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  • Kyle Hill

Home Lab - Incorporating Azure Stack as a Hybrid Cloud

In the previous post, we looked how my Home Lab was setup and now we can start putting it to good use! We are going to be looking at how we can leverage our virtualisation capabilities from the Home Lab and creating a hybrid cloud with Azure Stack!

To get started, we need to understand a couple of key things. First, what is Azure Stack? In short, Azure Stack allows for hybrid clouds to be built with close integration between the public Azure cloud and with an organisation's approved on-premise hardware.

Second, Azure Stack comes in three flavours: Azure Stack HCI, Azure Stack Edge, and Azure Stack Hub. Broadly speaking here are the purposes of each:

  • Azure Stack HCI: Azure Stack HCI allows you to deploy Windows and Linux-based virtualised and containerised workloads on a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) cluster in your own datacentre. In the context of software-defined technologies, the term hyper-convergence designates a system architecture that combines compute, storage, and networking resources by relying on software-based and hardware-based virtualization. Physical servers and their hardware components form a pool of resources, which you can arbitrarily allocate to individual server workloads. Illustrated by Microsoft:

  • Azure Stack Edge: Azure Stack Edge allows you to perform processing and ML-based inferencing of on-premises data and upload it to Azure by using a purpose-built, Microsoft-provided appliance residing in an on-premises location. In the simplest terms, you can think of Azure Stack Edge as a pre-built, specialized appliance that you can use to process and analyse data in edge locations and transfer it to Azure. Illustrated by Microsoft:

  • Azure Stack Hub: Azure Stack Hub is essentially Azure for on-premise deployments. It allows you to deploy a subset of IaaS and PaaS services available in the Azure public cloud into your own datacentre. These services include virtual machines, App Service web apps, API apps, and functions, SQL and MySQL databases, containers, Event Hubs, Key Vault, IoT Hubs, Service Fabric clusters, and Kubernetes clusters. Illustrated by Microsoft:

There is a a nice summarised comparison of the 3 options from Microsoft learn here.

One other important element that sits atop these components is Azure Arc. Azure Arc is a set of technologies that offers a control plane over multi-cloud, hybrid, and on premise deployments and is complementary to Azure Stack. Further, Azure Arc enables you to manage and configure your Windows and Linux server machines and Kubernetes clusters that are hosted outside of Azure. Illustrated by Microsoft:

It is worth remembering that because Azure Arc operates in a hybrid cloud pattern, it relies on a Connected Machine agent to be installed and running on each VM/Cluster to provide telemetry back to Azure Arc. Visually, this has been presented by Microsoft as follows:

Now that we have some basics out of the way, in the next blog post, we are going to be preparing the deployment of Azure Stack HCI onto our Home Lab.

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