacentre estate.

 

Bringing Value to any SQL Variant

 

From the most modern variants right back to those at the end of extended support, Azure Stack is able to provide significant value add to any SQL Server workload.

 

Migrating your existing SQL 2008/R2 workloads into an Azure Stack today reduces your management burden, gives you three years of free extended support and security updates, opens up new and valuable scenarios and opportunities, and even potentially saves you money over paying for extended support.

 

Migrating your workloads to Azure Stack and extending the life of those SQL 2008 environments isn't the end of the road though. With an Azure Stack in your datacentre you're now running a modern, evergreen cloud platform, consistent with public Azure, with the time and space to explore workload modernisation in a safe and secure environment.

 

These are a few of the ways Azure Stack brings new value to your on-premises database platforms, regardless of version. Whether it's extending the life of your heritage workloads, enhancing all SQL workloads with new management and support capabilities, or bringing the power of Azure IaaS and PaaS to your datacentre, SQL Server and Azure Stack are the best of friends, and very much designed to operate better together.

When it comes to building modern applications and adopting a cloud operating model, Azure Stack is an extension of Azure. While the primary focus is the ability to develop and run Azure services in a Hybrid Environment, Microsoft has also brought the Azure economic model to Azure Stack with usage-based billing. At Dell EMC, our goal is to complete that experience by providing a metered usage consumption offering for the Dell EMC Cloud on Microsoft Azure Stack. Now with the recent introduction of Flex on Demand from Dell Financial Services (DFS), you have the option to pay for your Azure Stack Infrastructure based on the usage data from your Azure Stack Usage API Endpoint.

 

Capacity Planning and Flex capacity

An important consideration for many of our Hybrid Cloud customers is the ability to scale applications and services rapidly. This could apply to the ability to accommodate bursty workloads as well as scenarios where you see rapid growth yet keep some buffer capacity to cushion the impact of that growth. Our goal at Dell EMC is to provide you with the business model that accommodates both options softening the impact of time related to capacity planning.

 

dfs_fod.png

 

Usage based billing consistent with Cloud Economics

Most of target personas for Hybrid cloud are focused on the application developer or the IT operator. As Hybrid Cloud adoption grows, a company’s finance, accounting along with procurement stakeholders are realizing the benefits of cloud economics. Eliminating the need to manage un-planned capital expenses, while benefiting from procurement of equipment as a service enables you to simplify accounting, free up cash flow and make procurement of new services more streamlined.

  With Flex on Demand from DFS, consistent with Azure, your infrastructure charges are tied to usage and aligns with the OPEX type consumption models that customers desire. You pay Dell EMC for the services you consume plus a pre-negotiated fixed cost monthly. This covers the usage costs associated with the Hardware, Lifecycle Management SW and Maintenance while you continue to pay your subscription costs to Microsoft for the Azure Services running on Azure Stack.


dfs_azs.png


Meters consistent with Azure

While metered service is a key tenet of Cloud computing, picking the right resources and meters is equally important. In discussing options with our customers, the consistency with Azure and the Cost transparency were highlighted as key goals. In keeping with the notion that Azure Stack is an extension of Azure, we applied a similar approach to the usage measurements and billing of the Azure Stack Infrastructure.

To do this, we extract and report back the per-subscription resources leveraging the usage API endpoints from Azure Stack Provider Resource API. Consistent with Azure Stack, we measure the VM Hours and capture the VM Type. From this data, we compute the resource consumption. Based on the Scale Unit Type (Balanced/All Flash), we then assign a rate and a bill is generated.

Whether you are looking for a financial model consistent with Azure or looking to keep some buffer capacity to accommodate growth, working with Dell Financial Services, we are delighted to bring this Measured Service capability to the full stack and in a way completing the final piece of the Hybrid cloud puzzle. For more information you can go to Flex On Demand form DFS .

co-authored by jayanth_yk and janakarangama


In a previous blogpost on "Update on Updates", we’ve walked you through the journey from manually executing the Patch & Update (P&U) process for Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack to Dell EMC's commitment in delivering the promise to automate the P&U process in 1805 release. 

 

We are now pleased to announce that with 1811 release, P&U Automation Tool is even better with improvements and feature additions. We now automate P&U for firmware of Switches (Dell EMC TOR and BMC switches), OS updates for VMs (OME - OpenManage Essentials and OMNM - OpenManage Network Administrator) on Hardware Lifecycle Host (HLH), OS and Driver update for HLH itself, in addition to automation of firmware update on Scale Unit (SU) nodes and HLH node.

 

Woah! A P&U Automation Tool which saves umpteen hours of keyboard time, avoids human errors and now extends itself beyond firmware update to incorporate driver and OS update to its already rich feature set for a hassle-free lifecycle management on your Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack, we believe we have ticked all the right boxes by listening to your valuable feedback and suggestions. We also think that the key differentiator we bring to the table is the option to update the firmware of Dell EMC TOR and BMC switches which gives you the automation advantage on your network as well.

 

Great! With that let’s spend some time trying to understand the various bits of lifecycle management on your Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack and running the P&U Automation Tool. First let’s look at the update options available from both Microsoft and Dell EMC.


Brief overview of all the updates available in Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack system (Microsoft and Dell EMC updates)


Type of Updates

Dell EMC Updates

Microsoft Updates

Update Method

OS Update for the SU Nodes

 

MS Azure Stack Admin Portal

Azure Stack Software Updates

 

MS Azure Stack Admin Portal

Driver Update for the SU Nodes

 

MS Azure Stack Admin Portal

HLH OS and Driver Update

 

Dell EMC P&U Automation Tool

OME and OMNM OS Update

 

Dell EMC P&U Automation Tool

Firmware Updates for HLH and Compute Nodes

 

Dell EMC P&U Automation Tool

Firmware Updates for TOR and BMC Switches

 

Dell EMC P&U Automation Tool

 

Note that, on the Microsoft Azure Stack software front all the updates are handled via the MS Azure Stack Administrator Portal and the detailed process from Microsoft can be found here.


