Azure Stack hybrid cloud computingMicrosoft’s highly touted hybrid cloud offering, Azure Stack, is now available for ordering, but does that mean you should run right out and get it? Before deciding that, we’ll quickly review what Azure Stack is as well as use cases that might benefit from it and challenges around deploying it.

Up until now, Azure was known solely as a public cloud provider. With Azure Stack organizations get the same functionality, performance and security of Azure public cloud, but with the added bonus of running it in their own data center. As of September, Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo offer Azure Stack, with Cisco and Huawei set to release their offerings by the end of Q1 2018.

Azure Stack brings about a new kind of cloud computing into play: Cloud-native services and practices that don’t require someone else’s infrastructure. It aims to be the first provider to offer a control panel that’s shared across the public cloud and data center, offering true hybrid ability. Pretty exciting stuff!

It is worth noting that Azure Stack lags behind the public cloud services and, in some cases, has severe limitations. Examples of such limitations include, but not limited to, lack of support for: file storage, data encryption at rest, managed disks, virtual network peering, IPv6 addresses, Application Gateway, and Traffic Manager. It is also important to know that only a small subset of virtual machine sizes is supported on Azure Stack. Many other services have limitations that you need to look into before diving all into Azure Stack.

Azure Stack is a big deal for those companies who want to take advantage of Azure’s powerful PaaS capabilities but are stopped by compliance or data sovereignty requirements, or have edge data centers whose internet connectivity may be spastic at best (think a research ship in the Indian Ocean, or a mining complex in Siberia). Azure Stack aims to address those concerns and streamline the deployment process by working directly with hardware providers to deliver integrated systems.

This means those edge data centers can run Azure’s App Service Stack on premises, so services such as Azure Functions are available even to the most remote locations. Azure Stack is also important for companies who want to develop modern applications using agile methodologies. DevOps, and continuous integration with a choice of deployment for their development environment on-premise or in the public cloud at some point in the future.

Challenges with Azure Stack

Your preference of hardware providers may affect whether you run Azure Stack or not–or at least affect when you deploy. Another major factor is the virtualization technology you use — VMware or Hyper-V — when making your decision.

Azure Stack runs on Microsoft’s own virtualization technology, Hyper-V. And when they announced in November that they would start supporting Azure Stack run on VMware via flexpod bare metal configuration, the virtualization giant was not happy and shot back and said they would not support Microsoft’s plan. They grudgingly agreed in December (while also reminding folks about all the partnerships they have with Not Microsoft) to assist with compliance and developing a support model, but it is believed that the solution is still in preview at this time. If you’re not ready to make the move from VMware to Hyper-V, then it might be best to hold off running Azure Stack until Microsoft and VMware come to a more cohesive agreement.

If you have regular access to the public cloud and don’t have to worry about data privacy (aka, you’re allowed to put your data in the public cloud), then Azure Stack probably isn’t a good fit for you. If you’re fully invested in all that Azure has to offer but still need to run your own data center, then Azure Stack should be worth considering. Its promise of bringing the public cloud to the data center is something that no other major cloud provider currently offers.