Windows Azure Pack Support Continues Through at Least 2021
It's the first official roadmap Microsoft has published for the product.
Windows Azure Pack will be supported by Microsoft for the next five years, at a minimum. Extended support will continue for another decade.
Microsoft has published updated lifecycle support information for its datacenter solution for organizations and service providers, stating that it's "far from being dead."
The newly published information shows support information for Windows Azure Pack on Windows Server 2016, which hadn't been available before. "Mainstream support" will end in January 2022 on Windows Server 2016, while "extended support" will end in January 2027, according to Microsoft's announcement on Monday.
In a nutshell, per this policy, new features get developed through the mainstream support end date, while security updates continue though the extended support end date. After the end of extended support, the software doesn't get patched at all by Microsoft, which is a potential security issue. An explanation of Microsoft's lifecycle support policy for its business software can be found at this page.
The information on Windows Azure Pack support on Windows Server 2016 had been a long time in coming. Back in late January, Microsoft had published a roadmap document urging organizations and service providers to stick with the Windows Azure Pack, even though Windows Server 2016 support information for it hadn't yet been published. Microsoft originally had developed the Windows Azure Pack for Windows Server 2012 R2, and formally launched it on Jan. 14, 2014.
There has been confusion around Windows Azure Pack, because Microsoft released a preview in late January of a "Microsoft Azure Stack" alternative that promised a truer Azure-like datacenter experience. Microsoft has since announced that Azure Stack is planned for release in mid-2017, so it's not technically available for deployment in production environments.
Still, organizations just didn't have support information for Windows Server 2016 until now. That lack of information, as well as confusion about Azure Stack plans, may have affected their decisions to proceed with Windows Azure Pack deployments or not.
The two solutions, Windows Azure Pack (WAP) and Microsoft Azure Stack (MAS), likely will "co-exist together for a long time," according to Microsoft's announcement. Surprisingly, Microsoft sees them as distinct.
"MAS and WAP have a different purpose -- WAP is a great solution to build IaaS, and MAS is a great platform to run Azure services in your datacenter," Microsoft's announcement stated. "They are totally different inside and very different from the outside -- WAP looks like a simplified old Azure Portal, while MAS looks exactly like new Azure Portal."
Another difference between the two is that users of the Windows Azure Pack can run it on their own datacenter hardware. In contrast, Microsoft Azure Stack is only supported on Microsoft-approved vendor hardware. Part of the rationale for the hardware restriction had to do with keeping Microsoft Azure Stack instances properly patched, Microsoft explained in August.
Microsoft's announcement on Monday urged organizations and service providers to not wait for the Microsoft Azure Stack to arrive. Instead, they can test Azure Stack Technical Preview 2. Windows Azure Pack users that are running it on Windows Server 2012 R2 infrastructure should keep using it, but they should switch to Windows Server 2016 and they should make that switch "today," according to the announcement.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.