Now that we have understood the various bits of lifecycle management, let’s run you through the P&U Automation Tool.


Prerequisites before running the P&U tool


Note: Currently 1811 P&U Automation Tool is applicable to 14G hardware only.

  1. Download the latest Dell EMC Customer Toolkit v1.1.1811.1 here
  2. Download the Dell EMC Patch and Update Automation Tool v1.1.1811.1 from here
  3. Upgrade SupportAssist Enterprise to 2.0.0.53. Please refer to the P&U User Guide
  4. Upgrade OME to 2.4.0.930. Please refer to the P&U User Guide
  5. Upgrade OMNM to 6.5.3. Please refer to the P&U User Guide
  6. Also refer to the Switch Firmware pre-requisites from the P&U User Guide

 

Installing and running the P&U Automation Tool


Step 1: Run the P&U Automation Tool msi from the downloaded location on the OME VM and follow the installation wizard to complete the installation.

Note: As the P&U Automation Tool installs the updates, it restarts the HLH for completing the update process. This would in turn restart OME and OMNM VMs. If you want to optionally enable automatic login to the OME and OMNM VMs, you may follow the steps mentioned in the User Guide.

 

Step 2: Launch the Patch and Update Automation Tool by double clicking on the icon on your OME VM’s desktop. Then a welcome window appears, and you must accept the Terms and Conditions to proceed.

1) Welcome page.JPG.jpg


Step 3: Under the Configuration - Profile section, pay attention to the Notification banner and take the necessary action. Enter all the credentials in the text fields and click Next.

 

Note: In the OME VM, you need to copy the DeploymentData File and ConfigurationData File to C:\Program Files (x86)\DellEMC\DeploymentJSON. You can get the DeploymentData File and   ConfigurationData File from the HLH host in D:\DeploymentFiles\JSONS location.

2) Profile tab.JPG.jpg


Step 4: Under Configuration - Workflow section, select the path of Dell EMC Customer Toolkit File and update the ERCS Endpoint IP Address text field and click Next.

3) Workflow tab.JPG.jpg


Step 5: Under Configuration - Settings section click Next to begin the update process while you get to attend other priority tasks.

4) Settings tab.JPG.jpg

 

Step 6: Under the Status section, you can see the progress of Pre-checker. Once the scan is complete, click on Update to begin the process of updating Firmware of Scale Units and HLH, OS and Driver update for the HLH, OS update for OME and OMNM VMs and Firmware update for the TOR and BMC switches. After all the updates are complete, click on the Finish button.

 

Note: The entire update process may take several hours with no user intervention or repetitive tasks involved throughout the process.

5 i) Precheck workflow.JPG.jpg

 

Step 7: That’s it. You are done! The Summary page will be as shown below.
9) Summery.jpg

 

We at Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack Product Engineering team, are continuously improving the innovation we bring to Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack and thus you can look forward to ongoing feature Improvements in the Dell EMC Patch and Update Automation Tool in future releases. Therefore, we request you to send in your valuable feedback and comments to help us delight you!


We will be publishing a detailed video on Dell EMC Patch and Update Automation Tool soon. Please watch this space for an update.


Update! The all new 1901 PnU tool is out with 13G hardware support as well. Please download the 1901 PnU tool from here

As promised we are also pleased to bring you the video presentation and demo on PnU tool. Please click here to view the video presentation


Important Note: Starting from the release 1901, Microsoft is using the new ZIP format for the OEM package update. The legacy formats (<package>.exe and <package>.bin) are no longer supported in 1901 and the later releases. When updating an existing cluster using the Patch and Update Guide, you will update using the 1901 OEM Extension (.zip file).

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Out in the field with customers and partners, we hear an awful lot about what people think Azure Stack is and isn't, what its capabilities are, and where it should or shouldn't be used when needs arise for an on-premises solution.


"There's no point in just moving existing VMs into Azure Stack, there are already established virtualization platforms with rich ecosystems which will run them just the same and for a lower cost'"

"Sure Azure Stack can run VMs, but it's really designed as a PaaS first platform, not for IaaS."

 

"Azure Stack is a platform for modern applications, there's no point in just using it for VM workloads."

 

"I already have an IaaS platform that I'm depreciating over the next four years, I don't need another more expensive one to do the same thing."

 

Each of the above is a commonly held belief about Azure Stack, and each of them is definitely built around a grain of truth, while at the same time missing or not embracing much of the larger picture around Azure Stack, and indeed Azure and other public cloud platforms.

 

To be fair this isn't anyone's fault in particular; Azure Stack is a nascent product, and as such messaging around it has pivoted multiple times since it was first announced over three years ago. It wouldn't have been seemly to have been seen to be competing with Hyper-V in any way, and so it was announced and positioned as a PaaS-first play, bringing the rich goodness of Azure platform services back to the edge! While that's still true, at the same time it really does do Azure Stack a massive disservice.

 

To be clear - Azure Stack is a brilliant IaaS platform for running VM workloads, and takes us leaps and bounds beyond traditional virtualization.

 

Ok, in retrospect, that wasn't so clear - let's break it down.

 

Virtualization, Advanced Virtualization, and IaaS are three distinct capabilities which are often conflated.

 

2.pngInfrastructure as a Service isn't simply the ability to run virtual machines, it's a set of management constructs on top of a hypervisor on top of a fully automated infrastructure which support and deliver the essential characteristics of a Cloud computing platform.

 

This isn't a new message from Dell EMC, in fact it's been consistent for quite some time now. Rather than rehash previously trodden ground, I'll instead just recap with a link to Greg's excellent blog below.

 

https://blog.dellemc.com/en-us/is-that-iaas-or-just-really-good-virtualization/

 

A lot has changed in Azure Stack in the last year and a half though, and that in and of itself isn't surprising, nor should it be. Azure Stack updates are released on a regular basis, bringing with them new capabilities and improvements, including of course in the IaaS space.

 

Over and above the monthly updates, and far more importantly though, customers have now had their hands on Azure Stack for over a year since official GA launch, and we have a much better idea of the interesting, innovative, and sometimes downright cool scenarios they're using Azure Stack for in the real world.

