Azure Pack – my 20 cents

Couple years back, Microsoft started talking about the “mystical” Azure Appliance and entire community thought they finally found the Holy Grail solution for running their services/applications securely on cloud. The idea was that Microsoft was to give all Windows Azure goodness in “one box” and enterprises can run their stuff from behind their fire walls using all awesome things that Azure provides. Azure Compliance never happened. Nobody knows why.

Meanwhile Scott Guthrie – The Rockstar performer – was asked to govern and own Windows Azure organization. Scott with his technical brilliance and roots being firmly buried into community completely shifted the momentum and Windows Azure became this cool, “open” technology. Scott Gu quickly realized the pulse and got no. of features onboarded one after another. One of the most important being a huge release they did called Infrastructure As Service (IaaS). Suddenly Microsoft was talking about the Cloud OS. Cloud OS has been Microsoft’s vision wherein they are talking about a simple, uniform cloud platform for everybody which provides clear interface for Public Cloud as well enterprise folks to get quickly onboarded and use the power of cloud. OS no bar. Technology no bar. Just plain cloud power. Well, Windows Azure was always a complete (sorta 😉 ) solution for folks who want to deploy their apps/services in public domain. But in the light of fierce completion, price war and the failed attempt to address the enterprise cloud (Appliance) it became very essential for Microsoft to provide a consistent story for enterprises as well. Microsoft always had Hyper V and System Center for enterprise people, but how can this infrastructure use Windows Azure’s appeal and goodness? In comes Azure Pack.

Azure Pack – if I go by the definition – is a technology that runs inside the enterprise datacenters, behind the firewall and provides the self-served, multi-tenant services like Windows Azure. Community starts dreaming again. Private cloud in box? Holy Grail? Azure Appliance reborn?  Well not really, let me explain.

Azure Pack is far from “private cloud in a box”. A better description would be a Windows Azure like management portal, management API in front of the existing Hyper-V/System Center infrastructure. It has absolutely nothing to do with the Azure Appliance. So Azure Pack works as the wrapper on your Hyper V with a better user experience. But it definitely becomes critical piece of Cloud OS jigsaw puzzle, as it enables enterprises, to put a very nice Azure-like portal/interface in front of their private cloud infrastructure.

The fact that using your in-house infrastructure to scale your enterprises with VMs, Web Sites, Service Bus is really exciting. Bunch of same administrators and developers can build and distribute the code very securely without any special training gives me goose bumps. Azure Pack definitely opens tons of new business scenarios, e.g. now you can create and distribute “Well-Defined” VM Templates for your enterprises very seamlessly from the Gallery.

As of now, Azure Pack comes with following stuff:

  • Management portal for tenants

Windows Azure like self-service portal experience for provisioning, monitoring and managing services such as Web Sites, Virtual Machines and Service Bus.

  • Management portal for admins

A portal for admins to configure and manage resources, user accounts, tenants and billing.

  • Service management API

Doing all the management stuff using neatly designed APIs, so anything and everything can be scripted

  • Web Sites
  • VMs
  • Service Bus

Nobody knows how tough it’s going to be to setup an Azure Pack in the data centers. The pricing model is not defined yet as well. So I can’t comment on the success yet. The existing thing for me as the Windows Azure developer is there are more avenues to go and implement stuff now. Hopefully, this release provides opportunity to more and more enterprises (especially in banking, healthcare sector) to go and taste Windows Azure. Amen!

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