A look at the Azure Stack POC (Part 1)


Last year there was talk of Microsoft releasing the underpinnings of their Microsoft Azure platform for use i on-premises environments.  Naturally, I was curious!  Now, I don’t know much about this up front.  Unfortunately the package doesn’t provide much more enlightenment.  Fortunately, there’s some very handy information online:

“Azure Stack extends the Azure vision by bringing the cloud model of computing to every datacenter. Azure Stack is a new hybrid cloud platform product that enables organizations to deliver Azure services from their own datacenter in a way that is consistent with Azure. In this way customers can focus on business innovation rather than spend time building their own cloud computing platform.”

Naturally, I’m up for the challenge.  Before doing anything else, it’s definitely worth taking a look at the pre-requisites for installation and configuration.  It’s also worth getting across the architecture of the proof of concept itself.


The current Azure POC is just a shade under 10 GB, and is downloaded as a zip archive.  Unpacking the contents, we get an installer executable and a bunch of binary files.  Running the installer we get the usual intro, EULA and ability to change the install directory.  I modified the default location just to make it easier to manage (shorter paths).


Extracting takes a while on a high end machine.  You’ll need Hyper-V support as the stack is essentially a set of vhdx files and a PowerShell script to configure the stack itself.


The files extract to occupy just under 25 GB of disk space, so make sure you account for this space requirement (on top of the install media, at 9 GB) means you need about 35 GB of free space available to you initially.  I mention this because you may be tempted to run these things off an SSD, and unless you’ve invested in newer, larger, disks you’re probably sporting about 128, 256 or possibly 450+ GB (my Dell is running a 446 GB SSD).

There’s pretty much a step-by-step guide on how to get started here  Incidentally, the page recommends at least 128 GB of free space.  Here’s another post from someone who has already deployed the POC (I wish I had the computing resources they have!).

Continued in Part 2 (soon)..

Hyper-V 2012 Review: VHDX Disks

Microsoft will be introducing a new file format (VHDX) for virtual hard disks as part of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012.  The original format (VHD) has been around for many years, the new format provides a host of additional benefits.

At a glance, the new format supports up to 64 terabytes, so this will help in situations where large volumes of data need to be catered for.  The sector alignment and increased block sizes mean disk utilization is improved, and makes more efficient usage of modern disk drives.  There’s also a logging mechanism to reduce the impact of power outages.

Here’s the main info from Technet:

[1] The main new features of the VHDX format are:

  • Support for virtual hard disk storage capacity of up to 64 TB.
  • Protection against data corruption during power failures by logging updates to
           the VHDX metadata structures.
  • Improved alignment of the virtual hard disk format to work well on large sector

The VHDX format also provides the following features:

  • Larger block sizes for dynamic and differencing disks, which allows these disks to
           attune to the needs of the workload.
  • A 4-KB logical sector virtual disk that allows for increased performance when
           used by applications and workloads that are designed for 4-KB sectors.
  • The ability to store custom metadata about the file that the user might want to 
           record, such as operating system version or patches applied.
  • Efficiency in representing data (also known as “trim”), which results in smaller file
           size and allows the underlying physical storage device to reclaim unused space.
           (Trim requires physical disks directly attached to a virtual machine or SCSI disks,
           and trim-compatible hardware.)

I’m going to be writing more about the new edition of Hyper-V in coming articles.  Check back for more, including the following:

  • Hyper-V Replica
  • Expanded processor and memory support
  • Dynamic Memory Improvements
  • Network adapter improvements

[1] http://technet.microsoft.com/library/hh831446.aspx