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?
- 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!