Microsoft announced the Azure Stack at its Ignite event earlier this month, for running something like Azure on-premises, but how does it differ from the existing Azure Pack, which kind-of does the same thing?
The answer goes to the heart of how Microsoft is changing to become a cloud-first company, at least within its own special meaning of “cloud”. Ignite attendees heard about new versions of Windows Server, SharePoint, Exchange and SQL Server, and the common thread running through all these announcements is that features first deployed in Office 365 or Azure are now coming to the on-premises editions.
Microsoft’s cloud business may be growing fast, but it is still small compared with its traditional software licensing. In its most recent quarter, January to March 2015, the Commercial Licensing segment pulled in more than $10bn in revenue, more than three times the turnover from “Commercial Other”, which includes Office 365 and Azure, though note that Commercial Licensing includes business sales of Windows and Office.
Despite this disparity, Microsoft’s general approach seems to be to evolve and optimize server products for Azure and Office 365, and then to trickle down features to the on-premises editions where possible. It therefore pays for developers and admins working on Microsoft’s platform to keep an eye on the cloud platforms, since this is what you will get in a year or two even if you have no intention of becoming a cloud customer.