 

Of course the available Azure PaaS Services are used with gusto, that goes without saying - people prefer to use native PaaS features wherever they can! The Azure App Service and Azure Functions are my personal favourites. Below is a quick Twitter poll I ran, just to gauge if indeed this was general sentiment, and while decidedly unscientific, the results were interesting.

 

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But while Azure Stack is indeed a great PaaS platform, it is definitely not a PaaS only platform, and nor for that matter is Azure by any stretch of the imagination.

 

Indeed one of the fastest growing parts of Public Azure today is through the migration of existing (appropriate) workloads into Azure as VMs, and don't worry we'll cover off what appropriate means a bit later on. This doesn't involve any day one workload transformation or changes to how applications are running, it does typically bring some immediate benefits though, and those benefits are largely the same, or dare I say… consistent, in Azure Stack.

 

Benefit #1

 

Firstly, and probably most importantly, you don't need to design, deploy, or manage any of the underlying hypervisor or software defined constructs. All of the extremely complex virtual infrastructure which goes into running a platform like Azure Stack is delivered as an appliance, consistent every time.

 

4.png

  In most businesses, large portions (if not the majority) of an ops team's time and energy goes into the ongoing management of the infrastructure which supports their workloads. Azure Stack is designed to give pretty much all of that time back. In Azure Stack, all of the hypervisor components, the host OS, the software defined networking, the software defined storage, and everything that goes around and supports them is delivered as a turnkey solution, and then patched and updated automatedly as part of regular Azure Stack updates, albeit scheduled by you, the admin.

 

Each of the dozens of Virtual Machines running on top of the platform to support and deliver Azure Stack itself are locked down and delivered to you as a service. Azure Stack updates are delivered on a mostly-monthly cadence, and while they take some time to run, they are  fully automated end to end. This includes not just the hypervisor and software defined constructs, but also the ongoing patch and update all of the virtual infrastructure required to deliver Azure Stack itself.

 

Through Dell EMC, OEM updates are also automated through our Azure Stack patch and update tool, a unique capability in the Azure Stack OEM market. One of the greatest benefits a true cloud platform delivers is automating you away from the hum drum to where you can spend your time most valuably. Where any part of that solution from bare metal to cloud isn't automated, not only is there potential for human error and configuration drift, your valuable time is also being wasted. Today, uniquely, Dell EMC provides you both that consistency and that time back.

 

Benefit #2

 

The second benefit to Azure Stack comes through its consistency with Public Azure. Any time and skills investment into learning Public Azure automatically translates to Azure Stack, and vice versa. Any infrastructure as code templates developed through the likes of ARM or Terraform can, with some caveats, work across each platform. Potentially most importantly though, Azure is a mature platform which has been around for many years now, and as such has a robust and well established community.

 

5.png

Many of the challenges you'll encounter, solutions you'll want to deploy, or knowledge you want to gain have already been round the houses in Public Azure. There are many, many public repositories of infrastructure templates out there in the community just waiting to be deployed, and many knowledgebases and courses ready to be scoured for knowledge.

 

Take the Azure Stack Quickstart Template Gallery for example. There are dozens of pre-built templates there covering a plethora of IaaS application use cases, everything from a single Windows or Linux VM to an Ethereum consortium blockchain infrastructure, and a huge amount in between. Each of these templates can be used as a starting point, or in some cases a finishing point, for deploying your own IaaS infrastructure in Azure Stack.

 

When you enter into the Azure Stack community, you also enter the wider Azure community, and having a community that well established and open is of incredibly value.

 

Benefit #3

 

The Azure Marketplace is an IaaS-centric 'app store' for the cloud, where software vendors certify through Microsoft and then make available golden images of their software to anyone who wants to deploy it into Azure. Sometimes the resultant VMs are managed by you, sometimes they're delivered as more of an appliance-based offering. Sometimes they're a single VM, sometimes a whole infrastructure will be deployed to deliver the service requested.

6.png

The marketplace is one of the most well used parts of Azure, and again note that its focus is not in other Azure PaaS services. It's in delivering as much value from IaaS as possible, giving you images you know you can trust, which have been battle-tested at hyperscale, and which are typically kept up to date by the very people who create the software running on them.

 

This same marketplace experience exists in Azure Stack, and through it you have the ability to choose which marketplace images you want to syndicate to your own Azure Stack. Every image isn't downloaded by default, as they take up some space, so you choose what ones make sense to you, and then make use of them knowing that they're the exact same images as you would deploy in Public Azure.

 

Benefit #4… to #n

 

There are many more benefits to 'just' running virtual machines in Azure Stack, from the automated patching of SQL workloads, to the continued three year support of Windows and SQL Server 2008/R2 workloads, to being able to access cloud constructs like object, table, and queue storage, to leveraging VM Scale Sets for horizontal scalability of traditional workloads, to pre-validation for compliance standards like PCI DSS, to service measurement for chargeback, to built-in load balancers, to built-in site to site VPN capabilities, to managed disks and the removal of VM disk and storage management, to extensions providing features to VMs like anti-virus and VM patch and update, to integration of those IaaS workloads with higher tier PaaS capabilities… and so it goes on. The benefits are myriad, and in retrospect should be unsurprising given the popularity of Public Azure for IaaS workloads.

 

An Azure Stack Operator does still have administrative tasks to carry out it's true, but they are not the same as a virtualization admin, or even an advanced virtualization admin. As we've said, all of the underlying infrastructure that delivers the Azure services is delivered 'as a service', so as ever in cloud your attention is pushed higher, focusing on more rapid update cadence, capacity management, offering services, chargeback, and other more cloud-centric operating tasks.

 

Azure Stack doesn't replace Virtualization

 

There are two core routes to IaaS workloads entering an Azure Stack:

 

Fresh Deployment


If you're deploying a fresh infrastructure, you may be doing it to create a new application, or to deploy your own in-house application, or to install a third party vendor's application. For the first two of these, Azure Stack can provide a great platform assuming you follow cloud application development patterns for resiliency. For the third, you're largely in the hands of the vendor. If they require specific hypervisor features, or shared storage between VMs, or specific CPU:RAM:Storage ratios, or high performance OS disks, or… well, all the same reasons an application can't be deployed into Azure apply to Azure Stack.

