Azure Stack HCI FAQ

The Azure Stack HCI FAQ includes a section on Azure Stack HCI connectivity and a general FAQ section.

Azure Stack HCI connectivity

How does Azure Stack HCI use the cloud?

Azure Stack HCI is an on-premises hyperconverged infrastructure stack delivered as an Azure hybrid service. You install the Azure Stack HCI software on physical servers that you control on your premises. Then you connect to Azure for cloud-based monitoring, support, billing, and optional management and security features. This FAQ section clarifies how Azure Stack HCI uses the cloud by addressing frequently asked questions about connectivity requirements and behavior.

Does my data stored on Azure Stack HCI get sent to the cloud?

No. Customer data, including the names, metadata, configuration, and contents of your on-premises virtual machines (VMs) is never sent to the cloud unless you turn on additional services expressly for that purpose, like Azure Backup or Azure Site Recovery, or unless you enroll those VMs individually into cloud management services like Azure Arc.

To learn more about the diagnostic data we collect to keep Azure Stack HCI secure, up to date, and working as expected, see Azure Stack HCI data collection and Data residency in Azure.

Does the control plane for Azure Stack HCI go through the cloud?

No. You can use edge-local tools, such as Windows Admin Center, PowerShell, or System Center, to manage directly the host infrastructure and VMs even if your network connection to the cloud is down or severely limited. Common everyday operations, such as moving a VM between hosts, replacing a failed drive, or configuring IP addresses don’t rely on the cloud. However, cloud connectivity is required to obtain over-the-air software updates, change your Azure registration, or use features that directly rely on cloud services for backup, monitoring, and more.

Are there bandwidth or latency requirements between Azure Stack HCI and the cloud?

No. Limited-bandwidth connections like rural T1 lines or satellite/cellular connections are adequate for Azure Stack HCI to sync. The minimum required connectivity is just several kilobytes per day. Additional services may require additional bandwidth, especially to replicate or back up whole VMs, download large software updates, or upload verbose logs for analysis and monitoring in the cloud.

Does Azure Stack HCI require continuous connectivity to the cloud?

No. Azure Stack HCI is designed to handle periods of limited or zero connectivity.

What happens if my network connection to the cloud temporarily goes down?

While your connection is down, all host infrastructure and VMs continue to run normally, and you can use edge-local tools for management. You would not be able to use features that directly rely on cloud services. Information in the Azure portal also would become out-of-date until Azure Stack HCI is able to sync again.

How long can Azure Stack HCI run with the connection down?

At the minimum, Azure Stack HCI needs to sync successfully with Azure once per 30 consecutive days.

What happens if the 30-day limit is exceeded?

If Azure Stack HCI hasn’t synced with Azure in more than 30 consecutive days, the cluster’s connection status will show Out of policy in the Azure portal and other tools, and the cluster will enter a reduced functionality mode. In this mode, the host infrastructure stays up and all current VMs continue to run normally. However, new VMs can’t be created until Azure Stack HCI is able to sync again. The internal technical reason is that the cluster’s cloud-generated license has expired and needs to be renewed by syncing with Azure.

What content does Azure Stack HCI sync with the cloud?

This depends on which features you’re using. At the minimum, Azure Stack HCI syncs basic cluster information to display in the Azure portal (like the list of clustered nodes, hardware model, and software version); billing information that summarizes accrued core-days since the last sync; and minimal required diagnostic information that helps Microsoft keep your Azure Stack HCI secure, up-to-date, and working properly. The total size is small – a few kilobytes. If you turn on additional services, they may upload more: for example, Azure Log Analytics would upload logs and performance counters for monitoring.

How often does Azure Stack HCI sync with the cloud?

This depends on which features you’re using. At the minimum, Azure Stack HCI will try to sync every 12 hours. If sync doesn’t succeed, the content is retained locally and sent with the next successful sync. In addition to this regular timer, you can manually sync any time, using either the Sync-AzureStackHCI PowerShell cmdlet or from Windows Admin Center. If you turn on additional services, they may upload more frequently: for example, Azure Log Analytics would upload every 5 minutes for monitoring.

Where does the synced information actually go?

Azure Stack HCI syncs with Azure and stores data in a secure, Microsoft-operated datacenter. To learn more about the diagnostic data we collect to keep Azure Stack HCI secure, up to date, and working as expected, see Azure Stack HCI data collection and Data residency in Azure.

Can I use Azure Stack HCI and never connect to Azure?

No. Azure Stack HCI needs to sync successfully with Azure once per 30 consecutive days.

Can I transfer data offline between an "air-gapped" Azure Stack HCI and Azure?

No. There is currently no mechanism to register and sync between on-premises and Azure without network connectivity. For example, you can't transport certificates or billing data using removable storage. If there is sufficient customer demand, we're open to exploring such a feature in the future. Let us know in the Azure Stack HCI feedback forum.

Azure Stack HCI general FAQ

How does Azure Stack HCI relate to Windows Server?

Windows Server is the foundation of nearly every Azure product, and all the features you value continue to release with support in Windows Server. The initial offering of Azure Stack HCI was based on Windows Server 2019 and used the traditional Windows Server licensing model. Today, Azure Stack HCI has its own operating system and subscription-based licensing model. Azure Stack HCI is the recommended way to deploy HCI on-premises, using Microsoft-validated hardware from our partners.

Can I upgrade from Windows Server 2019 to Azure Stack HCI?

There is no in-place upgrade from Windows Server to Azure Stack HCI at this time. Stay tuned for specific migration guidance for customers running hyperconverged clusters based on Windows Server 2019 and 2016.

What Azure services can I connect to Azure Stack HCI?

For an updated list of Azure services that you can connect Azure Stack HCI to, see Connecting Windows Server to Azure hybrid services.

What do Azure Stack Hub and Azure Stack HCI solutions have in common?

Azure Stack HCI features the same Hyper-V-based software-defined compute, storage, and networking technologies as Azure Stack Hub. Both offerings meet rigorous testing and validation criteria to ensure reliability and compatibility with the underlying hardware platform.

How are they different?

With Azure Stack Hub, you run cloud services on-premises. You can run Azure IaaS and PaaS services on-premises to consistently build and run cloud apps anywhere, managed with the Azure portal on-premises.

With Azure Stack HCI, you run virtualized workloads on-premises, managed with Windows Admin Center and familiar Windows Server tools. You can also connect to Azure for hybrid scenarios like cloud-based Site Recovery, monitoring, and others.

Can I upgrade from Azure Stack HCI to Azure Stack Hub?

No, but customers can migrate their workloads from Azure Stack HCI to Azure Stack Hub or Azure.

How do I identify an Azure Stack HCI server?

Windows Admin Center lists the operating system in the All Connections list and various other places, or you can use the following PowerShell command to query for the operating system name and version.

Get-ComputerInfo -Property 'osName', 'osDisplayVersion'

Here’s some example output:

OsName                    OSDisplayVersion
------                    ----------------
Microsoft Azure Stack HCI 20H2