Where to Start with Microsoft Azure

Cloud migration often comes across as an immediate win for organizations, making infrastructure simpler and less expensive to manage. In truth, making the move to a public cloud provider like Microsoft Azure can be a complex, protracted process.

In many cases, expert guidance makes the difference between success and failure.

Cloud transitions often don’t succeed — at least not right away. Many run into problems like spiraling costs, misconfigurations and challenges surrounding shared security responsibilities.

None of this is to say that migrating to the public cloud is a bad idea. On the contrary: Moving the right workloads into Azure will yield considerable operational benefits. Nonetheless, your success depends on taking an approach that accounts for all relevant infrastructure, dependencies and possible risks along the way.

For example, Azure can provide the scalability, security and deep integrations with the Microsoft ecosystem to modernize existing IT environment and address evolving business requirements. Of course, this only works with proper planning and management.

Let’s look at some of the common roadblocks to a successful Azure deployment and how to overcome them.

Common Cloud Challenges

Every Azure migration needs a detailed plan that accounts for:

  • The technical feasibility of migrating the workload in questions
  • All associated risks and costs
  • Any relevant application dependencies
  • Formal management and governance policies

While building such plans, you will likely flag one or more of these concerns. In some cases, moving and supporting a given workload in Azure may require a skill set your organization doesn’t have on staff.

The Skills Gap in the Cloud

The early 2019 edition of the Emerging Risks Survey from Gartner found that “talent shortage” had become the top concern for IT decision-makers, up from third place in the previous quarter.

Public cloud infrastructure requires skills, like scalable architecture, cloud security and cloud-specific technologies such as microservices or containerization. In today’s tech talent marketplace, all of these are in short supply.

The services within Azure are undergoing continuous updates and improvements. This means Azure consumers need to dedicate time and resources to keeping up with these changes and mitigating the impact on their IT environments.

In response to the need for specialized expertise and practices like DevOps, many organizations have built strategic partnerships with managed service providers (MSPs). As overall public cloud consumption continues to grow, the need for specialized assistance with cloud migration and management will likely grow in tandem.

Budgetary Pressure During Cloud Migrations

Cost savings are perhaps the most well-publicized benefits to cloud adoption and migration. Moving from capital expenditure (CAPEX) model of procurement in the data center to operating expense (OPEX) in the cloud has a certain appeal.

But shifting workloads into the public cloud is far from guaranteed to save organizations money. In fact, in the following situations,  migrating to the cloud increases costs:

  • Limited or no accountability for commissioning and decommissioning workloads, resulting in unnecessary or redundant cloud resources.
  • Inadequate visibility into existing cloud resources, some of which may no longer be needed (such as instances spun up for testing or now-defunct projects).
  • Over-provisioning resources to accommodate peak capacity, a practice held over from the on-premise data center that’s often unnecessary.

A survey of decision-makers in enterprise IT found that many were disappointed with the level of savings they realized in the cloud. This was especially true for “lift-and-shift” transitions, where few if any modifications are made to a given workload prior to migration. These results highlight the need for rightsizing of cloud resources, i.e. ensuring that the services being used match the customer’s actual needs.

Misconfigurations and Security Vulnerabilities

Data breaches have only grown more expensive, as organizations place more strategic assets and operations into complex cloud architectures. These often require precise management by both the cloud service provider and the customer. Misconfigurations are a common cause of these breaches because they can leak data or expose resources to direct attack.

The 2020 Cloud Misconfigurations Report estimated that organizations worldwide collectively lost about $5 trillion across 2018 and 2019 due to configuration errors in the cloud.

Ensuring the right configurations and mapping the relevant application dependencies is complex work. A shortage of specialized skills, combined with fluctuating IT budgets and the growth of remote work, make it tough to coordinate in-house efforts to find and address every vulnerability. Working with a managed IT service and solutions provider is often a necessary step for mitigating risk in the cloud.

How Softchoice Will Help Guide Your Azure Journey

Many of the challenges above are relevant to organizations moving into Azure for the first time.

However, even organizations with one or more workloads running in Azure today can benefit from reassessing their current status, internal skill sets, cloud budgets and security practices. In our experience, there’s always room for improvement.

