Every year, Microsoft holds its annual BUILD conference where they “announce new tools and solutions to empower developers to solve real world problems”, it’s also a great time to pick up some new skills and connect with the wider developer communities.
If you’ve attended any of the Microsoft conferences in the last few years, you would’ve seen a steady increase in hybrid content and solutions, as the world starts to realise that ‘Cloud-native’ doesn’t need to mean ‘Cloud-only’. This year’s Microsoft BUILD conference is no different.
Azure Arc is quickly becoming a gateway to Azure for companies looking to adopt Hybrid Cloud, as not only does it allow publishing on-prem resources up into Azure Resource Manager, but more Azure services are finding their way down to the edge through Azure Arc. This currently involves Azure Arc enabled Kubernetes, Azure Arc enable SQL Server and Azure Arc enabled Data Services.
Azure App Service enables developers to build and host web apps, mobile back ends, and RESTful APIs in the programming language of their choice without managing infrastructure.
App services are now “Arc Enabled”, meaning that its services are coming down to the edge for developers to now deploy to any Arc enabled Kubernetes Cluster, allowing access to Web Apps, Functions, API gateways, Logic Apps and Event Grid. Features such as deployment slots for A/B testing, out-of-box connectors and storage queue triggers are available anywhere you can run Kubernetes.
Developers can now develop code against App services to deploy on Azure, on-prem and any other cloud, allowing for massive code re-use and true hybrid cloud capabilities. Enabling true application portability that allows organisations to start their digital transformation on-prem, migrating components to Azure and other clouds as and when it makes sense, with minimal code changes.
- Build cloud-native applications that run anywhere - MSBuild Session
- Build cloud-native applications that run anywhere - Announcement Blog
- App Service on Azure Arc - Microsoft Docs
Open Service Mesh
Much like the preview of Open Service Mesh (OSM) for AKS Clusters on Azure, Azure Arc enables Kubernetes clusters can now have OSM onboarded with ease for a single cluster or with Azure Policy across multiple clusters. This enables another layer of consistency between an application running on AKS in Azure and Kubernetes clusters hosted elsewhere, with OSM making it even easier to build extensible distributed applications across clusters, sites and clouds.
For those less familiar with Open Service Mesh, it includes several features for securing traffic between components in an application stack through mTLS and short-lived certificates, traffic management policies for TCP and HTTP communication, as well as tracing and observability insights for troubleshooting and debugging services.
- Azure Arc enabled Open Service Mesh is now in public preview! - Announcement Blog
- Azure Arc-enabled Open Service Mesh (Preview) - Microsoft Docs
- Try it out with the Azure Arc Jumpstart runbook
Azure Stack HCI
Azure Stack HCI is the evolution of Microsoft Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) Stack, natively integrated with Azure and Azure Arc, allowing companies to modernise their on-prem infrastructure while still taking advantage of things like Azure great support structure.
While Windows Admin Center is great for investigating the health of a single Azure Stack HCI Cluster, as you scale out to additional clusters and potentially additional sites, there is a need for that monitoring to adapt and scale out with it.
Building on top of Azure Monitor, you can now monitor the health and core metrics of multiple Azure Stack HCI Clusters from the Azure Portal, as well as set up alerts for those critical metrics when things don’t look so good.
Using Azure Stack HCI insights, you can now monitor more than 400 metrics and events for VMs, Storage and Cluster Performance across a nearly unlimited number of Azure Stack HCI clusters, anywhere in the world.
- Azure Monitor Insights for Azure Stack HCI - Microsoft Docs
- Monitor multiple clusters - Microsoft Docs
And to support these monitoring capabilities and many, many more features, Microsoft announced a new Preview Channel for Azure Stack HCI. Customers can now try out the latest and greatest features on Azure Stack HCI ahead of GA through regular over-the-air updates, rolled out through Cluster-aware updating.
Some of the initial features available in the preview channel include:
- Network ATC for intent-based management of host networking
- Dynamic processor compatibility mode for mixed hardware environments
- Storage thin provisioning for S2D Volumes
- Support for GPUs on Clustered VMs, allowing for failover on host failure
- What’s new for Azure Stack HCI at Build 2021 - Microsoft Blog
- Network ATC in Preview on Azure Stack HCI - Microsoft Blog
AKS on Azure Stack HCI
Over the last 8 months since Microsoft announced AKS on Azure Stack HCI at Microsoft Ignite 2020 there has been several previews released for the new service, however, it has rapidly reached GA Status now at BUILD 2021. Building on top of Azure Stack HCI, AKS-HCI provides a turn-key solution for simple deployment and lifecycle management of Kubernetes clusters on-prem through both PowerShell and Windows Admin Center. AKS-HCI provides full support for Azure Arc out-of-the-box, following Azure AKS design principles and best practices.
To make AKS-HCI the best platform for transforming .Net Core and Framework based applications, it takes advantage of many newly developed features like GMSA non-domain joined hosts for Active Directory integrated applications, as well as native Active Directory authentication for delegating access to K8s clusters.
Because AKS-HCI is an Azure Service, much like Azure Stack HCI, there are inherent benefits over alternative Kubernetes products when it comes to integrating with Azure Arc and other services. There is no additional cost for taking advantage of Azure Policy and GitOps Configuration through Azure Arc when managing AKS-HCI Clusters for example. And of course, AKS-HCI is the preferred platform for deploying the new Azure Arc enabled App Services to a data centre near you.
- Azure Kubernetes Service on Azure Stack HCI now Generally Available - Announcement Blog
- Evaluate AKS on Azure Stack HCI
Windows Admin Center
And of course, it wouldn’t be a Microsoft Conference without a new release of Windows Admin Center these days!
At BUILD 2021, WAC v2103.2 has been released with new Cluster-aware updating superpowers for Azure Stack HCI, a massive make-over for the Windows Events tool, a new Windows Time Service extension for managing those pesky Windows Time settings and an improved Containers extensions for assisting with packing applications for deployment to AKS and AKS-HCI.
Well, that was quite a lot of information for the first day of Microsoft Build 2021.
With all the announcements, you can now provide an end-to-end Microsoft solution that spans both Azure and on-prem with consistent tooling and management experiences, through the use of Azure Stack HCI for your infrastructure, AKS-HCI for your Azure Arc enabled Kubernetes cluster, publishing your Web Apps, Azure Functions and Logic Apps across your hybrid cloud environment supported by Managed Instances of SQL Server for persistent data storage.
While Cloud-native started in the public cloud, it’s now rushing down to the Edge through key investments in Azure Arc, Azure Stack HCI and AKS. While most of these services are in Preview today, I don’t imagine it will take long for them to reach GA status, with more services to follow close behind based on the pace Microsoft is pushing things out.
Hybrid is king, and here to stay.