Riding the Azure Stack Opportunity

You’re hearing more and more about Azure Stack. As a developer, the release of this long-awaited platform will present new opportunities and place a premium on Azure development skills.

A highly ambitious project from Microsoft, Azure Stack brings many features of the Azure cloud platform right into your data center. Built from the same bits used to create the Azure public cloud, Azure Stack is in its third, and, most likely, final technical preview. Public release should be later this year.

The ability to create a service or application that can run on-premises or in the cloud, on a unified development platform, will be appealing to you, your development team and especially your employer. For example, you might develop and test an enterprise-level patient tracking application leveraging the Dev/Test platform in the Azure public cloud, but deploy it on-premises to Azure Stack to meet specific regulatory requirements. The same tools and code are used across both domains. Later, if you were to redeploy this application to the public cloud, you can leverage the same automation and DevOps processes, without making changes to the code! Figure 1 below depicts the tight integration between Azure and Azure Stack.

Strategically, Azure Stack will differentiate the Azure platform from its close competitors, AWS and Google Cloud Services, who do not support this type of hybrid offering. Companies who are heavily invested in Microsoft data center technology will find Azure Stack especially appealing. Moreover, it’ll go up against OpenStack, an open-source effort that also aims to bring the concepts of public cloud into the enterprise data center.

Microsoft has identified four hardware partners (Dell, HP Enterprise, Lenovo and Cisco) that will offer pre-configured, certified hardware with Azure Stack preinstalled. The goal here is to stand-up the Azure Stack environment and keep you productive without requiring an army of Ph.D. talent to make it work. You buy the “turn-key” solution and are billed for Azure Stack usage on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The pricing model for Azure Stack will be similar to that of Azure itself. They’ll be a set of meters across the services measuring usage, but the pricing will be lower, given that you own the hardware upon which Azure Stack is running.

Out-of-the-gate, Azure Stack will offer…

  • Full ARM support for automation and resource management
  • Azure App Services (Web, API, Logic applications)
  • Azure Functions (Serverless application architecture)
  • Azure Service Fabric
  • Azure Sql Database
  • Azure Virtual Machines, including the D-Series VM Sizes
  • Support for Azure Active Directory and Active Directory Federation Services
  • Resource Providers for Network, Storage, Compute and Key Vault services

Importantly, expect to see the same PaaS service features, such as Auto Scale, Deployment Slots and Integrated Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery that you now experience in Azure.

Finally, most importantly for you, Azure Stack will place a premium on Azure development skills. As many of Microsoft enterprise customers jump on this new platform, they will be seeking highly-skilled technical talent who can build distributed, cloud-native applications and services on the Azure platform.

To learn more about developing on Azure, reach out to me or visit the developer references site.

Here are a link to the Azure technical certifications.

To follow Azure Stack, please visit the product site.

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