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Azure File Storage

Azure Stack Hub: How It Works, Pricing, and Capacity Planning

What Is Microsoft Azure Stack Hub? 

Azure Stack Hub is a hybrid cloud computing solution developed by Microsoft. It allows organizations to build and deploy cloud-based applications and services and leverage Azure infrastructure in their own data centers.

At its core, Azure Stack Hub is an extension of Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, allowing organizations to create and manage Azure services within their own infrastructure. This can be particularly useful for businesses that have strict compliance or regulatory requirements that prevent them from using public cloud services or for organizations that have a need for low latency or offline operations.

Azure Stack Hub offers a consistent and familiar development and management experience as Azure, including a range of tools and services, such as virtual machines, storage, and networking capabilities. It also offers hybrid cloud features such as unified application development, deployment, and management experience, which allows developers to build applications that span both on-premises and cloud environments.

This is part of a series of articles about Azure Storage.

How Azure Stack Hub Works

Azure Stack is a hybrid cloud platform that allows organizations to run Azure services on-premises, providing a consistent set of tools and processes for building and deploying applications in the cloud and on-premises. Here's how Azure Stack works:

  • Azure Stack hardware: Azure Stack consists of hardware from various vendors, such as Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo, that is integrated with Microsoft's Azure Stack software. The hardware is configured to meet the requirements of Azure Stack, including compute, storage, and networking components.
  • Azure Stack software: The Azure Stack software is a set of components that enables organizations to create an Azure-consistent environment on their own hardware. It includes the Azure Stack infrastructure components, which provide the foundation for running Azure services on-premises, as well as the Azure Stack portal, which provides a user interface for managing Azure Stack resources.
  • Consistent APIs and tools: Azure Stack provides a consistent set of APIs and tools, allowing organizations to build and deploy applications in the cloud and on-premises using the same set of tools and processes. This includes support for popular programming languages and tools, such as .NET, Java, Python, and PowerShell.
  • Hybrid cloud capabilities: With Azure Stack, organizations can build and deploy applications in a hybrid cloud environment, using a common set of tools and processes, without having to worry about the complexity of managing multiple cloud environments. This allows organizations to choose the right mix of cloud and on-premises resources for their specific needs.
  • Integration with Azure services: Azure Stack integrates with Azure services, allowing organizations to take advantage of the capabilities and features of Azure, such as Azure Active Directory, Azure Resource Manager, and Azure Marketplace. This allows organizations to build and deploy applications more efficiently and effectively.

What Are the Benefits of Azure Stack Hub?

Azure Stack Hub offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Disconnected and connected edge solutions: It provides a solution for businesses that require both cloud services and the ability to operate offline or with low latency. It can be deployed on connected edge devices and disconnected environments to provide consistent and reliable cloud services to users regardless of location.
  • Compliant cloud applications: It is designed to help businesses meet regulatory and compliance requirements by offering a secure and compliant platform for cloud application development and deployment. It supports a wide range of compliance certifications, including GDPR, HIPAA, and ISO 27001, among others.
  • On-premises deployment: It allows businesses to build and deploy cloud-based applications within their own data centers, providing them with greater control and flexibility over their infrastructure. It enables organizations to leverage the benefits of cloud computing while keeping sensitive data on-premises, providing a hybrid cloud solution that can be tailored to the unique needs of each organization.

Azure Stack Hub Pricing

As an Azure offering, Stack Hub has a pay-as-you-go pricing model. You can run infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) on Azure Stack without upfront costs using the same subscription and Azure billing tools. Here's a pricing table for some of the Azure Stack Hub services:

Service Pricing Description
Base VMs $6 per vCPU per month General purpose virtual machines with a base configuration
Windows Server VMs $34 per vCPU per month Virtual machines running the Windows Server operating system
Blob storage $0.006 per GB per month Unstructured data storage for documents, images, videos, and more
Queue and table storage $0.018 per GB per month Storage for large-scale messaging and structured data
Unmanaged disks $0.011 per GB per month Durable, low-cost storage for virtual machines
Managed disks From $0.385 to $10.24 per disk per month Durable, highly available disk storage for web apps, API apps, and functions. Pricing varies based on the size of the disk (M4, M6, M10, M15, M20, M30)
Application Services $42 per vCPU per month Storage for web applications, API applications, and functions
Event hubs $0.2688 per core per hour Large-scale event streaming

Azure Stack Hub Capacity Planning

When implementing a Stack Hub solution, the hardware configurations will directly impact your cloud’s capacity. It’s important to make the right decisions for provisioning CPU, memory, and servers, but it can be challenging to determine the usable storage and computing capacity.

Storage Capacity

Azure Stack Hub’s converged configuration lets you share physical devices for storage. You can share the infrastructure, temporary VM storage, and supporting storage for blobs, queues, and tables. It’s also important to consider the storage capacity consumed by the operating system, dumps, logs, and other infrastructure needs. The local storage capacity is handled separately from the storage devices you manage under a Storage Spaces Direct configuration. Other devices reside in the same storage capacity pool regardless of scale.

There are two types of devices:

  • Capacity devices: Used as part of the capacity of formatted disks, providing the default storage for data.
  • Caching devices: Used to cache read and write-back data. and read caching.

Azure Stack Hub allocates and handles storage capacity automatically, so you don’t have to make configuration decisions. The Stack Hub infrastructure ensures these decisions align with your solution’s requirements, considering resiliency.

An operator can choose between two storage configurations:

  • All flash configuration: This could be a single- or double-tier configuration. The first only uses capacity devices, while the second uses both capacity and caching devices.
  • Hybrid configuration: This is a double-tier configuration with a range of cache device options and an HDD capacity device.

Computing Capacity

Stack Hub supports a subset of the VM sizes available on Azure. Resource limits help prevent overconsumption at the local and service levels. For example, bandwidth limits govern networking egress (outbound data transfer) from VMs.

Stack Hub’s placement engine distributes tenants (VMs) across multiple hosts to ensure high availability. VM placement involves two considerations: whether the host has sufficient memory for the VM, and whether the VMs are part of a scale set or availability set:

  • Availability sets: Azure Stack Hub allows up to three fault domains per availability set. Fault domains are availability sets that operate as individual nodes in a scale unit. The VMs in an availability set physically spread out across these nodes. If the hardware fails at one node, the VMs can be started in another node (fault domain).
  • Scale sets: A virtual machine scale set uses availability sets and ensures that the VM instances are placed in different fault domains. 

Related content: Read our guide to Azure high availability architecture 

Azure Storage with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, the leading enterprise-grade storage management solution, delivers secure, proven storage management services on AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP capacity can scale into the petabytes, and it supports various use cases such as file services, databases, DevOps, or any other enterprise workload, with a strong set of features including high availability, data protection, storage efficiencies, Kubernetes integration, and more.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP is part of NetApp BlueXP, a UI and APIs for storage management, automation, and orchestration, supporting hybrid & multi-cloud architectures.

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Yifat Perry, Technical Content Manager

Technical Content Manager