Microsoft Publishes Windows Azure Pack Roadmap
Microsoft published a white paper this week describing its roadmap plans for Windows Azure Pack.
The white paper, dated Jan. 27, can be downloaded at this page. Windows Azure Pack is a bundle of solutions for use with Windows Server 2012 R2, SQL Server and Microsoft's System Center management tools. It's used to deliver services from a datacenter, along the lines of Microsoft Azure cloud computing services. Windows Azure Pack bears the "Azure" brand name, but Microsoft has admitted that it just doesn't provide organizations or service providers with the full Azure "stack."
To get something closer to that full software stack, Microsoft actually has a different bundle of solutions, literally called "Azure Stack." A new Azure Stack preview is timed for release at the end of this week.
A more complete Azure Stack solution "will be launching in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2016," according to Microsoft's white paper.
Possibly, Azure Stack will replace Windows Azure Pack, but Microsoft has typically stopped short of making such direct statements. However, the handwriting seems to be on the wall. For instance, the company is working on a "bridge" between the two technologies, per its white paper:
Azure follows a distinctly different design pattern than virtualization-centric solutions (based on Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center infrastructure). We are working on solutions to help customers and partners bridge from one architecture to the other; for example, Hyper-V virtual machines offered in IaaS modes may be portable.
Possibly, Microsoft will provide greater clarity about Windows Azure Pack's future during its upcoming Web presentation on Azure Stack, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 3.
The new white paper on Windows Azure Pack showed final product support milestones, and it also included happy talk for service providers:
Service providers who have invested, or are considering investing in Windows Azure Pack (WAP) should do so with confidence. The only solution available today, to build Azure-consistent clouds, is Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 with Microsoft System Center and Windows Azure Pack (WAP).
In addition, Windows Azure Pack is required for service providers seeking "Azure Certified for Hybrid Cloud status" when providing services. It's also required for "all Cloud OS Network" deployments, Microsoft's white paper noted.
Still, the clock is ticking on Windows Azure Pack. It will lose "mainstream support" on July 11, 2017, which is the period when Microsoft delivers new feature updates. After July 12, 2022, Windows Azure Pack falls out of "extended support," which means that it won't get feature updates, or security patches.
Microsoft's white paper, though, states that Windows Azure Pack will be supported "until the end of 2022." That's a contradiction to the July 2022 end date, but the discrepancy wasn't explained.
The white paper mostly seems aimed at assuring service providers about the viability of Windows Azure Pack. Along the way, though, it measured out the product's demise. It's got about six years with Windows Server 2012 R2, and it's unclear from the white paper that its product life will be extended with Windows Server 2016, which is scheduled to arrive in Q3 this year. See RCPmag's newly published "2016 Microsoft Product Roadmap" for approximate product timelines.
Surprisingly, Microsoft doesn't seem to be pointing its partners toward Azure Stack as a future alternative to Windows Azure Pack. Instead, the white paper tells partners to look to its Cloud Solutions Provider program, which enables direct billing and the provisioning of subscriptions by partners. It also recommends that they use ExpressRoute, an Azure service for enabling high-bandwidth private connections to Microsoft's datacenters. Perhaps greater clarity will arrive with Microsoft's talk next week.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.