When Microsoft first started the journey into cloud most people associated this with just moving hardware and infrastructure into global data centres. Since those early days, Microsoft has gone a long way to extending cloud beyond infrastructure to provide a complete platform and set of services that enable businesses to meet their IT challenges, encompassing every aspect from development to execution.
Microsoft has also taken the cloud beyond physical location of global data centres to enable you to run cloud either on-premise or out in the field. Through this article you will gain some insights into how Microsoft has done this, and how Azure services can be used to meet the challenges your business faces. In fact, the cloud platform is now enabling organisations to conduct their operations in new ways that can completely transform the way business is done, for the better!
Five years ago Microsoft launched its cloud service "Azure", and we were firmly in the camp of the cloud sceptics. Since its inception we have watched many of the major players stumble in trying to understand cloud and address the demand for cloud to compete against successful offerings like AWS (Amazon Web Services). In the early days of Azure, documentation and guidance was non-existent, and the management tools left something to be desired. Companies like Oracle, IBM and Google all have their own flavour of cloud but, really, there are only two companies (Microsoft and AWS) that have a true vision for the future of cloud.
AWS and Microsoft offer very different futures for cloud as outlined in these Gartner articles. Of these two we feel that Microsoft, with their holistic all-encompassing approach of cloud and cloud services everywhere, are the true game changers in this space. Microsoft does not consider cloud to be just infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and Software as a service (SaaS).
In the new world, cloud computing has become a new way to approach development, deployment and operations. This in turn empowers new operational business models that have never been available, and removes several roadblocks to multi-level security protection, even up to Top Secret.
Five years ago we had the concept of virtualisation of infrastructure within our on-premise data centres. Using tools like ESX from VMWare we took the first steps to move from the physical platform to the concept of a virtual platform, with many servers running on a single physical server. AWS led the way by taking this virtualisation a step further by producing the ability to move these "virtual" servers from on-premise into global data centres based around the world. This quickly got the usual IT acronym applied; in this case, IaaS.
Then along came Microsoft. Love them or hate them, Microsoft does software, and they do some of the best software on the planet. With this approach, they looked at cloud as being more than just servers in the cloud (IaaS). They decided that you could do a lot more if you combined "IaaS" with all their software and tools.
Satya Nadella led the Azure team (now he is CEO) and started one of the major cloud initiatives within Microsoft. This has been done at a global scale with hyper-scale, reliability, resilience, security and thinking. The map below is a snapshot of Microsoft Azure implementations worldwide. At the time of writing, Azure exists in 54 regions worldwide, and is available for continuous operations in some 140 countries.
Insight: Microsoft provides cloud services on massive scale around the world with four regions in Australia, two of which are accredited to a protected level.
But, even with this massive scale and thinking, it was very clear to us at Myriad Technologies that something was missing.
Myriad Technologies works very closely with many organisations that cannot leverage parts of this hyper-scale cloud. The reasons are many and include:
Security constraints, especially around data sovereignty. Controls over who can see what data through to who can even physically access the data centres where the services operate.
Operations that do not have good communications between locations, e.g. Ship to Ship, or Ship to Shore.
Industries that have significant operations with challenging networks, including mining, maritime, defence, military and many others.
For a few years, we did not see Microsoft as having any real answers to assist our customers with these types of use cases. We continued to provide designs and solutions for these customers, without the key benefits of cloud, while using the traditional model of infrastructure on premise.
Until two years ago, the push from Microsoft was about moving organisations to use Azure and Azure services in Microsoft data centres. Over the last few years, we have seen Microsoft soften on this stance and seen Microsoft come to the realisation that not all organisations want to embrace cloud in Microsoft global data centres.
When Nadella became Microsoft CEO in 2014, we saw the focus shift toward addressing this gap, and providing the same goodness and richness of services, but outside of a Microsoft data centre.
In 2016 the first preview of Azure Stack was released. The intent behind Azure Stack is to provide the same services you find in Azure cloud but running on your premises. With this, Microsoft has provided the capability to deploy an Azure cloud not only in your own data centre, but also in the field; be this on a ship, a command post or anywhere else!
All the goodness of Azure cloud services and the cloud approach can now be made seamless to operate throughout an entire operating environment.
Insight: Azure Stack allows you to run an Azure cloud anywhere within your network of operations and means cloud is no longer limited to physical data centres
Now, the first thought one has is "isn't that just reinventing the wheel"? We already have servers on premise and the whole point of cloud was to get rid of those. At first glimpse, yes. But this thinking is to totally underestimate what Microsoft Cloud actually brings to the party. Imagine being able to define the same consistent set of services, from technical services such as switches and routers and disks, through to platform services such as SQL Server. Then add the ability to add App and UI services to provide a complete top-to-bottom set of services to support the business.
The roll-out, management, maintenance and serviceability of everything suddenly changes and can now transform your operating model from an expensive set of IT engineers and specialists, to being another automated and managed service.
Insight: Cloud is not infrastructure, it encompasses everything from application development, code management, compute and store, common services, authentication and authorisation services, business intelligence and reporting and services management, including cost management.
Everyone thinks of Cloud as public or private clouds and being massive data centres. Cloud is no longer that, Cloud is a combination of approach to apps dev, dev ops and how you deploy that on top of compute and store, anywhere, anytime to suit your business needs.
By using Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Azure Stack as a holistic approach to information technology, businesses can respond to market and environmental changes far more rapidly and effectively than ever before. Through the use of Azure DevOps, Microsoft helps you move away from long development lead times and facilitates rapid deployment of new features and functionality in business applications.
Insight: Microsoft's cloud offerings gives you a completely new operating platform to drive a new operating model for your organisation.
So, what does this mean, and how would we do it?
Essentially, we can deliver a range of technology services into a large variety of business use cases, quickly, easily and cheaper than ever before. Examples include:
Commercial maritime; operational apps and intranets
Military; deployable services at protected, secret and top secret domains – anywhere in the world
National security; agencies needing to safely and securely exchange and collaborate on information at the same time
Want to know more about cloud and how it can transform your organisation's complete operating picture? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to talk through your needs and use cases.