The “cloud” can be an intimidating term. With the speed at which Microsoft, Amazon and Google iterate on their Cloud Service offerings, it becomes more intimidating every day! Concerned that your infrastructure needs to be on-premise to satisfy industry regulations? Concerned about backups and security? We will touch on these concerns as well as offer up a high level strategy for getting your IT infrastructure into the cloud. It might not be as intimidating as you think.
Why would you want to do this at all? There are many good reasons: eliminating the need for internal infrastructure maintenance, automating backups, automating infrastructure changes and more. Imagine if your infrastructure became someone else’s problem! No more 5-alarm fires while your operations staff tries to get servers back up and running if the power goes down suddenly, no more fires for the application development teams to get applications back up and running while the operations staff has half of those servers back up and struggles to get the others going as well. Imagine if you could clone your servers into a different hemisphere with a few clicks of the button! Within the cloud, you can do all of these things. Your staff will be happier and your business will enjoy a LOT less downtime dealing with infrastructure or infrastructure related issues.
You have rack after rack of single-use or multi-purpose servers upon which your company’s entire IT infrastructure sits. Maybe you have another branch across the country where data is periodically replicated or backed up for disaster recovery purposes. The servers run countless database servers, internally facing and externally facing applications, vendor software products, email and more. The infrastructure takes many full time employees to maintain, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital expenses, and your backups are “hopefully” reliable as you’ve never really had the need to fully test your disaster recovery plan. Are all those man-hours necessary? Is all that costly hardware always necessary? Can you really take all of this infrastructure and move it to the cloud? The answer is a resounding Yes!
Microsoft has historically been the go-to software vendor for enterprise software, and the pains they’ve taken to ensure ANYONE can make the move into the Azure cloud are obvious as you begin to dig in to the service offerings on the Azure platform. Let’s go through the different stages an organization would go through in order to get legacy infrastructure migrated up to the cloud!
The first step to getting your infrastructure cloud-ready is to virtualize your servers. This means any and all servers that serve a purpose should be a virtual machine living on a Hyper-V host. The host machines themselves should be fairly useless, serving only as the orchestrator to your virtual machines, which are the real infrastructure.
Virtualization is not a new technology, so you may already have the majority of your servers running on Hyper-V hosts already. If that’s the case, congratulations! You’re already a good way on your way to moving your hardware! The next step is to create an Azure “Point to Site” network to join your on-premise network to Azure. Once that is in place, you can start moving generalized, on-premise VMs into the cloud as Azure Virtual Machines. Note that VHDs are hosted in an Azure Storage Account, so the bigger the Virtual Machine, the bigger your monthly bill is going to be! Click here for general Azure Store pricing. Also note that backups are offloaded to storage account as well and will incur additional costs. The good news is that creating and automating those backups is now just a few clicks away in the Azure Portal (or a script away for the PowerShell-savvy). In addition, if you decide the machine is too large, shrinking the VM is now also just a few clicks away. Don’t worry, it’s just a few more clicks to increase the size right back to where it was!
Security is key to any organization these days with breaches and data leakage news running rampant. Active Directory Federated Services provides a way to log onto external applications using authentication from an organization’s Active Directory. The same thing can be accomplished by migrating your entire Active Directory to Azure Active Directory, but that may be too cumbersome a task. ADFS, however, has been around for a very long time, so there’s a good chance your organization already has it implemented. You will need an externally available authentication provider as you move your applications into the cloud, or begin using 3rd party, cloud-hosted applications.
If you already have an externally facing authentication provider, and maybe have some virtual machines migrated to the cloud, it’s time to start taking full advantage of the Azure PLATFORM. Application Developers can use the power of Azure App Services, SQL Azure, Redis Cache, CosmosDB and more to build cloud-first applications that will bring business productivity and performance to a new level. There may even be pre-packaged, turnkey solutions available to you in the Azure Marketplace to further your cloud adoption.
The Azure Cloud Platform is more than just a new house for your VMs. Azure is an IT platform with tons of great services, applications and tools provided by both Microsoft and 3rd parties to help you automate IT and get to making your business better! Once your business’s IT is shifted to the cloud, all of these services, apps and tools are now at your disposal! Check out the Azure Marketplace for some 3rd party apps, or find a great App Builder partner like Software Design Partners to give your business an even bigger competitive edge…in the cloud!