Five Things Blog: 25 Cool Things You Can Do with Azure Stack HCI

The time has come to refresh your infrastructure. You want to eliminate your legacy storage, consolidate your infrastructure, and deploy a software-defined hybrid cloud solution. It must be simple, highly scalable, and highly resilient. It must support the latest technology, provide cost-conscious options for the edge, and deliver the performance that demanding SQL Server workloads, dense virtualized environments, large-scale video desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments, and more demand. Microsoft has the answer. Azure Stack HCI.

Normally we only cover 5 things in this blog series but Azure Stack HCI has so many features and capabilities that we had to expand our list!

Here are twenty-five cool things you can do with Azure Stack HCI:

  1. Deploy a complete software-defined platform with hybrid capabilities built in – Azure Stack HCI is a new hyperconverged infrastructure operating system delivered as an Azure service, providing built-in hybrid capabilities and up-to-date security, performance, and feature updates. Built on the enterprise-class hypervisor, Microsoft Hyper-V, Azure Stack HCI’s software stack also includes Storage Spaces Direct for software-defined storage, software–defined networking, and OS-integrated Azure services. 
  1. Monitor and manage with Windows Admin Center and do more with DataON MUST –Windows Admin Center brings a new level of management and monitoring in a centralized location for your on-premises infrastructure and OS-integrated Azure services that include cloud-based monitoring, storage, backup, disaster recovery and more. Windows Admin Center also allows for third party extensions, such as DataON MUST. MUST adds to the Windows Admin Center experience with unique features such as historic data reporting, enhanced disk mapping, alert services, and call home services. MUST now has a new infrastructure inventory page that provides real-time driver, firmware, BIOS and BPM information in each node and automatically checks them against the latest quarterly validated server component image baseline from Microsoft with Microsoft Private Cloud Simulator (PCS) and VM Fleet performance tests.
  1. Connect to Azure hybrid services through Windows Admin Center – You can extend your on-premises Azure Stack HCI deployments to the cloud by using Azure hybrid services, which you can access through Windows Admin Center. You can protect VMs and use cloud-based backup and disaster recovery, extend on-premises capacity with storage and compute in Azure, and centralize monitoring, governance, configuration, and security across your applications, networking and infrastructure with the help of cloud-intelligent Azure management services.
  1. Consolidate infrastructure with Storage Spaces Direct – Use industry-standard servers with locally-attached drives to create highly available, highly scalable software-defined storage at a fraction of the cost of traditional SAN or NAS arrays. Start off with as little as 2 or 3 nodes and scale up to 16 with up to 4 PBs per cluster.
  2. Increase performance with Intel® Optane™ DC SSD and persistent memory (PMEM) technologies – Increase your cache speeds in applications like SQL Server, scale-out storage and more. Use Intel® Optane™ as persistent and high-density memory to accelerate applications, increase system memory, or both.
  1. Reclaim disk space with deduplication and compression for ReFS – Reduce costs and get more usable storage. Store up to 10x more data on the same volume with deduplication and compression for the ReFS filesystem.
  1. Get true two node capability – Azure Stack HCI is the only software-defined platform that offers a true-node solution that doesn’t require a third node for quorum. You can simply use an inexpensive USB drive as a witness or even use Cloud Witness within Azure Services. 
  1. Reduce costs with switchless two and three-node solutions – Azure Stack HCI reduces costs and consolidates hardware, by leveraging switchless back-to-back networking, eliminating the need for a switch to connect the nodes. 
  1. Create active workload balanced data centers with stretched clusters – As part of an Azure Stack HCI native disaster recovery solution, you can deploy stretched clusters across a hyper-converged infrastructure between two sites. This offers better workload mobility, less downtime, disaster avoidance, and load balancing across both sites. 
  1. Scale down edge deployment expenditures – Azure Stack HCI has a very low entry price for per-location cost, compared to competing solutions. This is important for companies that have many locations and need to put a small footprint of resilient servers into each location.
  1. Manage Azure Stack HCI subscriptions and Azure services in a single pane of glass – Azure Stack HCI simplifies billing. You can pay monthly Azure Stack HCI subscription fees and pay-as-you-go Azure services all in one convenient, single pane of glass in Windows Admin Center. 
