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10 Top Azure Announcements From Microsoft Inspire 2020

New products and services include the next generation of Azure Stack HCI, Azure Migrate features and Azure Lighthouse security enhancements, and third-party connectors for Azure Sentinel, Microsoft’s security information and event management offering.

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Next Generation Of Azure Stack HCI

Microsoft unveiled its next generation of Azure Stack HCI, an Azure service that combines the price-performance of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) with native Azure hybrid capabilities. The hyperconverged Windows Server 2019 cluster uses validated hardware to run virtualized workloads on-premises, enabling customers to consolidate aging infrastructure and connect to Azure for cloud services.

The newest version of Azure Stack HCI, a native and fully integrated Azure service now in public preview, includes security, performance and hybrid improvements.

“It delivers an integrated management and operations experience with Azure, allowing customers to manage Azure Stack HCI deployments and Azure resources side by side, right from the Azure portal,” Talal Alqinawi, Microsoft’s senior director of Azure marketing, said in a blog post. “Customers can monitor multiple clusters at scale and even view and manage virtual machines [VMs] running on Azure Stack HCI, taking advantage of Azure Arc.”

Microsoft included a new deployment wizard to quickly set up an Azure Stack HCI cluster and connect to Azure to take advantage of Azure Stack HCI native integration with core Azure services including Azure Backup, Azure Security Center and Azure Monitor. Other new features are no-cost extended security updates for Windows Server 2008 VMs running on Azure Stack HCI, and stretch cluster to easily extend a cluster from a single site to multiple sites for native high availability and disaster recovery, according to Alqinawi.

Microsoft also is offering the ability to run Azure Stack HCI on existing hardware if it matches Microsoft’s validated node solution.

“We believe this is an important new change for customers to get the most value out of their current hardware investment,” Alqinawi said.

Azure Stack HCI can be leveraged in a variety of use cases to modernize data centers with high-density virtualization and storage.

“This is an ideal solution for organizations that want to reduce their data center costs, especially for legacy hardware or SAN environments with modern hyperconverged infrastructure, through both the savings in Opex and efficiencies gained by centrally managing from Azure,” Alqinawi said.

Azure Stack HCI’s flexible, per-core subscription model allows customers to optimize cost based on their needs, according to Alqinawi.

“We give customers the flexibility to run small deployments like remote and branch offices or scale to data center-grade deployments,” he said.

Alqinawi used a branch-office scenario as an example. For an eight-core server with less than 16 VMs, the up-front cost for Azure Stack HCI is 2.5X less expensive than other HCI offerings on the market, he said.

Early benchmarking shows Azure Stack HCI IOPs (input/output operations per second) in the 13 million-plus range and over 1 million requests per second for TPC-c SQL server workloads, both in line with industry-leading performance, according to Alqinawi.

“We are working with partners to bring Azure Stack HCI to a broad range of validated hardware solutions that meet our customer needs,” he said. “These validated solutions are based on standardized reference architecture that are supported by Microsoft and our hardware partners.”

Azure Stack HCI integrated systems—which offer an appliance-like deployment experience with factory-preinstalled bits enabling easy deployment and integrated updates across the full stack of firmware, drivers, agents and the operating system—is a new purchasing option.

Lenovo is one of the first partners to deliver Azure Stack HCI integrated systems by bringing Azure Stack HCI to its server and software-defined portfolios, including its ThinkAgile MX1021 edge server platform.

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