 

There's an enormous mass of software out there which will never be rewritten for a cloud-native environment, and yet more which is suited best to environments with more customizability than Azure or Azure Stack provides. For those workloads, existing virtualization platforms with their rich and well established ecosystems remain the best place to run them, even if deploying fresh.

x.png

If you are deploying a fresh infrastructure over which you have application control, there's a whole host of cloud-native tooling available to transform how you design, manage, and maintain that application. Infrastructure as Code, VM Scale Sets, Service Fabric and Kubernetes templates, and more all exist to allow you to apply the same DevOps principals to your VMs in Azure Stack as you can in Azure.

 

Migration

 

Migrating VMs to Azure Stack is largely the same in principle as migrating VMs to Azure, and just like in Azure, consideration needs to be given to the workload and how (and indeed if) it will run well within the cloud environment. Typically some resizing will need to be done to fit an Azure Stack VM 't-shirt' size, and testing will need to happen to ensure the workload performs as expected. For these reasons and more, when evaluating Azure Stack as a platform it's critical that you evaluate it against the workloads you'll be running, not just the aggregate CPU/RAM/Storage you think you'll need. .

 

Probably the most important consideration for any deployment or migration into Azure or Azure Stack is that these are platforms designed for cloud workloads. The most fundamental difference between a cloud workload and a traditional workload is that workload availability should be delivered and accounted for by the application, not by the infrastructure. That's not to say that Azure Stack isn't a highly available and resilient platform within a rack, it is, however if a workload needs to be but cannot be resilient (and in particular resilient across site or rack if needed) without traditional hypervisor or storage technologies, then it may not be best suited to run in a cloud platform.

 

Never Forget: Azure Stack is Azure

 

Azure Stack is undoubtedly an incredibly powerful IaaS platform, boasting features like the Azure Marketplace that don't even exist in other on-premises platforms. If your workload can be deployed or migrated into Azure Stack, and it does perform well, then all of the above benefits will apply to it. You'll find yourself with an up to date, patched and secure environment, which gives you the time back to start working on higher tier PaaS services without being additive to existing tasks.

 

Ultimately though the core of the matter is that when you deploy or migrate virtual machines into an Azure Stack environment, you're not just making use of a hypervisor, you're gaining the power, the ecosystem, and the community of the Azure Cloud, and that's a glorious place to be.

By Michael Richtberg, Portfolio Strategic Planning, Open HCI


Welcome! Great to see you’re joining the hybrid cloud wave. If you’ve come to Azure Stack looking for a unified experience that helps bring the Azure public cloud experience to your on-premise data center or to outfit your managed service offering, Dell EMC has a great solution set for you! By bringing together the purpose-built Azure Stack Dell EMC VxRack AS and Dell EMC Isilon, we enable you to increase the value of your investment through capacity and application support extensibility.

Hybrid cloud computing tackles a fundamental need to bring the infrastructure in proximity to the user and being able to address the location sensitive data sovereignty requirements many regions or vertical industries need. By taking advantage of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, Azure Stack delivers an excellent unified platform experience.

 

Microsoft Azure offers an excellent option for enabling companies to power their digital transformation initiatives. Leveraging the same infrastructure as a service (IaaS) management tools found on the public cloud version of Azure, users can administer their local instances based on a Dell EMC VxRack AS solution. By using the same Azure management tools, compute, storage, and networking resources get provisioned to host a wide variety of workloads. Leveraging the syndicated application catalog from Microsoft, Azure Stack deployments can consume software through an Azure Marketplace inventory oriented towards Azure Stack.

 

When it comes to using your own applications, you may find that they too need a digital transformation. Azure Stack provides several types of storage to address modern application designs. These may suit new or updated applications quite well, but for existing applications that still work perfectly fine in servicing an existing business need you may not financially benefit from re-engineering those applications to use a new storage protocol. If leveraging your existing applications on Azure Stack provides more enterprise agility, then we have a great solution for enabling that migration without costly re-engineering projects.

 

Azure Stack natively provides object storage (Azure Blob), Tables (for structured data) or Queue storage. These work well in servicing newer applications built and designed for Azure but may not help with hosting existing Windows or Linux applications that use file services storage (NAS) protocols like NFS and SMB. This is where Dell EMC can help! By leveraging the Dell EMC Isilon market leading scale-out NAS storage system with Azure Stack, your available deployment options become much more flexible by leveraging existing investments in your Windows and Linux applications. Without the costly process of re-engineering those applications, Dell EMC Isilon provides a means to host your application virtual machines on Azure Stack while using standard NAS protocols to host the data services.

 

This table illustrates how Dell EMC Isilon complements the Azure Stack storage protocols to provide a complete capability to host applications of virtually any type.

Azure Stack Storage Protocols

Dell EMC Isilon Adds these Storage Protocols

Object storage (Azure Blob)

Table storage (structured)

Queue Storage

SMB

NFS

HDFS

 

Azure Stack provides excellent extensibility that grows as your deployments increase. By adding nodes to a Dell EMC VxRack AS cluster, your infrastructure grows non-disruptively as demands increase. Dell EMC Isilon complements this scaling capability to agily address storage capacities to over 30 petabytes. As your file storage needs increase, Isilon provides a simple means to add more capacity. Isilon’s OneFS is a single file system/single volume architecture, which makes it extremely easy to manage, regardless of the number of nodes in the storage cluster. Isilon storage systems scale from a minimum of four nodes up to 144 nodes, all connected via a backend Ethernet communications layer for high performance results.