  1. Improve two-node deployment fault tolerance with nested resiliency – Inspired by RAID 5+1, Azure Stack HCI delivers two types of nested resiliency for better two-node fault tolerance. This includes nested two-way mirror, which writes two copies on each server (creating a four-way mirror) for high performance storage. Mirror-accelerated parity combines nested two-way mirroring, and nested parity for inexpensive, space-efficient storage. 
  1. Get more VM security with shielded VMs – Shielded VMs help protect high value assets in your organization, such as domain controllers, sensitive file servers, and HR systems. Each shielded VM has a virtual TPM, is encrypted using BitLocker, and can run only on healthy and approved hosts in the fabric.
  2. Simplify complex and distributed environments with Azure Arc – Azure Arc, an Azure service available with Azure Stack HCI, enables deployment of Azure services anywhere and extends Azure management to any infrastructure across on-premises, edge, and multi-cloud. 
  1. Improve network performance and management with Software Defined Networking (SDN) – Centrally configure and manage physical and virtual network devices such as routers, switches, and gateways in the data center with integral elements such as Hyper-V Virtual Switch, Hyper-V Network Virtualization, and RAS Gateway. 
  1. Increase throughput and lower latency with RDMA networking – Supporting both RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE) and iWarp protocols, Azure Stack HCI delivers high throughput and low latency networking by bypassing the OS and enabling direct memory access between each node.
  2. Maximize the availability and performance of applications and services with Azure Monitor and Health Services – Azure Monitor delivers a comprehensive solution for collecting, analyzing, and acting on telemetry from your Azure Stack HCI cloud and on-premises environments. It helps you understand how applications are performing and proactively identifies issues affecting them and the resources they depend on. Health Services in Windows Admin Center is now integrated with Azure Monitor and provides email and SMS notifications when something goes wrong.
  3. Improve security with Azure Security Center – Strengthen the security of your data center with an Azure-based unified infrastructure security management system. Azure Security Center provides advanced threat protection across Azure Stack HCI hybrid workloads in the cloud or strictly on-premises.
  4. Get Industry-best performance for SQL Server databases – Azure Stack HCI supports 2nd Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, NVMe 3D NAND flash, and Intel® Optane™ SSD and PMEM technology to deliver consistently low latency to SQL Server databases and other performance-sensitive virtualized workloads that require millions of storage IOPS or database transactions per second.
  5. Simplify storage migration with Storage Migration Service – Managed from within Windows Admin Center, Storage Migration Services (SMS) enables you to migrate unstructured data from anywhere into Azure cloud and/or Windows Servers. It’s fast, reliable and scalable.
  1. Reduce recovery times with Storage Replica – Storage Replica copies data between two servers and keeps data in sync between nodes in a cluster. If there is a node failure, Storage Replica allows you to copy data back to the restored node at the block level and synchronize only data the node needs to meet quorum for faster recovery.
  1. Deploy virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) at scale – Azure Stack HCI offers a secure, high performance, highly available and highly scalable architecture for successful VDI deployments with Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). You can roll-out system-wide updates, change security policies and permissions, and install applications on hundreds and thousands of desktops at scale and in the cloud.
  2. Protect against disasters and save on infrastructure costs with Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery – Better protect your data in hybrid cloud deployments or avoid additional upfront infrastructure costs altogether with Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery for a complete cloud backup and disaster recovery solution.
  3. Simplify and accelerate your deployments with verified Intel Select Solutions for Azure Stack HCI – Intel and Microsoft have jointly co-engineered optimizations for Azure Stack HCI, ensuring the kernel, storage stack, memory manager, Microsoft Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct, and OS networking components work seamlessly with Intel-based hardware. Verified Intel Select Solutions from DataON feature 2nd Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, Intel® 3D NAND SSDs, and Intel® Optane™ SSD and PMEM.
  4. Get validated Microsoft Azure Stack HCI solutions from DataON – DataON offers validated Azure Stack HCI solutions tailored to your specific environment, delivering a wide range of options for storage performance, capacity, and compute. Focusing exclusively on Microsoft solutions, DataON provides a complete customer experience from certified platforms to design, planning, deployment, and warranty support.