Microsoft launches technical preview of Azure Stack as a hybrid cloud play

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it will let you run its Azure platform in your own data center. Here's why it matters.

Image: James Martin/CNET

The public cloud market is no two-horse race, but the obvious frontrunners are consistently Amazon AWS in front and Microsoft Azure a close second. However, as private and hybrid cloud models grow in popularity, it's becoming clear that the race to cloud dominance is still anyone's game.

In order to better meet that need, Microsoft is launching a hybrid cloud version of its Azure platform. On Tuesday, Microsoft announced the first technical preview of Microsoft Azure Stack which, according to a company blog post, "helps organizations deliver Azure services from their own datacenter."

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Mike Neil, the corporate vice president of enterprise cloud at Microsoft, wrote in the post that Microsoft is clocking nearly 100,000 new Azure subscriptions every month, but concerns about moving to a public cloud solution still linger within the enterprise. This is especially true when it comes to governmental and regulatory concerns—something Microsoft has already dealt with on a global scale.

Neil gave three key reasons for the need of a consistent hybrid cloud platform:

  • Application developer productivity, as developers can write an application once and deploy it to either Azure or Azure Stack.
  • IT professionals can turn local tools and resources into cloud-delivered products through Azure Stack.
  • Organizations get to engage a hybrid cloud strategy with their own parameters on regulation, data sovereignty, and more.

Azure Stack and Azure will share a common architecture and common tools including Visual Studio, PowerShell, and other, open-source DevOps products and tools.

"The application model is based on Azure Resource Manager, which enables developers to take the same declarative approach to applications, regardless of whether they run on Azure or Azure Stack," Neil said in the post.

This is the first in a set of planned technical previews. Future previews will include additional OS images and Azure Resource Manager templates.

"To ensure Azure consistency, we will update Azure Stack at a 'cloud-cadence.' Customers should expect multiple Azure Stack updates every year post initial release, and at any point in time they will have access to GA features as well as some preview features," said Ryan O'Hara, partner director of program management at Microsoft.

O'Hara also said they expect the first release of Azure Stack to happen in Q4 of the 2016 calendar year, but there will be multiple technical previews throughout this year.

The move to broaden its cloud portfolio makes sense for Microsoft. As competition between AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform continues to grow, the contenders have relied heavily on price drops that are almost always matched in a short time frame. Adding the additional hybrid cloud capabilities puts Azure in a better competitive position with AWS, especially in targeting large enterprise customers. Google Cloud Platform, though, seems content to cater more to startups and SMBs.

The Azure Stack technical preview will be live Friday January 29. At that time, interested businesses, developers, and IT managers can check it out here.

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Conner Forrest is News Editor for TechRepublic. He covers startups and enterprise technology and is passionate about the convergence of tech and culture.

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