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Integrated Systems and Azure Stack

Integrated Systems and Azure Stack

Microsoft have announced that Azure Stack will only be available on integrated systems from a select number of vendors:

  • Dell EMC
  • HPE
  • Lenovo
  • Cisco (after the GA release of Azure Stack)

You can watch a video here ( with Vijay Tewari, Principal Group Program Manager, where he talks about the integrated systems and why…

But here’s my take on the situation…

Anyone who has been deploying Hyper-V, or VMware, on a large scale will have come across a wide variety of problems ranging from incorrect firmware/driver versions on hardware to errant administrators who make a change that they don’t fully understand the implications of. Inevitably these situations lead to problems where the platform is blamed and not the actual root cause.

One example, from my experience, is where the storage team within an organisation decreed that all the Hyper-V servers in the organisation that were connected to a specific manufacturer’s storage array, must have the storage vendor’s software installed (at considerable cost, but that’s not the point here). The software itself had not been tested at scale prior to its deployment as the organisation did not have a Hyper-V cluster in the test environment that matched the size of the production environment, in the test environment the software was fine – production was another matter.

Very long story short, the software tied up WMI when it attempted to enumerate the paths to the storage and the LUNs presented. This put WMI into an infinite loop where it refused to respond to any queries from Virtual Machine Manager. That is a big issue, and even more of an issue when this is fronted by a Windows Azure Pack instance allowing for self-service by end-users. Removal of the software cured the problem but the Hyper-V platform was blamed, not the storage software. The vendor released a patch to remediate this issue very quickly…

How can you combat this?

Sealing the platform that the technology runs on and this is where an integrated system comes in. By having Azure Stack running on a platform that can’t be interfered with by anyone that isn’t the Cloud Operator it is possible to create a known configuration under the management of a single team. By using technologies such as Storage Spaces Direct and Hyper-V Network Virtualisation, Microsoft have removed the “outside of control” factor.

An example of this is that the storage does not rely on third party factors such as Storage Software! It’s entirely built upon the Windows Server 2016 Datacenter functionality, along with all the other Azure Stack components.

The integrated system brings a list of known components and configurations to Azure Stack – no unknowns from a Microsoft perspective. This allows them to create a solution that will work on the chosen hardware platform without complication!

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