Softchoice and Microsoft: A Partnership for Customer Success

As we announced last Monday, Softchoice has been recognized as Microsoft’s Canada Partner of the Year for 2020.

We are honored to have been ranked among Microsoft’s best commercial channel partners in Canada and to be recognized for excellence in delivering enterprise-grade solutions and services across the entire Microsoft technology stack.

“Being named Microsoft’s Canada Partner of The Year is a recognition of Softchoice’s leadership in delivering innovative solutions and services that accelerate our customers’ digital journeys,” said Andrew Caprara, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Business Development at Softchoice.

“We are excited about the positive impact Microsoft and Softchoice have together on our customers’ business as they adapt to a new working environment.”

This award wasn’t just the culmination of a fantastic year together, but also the natural outcome of a longstanding partnership that continues to help Softchoice and Microsoft deliver success with digital transformation for our customers across the US and Canada.

A Commitment to Continuing Innovation

For the last several years, Softchoice has dedicated significant effort and investment into building foundational capabilities across Microsoft’s cloud, productivity, collaboration, and security technologies.

With this award, Microsoft has recognized the transformation the Softchoice team has undergone to enhance our capabilities and cover an end-to-end solution. Today we are not only equipped to help our customers select and manage the right Microsoft subscriptions for their needs but also tap into the advanced services capabilities of a global system integrator to ensure successful implementation and adoption of Microsoft technology.

We have 142 Microsoft-certified experts with 13 Gold competencies. We were also Canada’s first accredited Microsoft Azure Expert managed service provider (MSP), the highest accreditation available for the Azure cloud platform.

As a member of Microsoft’s exclusive global partner group, our team has deep connections to the Microsoft engineering team, allowing us to field some of the best-informed professionals in the industry to help customers implement and adopt Microsoft technology. This connectivity has also allowed us to continue to stay at the forefront of Microsoft product development and quickly deploy new features to help the organizations we work with to respond and adapt to new challenges.

This capability has been more important than ever in a year when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted business-as-usual for organizations everywhere. In response, some of the services we launched this year include enhanced Adoption Services for Microsoft 365 and Teams to increase end-user usage, the EMS Accelerator to expand mobile access and security, and the Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure solutions to enable remote work in a short timeframe.

What makes the Softchoice team proudest about this award, however, is the validation of our view that successful digital transformation happens with people, not just technology. To this end, we maintain a focus on driving successful adoption that in turn leads to customer success.

Dedication to Customer Success in the Cloud

An essential part of our continued success in partnership with Microsoft stems from our dedication to technical excellence across the full spectrum of Microsoft solutions and services.

This advanced expertise has helped us guide organizations in their journey to adopt Azure infrastructure and services to differentiate their offerings and modernize the backend infrastructure their businesses run on.

For example, over the last year, Softchoice worked with an LED lighting solutions company in Canada to upgrade its enterprise resource planning (ERP). The underlying infrastructure was based on legacy Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008, which would go end-of-life (EOL) in January 2020.

As a result of a workload assessment, the Softchoice team determined a migration to Azure would best meet the customer’s needs for superior, scalable infrastructure supporting its ERP systems.

Our deep bench strength in Azure helped Softchoice not only recommend and implement a suite of Azure services that would modernize its operations but also take advantage of extended security updates to protect its environment throughout the transition.

Today, the organization has a foundation on which to transform its core business and support growth on a global scale, supported 24/7/365 by certified Softchoice engineers.

Supporting Better Communication and Collaboration

Another essential aspect of our strong partnership with Microsoft is our focus on understanding customer challenges. As a rule, we aim to design solutions and services to drive adoption of new technology through robust planning, training, and management support to empower digital transformation.

This approach goes beyond just implementing Microsoft services to ensuring that the technology implemented meets the needs of users and that organizations get the most value from their investment by achieving full adoption.

We applied this approach this past year when working with a direct bank in Canada to replace its aging unified communications (UC) infrastructure with a new solution incorporating Skype for Business for voice and Microsoft Teams for collaboration.

The customer worked directly with a professional services architect from Softchoice to design a full implementation plan based on the organization’s unique user needs and profiles.  As a result, the organization was able to remove unnecessary software from their environment while maximizing their return on investment (ROI) by implementing tools and features that their users would adopt and use.

Meanwhile, because of the global health crisis, the rapid adoption of technologies for secure remote access and collaboration became mission-critical for our customers in 2020. In response, Softchoice developed and delivered a Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure solution to provide 12 organizations with a stable and secure means to continue operating while keeping employees safe within a 3-month period.

One such organization was a Canadian university that needed a remote learning solution that would allow remote students to use applications requiring high compute power from any PC deployed as quickly as possible. The Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure solution allowed Softchoice to integrate virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) with the institution’s on-premise networks and existing Azure AD and Office 365 solutions.

The resulting implementation supported remote access to lab applications on any device or browser for 1,000 students while delivering superior performance over application streaming solutions.

Here’s to Many More Years!

We would once again like to thank Microsoft for this honor and we look forward to continuing to build on our partnership over the years to come.

With over 30 years of experience helping customers embrace technology to unleash their potential, Softchoice has continued to invest in our partnership as well as our people. Whether it’s adopting cloud services and infrastructure, onboarding new productivity and collaboration tools, or differentiating your business with modern applications, Softchoice is positioned to help you select, deploy and manage the right solutions to accelerate your digital transformation.

 

Explore the Microsoft partner page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Role of DevOps in Building Cloud Applications

In collaboration with Microsoft. 

Why do so many software projects overrun their budgets and timelines, or even fail altogether? While there are many possible causes, from the technical to the cultural, the most common include inadequate communication, lack of collaboration and difficulty adapting to the specific skills and demands of cloud computing.