Softchoice is a certified Azure Expert MSP (Microsoft’s highest designation for cloud MSPs) with 500+ cloud migrations under our belt. We have designed solutions, including the Softchoice Public Cloud Accelerator and Cloud Workload Assessment, to provide the full breadth of support you need for a successful Azure migration, from technical support to ongoing technology mentorship.

To learn more,  download our guide, “The Essential Starter’s Guide to Microsoft Azure for IT Leaders” or connect with a member of our team.

 

Cloud Success Stories – Part 2

Cloud adoption has been on a trajectory of steady acceleration for several years.

At the end of 2019, our own cloud adoption research found that two-thirds of IT leaders surveyed intended to take a “cloud-first” posture for new applications and workloads.

Furthermore, while the global pandemic has disrupted technology plans and budgets, in many cases we’ve seen that organizations that had made progress toward cloud adoption were better positioned to pivot in their responses than those who hadn’t.

The pandemic has highlighted the business value of the cloud, helping organizations to sustain operations, support newly remote workers and pivot in response to new economic conditions.

In fact, we expect cloud adoption and migration to speed up as organizations rethink their workspaces and go-to-market strategies for post-pandemic recovery.

Sharing Customer Stories

Many of the organizations we work with at Softchoice have started or are moving forward faster with their cloud adoption journeys with the intent to build differentiated, next-generation product offerings on a modern infrastructure foundation.

However, each organization – and each application – is on a journey of its own. We wanted to share our experience helping 1,400+ organizations transition to the cloud and help others benefit from what they’ve learned.

This series will explore real-life stories on the journey to the cloud. In this article, we’ll look at two organizations and how Microsoft Azure helped them advance toward greater business agility.

Work Truck Solutions

The Challenge: Work Truck Solutions (WTS) wanted to refresh its technology stack to support an all-new online marketplace providing authoritative, up-to-date data on commercial trucks and vans.   

“Softchoice guided us toward the right Azure resources and helped us make a crucial upgrade that benefited our audiences” – Craig Vitt, Software Engineering Manager, Work Truck Solutions

The Journey:

  • Work Truck Solutions had deployed on Azure as early as 2012, but its new domain needed to reinforce its status as a source of industry knowledge
  • As the application needed to serve a national audience, unlike its earlier dealer-centric offerings, they needed a technology stack that combined scalability with manageable costs.
  • The company partnered with Softchoice to select and implement the right Azure resources to meet key KPIs, including site traffic, lead generation, and conversions.
  • Using the latest technologies, Softchoice ensured that the application could be deployed to numerous environments and aligned with DevOps workflows.
  • The initial launch exceeded expectations and as of April 2020, the marketplace had aggregated 160,000+ commercial vehicles, including data on customizable bodies, upfits and more.

Next Steps

  • WTS has embarked on a roadmap toward expanding capabilities, integrating duplicate continuous integration (C/I) and testing environments to run sprints in parallel.
  • With Softchoice, WTS is also focused on reducing technical debt related to legacy Azure resources, finding additional cost savings, and ensuring continued scalability and growth.

Read the full case study

Lumenpulse

The Challenge: Lumenpulse needed to replace legacy infrastructure supporting its ERP systems to support scalability and digital transformation without disrupting its 24/7/365 operations.

We’ve built a foundation for technological transformation at Lumenpulse. We’re anticipating many gains in productivity, efficiency and scalability.” – Alexandre Azevedo, IT Director, Lumenpulse

The Journey:

  • During a rapid expansion, Lumenpulse became concerned about the capacity of legacy ERP systems, including end-of-life Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 to scale.
  • They needed to transition to a future-proof ERP system, without interrupting ERP access for its fast-growing global manufacturing operations.
  • With Softchoice, they conducted a workload assessment of the existing environment and mapped its virtual machines to determine readiness for migration to the public cloud.
  • After making the decision to migrate to Microsoft Azure, Lumenpulse worked with Softchoice to implement an array of Azure resources to modernize its ERP and business operations.
  • The full deployment was completed on time after 10 months, after which Lumenpulse was onboarded to a fully managed cloud and end-user support arrangement with Softchoice.
  • Lumenpulse has since benefited from streamlining of routine tasks and lower costs resulting from tiering inactive data to low-cost storage and Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances.

