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Azure Stack HCI: A Cloud for Cloud Skeptics?

If Microsoft’s Azure is a swim in the cloud pool, and Azure Stack is a paddle in the shallow end, Azure Stack HCI is a toe dip. For some organizations, that is just enough cloud.

Azure Stack brought the cloud to the datacenter. With Azure Stack HCI, Microsoft is hoping to bring the legacy datacenter one step closer to the cloud.

Azure Stack HCI is the spiritual successor to Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) infrastructure, which originally launched in 2016. WSSD is essentially Windows 2016 paired with Microsoft’s software-defined storage offering (SD2), bringing hyperconvergence to the Microsoft stack.

Microsoft recognizes that some organizations don’t have the inclination or expertise to run its cloud stack on premises (the Azure Stack promise), and that many prefer the familiarity of virtualized applications with Azure connectivity. Microsoft provides documentation on the relationship between Azure, Azure Stack, and Azure Stack HCI:

Our Take

Azure Stack HCI is new, but it’s not new. And that’s exactly what some organizations need. Where skilling up is cost prohibitive or applications need to remain firmly on premises (and not managed through the Azure console), Azure Stack HCI may be just the ticket.

What’s more interesting about Azure Stack HCI is what it’s not: a true cloud offering. The latest front in the cloud computing wars is hybridity: AWS launched Outposts, IBM bought Red Hat, and Google launched Anthos. Microsoft billing its hyperconverged platform as part of its cloud offering cements this direction. The head honchos in Redmond must recognize that for many organizations a wholesale leap into cloud IaaS is not realistic in the short term. This rebranding is a way for Microsoft to own that reluctance. Smart!

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