Getting Started with Microsoft Azure

 

azure-icon-250x250

image courtesy of Microsoft.com

A few months ago I wrote an article on getting started with Amazon Web Services (AWS): now I wanted to follow-up by writing the same about  getting started with Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure is the public cloud offering deployed through Microsoft’s global network of datacenters. Azure has continued to gain market share from its chief rival, AWS. Being in second place is not something Microsoft is used to with their offerings. However, in the cloud, like with internet web browsers, Microsoft got off to a slow start. Capturing market share will not prove as simple with AWS as it was with Netscape and the web browser market in the 90’s but in the last two years, progress has been made. Much of the progress can be attributed to Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s current CEO.  Nadella proclaimed from his start a commitment to the cloud. Most recently Microsoft has expressed their commitment to support Linux and other operating systems (OS) within Azure. Embracing another OS and open source projects is new for Microsoft and seems to be paying off.

Like the other large public cloud providers, Microsoft has an easy to use self-service portal for Azure that can make it simple to get started. In addition to the portal, Microsoft entices small and new users with a free month of service. The second version of the portal released last year has improved the user experience greatly. Their library of pre-configured cloud instances is one of the best in the market. A portal user can select a preconfigured group of servers that would create a complex solution like SharePoint. The SharePoint instance includes all the components required: The Windows Server, SQL Server and SharePoint Server. What would take hours previously now can be “spun-up” in the cloud with a few clicks of your mouse. There are dozens of pre-configured solutions such as this SharePoint example. The greatest advantage Microsoft has over its cloud rivals is it has a deep and long-established channel of partners and providers. These partners, and the channel Microsoft developed for their legacy products, allow them to provide the best support of all the public cloud offerings.

Considerations for Getting Started with Microsoft Azure

Decide the type of workload

It is very important to decide not only what workloads can go to the cloud but also what applications you want to start with. Start with non-production applications that are non-critical to the business.

Define your goals and budget

Think about what you want to achieve with your migration to the cloud. Cost savings? Transferring IT from the capital expense to an operational expense? Be sure you calculate your budget for your cloud instance; Azure has a great tool for cost estimation. In addition, make sure you check costs as you go. The cloud has developed a reputation for starting out with low-costs and increasing them quickly.

Determine your user identity strategy

Most IT professionals are familiar with Microsoft Active Directory (AD). This is Microsoft’s application that authenticates users to the network behind the corporate firewall. AD has become somewhat outdated, not only by cloud’s off-site applications but also by today’s limitless mobile devices. Today, Microsoft offers Azure Active Directory (AAD). AAD is designed for the cloud and works across platforms. At first, you may implement a hybrid approach between AD, AAD and Office 365 users. You can start this hybrid approach through a synchronization of these two authentication technologies. At some point, you may need to add on federation that will add additional connectivity to other applications such as commonly used SaaS applications.

Security

An authentications strategy is a start for security but additional work will need to be done. A future article will detail cloud security best practices in more detail. While it is always best to have a security expert to recommend a security solution, there are some general best practices we can mention here. Try to use virtual machine appliances whenever possible. The virtual firewall, intrusion detection, and antivirus devices add another level of security without adding additional hardware. Devices such as these can be found in the Azure marketplace. Use dedicated links for connectivity if possible. These will incur a greater expense but will eliminate threats from the open Internet. Disable remote desktop and secure shell access to virtual machines. These protocols exist to offer easier access to manage virtual machines over the internet. After you disable these try to use point to point or site to site Virtual Private Networks (VPN‘s). Finally, encrypt all data at rest in virtual machines to help secure data.

Practically every business can find applications to migrate to a public cloud infrastructure such as Azure. Very few businesses put their entire IT infrastructure in a public cloud environment. A sound cloud strategy, and determining which applications to migrate enables the enterprise to get the most from a public cloud vendor.

If you would like to learn more about Azure and a cloud strategy for your business contact us at:

Jim Conwell (513) 227-4131      jim.conwell@twoearsonemouth.net

www.twoearsonemouth.net

Ohio Datacenter with AWS Direct Connect Now Open

cologix

Datacenter Trends

It’s beginning to feel more like the Silicon Valley in Central Ohio. There is now an Ohio Datacenter with AWS Direct Connect If you haven’t seen or heard about the new Cologix datacenter, take a minute to read on.

Cololgix datacenter has been in the Columbus area for many years and operates 27 network neutral datacenters in North America. Its newest facility, COL3, is the largest multi-tenant datacenter in Columbus and resides on the same 8-acre campus as their existing datacenters COL1 and COL2. It offers over 50 network service providers including the Ohio-IX Internet Exchange peering connection.

Most exciting of all is its 20+ cloud service providers, which includes a direct connection to the market leading Amazon Web Services (AWS). This is the first AWS direct connection in the region providing customers with low latency access to AWS US East Region 2. With direct connect AWS customers create a dedicated connection to the AWS infrastructure in their region. When AWS is in the same datacenter where your IT infrastructure resides, such as Cologix, all that is needed for connectivity is a small cross connect fee.

Here are some pertinent specifications of Cologix COL3:

Facility

    • Owned & operated in a 200,000+ SQF purpose-built facilities on 8 acre campus
    • Rated to Miami-Dade hurricane standards
    • 4 Data Halls – Up to 20 Milliwatt (MW)
    • 24” raised floor with anti-static tiles
    • 150 lbs/SQF floor loading capacity with dedicated, sunken loading deck

Power:

  • 2N Electrical, N+1 Mechanical Configurations
  • 2N diverse feeds from discrete substations
  • Redundant parallel IEM power bus systems serve functionality and eliminate all single points of failure
  • 2N generator configuration- Two (2) MW Caterpillar side A and Two (2) MW Caterpillar side B
  • On-site fuel capacity for 72 hours run time at full load
  • Redundant 48,000-gallon tanks onsite, priority refueling from diverse supplies & facility exemption from emergency power

Cooling:

  • Raised floor cold air plenum supply; return air plenum
  • 770 tons per Data Hall cooling capacity
  • Liebert, pump refrigerant DSE
  • Concurrently maintainable, A &B systems

Network:

  • 50+ unique networks in the Cologix-controlled Meet-Me-Room
  • Network neutral facility with 16+ fiber entrances
  • Managed BGP IP (IPv4 & IPv6); multi-carrier blend with quad-redundant routers & Cologix provided customer AS numbers & IP space
  • Most densely connected interconnect site in the region including dark fiber network access
  • Connected to the Columbus FiberNet system plus fiber feeds reaching all 88 Ohio counties
  • Metro area dark fiber available

 

If you would like to learn more or visit COL3 please contact us at:

Jim Conwell (513) 227-4131      jim.conwell@twoearsonemouth.net  

www.twoearsonemouth.net