The first step in any digital transformation is to implement a flexible and scalable infrastructure and that means adopting a cloud-based or hybrid cloud environment. A successful cloud migration requires a well-planned, phased approach that could use a combination of public cloud, private cloud and on-site legacy applications to ensure that each IT system is matched with the optimal type of infrastructure. Microsoft’s Azure cloud environment provides a flexible array of cloud and on-premises options to support a diverse range of infrastructure needs.

Microsoft has strong relationships with leading managed services providers like TierPoint to help organizations achieve a smooth migration with consulting, deployment, management, and help desk services. If you’re considering a cloud migration or an update of your current cloud infrastructure, David McKenney, director of product management for TierPoint, provides an overview of important features in Azure and the key concepts to understand when planning a cloud migration.

Here are some key concepts and capabilities of Azure:

Azure Resource Manager (ARM)

ARM is an administrative portal for managing Azure services, which Microsoft calls “resources”.  ARM uses “resource containers” to organize and pair related Azure resources, such as an application service, its storage service and the virtual machine (VM) in which it runs. That lets IT administrators locate related resources more easily. ARM also has an organizational feature called “tags” that function like a taxonomy and identify resources by their multiple characteristics. For instance, all resources used by the same department or with the same billing requirement can carry the same identifying tags. That enables IT administrators to manage related resources scattered across different resource containers.

High Availability Infrastructure

Azure offers several options for high availability computing, called availability sets, availability zones and region pairs. 

  • Availability sets protect against failures within a data center. Availability sets are logical groups of resources that are placed on different physical servers, compute racks, storage units and network switches so that a failure in one piece of hardware doesn’t affect all resources.
  • Availability zones protect against the failure of an entire data center. Each zone has its own power and network resources. Should one suffer from power outage, for instance, the other can takeover.  
  • Regional pairs ensure business continuity in the face of a regional disaster. Microsoft has 54 Azure regions around the globe. Regions can be paired to back up applications and data in case of a natural disaster

A VM for Every Workload

One of the great things about the cloud is the ability to use virtualized resources and save on the cost of buying and maintaining hardware. With Azure, you can have a different virtual machine (VM) for each workload. For instance, a relational database will likely do best on one of Azure’s E-Series memory optimized VMs, which can scale up to 4 TB of memory. High-end graphics applications, such as video editing and engineering applications, would benefit from a VM in the graphics processing unit (GPU)-optimized category. Other VM choices include compute-optimized VMs for mid-sized web servers, high performance VMs for analytics or scientific modeling, and “burstable” VMs for applications that are idle for long periods but occasionally require a much higher level of processing.

File, Disk and Object Storage in Azure

Azure provides multiple storage options, including file shares, virtual HDD and virtual SSD disk storage. The best part of the Azure storage options, however, may be the Blob object storage. Blobs are for holding large volumes of unstructured data or for data-heavy applications such as analytics or streaming video. They’re also used for remote access to data.  Blobs are priced according to a tiered scale of options:  High performance and hot options for frequently accessed files, a cool option for infrequently accessed data, and an archival storage option.  Azure also has a hybrid option – StorSimple provides physical arrays for on-premise deployments in datacenters and virtual arrays for smaller environments like remote and branch offices that require a cloud deployment.   

Azure Stack and the Hybrid Cloud

Most organizations today have, or plan to have, hybrid cloud environments. After all, different IT systems have diverse needs in terms of storage requirements, response times, workload processing needs, and data security. Microsoft created Azure Stack to deal with those situations.  Azure Stack is a hybrid cloud platform that enables on-premises and cloud Azure components to interact. It is available either as hardware/software product from one of Microsoft’s hardware partners or as a managed service from an Azure managed service provider such as TierPoint.

Managed Services Providers for Azure

Finally, Azure has relationships with leading managed services providers, like TierPoint, who can evaluate an organization’s infrastructure needs and map out a phased deployment of a hybrid cloud migration. Many organizations lack the time and internal resources to navigate all the issues necessary for a smooth migration, so these service providers can fill the gap.

TierPoint’s Managed Azure program has a team of cloud migration experts that can design the optimal migration path and manage it for you, whether that be an all-cloud or hybrid environment.  A lack of IT resources, or complex infrastructure needs, should not prevent an organization from reaping the benefits of cloud adoption.

For more on Azure’s features and capabilities, view the webinar:Upcoming 

Crawl, Walk, Run: Transforming the Legacy Enterprise with Microsoft Azure.

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