Isilon Blog 2 Image 2.png

 

Connecting Isilon to Azure Stack is straightforward. Simply use ARM (Azure Resource Management) Templates, PowerShell scripts or the Azure CLI (Command Line Interface) to provision Isilon shares along with any other resources in a single shot. Our VConnect plug-in unifies system administration controls for Isilon from within the Azure Stack console for an integrated continuity of experience. For multi-tenant environments, this vastly simplifies the lifecycle management process and even provides a means for the tenants to administer their own storage services. You can read more details about how VConnect works and how to configure it in the Microsoft Azure Stack Administration console in our blog “Dell EMC Azure Stack Storage-as-a-Service with Isilon

 

While you’re thinking about modernizing your hybrid cloud deployment, don’t forget about ensuring you keep the advanced data services you’ve come to expect from an enterprise-class storage system. Isilon keeps your data safe, protected, and easily managed with these key capabilities to make your Azure Stack solution complete.

Data protection & efficiency

Data management

SnapshotIQ

Fast, efficient data backup and recovery

SyncIQ

Fast and flexible asynchronous replication for DR

SmartConnect

Policy-based client failover with load balancing

SmartLock

Policy-based compliance and WORM data protection

SmartDedupe

Data deduplication to reduce storage costs

Encryption

Get STIG & FIPS compliant AES  256-bit protection

SmartPools

Policy-based automated tiering

SmartQuotas

Quota management and thin provisioning

InsightIQ

Performance monitoring and reporting

CloudPools

Cloud-scale capacity

Auto-tiering

Optimize for performance and cost

 

In summary, Dell provides a complete end to end solution to enable broader deployment use cases for Azure Stack. By combining the unified VxRack AS ingredients to power your Azure Stack solution with the outstanding extensibility of Isilon file storage services you get a world class experience allowing you to leverage your investments in existing applications. Plus, get excellent capacity expansion that grows as your needs change to align with your cluster expansion of Azure Stack.

Isilong Blog 2 Image 3 (Storage Services   Azure Stack Storage Capabilities.jpg

As you consider the benefits of using the Azure Stack cloud infrastructure with the benefits of local compute and storage for excellent performance, Dell provides you with a complete solution that ensures your data is secure, compliant and highly performant.        


Opportunities

Whether you are a service provider or an enterprise customer, you now have the ability to offer Storage-as-a-Service to your customers with enterprise class storage features such as high availability and data protection, security and more with Azure Stack and Isilon.


How to order

This solution is currently available for purchase through our solution partner CloudAssert. You can reach out to your Dell EMC Azure Stack sales specialist to buy this.

For inquiries, questions and comments, please reach out to Dell EMC Azure Stack product manager Karthik Angamuthu at Karthik_Angamuthu@dell.com  


Additional Links

By Karthik Angamuthu | Dell EMC | Sr. Product Manager for Azure Stack


Dell EMC Azure Stack

Azure Stack is designed to help organizations deliver Azure services from their own data center. By allowing end users to ‘develop once and deploy anywhere' (public Azure or on premises). Customers now can take full advantage of cloud for various applications that could not live in cloud otherwise, may it be due to regulations, data sensitivity, edge use cases, or location of data that prevents them from using public cloud.

 

Dell EMC co-engineers this solution with Microsoft with added value in automation of deployments, patches and updates along with integration of various key solutions to meet our customers’ holistic needs. One such value add is enabling our Azure stack customers to expand file storage.

 

Why should you care? - Because of the storage limitation!

 

Storage Limitation

Azure Stack storage is a set of cloud storage services that includes blobs, tables and queues which are consistent with public Azure storage services, built on Storage Spaces Direct (S2D). It is important to note that while 'file storage' is supported in public Azure, it is currently not supported on Azure Stack. This means that any tenant workload that needs to access files via SMB/NFS has to use external NAS storage residing outside the stack. Additionally, since Azure Stack is built on a hyper-converged architecture, it inherently limits the capacity of S2D storage.

 

What is the solution? - Isilon. Though there are many external file storage options available, Isilon is an excellent option for the following reasons.

 

Isilon

Isilon is a scale out network-attached storage (NAS) platform offered by Dell EMC for high-volume storage, backup and archiving of unstructured data. While Isilon offers extremely high scalability that is highly cost effective, it provides enterprise class features such as

  • Performance monitoring with InsightIQ,
  • Tiering of data with SmartPools,
  • Quota management with SmartQuotas,
  • Data protection with SnapshotIQ,
  • Data replication with SyncIQ,
  • High availability and load balancing with SmartConnect,
  • Deduplication with SmartDedupe,
  • Data retention with SmartLock,
  • Stringent compliance and governance needs through WORM capability and
  • Last but not the least, seamless tiering of cold or frozen data to public Azure storage with CloudPools.

 

Isilon supports SMB, NFS, HTTPS object storage, and HDFS, among other protocols. And, there are three different Isilon platform families to meet the performance needs of the data, all running Isilon OneFS:

  1. The all-flash F-series, focusing on extreme performance and scalability for unstructured data applications and workloads
  2. The hybrid H-series, which seek to balance performance and capacity
  3. The archive A-series, for both active and deep archive storage

 

Configuring your file share

Ok, how do you set up such that tenant workloads can access external file shares? - Simple. If you have a NAS such as Isilon sitting outside of the stack, your tenants can directly map the file shares via SMB/NFS as long as the network connectivity is set up. It requires careful consideration, planning and administration.

 

Your feedback

Whether you are an existing Isilon customer who purchasing Azure stack or a new Azure stack customer that needs file storage for your documents, back up vault or running analytics workload with HDFS, you asked us for a simple and scalable storage solution that is easy to manage with Azure stack. We heard you!

 

Multi-tenancy and Administration complexity

Isilon supports multi-tenancy such that, each Azure stack tenant can access specific sub-folders of Isilon storage under the single namespace. You can set up access-zones, network segmentation with groupnets and subnets, authentication providers (AD/LDAP, etc.) along with quotas and policies for each tenant on Isilon. While it may not be complex to set up, ongoing administration can be non-trivial. For example, when Isilon and Azure stack are managed independently, and when the cloud admin needs to onboard new a tenant or offboard a tenant or one of the tenants need more capacity or change backup configurations, etc. You have to manage this workflow carefully with SLA and must plan for the overhead.

