Why do Azure Stack appliances have to be certified?

The road to Azure Stack

Looking into the public cloud space, we see that all of the large providers, such as Google, AWS, and Azure, have a software-defined approach in their data

centers, with virtualized networking and storage, and no hardware dependency. OpenStack, which shares a resemblance to Azure Stack and has been around for some years already, also allows enterprises to adopt a cloud offering on their own infrastructure, again with a software-defined approach using platforms such as GlusterFS for storage and Neutron for networking.

So that brings us to our question—why can’t we use our own hardware with Azure Stack?

First, some background. Azure Stack was not the first time that Microsoft ventured into bringing a copy of Azure down to your own data center. Their first attempt was in 2014 with CPS (Cloud Platform Systems), which was based on Azure Pack, System Center 2012 R2, and Windows Server 2012 R2, running on a converged platform provided by Dell. This previous effort had limited adoption.

CPS came with the software preinstalled and configured on a rack directly from the factory. This took away the complexity of building a cloud solution on your own. However, Microsoft noted that they needed to take another approach with Azure Stack.

One of the design principles that Microsoft made with Azure Stack was that it would look and behave more like Azure to provide better consistency—the expected performance for a virtual machine in the public Azure should be similar to a virtual machine in Azure Stack. This obviously requires a certain set of hardware in order to guarantee performance.

When Microsoft publicly announced that Azure Stack would be launching back in 2017, they announced the Azure Stack Development Kit (single-node), which could run on an any type of hardware as long as you had the minimum requirement. But the full Integrated Systems version (for multi-node deployments) was announced with a handful of OEMs that would each have a set of ready certified hardware to deliver it on.

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