This is the first part of a series about Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure is more than just a hosted environment, it is a hosted platform. It can be leveraged in so many different ways to help optimize your IT environment. Azure can be a great test environment for you, a great backup solution, or it can completely replace your existing infrastructure; we have helped customers find value in each of those types of solutions and more. Because of the great number of options that Azure allows for it can seem very confusing and overwhelming at first glance. I’ll try to hit the high points in this first post and dig a little deeper in subsequent posts.
If you’re ready to jump right in and find out more about Azure, head over to http://azure.microsoft.com and read up on all there is to know. If you’re really ready to jump right in, you can sign up for a free trial for up to $200 worth of Azure credit and really “kick the tires.” In Microsoft’s words Azure can be described as follows: “Azure delivers a 99.95% compute SLA and enables you to run solutions on the same cloud that powers Skype, Office 365, Bing and Xbox. Azure provides built-in software patching, network load balancing and high-availability features. Azure offers 24x7 technical support with engineers constantly monitoring service health.” That is a mouthful so let’s break it down into smaller parts of the Azure infrastructure services offering:
1) Virtual Machines – You can replicate, expand, and improve your current infrastructure on the Azure platform and only pay for the capacity that you need. One of the greatest wastes in an on-premises infrastructure is the fact that you have to design it for maximum capacity so you aren’t forced to replace the equipment too soon. If you think your IT needs are going to increase you purchase larger, more powerful servers to ready yourself for that potential growth. But what happens when the growth doesn’t materialize or your business process changes? All of that extra capacity is wasted. With Azure you “build” and deploy servers that are sized precisely for your current needs and when your needs change you simply add or reduce resources with the click of a button. No labor intensive hardware swapping or planned migration projects, just a few clicks to add storage, computing power, memory or even set up more redundancy within your system. Because you’re only paying for what you need, you can beef up the resources for your current users to maximize productivity. If you have a seasonal work force you can add users and provision servers for them quickly and remove those users just as quickly when they are no longer needed. When you combine Azure with Office 365 you have an extremely flexible licensing model that allows you to change user counts monthly and do it all yourself.
2) Storage, Backup, and Recovery - One of the first ways that we thought of leveraging Azure to help our customers get more from their IT spend is by using it as a storage and backup solution. Integration with Azure has been “baked in” to Microsoft Server technology since the release of Windows Server 2012. By using Microsoft System Center it is really simple to create a hybrid cloud storage solution that gives your on premises servers access to storage “blobs” located on remote servers to use as a backup solution or configure redundancy. Your data on Azure is de-duplicated, compressed, and encrypted before sending and it is all done seamlessly. Even better, data sent to Azure can be rapidly recovered to a StorSimple device from “virtually any location with an Internet connection.” Azure can also be used as a cloud-based data backup solution where you can point your backup job data sets or create SQL Server database snapshots in Azure using Azure Backup services. Azure has extra features that give you access to features like SQL Server AlwaysOn which allows cloud-based secondary databases to quickly and automatically restore databases, helping to reduce downtime and minimize data loss.
3) Test Environment – Because Virtual Machines that exist on Azure are extremely flexible, they can be joined to your existing domain but they don’t have to be. These virtual machines are great places to test software and database changes without affecting production environments. The Azure virtual machines can be configured to mirror on premises hardware specs or test out how more computing power or storage spindles can improve performance. We have seen a great deal of interest from our NAV customers wanting to use Azure for testing and even preparing for future NAV upgrades.
If you’re interested in learning how Microsoft Azure can help your organization get more from its IT investment and deliver IT more efficiently please contact an Innovia Azure expert at today.