Oct 3, 2017 3:00 AM

Azure Stack: Good private cloud technology that you don’t need

The new private cloud from Microsoft stands out from the competition, but it goes against enterprises’ desire to shrink their datacenters

Leonardo Rizzi (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Last week, the hybrid cloud landscape changed significantly. At the Microsoft Ignite conference, Microsoft and several hardware partners announced availability of the long-awaited Azure Stack. Think of it as a configurable rack of hardware that has a version of the Azure public cloud on it.

Azure Stack is the private cloud that is on par with the public cloud

First, let’s understand the value of Azure Stack. If you’re a Microsoft shop, chances are you’ve moved to the Azure public cloud and you’re at some stage in migration. So, if you need a private cloud—for reasons of security, compliance, or the fact that you’re just not cool with putting all your data in a public cloud—this technology is likely for you.

What is unique about the Azure Stack private cloud is that it’s paired with a public cloud. So, workloads should move well between them without much, if any, refactoring. Indeed, Azure Stack is one of the first private clouds with feature/function parity of a public cloud (Microsoft Azure). 

Other private clouds, such as those based on OpenStack, just don’t have the services that you find in public clouds such as Amazon Web Services. So, enterprises have bypassed these private cloud platforms. 

Most enterprises don’t need more datacenter hardware, which Azure Stack promotes more of

Now, let’s understand the reality of Azure Stack. The term “configurable rack of hardware” is kind of scary. Although Microsoft has hundreds of hardware partners that are likely drooling to take this to market so they can sell hardware, I don’t think that most enterprises can justify expanding their hardware and datacenter footprint.   

Indeed, CIOs that I talk to are all looking to contract their datacenter and their racks of hardware. But Azure Stack is clearly pushing for hardware expansion, even if it is a cloud. 

My advice to my enterprises clients is that unless there is a compelling reason to keep workloads and data in private clouds, you should avoid them. I include Azure Stack in that advice, no matter how good it is. 

Of course, there are some good arguments for private clouds, and I do consider them legitimate cloud architecture, with some legit applications.

But although enterprises that push the use of private clouds or hybrid clouds (pairing private with public) typically cite legal, technical, or security issues, the truth is that most are doing it for the psychological comfort of being able to own and touch your own systems. That rationale won't last long once the price of datacenter expansion becomes clear from blindly using private cloud tools like Azure Stack.