Azure Dedicated Host Service Hits Preview


Microsoft is test-driving a new service that gives organizations access to unshared or “dedicated” Azure hardware infrastructure for hosting their workloads.

Most workloads hosted on Azure infrastructure use hardware that’s shared with other organizations or individuals, who are called “tenants.” These tenants are said to be using Azure’s “multitenant” infrastructure. Some organizations, though, need to use unshared hardware to meet certain compliance or regulatory requirements.

The new Azure Dedicated Host preview, announced last Thursday, offers access to such unshared infrastructure. Azure Dedicated users can run Linux or Windows operating systems on Azure virtual machines, with the workloads running on “single-tenant physical servers.” SQL Server also can be hosted in Azure virtual machines using the Azure Dedicated Host service.

Possibly, the Azure Dedicated Host offering is the first such dedicated “cloud” service from Microsoft. Amazon Web Services (AWS) added a dedicated hosting service more than four years ago. The Google Cloud Platform (GCP) already has an option to use a “sole-tenant node.”

Azure Government offerings aren’t actually single-tenant plans, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

“Azure Government is a cloud service that is shared but dedicated to government customers,” the spokesperson explained via e-mail. “As a shared cloud service, Azure Government does not provide customers control over the actual VM to physical host mapping.”

Hardware Options
Organizations using the Azure Dedicated Host service have some control over the underlying hardware.

For instance, they can choose the “host type,” which designates characteristics such as the type of virtual machine used, RAM size and other details. Only one supported virtual machine “series” is allowed for Azure Dedicated Host service users, and that’s determined by the host type that’s chosen. Dedicated host type 1 includes Dsv3 and Esv3 Series virtual machines, while dedicated host type 2 offers Fsv2 Series virtual machines, according to Microsoft’s pricing page.

It’s possible to mix virtual machines in the same series, though. Other hardware controls include the ability to select the processor brand used and the number of cores.

Organizations using the Azure Dedicated Host service also get a certain level of control over the patching and update process, which usually is handled by Microsoft for its multitenant users. For instance, they can defer updates by up to 35 days, according to the announcement:With an Azure Dedicated Host, you can control all host-level platform maintenance initiated by Azure (e.g., host OS updates). An Azure Dedicated Host gives you the option to defer host maintenance operations and apply them within a defined maintenance window, 35 days. During this self-maintenance window, you can apply maintenance to your hosts at your convenience, thus gaining full control over the sequence and velocity of the maintenance process.

The cost of the Azure Dedicated Host is based on paying for the “entire host” plus hourly costs for running the virtual machines and for running Windows, according to the pricing page. However, it doesn’t explain what the entire host costs are.

Licensing Perks
Microsoft is taking a carrot-and-stick approach to entice potential users of the Azure Dedicated Host service. For instance, organizations can use their existing Windows Server and SQL Server licenses with this service if the licenses were purchased before Oct. 1, 2019. Software Assurance coverage isn’t required for those licenses, but after that October date, Software Assurance will be required.

Organizations wanting to use their existing Windows Server and SQL Server licenses with the Azure Dedicated Host service also will need use the Azure Hybrid Benefit, which permits on-premises licensing to be used on Microsoft’s “cloud” infrastructure. Azure Hybrid Benefit gives organizations the Online Services use rights for Azure infrastructure in order to apply the licensing, according to FAQ document linked at the very end of the “Updated Microsoft Licensing for Dedicated Hosted Cloud Services” Azure licensing post.

The October deadline is also true for organizations with software hosted by so-called “Listed Providers,” namely “Microsoft, Alibaba, Amazon (including VMware Cloud on AWS), and Google,” the Azure licensing post explained. “These changes don’t apply to other providers,” it added.

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