Microsoft's Azure Appliance announcement made a big splash at the Microsoft Partner Conference, but the meat of the announcement is that HP and Dell will be hosting Azure-based cloud services and providing the consulting to help their customers identify, prepare and move some workloads into an Azure-based cloud service. The appliance, more aptly described as a turn-key private cloud, is still far in the future.
While neither HP nor Dell would commit to many specifics on the Azure Appliance or on a delivery timeline, Scott Farrand, vice president, HP Industry Standard Servers and Software, predicts that the HP appliance will be built in a fixed unit he called a stamp, made up of ten racks of computing servers, ten racks of storage, and will include the infrastructure and cabling to connect it all together. The appliance would be delivered to a data center as a pod. The software is the same software Microsoft runs on their Azure service, which includes the management and orchestration features for a dynamic platform as a service.
"The Azure Appliance is the destination, but not the focus, of the partnership. The focus is to modernize customers existing applications by porting them to an Azure cloud service, hosted either by Microsoft or HP, and then for those customers that require their own hardware, eventually to the appliance," Farrand said.
While HP and Dell didn't deny that there may be a demand for smaller appliance devices, the target market are large data centers, because they can reach economies of scale quicker. "We have tens of thousands of servers in five data centers and have have decreased the number of IT professionals needed to manage the data center by a factor of 10. We designed it to be automated and scalable. You don't need an administrator to bring up new VMs or recover a VM," says Scott Ottaway. Scott is a senior product manager within the Server Tools Business. "The ratio depends on the number of servers you deploy. If you double servers, you can't double administrators."
While the industry is buzzing about how private cloud computing can save
operational dollars, there has been little experience outside that of the large
data centers like those run by Dell, eBay, and Microsoft that really
quantifies the parameters for reducing operational expenses and what the
base level of resources are from which to measure growth and savings. Ask,
and you get vague hand waving, indicative of a nascent
market. The kernel of truth in it all is that at some point, on-premises
cloud service like Azure simply doesn't scale.