It’s nearly impossible to read an article or view a video centered on IT planning without a discussion of the cloud. Every day more organizations are looking to the cloud for their computing needs. The global cloud computing market grew 21 percent to $110 billion in 2015 according to Synergy Research Group. Some forecasts predict 60 percent of all computing will be done in the public cloud by 2025.
Increasingly, companies looking to the cloud are turning to Microsoft Azure. Nearly nine out of 10 Fortune 500 companies use Microsoft Cloud and there are currently 750 million Azure ActiveDirectory users. There have been 120 billion hits to websites run on the Azure Web App Service.
Why the cloud?
IT leaders now recognize the many advantages of moving workload to the cloud.
Cost savings. You no longer have to purchase and maintain expensive server/san hardware or hypervisor licenses. Facility costs like increased space, cooling, and power disappear. There is less spending on core network or backup solutions like offsite rotation. Microsoft also allows licensing to be reused in the cloud for windows with their Hybrid Use Benefit.
Scalability. Cloud resources enables you to scale up and down with varying workloads. There is no need to buy hardware to meet peak demand only to have excess computing power sitting idle during down times. Plus, there is no significant time lag between when compute power is needed and when it can be supplied.
Flexibility. Leveraging Microsoft’s technology lets you implement a hybrid strategy to deploy VM’s both on premises and in the cloud.
Security and Redundancy. Azure provides the option for disaster recovery, redundancy, and the comprehensive Microsoft security safeguards and certifications.
Moving to the Azure Cloud provides you with a trusted, innovative solution built on industry-leading standards and a global, customized deployment. Thanks to Microsoft’s commitment to renewable energy, an Azure Cloud solution also moves you closer to a greener, sustainable datacenter.
Convinced yet? If so, the biggest question may be, where do you start?
“It’s often difficult to evaluate which workloads you should move, their dependencies, and how to price out workloads for Azure,” said Matt Scherocman, President of Interlink Cloud Advisors. “We make the process simple and understandable.”
Here are three popular workloads to consider as you embark on your journey to the cloud.
Disaster Recovery (DR)
“The most common scenario we’re seeing for Azure is disaster recovery,” says Mike Wilson, Vice President/Managing Consultant at Interlink. “For organizations with a single data center that haven’t planned for disaster recovery, Azure Site Recovery is a very easy and cost effective way to get data off premises and have secondary data center where you can bring those workloads up in the event of a failure.”
Wilson points out that there are many other providers that offer DR but in those cases, you are paying for some fraction of the resources for replicating from on premises to the third party. With Azure, the Microsoft scale is so high that they don’t have to reserve resources for you in the event of downtime so all you pay for is the service to replicate the software, the storage to host your data. Compute and memory are only charged if you do need to fail over. The other advantage with Azure is that you can replicate physical servers and Hyper-V and VMware virtual machines with minimal prep.
“You’re just replicating virtual machines to other virtual machines which provides a lot of flexibility,” says Wilson. “Azure Site Recovery will convert the virtual machine to the appropriate hypervisor during the replication process.”
“Most organizations have some backup plan so they can recover in the event of an outage,” Wilson continues. “But the question is how quickly? If you have your data center in your building and something happens like a flood or massive power outage and you’re going to be down for a few days it’s great that you have your data offsite, but where do you bring the data back online? How fast can you come up with servers and hardware and networks? Leveraging Azure solves that problem.”
External Facing Applications
Companies often have applications that they use to reach outside the organization like corporate web sites, applications targeted at the general public, and eCommerce sites.
“The scalability of Azure is a major advantage for these applications,” says Wilson. “You may want to be able to start small and then spin up resources when you need them. It can also help you get resources into a specific geography that you might not be able to otherwise. If you have a corporate office in India, for example, you can host Azure resources in India because Microsoft has several data centers there. You can take advantage of the global scale of the Azure network, while still being about to provide administration resources from the US.”
Ecommerce applications are particularly effective on Azure since you have the flexibility to scale up for busy shopping seasons and then pull back resources once the peak activity has passed. The Internet of Things (IoT) is also an ideal application for Azure Cloud. These applications generate a considerable amount of data where the required storage and processing power can be difficult or unrealistic to provision ahead of time.
One specific application that illustrates the power of Azure involves a company that manufactures the soap used in hospitals. They are running a service on Azure that uploads data from individual handwashing stations in hospitals that indicate areas where staff need to wash their hands more frequently thereby leading to reduced incidents of infection. It can also help them better plan production and distribution of their product.
Data Center Outsourcing
Many companies are also moving to complete data center outsourcing - getting out of the hardware business on premise and running all computing activity on virtual machines in the cloud.
“The key to data center outsourcing is understanding where and how the ROI is going to come from,” says Wilson. “Keeping your own data center, means constantly replacing old hardware with new. Our customers are breaking that cycle by moving workloads up as part of their hardware refresh cycle. Azure is a perfect fit for hybrid functionality – using some on premise workload and some in the cloud. Those cloud workloads present the perfect opportunity to eliminate another large capital expense and a chance to operationalize your IT by moving into the cloud.
“You then have the advantages of being able to repurpose the IT staff to focus higher up the value chain on applications rather than maintaining hardware,” Wilson says. “You also gain a lot of resiliency that would be difficult or costly to provide in an on premises environment by moving things into Azure. Each instance of storage in Azure is replicated three times within a single datacenter and even a simple virtual machine benefits from the redundancy built into Azure behind the scenes. Operationalizing your expense also helps you track costs better because you can look at a particular virtual machine and know exactly how much it will cost to run in Azure.”
Don’t go it alone
Moving to the cloud provides obvious benefits, but making the move can be confusing and complex. The good news is that you don’t have to face the difficult task by yourself. Interlink can be by your side and help you make the right decisions that can allow you to take advantage of everything the Azure Cloud offers.
“You need to understand how to make the move the right way,” stresses Wilson. “There are so many options and it’s very easy for spend to get out of control if you don’t know what you are doing. It’s easy to decide Azure is too expensive or to misconfigure things and get an enormous bill at the end of the month.”
“We help you do the proper preplanning and make sure you understand how to design your cloud infrastructure correctly and set controls for the spend limits on things and how to buy correctly from Microsoft to get discounts,” Wilson sums up. “That’s a big part of a successful Azure implementation. Making these decisions is not necessarily part of your core business so your best bet is to partner with someone like Interlink who does this on a regular basis.”
For more on things to consider before moving your workloads to Azure, check out our Path to Azure Datacenter Planning infographic.