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We’ve seen tremendous interest and early customer adoption since we announced Microsoft Azure Stack Technical Preview 1 (TP1). Intended to convey the experience and power of true Azure-consistency, TP1 has helped people envision the innovation possibilities a hybrid cloud platform can deliver. Today, I'd like to share more information about how Azure Stack will be delivered.

Over the past few months, we’ve consistently heard from customers and service providers that they see tremendous business value in the hybrid capabilities Azure and Azure Stack can uniquely deliver. We also heard a universal theme around infrastructure; customers don’t want to deal with complexity in deployment and operations, they prefer to focus on driving applications and innovation. This theme shows up consistently in analyst research and describes why customers have faced well-known challenges with some existing products in the market.

For us, these learnings reinforce the need to make Azure Stack easy to manage as we translate global-scale Azure infrastructure designs to enterprise-scale environments. We have heard the following key requirements:

  • Consume Azure innovation quickly. Customers want Azure-consistent services as they become available, and to stay up to date with the latest innovation in Azure. They are willing to trade off customization at the infrastructure layer to gain a faster time-to-value.
  • Ensure quality and system reliability. Customers clearly reinforced our belief around quality and reliability. They are looking for an end to end solution that “just works”, not just at deployment time, but also as new updates are introduced.

To best meet these requirements, we will prioritize delivering Azure Stack as turnkey integrated systems in the initial general availability (GA) release, combining software, hardware, support and services in one solution. As we do this, we will leverage our deep experience in both cloud and enterprise datacenter environments to optimize the customer experience. Predictability of system infrastructure enables Microsoft to more-rapidly deliver innovation from Azure to Azure Stack. Based on our experience with Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS), we’ve seen customers go from order to operation much faster than they had with their previous processes. Microsoft and our partners can also ensure greater quality and system reliability across the full lifecycle (deployment, adding new capacity or services, updates, business continuity, and availability) with purpose-built management for the whole stack. A pre-validated systems approach helps simplify the operational experience for customers and enables a solution that accelerates the delivery of business-critical services.

Microsoft is committed to ensuring hardware choice and flexibility for customers and partners. To that end we are working closely with the largest systems vendors – Dell, HPE, Lenovo to start with – to co-engineer integrated systems for production environments. We are targeting the general availability release of Azure Stack, via integrated systems with our partners, starting mid-CY2017. Over time, we will look to broaden the ecosystem of supported systems and implementation approaches, based on customer feedback and ensuring we can meet all of our customers’ unique needs. Our goal is to democratize the cloud model by enabling it for the broadest set of use-cases possible.

With these updates, there are a number of steps customers can take to continue to make progress on their hybrid cloud strategy:

  • Customers should use Azure services to develop their apps today. Since Azure Stack and Azure share a unified application model with API consistency, these efforts will accrue to Azure Stack at general availability.
  • A single node experience, like the one delivered in Azure Stack TP1, will be available with subsequent Technical previews and general availability for customers to quickly experience, learn and develop against Azure Stack. The next technical preview will be available later this year.
  • Customers ready to deploy an Azure-consistent cloud on their premises now should buy Microsoft Cloud Platform Solution (CPS). Customers will be able to use Azure Stack to manage CPS resources thereby preserving investments in CPS.
  • Customers should also check out Windows Server 2016 and deploy Hyper-V as that is the host virtualization technology used in Azure Stack.

As always, let us know what you think and what you're doing with Azure Stack in our UserVoice community. We appreciate and count on your feedback to shape our efforts!

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