On the Road to Microsoft HCI

Guest Blogger: Mike Harding

It has now become easier than ever for you to build hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) on the familiar Windows O/S that will also provide seamless integration with the latest cloud based services for VM data protection, monitoring and management. Learn about this and more by attending the HPE and Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Roadshow 2020.

Simplifying Today’s IT Challenges

IT teams are dealing with many challenges simultaneously: scaling to meet business growth, pressure to reduce cost, 6 at table -= July 2019.jpgmaintaining data security, and determining the best way to leverage cloud-based services. A recent innovation has helped address many of these challenges at once: hyperconverged infrastructure.

HCI has simplified the infrastructure stack, making it easier to scale, simpler to manage, and cheaper to buy and maintain. The newest offerings bring with them increased security features. They also blur the line between on-prem and cloud with management interfaces and include features that span cloud domains.

Microsoft Azure Stack HCI is a software-defined HCI solution that combines the familiarity and feature-richness of Windows Server 2019 with the economics of industry standard servers. Azure Stack HCI consolidates virtualized infrastructure with compute and storage on an efficient hyper-converged cluster. And thanks to built-in integration with Azure cloud, it’s easy to augment and extend on-premises virtualized infrastructure with a wide range of cloud services for data protection, monitoring and management.  Azure Stack HCI is a solution that meets the requirements of scalable virtualization and storage, remote branch office, and even high-performance workloads.

Azure Stack HCI under the hood

Azure Stack HCI begins with Windows Server 2019 Datacenter version. Key Windows features that make this a software-defined HCI offering include Hyper-V for server virtualization and Storage Spaces Direct for storage virtualization. The system leverages locally attached storage for data capacity, and the environment can be virtualized across a cluster of nodes for availability and scale.

Azure Stack HCI can leverage an All flash or hybrid storage drive mix, tiering cache and capacity drives where the fastest available drives are automatically used for caching. The environment is managed with Windows Admin Center (WAC) which provides a customizable and integrated dashboard that eases the management of environments that span on-prem and Azure cloud.

HPE breadth of Solutions for HCI

HPE has the industry’s broadest line of HCI solutions spanning a mix of hardware platforms and software-defined capabilities.  For Azure Stack HCI alone, HPE has nine validated platforms including ProLiant Gen 10 server models DL380, DL360, and ML350, the HPE Edgeline EL8000, HPE Synergy 480 Gen 10, and the HPE Apollo 4200 Gen 10. Each has its particular usage and strengths. Details on these HPE Azure Stack HCI hardware BOMs are posted at:

Here’s a rundown of a few major categories of HPE HCI solutions and their key strengths:

  • HPE ProLiant for Agile performance – Azure Stack HCI running on a range of validated HPE ProLiant server models delivers a spectrum of CPU performance, capacity choices and other key options such as networking. They can meet the needs of any enterprise Windows HCI task including VM Vending and Azure public cloud integration.
  • HPE SimpliVity for Simplified operations – HPE SimpliVity is an optimized HCI appliance with built in data protection, known for its ease of use. It can perform VM Vending, Multi-Site VM Hosting, and along with integrated data protection, has available high-performance, and hardware acceleration options.
  • HPE Apollo for Big Data capacity – This is another Azure Stack HCI software defined solution, built on the HPE Apollo storage systems. It’s a unique capacity-oriented HCI solution with the most raw capacity available in a validated 2U form-factor. It’s being used for Email, Analytics, and Big Data workloads.

Azure Stack HCI customers In Action

There are a growing number of HPE customers adopting Azure Stack HCI.  Here are a few anecdotes that provide a cross-section of the motives and uses.

A large Wall Street firm already had a large Microsoft Exchange installed base of thousands of users with particularly large mailboxes. With the advent of Exchange Server 2019, they wanted to upgrade and at the same time, run it on their new infrastructure standard, Azure Stack HCI.  We worked with them to size the environment even before a related sizing calculator was available. They expect to be able to achieve required scale and performance needed for the workload, while also realizing operational and capex benefits of their standardized infrastructure choice.

A top European auto manufacturer was expanding its data protection infrastructure to include a new backup solution. The customer wanted the option to use this with Azure Stack HCI, requiring that the hardware also be officially certified. The customer also needed the ability to incorporate existing storage capacity, so the solution had to facilitate data movement outside the cluster and to/from the cloud. With Azure Stack HCI they got a robust yet flexible infrastructure with management via a universal dashboard – Windows Admin Center – with simplified on-prem-to-cloud management that also helped future-proof the solution.

A Western US school district needed new infrastructure to support Azure Stack HCI, which was part of a larger “Hybrid-Infrastructure Virtualization & Consolidation” project. Mid-sized customers sometimes don’t have the same depth of technical expertise as larger enterprises, but Azure Stack HCI provided solid infrastructure managed through an intuitive, modern GUI (WAC) that let them leverage existing Windows expertise. The customer also chose the solution due to the affordability of this software-defined platform.

Learn more at the HPE - Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Roadshow 2020

Azure Stack HCI is available on your choice of HPE systems today. Whether you’re looking for performance, ease-of-use or big data capacity, HPE has an Azure Stack HCI product for you.

HPE Azure Stack HCI solutions meet the needs of scalable virtualization and storage, remote branch office and even hpe-microsoft-hybrid-cloud-summit-2020.jpghigh-performance workloads. And HPE solutions come with published technical guidance including whitepapers and related resources, as well as system-specific Windows Admin Center extensions.

To learn more about Azure Stack HCI, attend one of the HPE - Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Roadshow 2020 sessions.   The Roadshow brings our solutions and expertise to you in a series of events designed to help companies transform their IT to better leverage the cloud though the latest edge-centric and cloud-enabled solutions. The roadshow kicks off in January in the U.S. and continues in  over 25 cities across the globe where attendees will learn about the latest in Hybrid cloud computing, including Microsoft’s cost-effective approach to hyperconverged infrastructure, Azure Stack HCI. 

Go to the roadshow webpage to register for one of the 25+ roadshow locations near you. Spots are going fast – register for free today.  

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About the Author


Urs Renggli is the Global Marketing Lead for the Microsoft and SAP Alliances, directing all aspects of HPE's global alliance marketing strategy and partner marketing. He is responsible for developing and implementing end-to-end sales and marketing Initiatives and programs. Urs has spent a number of years at both HPE and Microsoft and understands both the power and importance of this strategic alliance in terms of the solutions it delivers to customers.