Most IT directors, IT professionals, and network administrators are asking themselves which enterprise technologies they should move to the cloud, and what platform they should adopt. The answer to the latter depends largely on the business goals the organizations hopes to achieve. When it comes to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), we’re seeing tremendous demand for Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-based platform.
After initially falling into the category of Platform as a Service (PaaS), Windows Azure IaaS offerings have made a name for themselves by providing customers access to several different services and capabilities, including virtual machines (VMs), test and development environments, and storage services, among others.
Here’s how Windows Azure’s IaaS offerings assist many IT organizations.
1. Testing and development. Windows Azure enables organizations to quickly build and run VMs for testing purposes, and then shut them down when they’re no longer needed, saving companies money. Other cloud providers offer pay-by-the-hour models, meaning that if an IT department only uses a server for 15 minutes, the organization is charged for the entire hour. Windows Azure also offers a number of preloaded OS images, including Microsoft, Oracle, and Linux. Users can either run SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server 2014 images on top of the OS or upload their own images. Both options are attractive to IT since they reduce additional licensing costs and licensing asset management needs.
2. Backup, recovery, and replication. In perhaps the most lucrative use case, Windows Azure provides an environment for customers to protect important data off-site. In this scenario, customers can leverage on-premises Microsoft server technology and manage backups through Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2. There are a number of other offerings that support Windows Azure backups. Veeam Backup & Replication Cloud Edition v7, for example, enables organizations to store their Hyper-V or VMware VM backups to Windows Azure. Simpana by Commvault offers data de-duplication, archiving, backup and recovery, policy-based tiers, encryption, e-discovery, and search. And keep an eye out for Symantec’s Disaster Recovery as a Service enabled by Windows Azure, which is set to be released in the early second half of 2014. These backup, recovery, and replication offerings are provided by leading vendors that are also Microsoft partners. The integration between these vendors’ products and Windows Azure reduces implementation time and future IT staff support.
3. Media services and Web services. Windows Azure proved that it can handle the large digital media in its partnership with NBC Sports. Windows Azure provides both live and on-demand content for three NBC sites, the most important at this time being NBCOlympics.com, the digital home of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones receive rich media content provided by Windows Azure regardless of their platform or location. Toyota Motor Corporation developed its current websites in a Windows Azure development environment running SharePoint 2013, giving its sites consistent uptime worldwide. Its sites can also scale up or down based on demand, providing consistency to customer regardless of season or location.
Additional use cases for Windows Azure include:
- SharePoint and SQL hosted on Windows Azure
- Business intelligence infrastructure to enable advanced reporting
- Office 365 directory hosting to eliminate additional on-premises legacy servers
- Tier 2 and Tier 3 application migrations to Windows Azure infrastructure
Windows Azure continues to add new features to make entry into the cloud easier each day. New Microsoft and other Microsoft partner technologies offer full integration into IT environments at any time. Windows Azure’s scalability and flexibility are the reason why it receives more than 7,000 new users each week. It’s a testament to its stability as an evolving cloud platform.