Next Steps:

  • Through the Softchoice Keystone Operations Center, Lumenpulse has 24/7/365 access to Microsoft-certified technical engineers for cloud infrastructure monitoring and escalation.
  • Under the Softchoice Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, they also benefit from flexible monthly billing to keep the costs of their Azure deployments under control.

Read the full case study

What’s Next for You Cloud Journey? 

We’ve covered two stories where businesses have re-invented their business operations and product offerings through cloud adoption and migration.

But no cloud transition is ever fully complete. Working with a strategic managed services partner like Softchoice will help you:

  • Achieve the right mix of cloud services to meet your business needs
  • Take the risk out of cloud adoption and migration
  • Help you reduce and control costs in your cloud environment
  • Drive product and service innovation while maintaining security and compliance
  • Help you address cloud infrastructure skills gaps

Planning to migrate one or more workloads to the public cloud? 

Learn more about how we can help by exploring Softchoice Cloud Services.

How a Pandemic is Driving Innovation

From grocery store clerks to physicians and nurses, COVID-19 made us keenly aware of the people on the front lines ensuring life would go on, and that we were kept safe. 

According to a series of new studies, businesses of all sizes are starting to look at the cloud as a new kind of essential service. With the shift to remote work and digital operations, innovation in the cloud has never been so critical.  

Cloud Adoption was Already Speeding Up Before COVID-19 

Numerous studies conducted just before the COVID-19 outbreak showed businesses were already expanding their journey to the cloud. A Softchoice survey of North American leaders found 66% of businesses intended to go cloud-first” on all new workloads. 

We also found that 37% of businesses were starting to look to cloud as an innovation engine, that is using cloud infrastructure to build new applications and services or unlock new insights from their data. At the same time, O’Reilly’s Cloud Adoption in 2020 study said almost half of all businesses planned to move 75% or more of their applications to the cloud by 2021. 

Along came the devastating global pandemic. Instead of seeing massive cuts to cloud budgets and initiatives, however, we saw IT leaders move to the cloud faster than before.  

 In one poll40% of respondents said COVID-19 was accelerating their move to the cloud. Meanwhile, 76% said the pandemic had led them to increase their spending on private and public cloud infrastructure services, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. 

 Why Cloud Innovation is Accelerating 

 All of this makes perfect sense when you consider what businesses are facing — and how the cloud can help them overcome it. Stay at home orders, social distancing and a radical shift in consumer behavior has forced businesses to rethink workplace experienceand go-to-market strategies almost overnight.  

“What you are going to see is an acceleration of more people going 100% to the cloud,” said Mary Treseler, O’Reilly’s vice president of content strategy in an interview with Tech Republic 

As businesses get back to (relative) normal, business and IT leaders are looking to the future with some uncertainty. They do not want to be caught off guard again, and they are looking to the cloud to shore up remote work and other business continuity capabilities.  

Don’t Take Our Word for It  

This pandemic-prompted innovation meshes with what we’ve learned through this year’s virtual Innovation Executive Forums. Two stories stand out from our recent event with senior IT leaders in Central Canada, showing just how fast innovation happening now. 

After COVID-19 shut down operations, an IEF member in the food retail industry worked with legal and finance teams to create a new curbside pickup and eCommerce application. The new app took just three weeks to launch. 

Another IEF member in the travel industry said his business lost almost 95% of its revenues in April and May. In response, the IT leader helped the business lay the groundwork to deliver more tailored, end-to-end travel experiences. He says IT has had to shift priorities and shorten delivery timelines to help the business survive 

In both of these stories, IT was forced to act quickly to keep the business alive and thriving. In each case, relying on cloud infrastructure, platforms and applications made a rapid response possible 

Speed Bumps Expected  

In our cloud adoption research, Softchoice found that security and compliance concerns were among the top hurdles keeping businesses from moving to the cloudBusiness leaders also struggled to recruit and retain the specialized talent needed to manage cloud infrastructure and control costs.  

Now that the pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption, don’t expect these challenges to disappear. In fact, because speed is now part of the equation, we expect these challenges to become even more important to navigate in the months ahead. To do that, finding the right partner – such as Softchoice – can make all the difference.  

 For more information on surviving and thriving in the COVID-19 era with cloud innovation, download our research brief, “Cloud: An Innovation Engine.”