Azure Stack HCI Learning Path – Part 2 – Azure Arc

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In the previous part we discussed the “HCI” part in Azure Stack HCI and how it is different than the conventional non-converged infrastructure and the advantages of it. Azure Stack HCI is very tightly coupled with Azure Arc and so it becomes crucial that we discuss Azure Arc first before we move on.

Azure Arc extends the Azure management plane anywhere, regardless of where they exist. This includes resources hosted on premise or even on a different public cloud. Simply put, it registers these non-Azure native services as “lightweight” resources in Azure’s ARM framework allowing you to utilize some of Azure native services for them too. Today, you can use Azure Arc to have a unified pane of management for services like virtual machines, Kubernetes (AKS), SQL servers, app services, etc. to name a few.

Azure Arc for VMs and Azure Arc for K8s are the most popular use cases so we’ll quickly glance over them next.

Azure Arc Enabled servers

To onboard your virtual servers hosted on-prem or on a different cloud platform, all you have to do is install an Azure Arc agent on them. You can do this individually on each server one by one or you can also onboard them in bulk. This is a piece of code you need to run on the servers which is dedicated to Azure Arc, and does not replace other agents, like the Azure Log Analytics agent.

Once you’ve enabled your server in Azure Arc, the server will now have it’s own “proxy” resource in Azure, where you can start taking advantage of the popular Azure services for VMs like tagging, policy management, Azure Sentinel, Azure Monitor, etc. and many more.

Since this is essentially a resource in Azure now, you can also utilize cloud native tools such as Azure CLI and ARM templates to automate and manage all your VMs en masse. One real advantage here is that Azure Arc also works well with Azure Lighthouse.

You can find out more about Azure Arc enabled servers here.

Azure Arc enabled Kubernetes

With the ever-rising popularity of Kubernetes, a lot of organizations are moving to containerized application development. Kubernetes allows you to effectively manage, version-control and govern your containerized applications at scale. Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS) takes it a step further. AKS extracts away a lot of administrative management overhead in the K8S deployment and let’s you focus more on app development rather than the supporting infrastructure.

Many customers today have their applications partly on-prem and partly on Azure. Managing these applications from different management planes not only is painful but also more prone to manual errors. This is where Azure enabled Kubernetes offers to help.

It is important to note that Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes allows you to extend Azure’s management capabilities (like Azure Monitor and Azure Policy) by connecting Kubernetes clusters to Azure. You maintain the underlying Kubernetes cluster itself.

You can learn more about Azure Arc enabled Kubernetes here.

As the goal of AzS HCI is to modernize your infrastructure and to facilitate utilization of Azure native services on prem, Arc is at the core of AzS HCI.

Azure Arc is at the heart of Microsoft’s “true hybrid” approach and Microsoft has been working a lot on onboarding other Azure services in Azure Arc with each new release.

Cool, now we can move on to the software side of how Azure Stack HCI works and some core software-defined computing, storage and networking concepts.

Until next time!

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