In 2010 almost nobody ran their production IT infrastructure in the cloud – in 2020, almost everybody will, and increasingly we’re seeing Microsoft Azure emerging as customers’ first choice for cloud. But where are we now on that journey? And what are UK organisations using cloud for?
Many of the people I talk to are asking me how their use of cloud infrastructure compares with others, so I wanted to share with you what I’m seeing with Total’s customers: typical UK organisations, across the economy.
As you’re probably aware, Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. It’s primarily designed for companies to build, manage and deploy applications for delivery through Microsoft’s network of data centres, including newly-operational UK facilities in London, Cardiff and Durham.
Confidence and security
It almost goes without saying that organisations are shifting their IT into the cloud. For most, confidence in the cloud has been boosted due to their own positive experiences, and by seeing the UK government’s adoption of Azure. And, if you’re moving production services to a cloud platform, Azure is a safe choice. As well as being backed up by Microsoft’s trusted brand, IT analyst Gartner rates Microsoft (alongside AWS) as one of only two leaders in its 2016 Magic Quadrant for cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
Most of the customers I talk to recognise that they can obtain far greater data security with Azure than, realistically, they could ever hope to achieve on site, and I think that’s true for all but a few of the very largest organisations in the country. Data is probably the most important thing you have – a hack could mean the loss of customer details, or intellectual property, and storing data within Azure is both highly secure and a low risk option (no one’s going to blame you for trusting Microsoft, right?!).
What are others doing?
As you’d expect, with differing refresh cycles and business needs, each organisation is at a different stage on its journey to the cloud.
ost seem to start by using cloud primarily as data storage, with cloud backup now in widespread use, while some are decommissioning servers and moving them to Azure. We’re handling a number of those projects, with our solution architects helping with what may seem a daunting process – by providing initial advice, proof of concepts and migration services.
I estimate at least half of our customers are actively moving production services to the cloud, or are in the process of looking to move. Most people are focussing on utilising Azure’s compute power, so they are moving SQL databases, or delivering applications through the cloud – and typically that would be line of business applications like finance, CRM and ERP.
What’s driving that change? Most are looking for a more scalable solution – and Azure provides the elasticity to respond to business cycles like month-end or quarterly activity peaks, to scale back when services are unused out of hours, or simply to respond to unplanned higher usage. With Azure’s pay-per-usage model you can just adapt as you require, and you can set rules so that the server automatically scales up and down and provides the required level of compute power.
If a company is looking for a refresh in their hardware, to have their own scalable on-premise solution like this would be incredibly expensive. It’s simply not cost-effective to try and provide the adaptability of Azure for yourself.
Many organisations’ first use of cloud infrastructure was for test and development. Often this might have been some maverick spinning up an AWS server and expensing it, rather than going through the normal channels. In an interesting twist, I’m now seeing IT teams reigning this back in, by creating a dedicated pool of test and development resource within Azure.
What about Brexit and data protection laws? In practice, the impact of Britain leaving the EU might well be minimal, with EU and UK laws already harmonised. Microsoft was the first cloud provider recognised by the EU for compliance with the ISO 27001 data protection standard, and with its two new UK data centres coming on line this year, it will enable companies to host all their data in Britain if they wish.
Management and price
Azure is fairly easy to manage for yourself, but a potential problem is relying on Microsoft’s Azure calculator for price. The plans are complex with a variety of technical variables, and it’s difficult to be accurate – so my advice is over-estimate what you’re going to be using, to ensure you don’t end up running out of budget. And of course you will only pay for what you actually use, so there’s no real downside to doing so.
On the other hand, working with a provider such as Total can save you money. As a specialist Microsoft partner, we’re able to offer a customer a lower cost per unit of compute than if they bought directly from Microsoft– with the added advantage of Total’s help and advice rolled into the deal.
If you’d like to find out more about Microsoft Azure and how it could help you, talk to Total.