Yesterday, Microsoft announced the general availability of its offering of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). They join an already-crowded market of IaaS providers, but this offering gives all companies the ability to offload workloads that have traditionally run in a company data center to the cloud. Welcome, Microsoft — the water is fine.

This announcement also represents a major chunk of Microsoft’s family of Azure offerings…and in my opinion, a stepping stone many companies simply must take in moving out of the traditional data center and into the cloud.  The following diagram shows the stepping stones out of the traditional data center:

For many small or new companies, moving to “the cloud” simply means starting out in the cloud to begin with, or moving from a company-hosted Exchange environment and migrating mailboxes to Office 365 (Software as a Service or SaaS). These companies can immediately benefit from offloading costs associated with traditional data center-hosted applications.

For larger or more established companies, the road is a gradual one. In other words, they most likely have their data centers running more customized applications on systems with complex dependencies — and an abundant amount of data that needs to be considered. It is this mesh of systems and data that makes Azure IaaS critical in the path to Platform as a Service and Software as a Service, which are how companies can really take advantage of what the cloud has to offer.

These larger companies can move some workloads to PaaS and SaaS, but they will still be tied to many systems (and the respective data) that may take longer to move.  This is where the real value that Microsoft provides comes into to play. You can extend your traditional data center into Azure and bring your IP addresses with you.  Once your data center is extended, you can take advantage of not only IaaS but PaaS in the same address space.

The Hybrid Application Scenario and PaaS/IaaS Side By Side

Platform as a Service web roles can be added to IaaS network segments that are extensions of the traditional data center. What this means, for example, is that you can have PaaS web roles that are domain joined to a domain that has been extended into Azure IaaS. These web roles can consume data in databases that are back in the company’s data center, or data that has been replicated into Azure SQL or SQL servers running in IaaS.

In addition to the functionality provided by the web role, all of these systems can be managed using the same enterprise tools used today. This example demonstrates the ability to support many scenarios that companies may desire as they move their complex systems into the cloud.

Single Pane of Glass Management

Microsoft has also made an investment in extending its management product suite.  By integrating Azure into System Center 2012 SP1, managing both the “private cloud” and “public cloud” can still be done with one suite of products.

How Azure Is Different

In my opinion, PaaS and IaaS side by side — as a natural extension of the traditional data center and providing a single pane of glass suite of management tools for the modern day data center — is a differentiator that other providers simply do not and cannot offer today.

IAAS Workloads

Here are a number of workloads that make sense for Azure IaaS.

  • Line of Business Applications/Custom Applications
    • CRM
    • CMS
    • ERP
    • Business Intelligence
  • Application Infrastructure
    • File Servers
    • Databases
    • Identity
    • Source Control
  • Developer, Test and Staging Environments
    • Automation allows the ability to provision and un-provision environments
  • Hybrid Applications
    • Applications that span both the private and public cloud

How to Get Started

There are many simple ways to get started using Azure IAAS:

  • New Business Data Centers
  • Data Center Scale Out/Surge
  • Providing Global Points of Presence/Proximity
  • Cost-Effective Storage with Geographic Redundancy
  • Co-Location/Continuity of Operations Planning
  • Development & Test Environments
  • Application Migration From Traditional Customer Hosted to PaaS

What Will Happen to the Traditional Data Center?

Azure IaaS, alongside PaaS, allows companies to take advantage of the cloud as a natural extension of the data center instead of having resources in disjoined hosting providers. This extension allows for hybrid scenarios, providing companies with the tools they need to move from the traditional data center into the modern-day data center and offset its costs. Microsoft is constantly adding to its Office 365 and Azure service offerings, and as this happens the private cloud will most likely slowly make way to the public cloud.

Please visit the AIS website to read more about our cloud computing offerings and how we can help your organization make the move.

Slides courtesy of Paul Stubbs and Saku Uchikawa