Gavin Payne is a principal architect for Coeo, a SQL Server professional services company, and a Microsoft Certified Architect and Microsoft Certified Master.
His role is to guide and lead organisations through data platform transformation and cloud adoption programmes.

In an ideal world, IT leadership would be able to have all of their systems hosted in the public cloud at the flick of a switch.  Costs would align to utilisation, capabilities would increase and most importantly - the time to deliver business value would decrease. In reality, there's always a gap between leadership aspirations and operational capabilities.  And at the moment, most organisations are somewhere in that gap.

 

Cloud first thinking

In the last 12 months, public cloud services have firmly arrived as a credible capability for organisations of any size. The most visible sign is how we use the word cloud. Several years ago it was synonymous with on-premises virtualisation, today, we use it to describe public cloud services, and tomorrow it’ll describe a combination of the two - hybrid clouds.  Our confidence in using public cloud services is also growing at a rapid rate.  Gone are the days of the trailblazers and the vanguards thriving to be first, today the conservative and cautious amongst us are adopting.  There are now cloud services that neatly integrate with what we’re already doing in our own data centres that increasingly make cloud the right choice - we don’t have to re-invent our IT platforms to take advantage of cloud scale and pay-as-you-use IT anymore.

 

Microsoft Azure

I like to think of Microsoft Azure as the world’s largest data centre full of the Microsoft technologies I already know and trust.  Windows Server, Hyper-V, IIS, PowerShell, REST APIs – the skills we already have are the foundations of Azure.

 

Azure offers two types of service: Platform as a Service and Infrastructures as a Service

 

Development led Platform as a Service adoption

Azure’s Platform as a Service, PaaS, services provide fully managed .NET platform capabilities that can be deployed on a global scale.  They allow .NET developers to use their existing IIS and Visual Studio knowledge to build cloud first applications.

Traditionally, Platform as a Service has been what most have thought of as cloud services - and what put many off using them in the early days of cloud computing. Migrating existing applications to PaaS can be painful, if not impossible, and capability gaps between PaaS and on-premises can make adoption prohibitive. That’s because PaaS isn’t a direct replacement for your existing application infrastructures - it’s a capability toolbox for developers to use.

Azure’s PaaS services offer developers a breadth of .NET capabilities that we’d struggle to have in our own data centres.  Using them has never been easier as Microsoft’s development technologies and tools now natively support Azure application development and Agile deployments.

That’s why your PaaS adoption should be led by your development teams.  Your application lifecycles should consider allowing new applications to be 100% cloud hosted from day 0 while your existing applications should consider adopting PaaS services as and when they’re needed.

 

Operations led Infrastructure as a Service adoption

Azure’s Infrastructure as a Service, IaaS, services are about using cloud hosted horsepower to deliver your IT operations.  You can deploy the highly available and scalable infrastructure services in Azure, such as virtual servers and data storage, instantly while only paying for what you use.  At the same time, Azure’s network options allow secure public and private network access for transparent integration with your existing Microsoft platforms.

IaaS has often had a lower profile than Platform as a Service, or its Software as a Service peers such as Office365 ; however, in mid-2014 lower profile doesn’t mean lower adoption rates any more.

Organisations are commonly making Azure an extension of their existing data centre, especially now that Microsoft’s System Center, SQL Server and Visual Studio products natively integrate your on-premises operations with Azure’s IaaS services.

 

IaaS adoption isn’t about moving all of your data centre to the cloud in one big move, it’s about extending and enhancing what you already do without the capital costs of data centre upgrades.

Extending and enhancing your existing operations will complete the readiness you’ll need – operations, skills and connectivity – to start deploying your new applications straight to the cloud.

IaaS adoption roadmaps should be led by operations team, but instead of technical phases first think about a journey of integration, operational readiness and adopting a cloud-first approach to IT.

 

Summary

Cloud-first thinking is rapidly becoming the norm so now is the time to review again the breadth of Microsoft Azure’s services and understand where in your build and operate lifecycles its different services could soon become the natural choice for your IT environment.

Resources

Have you adopted public cloud into your business? Was it the right choice for you? Let us know in the comments section below, or via @TechNetUK.