For example, imagine a system administrator who has been overseeing an on-prem application, which is now in the process of being moved into Microsoft Azure. At each stage of the app lifecycle, from initial lift-and-shift through modernization, new skills will be needed to navigate the transition and meet all the project requirements. 

Some traditional competencies, applying patches for instance, are no longer as relevant as cloud service providers handle them. But  without a solid DevOps practice in place, a lot can go wrong, including:

  • Departmental silos that result in miscommunications and time-consuming rework or duplication of effort.
  • Software releases that fall behind schedule or suffer from lower quality even when completed.
  • In fact, the 2019 Accelerated State of DevOps Report found that DevOps made a major difference in an organization’s ability to deploy code fast, minimize lead times, avoid change failures and recover services.

DevOps helps solve some of the central problems with cloud application development and management. But what is DevOps, exactly, and how can teams get the most value from it?

Defining DevOps: A movement for better coordination and collaboration

DevOps can seem like a Rorschach Test. Every person who examines it will provide a different definition of what it is. Despite varying perceptions, there are some generally accepted principles of DevOps, as shown in definitions of the term from cloud service providers like Microsoft Azure.

DevOps encompasses:

  • An overarching cultural commitment to unifying development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) for superior collaboration between these teams and the elimination of silos. This component requires effective leadership to bring once-siloed departments together.
  • The widespread implementation of automation, as well as of practices such as continuous integration and continuous delivery (along with native security measures), infrastructure-as-code and Agile methodology.
  • Specific tools that support the more collaborative and continuous workflows in DevOps, including CI/CD platforms and Azure templates for automated deployment, provisioning and configuration of infrastructure.
  • Ongoing measurement of everything (for instance, the KPIs identified in the Accelerate State of DevOps Report, such as deployment frequency and average lead time) to ensure visibility into and refinement of processes. 

Through these principles, DevOps offers substantial value to any organization working its way through the cloud application lifecycle. The main benefits range from more consistent software quality and fewer defects to lower costs and faster time to market.

Greater consistency

Automation is a key tenet of DevOps, and for good reason: It helps remove many of the manual workflows that create bottlenecks during development, deployment and operations. Instead of relying on siloed workflows that are prone to human error, teams can instead automate activities like testing and deployment. Moreover, these workflows can be scaled and managed much more efficiently than before. 

The same infrastructure can be automatically deployed across multiple environments for development, quality assurance and more, plus governance is simplified by DevOps tools for tracking versions and changes. DevOps companies enjoy greater reliability of their IT operations even as they take on ambitious new projects.

Lower costs

DevOps boost agility, enabling teams to respond more quickly to changes in their markets and seize opportunities as they arise. Under a traditional ops model, shepherding just one app through its lifecycle from start to finish can take so long that it’s no longer relevant by the time it’s completed. 

The numerous delays and duplicated work associated with app development. For example, not having a clear picture of  requirements and specifications creates the need to navigate disparate documents. The cost of these inefficiencies adds up as the pace and quality of the project erode. DevOps offers a better blueprint for success.

Superior customer experience

Now that public cloud is an integral part of so much consumer and B2B software, customers have higher expectations for application and user experience. After all, public clouds can deliver many more resources on-demand faster than on-prem infrastructure. This supports use cases like audio/video streaming and conferencing, online backup and more sophisticated web apps.

In this context, it’s crucial for DevOps teams to evaluate KPIs related to customer experience on a regular basis. With the right implementation and tools, DevOps can help greatly with hitting metrics for website load times, conversation rates, dwell time and others relevant to a wide range of industries. Internally, DevOps can also provide a much improved experience for teams that once had to rely on disparate data sources and error-prone manual work to get almost anything done.

Getting more from DevOps in Azure 

Although DevOps can in theory be implemented to support any type of software project, it provides the most ROI in the cloud. Azure provides the infrastructure and tools to maximize the value of DevOps automation.

More specifically, Azure offers (among many other features):

Templates

Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates that can be pulled from the Azure Marketplace or from GitHub repositories. These resources allow for more efficient application provisioning, as well as the deployment of numerous services along with their dependencies. 

For example, virtual machines, databases, and various connections can all be configured with specific input/output parameters within ARM templates. Overall, Azure templates simplify deployment and rollback while providing convenient support for cross-configurations and updates.

ASR/DRaaS

Azure Site Recovery helps ensure that even complex applications in DevOps environments can have their critical workloads recovered with just one click. It’s simple to deploy from the Azure portal, receives automatic updates, eases regulatory compliance and reduces infrastructure costs compared to an on-prem DR solution.

Getting started with ASR can be as simple as replicating a VM(s) to a different Azure region. By using ASR, it’s possible to support high availability via secondary instances of key applications and also make accurate backups of critical data, in addition to having reliable DRaaS during a failure.

Serverless computing

Azure’s serverless offerings come with availability and fault tolerance built in and nothing that needs to be provisioned or managed in a traditional way. As a result, DevOps teams can move more quickly, taking advantage of Azure APIs and using a fully managed platform to build applications for edge, hybrid and cloud environments. 

Where to go next with Azure and DevOps

Microsoft has recognized Softchoice as an Azure Expert Managed Service Provider (MSP) for the delivery of high-fidelity managed services. We offer our Public Cloud Technology Review, which is a planning assessment that answers questions about which workloads to move into Azure, the costs and configurations necessary for running these targets on Azure and the specifics of Azure migrations.

Softchoice Managed Cloud services will also help with Azure cost management, operations, mentorship and support. Set up a conversation with an expert today to get started with our Azure offerings in your DevOps organization.

Microsoft’s Monthly Newsletter | December 2019

Microsoft Newsletter

Here are your top 11 must-read announcements from Microsoft this December.

[Read more…]