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Cloud Blocks – Building Next Generation Applications on Microsoft’s Cloud OS

Written by Craig Butler on March 26, 2014

As IT professionals, we are in the midst of one of the largest IT transformations ever seen. Many big shifts are happening today due to Mobility & Devices, Applications, Big Data, and Cloud Computing.

The proliferation of devices and integration of technology has changed the way people live and work. It has opened the door for a multitude of new applications designed to meet various needs. These applications are social, mobile, scalable, which means many will have a cloud backend.

New technologies are producing HUGE amounts of data – in fact, the world’s data is doubling every two to three years. More than 90% of the world’s data has been generated in the last couple of years. These trends are forcing IT to answer new and different questions.

  • How can you enable a mobile workforce — work from anywhere, on any device?
  • How can you evolve applications to meet new demands?
  • How can you help the business make faster and better decisions?
  • How do you ensure your infrastructure can and will scale to meet demand?

Microsoft’s answer is the Cloud OS.

What makes the Microsoft Cloud OS vision different is this “hybrid design” at the core. Customers benefit from a common and consistent approach to development, management, identity, security, virtualization and data – spanning your data center to the cloud – your private cloud, a service provider cloud and Microsoft Azure.

This is powerful for a number of reasons:

  • Microsoft delivers a flexible development environment so developers can code once and deploy anywhere across Ruby, Java, PHP, Python or .Net. In addition, you get complete workload mobility to move these applications across clouds.
  • Common identity is a third element of our consistent platform. With a federated Active Directory and multi-factor authentication, you get a common identity across clouds so your employees can enjoy a seamless, single-sign on experience.
  • Integrated virtualization is a fourth area. We go beyond traditional server virtualization where compute is virtualized and extend it to other areas like storage and networking that are costly in your environment today.
  • A complete data platform where your data can reside anywhere across these three clouds is a value proposition that is huge as well. You can tap into all of that data whenever you need.

While I’ve shared the core benefits Microsoft can deliver in this hybrid cloud approach, one question I hear frequently from customers is “This is great. Can you tell me the best ways to get started with Azure?”

Azure can support a number of your infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service needs, here are a few areas to start your exploration:

  • MIcrosoft Azure provides scalable, cloud storage and backup, for any data, big and small. Azure’s very cost-effective because you only pay for what you use, at a cost that is lower than many on-premises SAN or NAS solutions.
  • Additionally, Microsoft offers a cloud storage solution with their StorSimple appliance through Azure, allowing you to access frequently used data locally and tier less-used data to the cloud. Your data is de-duplicated, compressed, and encrypted, which means the data is smaller and therefore more cost-effective to store and protect.
  • Another area to consider for Azure is in your development and testing environment. You can quickly self-provision as many virtual machines as you need for your application development and testing in the cloud without waiting for hardware, procurement or internal processes. Microsoft offers complete virtual machine mobility, so you can decide whether to deploy the application in production on Microsoft Azure, on-premises in your datacenter, or with a hosting provider. The choice is yours, to deploy easily in whichever location, with a few key strokes.
  • If you are looking to upgrade to the latest versions of SharePoint or SQL, Azure is a perfect option for testing in the cloud, with no impact to your production environments. You can roll-out on-premises or in the cloud when ready.
  • On the topic of SQL, backing up your on-premises SQL or Oracle databases is a must-have to help reduce downtime and minimize data loss. With Azure, you can create a low-cost SQL Server 2012 or 2014 database replica without having to manage a separate datacenter or use expensive colocation facilities offering you geo-redundancy and encryption. 
  • The last scenario to consider is identity. Managing identity across both the public cloud and on premises applications provides you with the security you want and a great user experience. With Azure Active Directory, you can create new identities in the cloud or connect to an existing on premise Active Directory to federate and manage access to cloud applications. More importantly, you can synchronize on-premises identities with Azure Active Directory and enable single sign-on for your users to access cloud applications.

Over the coming weeks and months, CTS will be delivering content around all of these scenarios and expanding the conversation into how customers can create business solutions on the foundation of Microsoft Azure. If you would like more information on these scenarios or are interested in exploring how Microsoft Azure can benefit your organization, contact our Cloud OS practice lead – Craig Butler at cbutler@askcts.com .

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