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InfoQ Homepage News Microsoft Updates Azure Stack Hub with New Management Features, Container Support and More

Microsoft Updates Azure Stack Hub with New Management Features, Container Support and More

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During this year's digital Build conference, Microsoft announced several new incremental updates to its private and hybrid computing offering Azure Stack Hub. The public cloud vendor will add various significant features on Azure Stack Hub in private previews such as an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) Resource Provider, and Fleet Management.

Azure Stack Hub formerly known as Azure Stack is one of Microsoft's hybrid cloud offerings and is an extension of the Azure platform. It allows customers to run apps in an on-premises environment and deliver Azure services in their datacenter. Currently, the company is further enhancing the capabilities of the service, such as container support, and improvements in management, operations and hardware.

Source: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure-stack/operator/compare-azure-azure-stack

With the AKS resource provider, customers can easily create and manage Kubernetes clusters on Azure Stack Hub. It is the same resource provider that allows deployment and management of Kubernetes clusters in Azure and offers the same user experience, CLI and APIs. Next to the resource provider, Microsoft also brings Azure Container Registry (ACR) capability to create secure, private container registries on Azure Stack Hub in private preview.

Dino Bordonaro, Microsoft Azure MVP, said in a tweet:

My customer Knowledgepark brought their first Microservice on #K8s as well as #Docker to #AzureStackHub. With the medical #FHIR messaging standard, they bring FHIR as a Service to hospitals and clinics. Lift, Shift and then Transform.

One of the other new features in private preview with regards to management and operations improvements is fleet management, which will provide customers with a single view and management method for all their Azure and Azure Stack Hub deployments. Moreover, administrators will have a single pane of glass to view alerts and take actions such as rolling out software updates across their Azure Stack Hub fleet directly from a central location in the cloud. Furthermore, ManagedIQ, formerly known as CloudForms for Azure Stack Hub, is now in a public preview – and allows customers a way to manage their resources on Azure Stack Hub using the RedHat technical tooling.

Kenny Lowe, Azure MVP and Senior Principal Azure Stack Specialist EMEA at Dell told InfoQ:

Some of the announcements for Azure Stack Hub at Build are incremental and necessary core additions or enhancements - for example, Fleet Management, the ability to manage and monitor multiple Azure Stack Hub environments from a single interface. Other announcements, in particular AKS on Azure Stack Hub, have a more profound impact on the product, how customers will use it, and even more importantly, how Microsoft can leverage it to deliver value to customers. 

And he continues:

Having AKS as a fully managed PaaS offering on Azure Stack Hub delivers a lot more than just the ability for customers to run their container workloads on it in an Azure consistent way. In my opinion, it now provides the foundational platform that Microsoft can now use to bring more PaaS offerings to Azure Stack Hub, and significantly accelerates the time to value not just for customers running their workloads, but for Microsoft to deliver new value to Azure Stack Hub customers. The power of a fully managed Azure consistent Kubernetes environment coupled with the power of Azure Resource Manager, all running on-premises, is super exciting to be able to leverage. 

As Azure Stack Hub stands today, it hasn't onboarded all of the Azure platform capabilities. Rik Hepworth, CCO at Black Marble and Microsoft Azure MVP, shares his experience on that with InfoQ: 

We are engaged in an Azure Stack project which really would have been too complex to deliver without it. The shared development model with Azure meant that we needed no time to upskill and could deliver value for our customers immediately. One thing to bear in mind though when embarking on hybrid projects is that Azure Stack lags behind public Azure in terms of API and SDK support.

Lastly, Azure Stack Hub together with other Microsoft hybrid cloud offerings Azure Arc and Azure Stack Edge form the companies Hybrid 2.0 strategy, which was laid out during Ignite November 2019. It's the public cloud vendor's answer to competitive offerings from Amazon such as AWS Outpost and Google's Anthos.

Lowe told InfoQ with regards to the Hybrid Cloud solutions in the market:

It's interesting to look at this space because in many ways Microsoft has led this market. Azure Stack Hub has been GA and in the market for almost three years now, while its direct competitors have been out for much longer, and are not as mature in either operations or capabilities. Most critically, with both Anthos and Outposts, the control plane still resides in Google Cloud and AWS respectively, while in Azure Stack Hub it resides inside the Hub itself. This enables a raft of hybrid capabilities not otherwise possible, for example fully disconnected or air-gapped solutions, which we see a large uptake in for Azure Stack Hub. 

And also, Lowe states:

This is still an emerging and maturing market, and each of the big three continue to push and nip at each other's heels, and we'll continue to see new hybrid capabilities launched from each, which can only be a good thing for customers. The hybrid space is a really exciting place to work in in the IT industry just now, and the arms race to hybrid supremacy is really still in its infancy. Azure Stack Hub has provided Microsoft a solid foundation to build on and around, and it's always exciting to see what new scenarios and capabilities get lit up for our customers as it and its hybrid family continue to evolve.

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