Microsoft have recently released the trial version of the Windows Azure Pack.
This is free software which sits on top of Windows Server 2012 R2. It enables both Enterprises and Hosting providers to offer Azure Services to their clients (be that external in the case of hosting providers or internal in the case of an Enterprise). Microsoft have leveraged their experience of providing a cloud infrastructure to 1 billion customers to come up with this new offering. It has been architected using a 'cloud up' approach, ie, taking lessons learned from cloud computing and applying them to on premise cloud.
Windows Azure Pack comprises a subset of services currently available on Windows Azure:
- Management Portal for Tenants
- Management Portal for Administrators
- Service Management API
- Web Sites
- Virtual Machines
- Service Bus
Management Portal for Tenants
Tenants of the environment, ie, external clients of a hosting business or internal clients of an enterprise can manage their services via the management portal. Tasks such as creating new Virtual Machines, ASP.NET, PHP, Wordpress sites etc. may be performed in this portal in a similar style to Windows Azure services. They can also monitor usage and carry out configuration in this portal. Tenants must be subscribed to a plan to use this and the plan is offered by the provider (eg. hosting Company or Enterprise IT department)
Management Portal for Administrators
Administrators manage the service offerings from this portal, for example, resource clouds, raw computer and storage resources would be configured here.
Service Management API
The management of services may be carried out via a RESTful API enabling other providers to integrate with Azure Services.
Websites may be deployed rapidly using blank sites or pre-configured templates, eg. Wordpress, Drupal, ASP.NET. This is a very rich service, offering businesses or departments self-service site creation. Monitoring and configuration is available via the Tenant Management Portal.
This is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Clients may spin up virtual machines quickly with just the OS installed or a pre-configured template (eg. SharePoint Server). In some enterprises, departmental requests for virtual machines can be a frustrating experience, with long lead times and a people intensive activity. With Azure services this can be delegated to the department to generate. This allows Enterprise IT departments to compete with external providers – bringing them 'back into the game again.'
The Service bus offers enterprise level messaging solutions.
Next Generation Hosting
This is an exciting time for Azure Services, which have evolved into what many organisations have been demanding, On-Premise self-service clouds. It's currently in trial and available here.