With 2016’s Brexit vote providing a less than stable outlook for the foreseeable future, and the General Election also unable to alleviate concerns, can Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offer long term cost savings whilst improving overall performance?
Infrastructure hardware is expensive to purchase causing many IT Managers and Technical Architects to break out in a sweat when they’re asked for a business case to explain why they need to spend so much to replace the old solution. Patching up old slow servers and remembering to swap tapes is all too common when a replacement solution requires a large investment. Adding depreciation and technical expertise to the equation adds further pressures.
In this scenario many choose to increase capacity and virtualise existing hardware, as a cloud platform seems like a black and white decision. This is not the case. Creating a new Virtual Machine (VM) within Microsoft Azure and adding it to your existing infrastructure doesn’t require any drastic changes. It is as simple as adding a VM to your network as though it was sat in a box in your server room.
virtual machine & storage
With a hybrid / on-premise Azure solution you can move your workloads to the cloud paying only for what you use. Adding a new Virtual Machine takes only minutes and can be almost instantaneous with the availability of templates to setup VM’s to match your specifications. Whether you require massive amounts of processing power or memory, the process is the same thanks to the Azure Portal.
Adding Azure storage is just as simple, there’s no need to calculate physical disc capacity then overall storage availability. As you can allocate as much as you need but then only pay for what is used, with people accessing it like any other mapped drive on their desktop. In this scenario we have a VM and associated storage where the costs are only related to the usage of that server and storage. You can then add Azure backup with options such as locally redundant storage, which will store 3 copies of your data in one datacentre or Globally Redundant Storage (GRS) which will store your data in another Azure datacentre in another region. All that is required to setup the VM, storage and backup is a few clicks. Configuration of the VM is exactly as it would be for any other server on your network, simple right?
When it comes to Disaster Recovery (DR) Azure can again help us avoid some of the issues we can’t legislate for without having to break the bank. With on-premise issues ranging from failure of hardware or a corrupt OS to the building flooding, having a disaster recovery plan is essential. Azure Site Recovery allows you to automatically replicate workloads running on Virtual Machines (VM) or physical servers to Azure with support for many different workloads such as Citrix, Oracle and SAP. With a VM sat waiting in your Azure Recovery Plan you can instantly failover should any situation arise. By having the ability to back up your on-premises hardware to the cloud, including your virtual hosts, you can have the best disaster recovery plan on the market and have your infrastructure ready to go at the flick of a switch in an Azure datacentre.
the human element
So far we have covered VM’s, storage, backup and disaster recovery, the foundations of your infrastructure. Whilst we are moving to the cloud what happens to you, the person managing the infrastructure? How do you manage it moving forward? On a core level nothing will change, you will still connect using Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), you will still update and patch as expected. You can implement time saving improvements like self service password resets amongst a whole host over other offerings. But overall the biggest change I see will be the convergence of the technical engineer and architect roles. When you have Azure you don’t just have an endless pool of compute and storage but also access to highly advanced features normally out of the budget reach for a Small Medium Business (SMB). Services such as Wide Area Network (WAN) optimisation or Power BI analytics can be implemented at a fraction of the typical on-premise cost. Azure offers these services ready to go. Having the ability to build and spec as required you can manage your network much more in depth. If you need your website to be highly available for Black Friday you can allocate resource and remove the resource to manage the one day when it is required. Or slowly increase the resource as the analytics show that on the run up to Christmas your website is slowing.
Moving onto the more complex areas of networking and security we can take a look at what options are available as you expand and grow. If you have multiple sites and are using Virtual LAN (VLAN) you can still migrate sections into Azure, whether you chose to move a complete entity of your infrastructure or a small section, you can. Creating a VNET within Azure takes seconds, then entering the subnets is just as quick. Once you have setup a VNET with its subnets you can begin to setup Azure Security Groups to control your network traffic. To a very granular level, for example if a VM has two Network Interface Cards (NIC). You can control what goes in and out on each NIC as individual entities.
With the cloud offering excellence in all areas in terms of performance and features it also needs to ensure data is held securely and infrastructure is compliant.
Office 365 takes Exchange online and gives various levels of access to the Office application dependant on your licensing structure. Migrating your existing users to another Exchange server can be daunting but the hybrid structure will enable you to migrate the users over a period of time and then switch the hosted exchange server when you are ready.
Overall the transition to Microsoft Azure is not that scary and it is cost effective due to the ease and speed you can setup the infrastructure. It opens up a host of advanced features to budgets that would normally put them out of scope. Investing in upgrades to ageing infrastructure should be seen as burying your head in the sand as the transition to cloud infrastructure is inevitable. In a world of many clouds the time to transition has
never been more suitable.
If you have any questions surrounding the Microsoft Azure platform or how it might work with your business feel free to send me an email via firstname.lastname@example.org