Choosing between Azure Stack & Windows Azure Pack (WAP)

In my previous post we compared Azure & Azure Stack. Today we will compare Windows Azure Pack & Azure Stack.

Windows Azure Pack is another product offered by Microsoft, to provide cloud services for data center that delivers cloud services for end users and customers but its limited to private cloud only.  Both Azure Stack & Windows Azure Pack (WAP) have some similarities however they also have significant differences that we will discuss in this blog post.

What is WAP ?  It was first introduced in 2012 with the launch of Windows Server 2012 at no extra cost. It is based on SQL Server, Windows Server & Microsoft System Center suite, offering customers Self Services, multi tenant Cloud services  (SaaS & PaaS) such as Virtual Machines, Websites & Databases.  Some of the key features of WAP is listed below.

WAP Features Description
Tenant Portal To provision and manage services such as Virtual machines & Websites by Tenants.
Admin Portal  For services administrators to manage resources that they made available for tenants. They can configure quotas or User accounts.
Service Management API  REST API provides the ability to extend functions to tenants and admins such as creating users , managing subscriptions etc..
Virtual Machine Cloud Services  IaaS services of WAP provides the ability to provision Windows and Linux machines. Dependent on Ms System Center components (Service Provider Foundation & Virtual Machine Manager VMM).
WAP Web Sites  Provide the ability to provision scalable web applications based on ASP.NET, PHP & Node.js.
Service Bus  Distributed applications can communicate reliably using messaging services.
SQL and MySQL Services Ms SQL & MySQL services provides database provisioning to be used with other services such as WAP Websites
Automation  Automate tasks in WAP using System Center Services Management Automation.
International Language Support WAP Supports following languages: English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Brazilian, Portuguese, Korean & Russian.

Complete features of WAP can be found here.

WAP utilizes Windows Server & System Center for its infrastructure to deliver the services. WAP now supports Windows Server 2016 & System Center 2016.

POC of WAP can be done by installing Express Edition of WAP on single VM or Physical Machine however for production minimum of 8 machines are needed (VM or Physical).

Feature comparison between two products:

Azure Stack features which may (not) available in WAP

Azure Stack Features Available in WAP
Provisioning Virtual Machines Yes
Creating Storage Accounts No
Azure Resource Manager Templates No
Managing Networking Yes
Azure Stack Marketplace Yes (Gallery Items)
Custom Virtual Machine Images Yes (although not tenant defined images)
Billing & Chargeback Yes
Azure Stack Resource Providers No
App Service Yes
Microsoft Azure Consistency No

WAP features which may (not) available in Azure Stack

WAP Features Available in Azure Stack
Tenant Portal Yes
Admin Portal Yes
Service Management API No
Virtual Machine Clouds Service Yes
Windows Azure Pack Web Sites Yes (through App Services)
Service Bus Clouds service No
SQL and MySQL Services Yes(Using Resource Providers)
Automation No

Some possible challenges with WAP:
You may face some challenges while deploying WAP to your datacenter such as (but not limited to):

Challenge WAP Azure Stack
Infrastructure  POC with Express Edition Single VM/Physical

Production minimum 8 VMs/Physical

High availability needs more infrastructure and manual configuration

 High availability is configured automatically
in Azure Stack. For example, when you deploy a 4-node Azure Stack installation, then the Active Directory domain controllers, network controllers, and so on, are automatically deployed and configured for high availability. This dramatically reduces the overhead when you deploy a highly available Azure Stack
installation.
System Center Dependency Highly dependent on System center components to provide features such as VM Automation, and usage data. Virtual Machine Manager, Operations manager, Service Provider Foundation & Service Management Automation are Specifically needed. No dependency on System Center for mentioned features however some of them are not available to date.
Hybrid Cloud with Azure WAP is based on completely different API set which cannot be used with Azure. Azure Stack & Azure uses same API sets therefore applications and services can be moved back & forth using same templates.
Azure Resource Manager Not available in WAP, therefore if you already knows Azure templates, you still need to learn how to work with WAP. Azure Stack uses ARM templates, therefore same deployment templates can be used in interchangeably in both Azure & Azure Stack.

AzureStack-Picture

Deciding whether Azure Stack or Windows Azure Pack is the most suitable cloud service product for your organization depends on several different factors (but not limited to below):

Factor  WAP Azure Stack
Cost  No cost solution but requires substantial amount of infrastructure especially when high availability is needed. You can add additional cost of System center if you don’t have already. You must purchase Integrated system (hardware) from Dell EMC, Lenovo, HPE etc…
Flexibility Primarily a private cloud solution.

WAP offers features such as Shielded VMs and third party management tools for partner products which are currently not available in Azure Stack.

Azure Stack is true hybrid cloud solution providing flexibility of hosting & moving apps / services between on-prem to the public cloud (Azure).
Automation WAP includes an Automation feature that you can use to automate tasks such as applying
a policy to a newly created virtual machine by a tenant.
Not available at this moment.
Multi-tier app support You would need to
deploy each tier separately, and then configure integration between them as a separate task.
Using ARM & ARM Templates, it is possible to define sequence & deployment of different roles like Back end SQL , Middle Tier Application Server & Front end web servers making deployments faster and less error prone.
System center integration WAP uses System center components like SCVMM, SCOM etc.. When VM is provisioned through WAP, it is actually handed over to SCVMM. This simplifies the rest of VM management tasks. Azure Stack does not integrate with System center.

Summary
WAP offers cloud services your end users and customers in a private cloud environment whereas Azure Stack does same but additionally provides integration with Azure thus creating a true Hybrid cloud environment. Since Azure Stack is a new product comparing to WAP, but Microsoft is working to expand its features over time including the features which currently available in Azure only. Windows Azure Pack running on Windows Server 2012 R2 will be moving into extended support on July 11th 2017, and Windows Azure Pack running on Windows Server 2016 will moving into extended support on January 11th 2022.

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