Microsoft Releases Third and Final Azure Stack Technical Preview

The software giant reveals Azure Stack's pricing model and adds new features as the solution approaches general availability.

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The wait for Azure Stack is nearing its end.

Gearing up for the official launch of the hybrid-cloud solution that enables customers to run a little piece of the Azure cloud in their own data centers, Microsoft today released a new technical preview. In fact, it's the "third and last technical preview" before Azure Stack is generally available through a handful of IT systems vendors in mid-2017, Microsoft partner group program manager Natalia Mackevicius told eWEEK.

Mackevicius also revealed that Azure Stack's pricing model will mirror that of the public cloud computing platform that inspired it. Customers will be billed on a "consumption, pay-as-you-use" basis, she said. "For customers, that is revolutionary," enabling them to spin up their own Azure cloud environments with "little to no upfront investment."

Azure Stack will be available as preintegrated server hardware and software bundles from Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo. Last month, Cisco joined the ranks and announced an upcoming solution based on the networking giant's UCS (Unified Computing System) of converged infrastructure platform.

In addition to delivering on the technical aspects of Azure Stack, Microsoft's overarching goal is to provide consistency between the solution and Azure proper, Mackevicius. The cloud management and application development skills earned via the Microsoft Azure cloud can be seamlessly applied to Azure Stack and vice versa, she indicated.

New to Azure Stack Technical Preview 3 (TP3) are deployment options supporting Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), enabling use cases that are "completely disconnected from Azure," said Mackevicius.

Although the cloud's reach appears to be expanding by the minute, not all customers operate out of locations that are conducive to cloud usage, she explained. These range from "mine shafts that don't have network connectivity" to remote sites with unacceptable network latencies. Under these circumstances, the ADFS option enables customers to operate their own private Azure clouds using a lot of the same know-how gathered from connected locales.

Additionally, TP3 brings the company's scale-out cloud workload technology, Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets, along with high-performance D-Series virtual-machine sizes. Users can also now syndicate Azure Marketplace content for their Azure Stack implementations and strengthen the security of their deployments with an isolated admin portal.

Future updates will include Azure Functions, the company's serverless code architecture, and support for Blockchain, Cloud Foundry and other new workloads. The testing and evaluation releases are also undergoing a change.

Jeffrey Snover, a technical fellow at Microsoft Azure Infrastructure and Management, noted that when Azure Stack reaches general availability in mid-2017, "the Proof of Concept (POC) deployment will be renamed to the Microsoft Azure Stack Development Kit," in a March 1 announcement. "This single server dev/test tool enables customers to prototype and validate hybrid applications. It is a key piece of the continuous innovation model that Azure Stack will use to bring new functionality from Azure quickly to customers. It provides a way for new updates to be distributed early to customers so that they can experiment, learn and provide feedback."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...