Microsoft Azure Stack reaches final preview before its mid-2017 debut

Microsoft is releasing Technical Preview 3 of its hybrid-computing Azure Stack platform, paving the way for mid-2017 general availability.

Microsoft is rolling out the third and final Technical Preview of its Azure Stack hybrid-cloud product on March 1.

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Azure Stack Technical Preview 3 (TP3) is available for download as of today. TP3 adds several new infrastructure, security and connectivity features beyond those available in TP2, which Microsoft rolled out in July 2016.

Among the new features in this test build: The ability to deploy with ADFS for disconnected scenarios; Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets support; Azure D-Series VM support; and the ability to syndicate content from the Azure Marketplace to Azure Stack.

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Integrating the Hybrid Cloud

As far and fast as cloud computing is embedding itself into the enterprise, there remain many cloud-resistant applications and services.

Azure Stack is an appliance built to run on specific server hardware. It provides customers with many of the pieces of Microsoft's Azure public-cloud platform in a form they can run inside their own or partners' on-premises datacenters.

Microsoft's original plan was to deliver Azure Stack before the end of 2016 and allow customers to run it on the hardware of their choice. Last year, Microsoft shifted gears, requiring users to purchase Azure Stack as an appliance on a small set of preselected servers, and pushed back the product's release until mid-2017.

Microsoft officials said today that "shortly after" today's TP3 release, the company will be adding Azure Functions serverless compute service, VM Extension syndication, and multi-tenancy support. Blockchain, Cloud Foundry and Mesos templates workloads also will be coming to Azure Stack shortly after today's TP3 debut, as well, officials said.

Officials said today that Azure Stack systems from Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo will be available for order by mid-year. Azure Stack systems on Cisco UCS hardware will be out slightly later; Cisco recently said the target was Q3 or Q4 this year.

Microsoft officials also talked a bit about the coming pricing model for Azure Stack in today's TP3 blog post.

As previously disclosed, Azure Stack customers will need to buy servers preloaded with Azure Stack from Dell EMC, HPE, Lenovo, or Cisco. These vendors have not yet gone public with their planned pricing. But after that initial purchase, customers will only pay for Azure services that they use from general availability, forward (a k a "pay-as-you-use" pricing). The current one node offering meant for dev/test will continue to be free after general availability, officials confirmed.

Microsoft is touting Azure Stack as a truly consistent hybrid-cloud platform. It will allow users to use Azure public cloud services against data stored in Azure Stack on premises, and deploy the same Azure-services-based applications on both the public Azure cloud and Azure Stack.

Microsoft is building a 'world graph' for geographic data:

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