The good news is there are a lot of compelling business drivers for you to make that move into the Azure Cloud.
In fact, once you get your mind around how the Cloud operates and expand your thought process beyond the chains of the enterprise, you will be pleasantly surprised to find out how many new opportunities lie in the fluffy white cumulus layer.
Benefits in Economics
The obvious place to start is with pure economics. Nowhere does the Cloud make more sense than when it comes to maximizing your budget. Why go through all the effort of Cloud migration if the bottom line does not benefit from it? There are numerous financial benefits when moving all or part of your solutions into the Cloud.
Consider the savings of money and overhead required cost saving when it comes to renting servers instead of buying them. Every three years or so with the normal hardware server refresh cycle – Does the net cost significantly increase over the years? When using the Cloud you always have access to the latest operating systems and supporting software running on the latest and most effective hardware.
There are tax and additional benefits for organizations using OpEx over CapEx, which frees up infrastructure investments so it can be put to other additional uses. By renting the hardware and software you will require less financial commitment to staffing technicians to manage patching, updates, management, and configuration of servers.
Ease of Deployment
The speed of deployment into data centers housed in different geographic locations is almost as simple as a few clicks of a mouse. You can provision (and de-provision) as many machines as you need in minutes instead of days/weeks. Quick setup and teardown of customized hardware/operating systems for development and test is a great feature of the Cloud.
The prototypical deployment is Dev/Test where you can quickly provision multiple versions of the operating system, test across all platforms, then release the VMs. With pre-configured images, you can expedite the deployment of supporting software like BizTalk Server, SQL Server, or SharePoint. By provisioning in the Cloud you can quickly and easily access the Azure portal and manage your resources from anywhere via an Internet connection.
Flexibility and Scalability
One of the key drivers for Cloud migration centers on the flexible and elastic scalability of Virtual Machines (VMs). As your load increases Azure can dynamically provision additional VMs to help handle the growing demand. You no longer have to worry about running out of capacity as the Cloud gives you an almost infinite set of computing resources.
Conversely when the load begins to dial back Azure can release unneeded VMs to save your cost. You use just enough resources for your needs – nothing more, nothing less.
A perfect example of elasticity is the Hadoop platform which is implemented as HDInsight on Azure. Hadoop enables businesses to quickly and easily access new data sources and tap into different types of data (both structured and unstructured) to generate value from it.
This means businesses can use Hadoop to derive valuable business insights from data sources such as social media, email conversations or clickstream data. Azure is perfect for the Hadoop scenario where it can quickly spin up large clusters of parallel processing VMs to split and manage the large load of special Map-Reduce algorithms to divide and conquer extremely large sets of data. It provides high on-demand scalable servers to optimize for high throughput. In addition, there is unlimited storage to hold vast amounts of data being processed.
Parallel processing is done by many inexpensive and dynamically provisioned, very powerful servers on extremely large data set. Duplication of storage data with Cloud automatic data replication makes it more tolerant to hardware failure – important for long-running and extensive jobs. Increased VM and storage availability for fault tolerant extended processing.
Fault tolerance in the Cloud is done via automatic data replication across nodes in a cluster so that in the event of failure, there is another copy available for use. Azure is a dream for Hadoop – custom made for each other.
So let’s talk specifics with some key decision points primarily around the Cloud business factors. These main advantages centers around economic savings, increased the speed of deployment, and flexible elastic scaling of VMs.
We also want to address secondary business factors that may contribute to your decision-making process. Some of these include being a great platform for media services, Hadoop big data, and data storage and archival.
Application of these business drivers can lead to new business opportunities that give you the freedom to innovate and do things you could not do as easily, or at all, before the appearance of Cloud. These include easy access to global data centers that are closer to your customers.
Self-service eliminates red tape and the long overhead of the procurement process. With Cloud, you get quick and almost instant initial provisioning of resources, which can, in turn, lead to faster Time-To-Market (TTM).