 

An ideal approach to simplify or reduce this overhead is to give autonomy to cloud admins to manage tenants’ storage. Cloud admins ought to be able to simply manage storage capacity and storage services with respect to their tenants. Furthermore, extend the flexibility to tenants to self-manage their storage space and users within their respective org. Needless to say, this must be done with a consistent Azure user experience.

 

That is what we have done with our VConnect plug-in for Isilon and Azure Stack.

 

How does it work?

Once Isilon is setup and multi-tenancy is enabled by Isilon admins, Azure stack admins can deploy our VConnect plug-in for Isilon and enable it through plans and offers for their tenants. Tenants now can subscribe to the storage services under that plan and self-manage storage capacity, users and access.

Azure Stack   Isilon Setup.png

Step by Step Instruction

A detailed step by step guide to setup and use VConnect plug-in for Isilon is described below.

 

Isilon step 1.png

Isilon Step 2.png

Isilon Step 3.png

Isilon step 4.png

Isilon step 5.png

Isilon step 6.png

 

Opportunities

Whether you are a service provider or an enterprise customer, you now have the ability to offer Storage-as-a-Service to your customers with enterprise class storage features such as high availability and data protection, security and more with Azure Stack and Isilon.

 

How to order

This solution is currently available for purchase through our solution partner CloudAssert. You can reach out to your Dell EMC Azure Stack sales specialist to buy this.

 

For inquiries, questions and comments, please reach out to Dell EMC Azure Stack product manager Karthik Angamuthu at Karthik_Angamuthu@dell.com    

 

 

View the demo!!

In the meantime, check out this demo below!

 

GeorgeOToole

Partnering for the Future

Posted by GeorgeOToole Jul 17, 2018

(Authored by Cheryl Caiola)


As we prepare for the many important conversations at the 2018 Microsoft Inspire conference in Las Vegas, there are two important perspectives worthy of reflection.

First, looking back to last year’s Inspire conference, we were excited and eager for the prospective partnerships and customer engagements awaiting the inevitable success of Azure Stack.  Partners were keen to learn more, and wanted to be able to sell and deploy our Azure Stack solution, in any part of the world.  All of the buzz from Airlift 2017 gave way to customer demand and spurred Microsoft’s OEM partners to action.  With its long history of partnering with Microsoft on hybrid cloud, Dell EMC foresaw the demand and had two development teams deployed – one to support the Intel Broadwell processors - to get to market quickly - and the other to support the Intel Skylake processors - to provide customers with the next generation platform.  This gave Dell EMC an exclusive customer investment protection strategy.  Because we all know that the pace of cloud innovation far exceeds that of traditional hardware and software platforms.  There is always room for improvement and innovation. And Dell EMC continue to lead the way. We can do this because of our HCI (hyper-converged infrastructure) leadership, our history with Microsoft, and our learnings from other Dell EMC hybrid cloud platform offerings.  We anticipated the need for a faster, more reliable means of sustaining the Azure Stack environment, and developed an automated hardware patch and update process which dramatically reduces maintenance time and errors.

All of this matters because our highly differentiated experience and innovation improve customer experience and time to value.

(Fast forward to 2018)  Dell EMC are now solidly in-market with our Skylake based systems, and happy customers.  What did we learn in a year?  We learned that selling and delivering this hybrid solution requires careful planning, training and speedy deployment.  We’ve iterated and improved our sales and presales training to help our sellers more effectively assess customer cloud readiness, identify and qualify appropriate use cases and close deals.  Our deployment teams have the expertise, and now more importantly the experience, to deliver a world-class customer experience that accelerates time to value and competitive advantage. 

We also anticipated the need for flexible financing alternatives that allow customers to consume cloud as an operating expense, and have extended the differentiated and highly successful CloudFlex program to our Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack.

So what’s next?  GROWTH! 

Partners are crucial to our customers’ success.  We are ready to extend the learnings of the last year to our partner community, to reach more customers than ever before. We have the program and resources to execute on a global level to get our partners ramped and ready to meet customer demand, in more Azure-available regions than ever. 

We are excited to announce that beginning in early Q3, Dell EMC partners will be able to quote and order directly through the Dell EMC MyQuotes system.  We will also pilot a deployment enablement workshop for qualified partners to take advantage of our learnings and processes, to extend our reach in more regions globally.  We will extend this deployment enablement to our broad partner community in Q418. 

What will this next year bring?  What will we look back on before Inspire 2019?  We anticipate grand mutual success and a thriving Dell EMC partner ecosystem. 

If you are you ready to partner with Dell EMC to provide your customers highly differentiated value, look for us at Booth #623 at Inspire. I can’t wait to meet you!

As I’m currently in a metal tube cruising at some 35,000 feet on my way to another enablement session I figure I can put the time to good use and update all my Azure Stack Friends on where things stand on hardware P&U for your Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack appliances (VxRACK AS).  As a teaser, I’ve got some great news.


But before I get into what’s new let’s review a little bit about P&U on Azure Stack and the various jiggly bits of the process.  On the Azure Stack software front we know that this is being handled via updates on a nearly monthly cadence through the Azure Stack Administrator Portal – the detailed process can be found here, but essentially the update is advertised for the Azure Stack Operator to download and update via the portal interface. From an automation perspective all the draining and re-hydration of compute nodes and application of updates are handled by the Azure Stack software and there is tooling provided by Microsoft to monitor progress.  (It is important to note that updates are characterized as “minimally disruptive” and it is strongly suggested that they occur during planned maintenance windows as service interruptions are possible depending on the nature of the update.) The process itself is fairly straight forward.

Great!  But that leaves us with an incomplete picture of what actually goes into the care and feeding of an Azure Stack when it comes to P&U and the hardware piece is an entirely different matter.  First let’s consider the components we are talking about, in general terms.  Obviously, the compute nodes within the cluster are part of the equation, when we update these they must follow a similar process to the Azure Stack software in order to avoid unnecessary disruption to the Azure Stack services. It follows that we must put nodes (individually) into maintenance mode, update them, bring them back into service and then validate success and then rinse and repeat x the number of nodes in the cluster.  This requires a high degree of interaction and monitoring by an Operator involving multiple manual steps to bring nodes in and out of maintenance mode.  While this is time consuming, at first glance it may not seem particularly arduous. But, it is a highly repetitive task, with many steps and one that if done incorrectly can lead to unanticipated downtime, configuration drift, and generally speaking less than desirable results.  For instance, what if I mistime taking nodes down and end up with multiple nodes in maintenance mode simultaneously, or if steps are inadvertently skipped?

