Microsoft to release Azure Stack as an appliance in mid-2017

Microsoft is repositioning Azure Stack as a turnkey product that will be available in mid-2017, in conjunction with HPE, Dell, and Lenovo. Here's why.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft plans to make its Azure Stack hybrid cloud operating platform available in mid-2017 and in appliance form with a few server vendors only.

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is working with HPE, Dell, and Lenovo on co-engineering Azure Stack to run on their servers when the new platform launches next year, officials said on July 12 during Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference.

Azure Stack is a stack of technologies Microsoft is designing for customers and partners to run in their own datacenters. Azure Stack includes "experiences" and programming interfaces that Microsoft offers via its own Azure public cloud.

Until now, the plan of record was Microsoft would allow customers and partners on hardware of their choice. But in order to reduce complexity and improve the odds of Azure Stack working well, Microsoft decided to deliver the product next year as a turnkey bundle.

While some customers and partners involved in the first technical preview of Azure Stack did get it working on their own hardware, Microsoft officials said they believe following the appliance model used with Microsoft's Cloud Platform System (CPS) will yield better results.

A second technical preview of Azure Stack is coming sometime later this calendar year. And over time, Microsoft plans to add support for more server configurations from more vendors for Azure Stack, executives said.

Those using Microsoft's Cloud Platform System can consider CPS a stepping stone to Azure Stack. Customers running CPS and Windows Azure Pack will be able to use these systems alongside Azure Stack ones; they won't need to try to upgrade CPS systems to Azure Stack -- another piece of new guidance from Microsoft on Tuesday.

Microsoft officials also said Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 will launch at the company's Ignite conference in late September. Previously, Microsoft execs had said Windows Server 2016 would launch in the third calendar quarter of 2016, most likely in the fall.

A wording clarification: "Launch" does not mean release to manufacturing (which will likely occur earlier than late September, and possibly around the time that Windows 10 Anniversary Update is designated as complete.) "Launch" is also not the same as general availability. Microsoft will likely make Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 generally available once the products are on the latest price lists, which typically means the start of a new month -- so perhaps October 1.

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