Think about the possibilities of having a simple global deployment at your fingertips. What could you do if you have easy access to global data centers and a global footprint in closer proximity to your worldwide customers? Azure is available in multiple datacenters around the world, enabling you to deploy your applications close to your customers. The Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) service caches and delivers high-bandwidth content. Windows Azure CDN lives in a couple dozen strategically placed locations globally (United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America). This makes the media content available much closer to your users. This yields improved performance and experience for users who are farther from the source of the content stored in the Windows Azure Storage blobs. In terms of Disaster recovery multi-location deployment across the globe is invaluable. If all your data is stored in the cloud, backing it up and restoring the same is relatively much easier. This makes the entire process of backup and recovery much simpler than other traditional methods of data storage.Self-service Azure’s self-service paradigm eliminates red-tape and the long overhead of the procurement process. With Cloud you get quick and almost instant initial provisioning of resources because you do it yourself and don’t have to wait for your 3rd party hosting provider to process your request and do it for you. The Azure self-service portal allows all those doing self-service to have consistent UI to do so. Especially in a dynamically changing environment, such as Dev/Test, that process is exponentially expedited. The Azure subscription security model (EA agreement especially) allows different subscriptions for different teams who manage their own environments and responsible for their own charges. Through self-service, these teams can be streamlined since there’s less IT infrastructure staff to manage. With cloud computing, you don’t need to hire a large IT tech team. A smaller team will save you money on payroll and benefits in a more efficient manner. Pay-as- you-go, or more aptly Pay-as-you-grow, is reflected in Azure’s utility based model of charging customers only for what they provision. This paradigm works well for those who only want to pay for what they need. No longer having to pay over provisioning of resources due to miscalculations or that go unused 98% of the time since they are needed to handle the 2% periods of spikes in usage.
Azure offers faster TTM, meaning easy-in, and easy-out. Increase your rate of innovation with reduced ‘time to develop’ & ‘time to market’ means your IT can be much more agile in servicing needs of the business units or developers. Embrace and enable innovation to help your business move forward ahead of the competition. This gives you the freedom to test new ideas quickly, discard them if they fail, or scale up if they are successful.
Take Billy, a .NET techie whiz kid, and Bobby, with his MBA from Yale. Over a few beers on night these two got together and decided to form a company. They were going to create the next billion dollar Internet social media company called FaceTwit. With Billy’s excellent programming and technical skills paired with Bobby’s marketing and business acumen, this is a ‘can’t miss’ combination. Billy has been working on a prototype in his spare time in his garage (Note – most great software companies have been born in garages!). Timing is critical and they need to get this out as soon as possible before someone else takes their idea. They have very little to invest up front in hardware/software. And they don’t want to take out radical loans, have FaceTwit do a face plant, and they are bankrupt with a ton of unused servers sitting around and getting outdated with the passing of every day. That’s too risky for both of them. Without the Cloud that idea just rots away on the vine.
But with Azure they can provision what they need to get started for pennies on the dollar and in a few
minutes upload their killer app to go live on the Internet. If their app fails and no one likes it, they just go
into the Azure portal, delete their resources, and pay their bills, and go back to their normal lives. But if it takes off, and after a few days they have 100,000+ users, Azure will scale up to handle their application processing and data storage requirements and make them tons of money! Thus, the advantage of super fast TTM with very little risk that comes with the Cloud!
Inexpensive Global Storage
One of the best business uses for the Cloud is making use of the flexible types of storage. You can cheaply store vast amounts of extremely large data sets for processing using many entities – relational SQL databases, NoSQL table stores, and unstructured blob stores. You can easily allow customers to download/access data without penetrating your corporate firewall. You also get automatic local storage replication within single data center, and can opt for automatic geo -replicated storage across data centers. The Cloud is an IT leader’s dream for storing and archiving many types of data. Robust Media-based Applications From a business standpoint it makes perfect sense to leverage the large amounts of storage and globally located data centers to encode and stream videos. A perfect example is NBC’s use of live on-demand streaming video for the 2014 Winter Olympics. With its Media Service capabilities, Azure allows you to easily build comprehensive media workflows entirely in the cloud. From uploading media to distributing content, Media Services provide a range of pre-build, ready-to-use, first and third-party components that can be combined to meet your specific needs. Media in Cloud capabilities include upload, storage, encoding, format conversion, content protection, and delivery. Maybe your business is not quite ready to totally move all your media to the Azure Cloud. Instead, develop hybrid workflows to easily integrate Media Services with tools and processes you already use.
You can integrate easily with external applications and services using the Media Services REST API. You can also use Media Services for transcoding data you upload from on-premises into multiple formats and deliver through its CDN. Since Azure Media Services provide robust support for multiple devices and platforms, the process of creating, managing and delivering media across multiple devices has never been easier. Media Services provide everything you need to satisfy your business requirements and deliver content to a variety of devices, from Xbox and Windows PCs to MacOS, iOS, and Android.