Azure HCI Brings New Meaning to Infrastructure. Anywhere.

January 9, 2024

By Michael Maher, CPP Director of Professional Services

It seems like at the end of every year and the beginning of a new one, we reflect on the vast technology changes that have occurred in the prior 12 months. And each year, the industry collectively and successfully outdoes itself. But I would suggest that in 2023, the advances have been historic and will represent a seismic shift in how businesses will be running IT for the next decade or more.

I realize that’s a pretty bold statement. I wouldn’t blame you if you were dismissive of it, and chalked it up to the rantings of a passionate technology professional. But before you do, give me the next few paragraphs to plead my case and I think by the end, you too will be — if not convinced — at least a little more interested in the discussion.

As many, if not most of you have read, Broadcom has been moving very quickly after the recent closing of the acquisition of VMware, and those moves have created a sense of uncertainty and unease about the future of VMware in businesses, as well as among service providers and partners alike. And for good reason.

  • Uncertain Solution Roadmaps. Broadcom’s statements on its plans for Horizon and Carbon Black have left the end user and security communities wondering what’s next. Will they be deprecated? Sold off? What about current deployments and planned new projects? A New Dawn For VMware EUC And Carbon Black Brings Risk (
  • Unwanted Shelfware Bundles. VMware’s flagship products like ESXi may now be bundled with other solutions that customers may not have the right to refuse, so suddenly you may be buying shelfware (i.e., software components you don’t need or want) with things you really do need. This will occur through a deliberate effort to increase VMware’s footprint in your environment, whether you like it or not. VMware by Broadcom Dramatically Simplifies Offer Lineup and Licensing Model – VMware News and Stories
  • Partnership Disruptions. VMware Partners (including CPP) will have to reapply with VMware to continue our partnership. That could mean limited choice for customers in terms of who they do business with, or a cost penalty for doing business with a partner that isn’t approved by Broadcom, through no fault of their own. Broadcom to end VMware’s partner program • The Register
  • Major Market Disruption. VMware has a staggering 62.27% market share in the virtualization market worldwide. Changes this far-reaching will have a ripple effect throughout the industry and it’s imperative for companies to begin planning for the impact in their own environments now.

Enter Microsoft.

Yes, Microsoft.

Office 365 (now Microsoft 365) changed the way we handle collaboration, communication, and productivity on a day-to-day basis the day it was released, all the way back on June 28, 2011. How many of you are using O365 today?

As you’re probably aware, Microsoft has moved to deprecate Hyper-V in its current incarnation. We can all agree that it just never got the traction it needed to compete with the behemoth that VMware is. It simply lacked both the functionality and the features to take them head-on.

Enter Azure Stack HCI on HPE hardware (HPE Solutions for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI | HPE) and Azure ARC. These two solutions are THE game changers that enterprises small and large alike have been looking for.

Why? Here are some of most common questions (in one form or another) I get as a technology consultant and executive:

  • How can I make my environment easier to use, with fewer tools to manage the day-to-day?
  • How can I save money and reduce the number of vendors I need to manage?
  • How can I position my business for dynamic growth?
  • How can I take advantage of cloud economics but run the gear I want to run?
  • How can I deploy emerging technologies on-premises?
  • How can I charge my business units or operating companies back for resources consumed?

The list goes on and the conversations are lengthy, involved, and exciting. Azure Stack HCI brings the features of Azure’s public cloud directly into your environment. The solution is hyper-converged, so it has density, scalability, and is built on t-shirt sizes following industry standards and workload modeling that you’re already used to.

What’s more, it’s on a platform you’re likely already using frequently, if not every day.

  • If you’re a Microsoft 365 shop, you’re potentially already using Entra-ID and some of the other security features that come along with that such as MFA, conditional access, etc., so you’re already familiar with the Azure interface and management infrastructure.
  • You’re more than likely running Windows Server on-premises for a variety of services and applications that the business uses regularly, so using Windows Admin Center or other centralized Microsoft tools is native to your operation.
  • You are more than likely running SQL Server on-premises and IIS for a variety of applications.

Azure Stack HCI will easily allow you to seamlessly expand your operations to fund, deploy, track, administer, and charge back (both on-premises and public cloud resources) using the same methodology, tool stack, and platform, without sacrificing velocity (time to market). Azure Stack HCI delivers infrastructure as you would through Microsoft Azure; however, it is delivered on-premises, in a colocation facility, or private cloud. You can layer in automation and orchestration tools such as Ansible and Terraform, both areas of expertise CPP has. If your IT organization serves more than one business unit or operating company, you can even layer in Morpheus to provide multi-tenant self-service capabilities within your own organization. And it can all be done on a consumption basis – the physical platform AND the development and delivery of workloads.

This is THE definition of cloud computing, wherever your infrastructure resides.

Not ready for Azure Stack HCI? Azure ARC Can Step In

If you’re not ready for Azure Stack HCI due to budget, business requirements, or other constraint, Azure ARC is a great place to start as an alternative, and one that will position you to start seeing more value and functionality out of Microsoft solutions right away. This would also pave the way to justify the eventual platform shift to Azure Stack HCI that you may be considering.

Azure ARC enabled services and infrastructure provides customers with the ability to seamlessly manage current workloads both on-premises and elsewhere (public or private cloud). Ready to dabble in Machine Learning, SQL instances, and Kubernetes all while managing your on-premises virtual machines through the same console? Or maybe you already have an Azure digital estate and need to simplify management and track assets easily. You can even extend Azure-based security platforms to non-Azure workloads, reducing your surface attack area while adding more security and visibility with tooling you’re likely already using.

Basic management is offered at no charge for services such as inventory tracking, server management, and some automations. Other features require subscriptions. (See Pricing – Azure Arc | Microsoft Azure)

The Seismic Shift. In a Nutshell.

Between automation, orchestration, workload distribution, and exponential growth in data, it makes less and less sense to use multiple platforms at a fixed cost. Since 2011, Microsoft has done everything they can to transform themselves into the powerhouse platform and solution warehouse they are today. Security, elasticity, portability, and ease of management are front and center in everything that they’re bringing to market for businesses of all sizes. Preeminent manufacturers such as HPE are leading the charge in matching consumption-based hardware and solutioning to host, support, and co-deliver workloads securely in this new and diverse landscape.

With Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware, they have put their stake in the ground. While it’s still early and there is plenty of time for them to adjust, it’s my opinion that all indicators are that they are going in one direction, while the rest of the industry is going another direction. And I believe the industry is moving to where the customer wants to go.

Never in the history of the technology industry have we seen this level of automatic, self-driven collaboration towards a shared end goal, which, in hindsight, is where we should have all been aiming for all along, and it’s this:

Infrastructure. Anywhere.

And now, we can do just that.