Microsoft's Azure Stack HCI: A new option for running virtualized apps that connect to Azure

Microsoft is giving customers a new way to run their virtualized workloads on-premises while connecting to Azure.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is adding a new family member to its Azure Stack hybrid product line-up. On March 26, Microsoft took the wraps off Azure Stack HCI Solutions for running virtualized applications on hyperconverged infrastructure. 

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Officials said that Azure Stack HCI is "an evolution of Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) solutions previously available from our hardware partners." It's now part of the Azure Stack family because it now can connect to Azure. 

Microsoft introduced in 2017 its Azure Stack hybrid computing platform. Azure Stack enables customers and partners to run Azure services on-premises on a handful of preapproved servers from OEMs. Azure Stack HCI Solutions allows customers to run virtualized applications on-premises while replacing and consolidating their older servers. With both Azure Stack and Azure Stack HCI, customers can connect to Microsoft's Azure public cloud if they so choose.

Azure Stack HCI Solutions offers the same compute, storage and networking technology as Azure Stack does. It also allows users to view their Azure Stack HCI and Azure services via the Windows Admin Center.

As part of today's announcement, Microsoft published a catalog of more than 70 Azure Stack HCI Solutions available from 15 partners -- including ASUS, Axellio, bluechip, DataON, Dell EMC, Fujitsu, HPE, Hitachi, Huawei, Lenovo, NEC, primeLine Solutions, QCT, SecureGUARD, and Supermicro -- which have pre-validated their hardware with Microsoft.

In a blog post, Microsoft officials explained the difference between Azure Stack and Azure Stack HCI this way:

"With Azure Stack, you can run Azure IaaS and PaaS services on-premises to consistently build and run cloud applications anywhere.

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"Azure Stack HCI is a better solution to run virtualized workloads in a familiar way - but with hyperconverged efficiency - and connect to Azure for hybrid scenarios such as cloud backup, cloud-based monitoring, etc."

Customers need Windows Server 2019 Datacenter Edition and Windows Admin Center in order to run Azure Stack HCI Solutions. Customers will not be able to upgrade from Azure Stack HCI to Azure Stack but they can migrate their workloads from Azure Stack HCI to Azure Stack or to Azure, Microsoft officials said.

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