News & Blog

Microsoft Tech Summit – Microsoft Azure takes centre stage on day 1

We sent three of our techies to the Microsoft Tech Summit in Birmingham last week. In the first of a series of blogs reporting back on the key takeaways from the sessions, Dave Murphy, one of Acora’s Enterprise Architects, reports on the opening keynote session from Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President of Enterprise Cloud and Mobility.

With Azure the main focus, the queue for the Keynote was intense – seems like everyone wanted to listen to what Microsoft had to say about their cloud platform! In all there were probably less people than I thought would be here, but then – it’s just Microsoft talking about Azure, yeah?

Tech summit photo

Well, yes – but not quite the way you might expect. When you think about Azure, you think “that’s the cloud where I put my virtual machines instead of on premise.” Well frankly, that isn’t what Microsoft want you to do.  We all know that if you want Exchange, you don’t build a VM and install Exchange, you use Exchange online, and really – this is what Microsoft want you to do with all of their services.  Need SQL?  Take an SQL database service.  Want Sharepoint?  Use the Sharepoint service.

So what has stopped you so far? It may be that you have looked into it and decided that there is a feature of your application that means you cannot support it.  But for most cases – it is probably either security, or a simple misunderstanding of what the services mean.  I will try to discuss a couple of these now:

  • Security:
    Reason: “My data needs more security than that.”
    Answer: Azure is actually the most compliant and trusted public cloud platform in the world. Of course, in your mind that may be like saying “the best cheap ice cream in the world” – a sort of caveated statement, kind of like saying “the best of a bad bunch”. But to put some context around that, existing high profile customers include American MOD, UK NHS Services and Metro Bank, not to mention Rolls Royce! https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/trustcenter/compliance/complianceofferings
    So rather than dismissing it, we should be asking the key question “Which compliance are we talking about? PCI, SOX, FSA? “. Thankfully, MS have provided a tool in the MS Trust Center that allows you to check to see if Azure has certification in that area.
  • Control:
    Reason: “Aren’t the services out of my control? I like it when my services are in my control.”
    Answer: Believe it or not, this is a good thing. As a developer, your services are generally under the control of the sysadmins. As a sysadmin, controlling your developers’ services can be quite time-consuming, and there is always the dilemma of when to update things, how to make them compatible and available with your common technologies. The day to day feeding and watering – frankly, neither of you want to do it. Using the PaaS actually takes this feeding and watering away from you, while leaving the elements you want – for example, security, using the common methods of AD security group membership through Azure AD, or storage – and you can choose how much performance you get as you need it.
  • Access:
    Reason: “I don’t want my users to be able to access the company data from home.”
    Answer: This is far more common than we thought it would be. Fear of employees walking away with a load of data that you don’t want them to. Well, Azure Information Protection actually gives us the level of control you need to stop this. Conditional Access allows us to whitelist IP addresses, stopping users from accessing unless (for example) they are not on a corporate device. More on this in a separate article.

Putting aside the reasons you believed meant you didn’t want it, there is one big reason that you do. Scalability.  Not in the traditional sense of “making the disk bigger” or “giving it more memory”, in the actual technologies in use sense.  Once you start using the PaaS services, you open the way to using more PaaS services.  Have SQL in the cloud?  Need some BI? Use PowerBI.  Need to archive large amounts of data?  Shift it into the data lake.  Or HADOOP.  Or NoSQL.

All of the Azure services can draw on and access all of the other Azure services natively and guess what – none of them need feeding and watering!
Well, that is the message Microsoft want us to take away – so let’s see what the rest of the summit brings.

Need help?

Can't find what you're looking for? Get in touch! We're happy to help.