 

Next, we have the Hardware Lifecycle Host (HLH).  The HLH doesn’t sit within the data plane and the Azure Stack software itself is blissfully unaware of its existence and it requires a separate process for updating.

 

Finally, we have the ToR switching which is handled by another entirely separate process.  

 

The manual instructions for updating the hardware components of VxRACK AS can be found here.


All of this begs for automation and simplification. This has been a promise Dell EMC has committed to since early on in our Azure Stack program.

 

One final thought before I get into the “update on updates” portion.  I’ve seen numerous questions as to the cadence of hardware level updates. The real answer there is when required. As changes need to be made to support changes in the Azure Stack software and features or as security needs dictate (think Specter/Meltdown) updates will be provided.  This could mean back to back updates month over month, but that will not always be the case either.  Part of your regular process needs to be validating the currently recommended hardware versions for your VxRACK AS at support.dell.com.

Now for what you really came here for.  I’m pleased to announce that the current release of the Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack (1805) delivers a preview of our Automated Update tooling! It includes automation of the compute node updates as well as the HLH.

 

Now if I were you, I’d be saying, “Hold on Greg – tell me what you mean by ‘preview’.”

 

Glad you asked!   For the time being, in order to get access to the tool you must open a support ticket with us (or work through your TAM to do so).  This allows us to track who is leveraging the tool and allows us to work with you directly as you run through your initial updates via the automated process.

 

Now let’s take a glimpse of what the tooling looks and the process looks like: 

First, you will download the available updates and put them somewhere accessible by the tool (and remember checking for updates is going to be part of your SOP, right?).

You will then launch the tool that is provided by Dell EMC getting a window that looks like the below:

 

Stack Graphic 1.png
Upon clicking “Next” you will be queried to provide a set of information including the location of the downloaded update packages, IP ranges for the iDRACs on your nodes, and the appropriate credentials.

 

Stack Graphic 2.png

 

The HLH and Azure Stack compute nodes can be scheduled together or done individually with a simple check box depending on your requirements:

Stack Picture 3-1.png

Note: If updating the firmware on the HLH you will be prompted to suspend Bitlocker on the HLH.

From here I click to initiate the update process and the tool runs through the process including bringing the nodes in an out of maintenance mode, validating success, and providing status.

Stack Graphic 4.png

 

The entire update process will take some time to complete (think multiple hours) but no further Operator interaction is required until the updates are completed.  The net of this is the total operator interaction on a successful update is minutes.  There is no series of repetitive tasks to preform introducing increasing risk of human error, outages, or configuration drift.

 

So what next?  As I noted above the current tooling updates the HLH and compute nodes, but as you’ll recall I mentioned an additional set of componentry in my review above – switches. Automated updating of switch firmware is a current roadmap item and should be available in the tooling in the near term.

If you are a VxRACK AS customer I’d encourage to reach out to our support teams to get working with the update tool – it will greatly streamline your process and leave you more time to focus on high value activities.  If you aren’t a VxRACK AS customer, and are interested in checking out the value we bring, we’d love to talk to you!

We’ve been seeing a lot of excitement around our Azure Stack offering since last fall, when we announced that we were shipping our solution based on VxRack AS hyperconverged Infrastructure that’s powered by our PowerEdge 14G Servers.   Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack provides customers a true hybrid cloud model which enables them to:

  • Modernize the Business with Automated IT Service Delivery
  • Innovate with Cloud Native Applications
  • Accelerate Azure Stack Adoption with Confidence

  Organizations can now deliver infrastructure and platform as a service with a consistent Azure experience on-premises and in the public cloud, balancing the right combination of flexibility and control.

 

While we’re seeing great traction with our customers and partners, this is still a fairly new offering and we’ve heard some particular questions frequently that we’d like to address here.

 

Can I just buy any server and run Azure Stack software on it?

  1. Microsoft is currently only working with just a handful of select partners, including Dell EMC. There a several good reasons for this.  First, building your own hybrid cloud is fraught with risks and often takes significantly longer than buying an engineered hybrid cloud platform.  Dell EMC’s approach allows our customers to get up and running quickly – significantly faster than a build your own approach.  Additionally, Dell EMC and Microsoft collaborate together to ensure this integrated system performs reliably and provides end-to-end lifecycle management. But the benefits don’t stop there.  With Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack from Dell EMC customers get:
    • A fully engineered hybrid cloud platform designed, integrated, tested and maintained as one, with new features as part of the ongoing release cycle
    • Deployment services and consulting services for optimizing the hybrid cloud platform to meet specific business requirements
    • A common experience for automating delivering of cloud resources within Azure or Azure Stack – on premises or in any one of the 50 datacenter regions offered by Microsoft

 

 

Why can’t I just buy each component separately”?

 

Remember, you are purchasing a solution, not just hardware. The Dell EMC Cloud for Azure Stack is far more than a rack of servers and networking. Yes, it has those components but it has been specifically co-engineered with Microsoft to meet the requirements and expectations of the Azure Stack Software. In addition, the ongoing sustained engineering and testing associated with providing a stable cloud platform going forward in which the system is supported and sustained holistically delivers a far more stable and sustainable cloud platform than a “build your own” configuration.

 

What are the scale options for Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack?

Scaling will be limited per Microsoft guidelines. Customers will need to plan to scale based on 12x HCI nodes. In the future, dependent upon Microsoft guidelines and timing, customers will eventually be able to purchase in the following scale units.

 

What are the configurations and why are they limited?

