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What's New in Azure Stack Technical Preview 2

Update 10/10: An earlier version of this report stated that a third technical preview will have multi-node support. While there will likely be a TP3 prior to Azure Stack's general release, Microsoft said it won't have multi-node support. Also the statements were inadvertently attributed to Corey Sanders, who we met with at Ignite, but it was Mike Schutz, general manager of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise division, who explained the future Azure Stack preview plans.


Nearly eight months after issuing the first technical preview of Azure Stack, Microsoft last week released an update to the test version of the software that will ultimately let enterprises and hosting providers replicate the Azure public cloud within their own datacenters -- albeit on a smaller scale.

The second technical preview, commonly referred to by the company and testers alike as TP2, introduces a number of new features and services, covering the entire stack: the Azure Portal, security, compute, network and storage. TP2 also offers added monitoring capabilities within the Azure Portal and, for hosting providers, support for billing and usage monitoring.

The first new feature pointed out by Mike Schutz, general manager of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise division, during a meeting at the Ignite conference in Atlanta, was the ability to use Microsoft's Key Vault for providing secure management of keys and passwords. "It helps from a key management perspective and security perspective," Schutz said.

Testers can now also utilize application queuing and federated accesses to the Azure Marketplace with the ability to deploy select solutions, demonstrated in a session by Jason Zander, which is now available for viewing on-demand.

Microsoft outlined a list of the new Azure Stack features in an online document. The noteworthy features and services in TP2, in short, include:

  • Network: Support for iDNS, which enables internal network name registration and Domain Name System (DNS) resolution without additional DNS infrastructure. This is important for the handling of external DNS names, while also letting admins register internal virtual network names. "By doing so, you can resolve VMs on the same virtual network by name rather than IP address, without having to provide custom DNS server entries," wrote Microsoft program manager Scott Napolitan in a blog post. Other new network capabilities in the preview include "User Defined Routes," enabling for the routing of network traffic through firewalls, security, other appliances and other services; and the ability to provision network resources from the Azure Marketplace.
  • Storage: Premium Storage API account support, the ability to created shared access signatures in storage accounts, the ability to create Append Block operations within storage BLOBs and tenant storage service support for common tools and SDKs, including Microsoft's Azure CLI, PowerShell and .NET, as well as Python and the Java SDK.
  • Compute: The ability to de-allocate virtual machines (VMs), resizing of VM disks and the ability for VMs to have multiple network interfaces, while allowing administrators to redeploy VM extensions when configuring or troubleshooting.

Similar to the first preview, TP2 is restricted to running on a single machine and one Active Directory node and is intended for proof-of-concept evaluation, not scale. Schutz said Microsoft will offer a third technical preview at an unspecified time, though that public preview will only be available for single-node configurations. (Note: an earlier version of this report said the third preview will be a multi-node release but the company said that's not the plan.) 

Schutz also defended Microsoft's controversial decision to release Azure Stack next summer initially only on dedicated systems provided by partners Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Lenovo, though the company indicated that other options will become available in the future. The three companies displayed prototypes of 4- and 8-node systems designed for TP2 at Ignite, as outlined in a separate post, "Azure Stack Prototypes Debut at Ignite."

"What we've found is most private cloud deployments fail because of how complex it is to bring together cloud hardware and cloud software," Schutz said. "So we're still very focused on delivering Azure Stack with integrated systems and over time we'll evaluate how broad we can go in terms of other deployment models, but right now we're very focused on the integrated-systems approach."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/03/2016 at 2:08 PM


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