Why adopting a Microsoft cloud strategy is a good idea

cloud head

As a Microsoft infrastructure architect, I’m regularly involved in implementing Microsoft cloud solutions for clients. While the diversity of customers ranges from small SMBs all the way up to global-oriented enterprises, I’ve found that the conversation around Microsoft cloud solutions is comparable no matter how big or small the company is, or what business they are operating in.

Everybody is already talking about “the cloud.” This is in fact a good thing because it makes the first few minutes of my presentations easier. I can skip the intro on what cloud computing is and move over to the “good stuff.” But what is this “good stuff?”

Basically, the cloud is there, both in people’s private and personal lives. Taking some family pictures with your cell phone; uploading them on-the-fly to a Skydrive folder; quickly checking your corporate email in between the picture-taking; logging on to the marketing share of the company on a SharePoint site in Microsoft’s Office 365, (since they love spontaneous pictures for the next monthly newsletter), and I could go on and on. These are all examples of cloud computing. Your back-end infrastructure is always available, anywhere, at any time, from any device.

Now why should anyone consider migrating data or business information towards a Microsoft cloud solution? Is Microsoft the only player in this field? Certainly not. Google, Amazon, VMware, SalesForce and many others are the active cloud partners in business nowadays. What differentiates Microsoft from a lot of the others?

Unlike Google and Google Apps, which were built out of the Internet, Microsoft was already a strong and trusted business in the IT industry long before the internet boomed. It has a wide install base of Windows machines and SQL Server database servers, as well as having Exchange Server as the number one mail platform worldwide and Visual Studio as the prime development environment. The Microsoft strategy around cloud computing is not only a single step into a “internet-based application,” but mainly it is a journey on how to migrate, and moreover integrate, the existing Microsoft infrastructure technologies with similar product stacks, from within a cloud-based scenario.

Migration and integration are the keywords here. For example, when you can to migrate from an on-premise Exchange server to Google Apps, it is much easier migrating towards Exchange Online. IT departments are eager in adopting this Microsoft cloud technology in a more rapid way because it is a lot like what the existing on-premise solution is offering, but without the installation and management hassle. This is because the Microsoft cloud platform is believed to be always up-and-running.

The complete Microsoft cloud strategy offering

Another element that differentiates Microsoft cloud strategy from a lot of other newer cloud businesses is its complete offering. Whether you want to implement virtual Windows Server machines, configure mailboxes, manage your client devices, or develop temporary test and dev environments, Microsoft has it available as part of its overall cloud strategy. Windows Azure puts up virtual machines in a matter of minutes; Windows Intune assists you in managing and maintaining client devices, whether running Microsoft or any other operating system. Remote control software deployment and inventory are only some of the features from this solution. Exchange, Lync and SharePoint Online, as part of Office 365, are working in the same way when they are running out of a company’s in-house data center.

System Center 2012, the suite of Microsoft management solutions for IT environments, is a true bridge between on-premise and in-cloud platforms. Where a company can build its private cloud on top of Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V, the same virtual machine can be easily migrated towards Windows Azure platform, running there for a short time or an infinite amount. It can either run as a stand-alone virtual machine or make use of Azure’s default high availability and scalability features. Operational management of the applications is controlled all from a single console, no matter in what data center the machine is running, yours or Microsoft’s.

From a non-technical product portfolio point of view, Microsoft has some added benefits to offer as part of its cloud strategy:

  • For the last two years, Microsoft has spent about 2.5 billion USD on building its worldwide data centers, offering identical workloads in different regions around the world. Those data centers are built, owned and operated by Microsoft only. Because it has the necessary financial bandwidth, more of these data centers will definitely be built, or existing ones will be expanded. This is to make sure that it has the best offering, the best operational services with the best quality uptime.
  • Bundled licensing offerings are another aspect. More and more, the traditional Microsoft license agreements are incorporating cloud workloads as well. Even within an MSDN subscription, you are entitled to a few hours of Azure platform resources on a monthly basis.
  • Cost efficiency. This already starts with offering the Hyper-V virtualization stack as an integral part of the Server 2008-2008 R2 and 2012 operating systems. There is no other cost for starting to build your virtual infrastructure.
  • Full potential in offering strong integration with non-Microsoft products. The possibility to consult your Office 365 data from an Ipad or Android tablet, and to integrate with social media like facebook, LinkedIn from the Windows 8 OS and Windows Phone, will promise even cooler and interesting applications in the near-future

That being said, I’m convinced you have a good understanding of cloud computing in general. Microsoft is continuously building and optimizing its cloud offering without minimizing the investments in its traditional line of applications. I see them as one of the strongest and most important cloud partners available in the market today.

I’ll unwrap some more details of the software and services strategy road map in one of the following articles.

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