Dell EMC has three standard Azure Stack node configuration options.  In a nutshell, we offer standard configurations because Azure Stack demands node-level homogeneity within the scale unit (cluster) and a networking-level homogeneity within the Azure Stack region.  Here’s why we chose standard configurations:

  • Balanced configurations:  Azure Stack is designed to accommodate a wide variety of workloads, and the scale is impressive – our configurations go from 125 VMs to 1950 VMs.  When dealing with this scale, a statistical regression to the mean inevitably occurs.  That is, over hundreds of “cloud appropriate” workloads, we (and many other vendors) find an optimal balance in 16 GB of memory per physical core.  Capacity storage is more variable, so we scale that up with the configurations, and you’ll find between 2 and 3 TB of tenant-accessible storage per physical core in our hybrid storage configurations.
  • Expandability:  I noted earlier that Azure Stack requires that all the nodes in an Azure Stack scale unit be identical in their componentry.  This means that in order to reasonably guarantee expandability of a given scale unit, the supply of all the componentry needs to be guaranteed in the future.  The Dell EMC Azure Stack systems comply with the Global Standard Platforms program, which assures supply of the processor configurations in the future.  The other componentry within our standardized nodes are also tracked for availability well into the future.  For the customer, this means that when they are ready to expand their Azure Stack investment, they can do so with the assurance that the supply meets their requirements. Competitors will have difficulty meeting expandability requirements in the future.
  • Automation:  Standardization is a necessity for automation, and automation is the key to cloud operations.  Dell EMC’s standardized approach allows us to automate the HCI update process – which is not captured in the Azure Stack patch and update process. The automation is included in the price of our offering.
  • Serviceability:  Imagine if Dell EMC were to offer a range of say, 6 processor configurations, 4 memory configurations, 2 network options, and 3 storage configurations.  That’s 144 different possible node configurations.  It makes problem re-creation very difficult and time consuming.  More importantly, in the event that a customer needs a complete node replacement, we would have to build the node in the factory, and ship it out.  That’s a minimum two week mean time to repair (MTTR), (assuming that the componentry is available).  By contrast, our standardized approach allows us to stock replacement nodes so that once the determination is made that a node replacement is required, the replacement node can be shipped within a business day.

 

Why is Dell EMC Microsoft Azure Stack solution different from the other vendor offerings?

Dell EMC has a long history of co-engineering cloud offerings with Microsoft for private and hybrid cloud reference architectures, and engineered solutions. The many years of experience in design, test, validation, deployment, operations and patch and update automation provides Dell EMC and our customers a clear advantage versus our competitors:

  • Dell EMC is the industry leader in global server and sales leader for hyperconverged infrastructure (Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Converged Systems Tracker, Hyperconverged Segment Dec 21, 2017)
  • Dell EMC is the only vendor who provides a fully engineered hybrid cloud platform designed, integrated, tested and maintained as one
  • Our data protection portfolio is the most efficient backup and recovery technology tailor-made for virtual environments and cloud.
  • CloudLink Secure VM delivers a simple, self-service, policy enforceable VM encryption for Azure and Azure Stack. Encrypted VMs are completely portable and remain secured as they reside in and move between hosts ensuring applications remain secure wherever they’re running. 
  • As a Microsoft CSP Tier 2 partner, Dell EMC can offer a unified billing for Azure and Azure Stack services.

In follow on releases, we will continue to add Dell EMC innovation and Dell technologies to our Azure Stack hybrid cloud platform to future differentiate us from the competition.

 

Have additional questions? Leave them below and we’ll answer those too!

Preetham Mukhatira

Azure in a box

Posted by Preetham Mukhatira Oct 18, 2017

Looking to start operating your own instance of Azure or a fail fast and fail cheap environment to accelerate innovation, whatever your goals are, Azure Stack Development kit is a great way to accelerate your adoption of Azure in your data center.

 

We started with a single node reference configuration since TP2 to enable you to get started learning about the Azure Stack Tenant and Operator experience on a set of core IaaS services with minimal capital investment. Since TP3, Microsoft has added more Azure Services targeting PaaS and Developers. At the same time we also heard from our early evaluator customers that the minimum specs published by Microsoft would not cut it for certain use cases. Now with the dev kit coming out, a single configuration does not fit all use cases

 

  Based on the Azure Stack Dev Kit and what we have learnt from TP2 and TP3, we have 3 configurations targeting the 3 use cases as shown below.

singel node.png

 

With the Starter Edition, we carried over a version for customers to try the Azure Stack Operator and tenant experience to deliver Self Service IaaS. Customers loved our sub- $10K entry price. At a low entry cost, you can offer your customers (internal or external) their own instance of Azure on-prem while also building expertise on how to operate your own instance of Azure.

Manage your Azure Stack instance

Offer Services from you on-prem instance of Azure

 

As Microsoft delivered more PaaS services since TP3, we created a PaaS edition for customers evaluating these services for App modernization. Based on the TP3 experience, as you started to deploy resource providers, the Starter editions quickly ran out of juice. For customers looking to extend their use cases to include services that are part of the Azure AppService or looking to experiment with the SQL RP, the PaaS edition gives you a good balance of price and performance. The PaaS edition also makes it easy to explore Dev Ops practices, delivering rapid deployment time and leveraging Infrastructure as Code capabilities with ARM templates.

 

As Microsoft delivered the Azure Stack Dev Kit, customers have started to not just evaluate PaaS services, they have started to prototype applications leveraging multiple IaaS and PaaS services. In addition, our work with the Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) team has surfaced the need to make a more capable edition available that can not only run the PCF framework, but also lets you get started developing applications with PCF on Azure Stack. With the Developer Edition, you not only start to develop your applications, you can also operationalize DevOps practices with Visual Studio. Any application you develop on single node will run on multi-node Azure Stack and even on Azure. You can also leverage tools like Visual Studio and the Developer Edition of Azure stack to use ARM templates to deploy and provision the resources your application needs.

 

A final note: this is a developer node and is not supported to be run in production. Dell EMC will only offer Hardware Support. Since this is an evaluation environment, Microsoft Customer Support Services will not support the Developer kit. Use the Microsoft forums for answers to your questions or raise issues.

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