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Azure Stack HCI – A New Frontier for Managing Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid is a word that I hear virtually (no pun intended) every day as companies migrate more desktop workloads into the big three public clouds Azure, AWS, or GCP. Hybrid cloud computing in short is when companies need to have a mixture of on-premises and cloud infrastructure, apps, etc. to best serve their organization’s needs, employees, and customers.

However, there are some scenarios where it is impossible to migrate all workloads to Azure, and you may want to keep them on-prem. The top two reasons include:

Latency – Some workloads require ultra-low connection latency (1ms or below) to work effectively. Moving your desktops into Azure means you will be getting around 50-70ms latency if you go through the AVD Broker or 10-15ms when using RDP ShortPath. 

Compliance – Some industries are highly regulated so applications or data must reside in specific locations to comply with data governance or compliance reasons. These workloads must remain on-prem to meet these criteria.

We strive to be cutting-edge when it comes to enabling a variety of computing scenarios, including hybrid. One of the most valuable tools Microsoft provides in this regard is Azure Stack HCI – something we are incredibly excited to support when it comes to AVD.

Let me explain why.

What Is Azure Stack for HCI?

Azure Stack HCI is a hyperconverged infrastructure operating system provided by Microsoft and delivered as an Azure service.  Azure Stack HCI gives you the ability to extend Azure into your on-prem environment and manage it via the Azure Portal by leveraging Azure Arc.

What Is Azure Stack for HCI for Azure Virtual Desktop?

Microsoft has solved problems with performance and compliance by releasing Azure Stack HCI for Azure Virtual Desktop into public preview. Azure Stack HCI for AVD allows you to run Azure Virtual Desktop session hosts on Azure Stack HCI hardware located in your data centres. This means your end users will get the same desktops and resources they’re used to and benefit from the increased performance that Azure Stack HCI brings by having dedicated compute and storage in your own data centre. As the AVD desktops are now also in your own data centre, your users will benefit from extremely low latency connections to their AVD desktops.

However, managing images and virtual machines for Azure Stack HCI means adding another management layer for your IT administrators to think about. Currently, admins use Hyper-V, SCVMM, or Azure Arc to manage VMs running on Azure Stack HCI. Whereas with the native AVD service they are managed via the Azure Portal, therefore creating a “swivel chair” and disparate management experience.

How Nerdio Manager Removes Hybrid AVD Management Headaches

To simplify the management of Azure Virtual Desktop for Azure Stack HCI, we have integrated management into the v4.1 release of Nerdio Manager for Enterprise. This allows IT administrators to create and manage on-prem VMs and perform image management using the Nerdio console.

Licensing

To use the Azure Stack HCI integration on Nerdio, you must be leveraging Nerdio Manager for Enterprise Premium.

There are also license requirements from Microsoft.  Pricing has not been officially announced as the feature is still in public preview. However, we know there are three additional costs to be aware of, such as:  

  • Infrastructure Costs – A monthly service fee currently set to $10 per physical core per month.
  • User access rights for Azure Virtual Desktop – This license grants you access to use AVD. If you already use AVD and/or have Microsoft 365 Business licensing, you have licenses.
  • Azure Virtual Desktop Hybrid Service Fee – This fee will be per vCPU of the AVD session hosts running on your Azure Stack HCI workloads. Microsoft has not released pricing for this yet.

Technical Overview of Nerdio’s Azure Stack HCI Integration

Let’s look and see how the Nerdio integration with Azure Stack HCI works from a high level.  First, connect to the Azure Stack HCI cluster you need to manage. You must register the cluster in your Azure subscription as Arc servers. Visit our enterprise Knowledge Base article for full instructions and requirements.

Once you have enabled the integration, you can manage the Azure Stack HCI Cluster from the Nerdio Manager console. A new menu option appears called “Hybrid host pools.”

From there, it’s possible to manage AVD running on Azure Stack HCI servers. You can also provision new host pools, perform power management, and much more.

Image Management

One of the main reasons for providing this integration was to make the life of an IT admin easier when managing AVD workloads on Azure Stack HCI.  To do this currently, you would have to manage Azure Stack HCI Images separately from your AVD Images via different portals and tools.

To get around this problem, we have given you the ability to manage your Azure Stack HCI images directly from Nerdio. You can lift and shift existing images onto the Azure Stack HCI hosts using the “Export to HCI” button.  This enables you to manage ALL your images from one single console and provision your session hosts in Azure or on-prem using one single image.

Summary

We are very excited at Nerdio to see the Azure Stack HCI Service improve and grow over time. This is an excellent solution for customers who are unable to migrate fully to the cloud due to performance or regulatory reasons.

We are currently looking at expanding the value add even further by enhancing the image management capabilities, enabling auto-scale and burst-to-cloud scenarios.

If you want to learn more don’t hesitate to contact your local Nerdio rep or use our Contact Page. As always, we’re more than happy to chat about the exciting advancements we’re making alongside Microsoft’s technology investments.

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