My experience with Windows Azure

ImageHypervizors, storage arrays, platforms, networking are the core of today’s datacenters: granted. 

We’ve spent the last 10 years or so redefining the datacenter and successfully injected hypervisor as a key player in the datacenter evolution and have today a very flexible, agile and dynamic datacenter, mainly driven by software, a.k.a virtualization.

 Was that the last step? We all realize that it could not stay like that. Virtualization itself was a solution that enabled over time organizations achieve new level of profitability and enhanced our capital expenditure while drastically reducing operational costs.

 

The challenge

 We all admitted that over time, while virtualization tremendously helped making IT no longer a cost centre but a key partner in a success of an organization, these same IT departments were struggling with management and automation, mainly due to the fact that virtualization itself was a complex ecosystem to manage.

 So many moving components, no longer could we keep eyes on all aspects of our organizations’ success foundations.

 And along came monitoring offering, mainly products and managed services offering from key trusted partner that alleviated part of the challenges. However the costs associated with such alignment was endangering the business model of the smaller SMB and we’ve witnessed the arising cloud offering.

 

The cloud

I’m often referring to the cloud offering as something that has been done for years by the largest  cloud service providers such as Amazon (http://aws.amazon.com) a.k.a AWS. AWS has been in cloud for some time now, and many smaller SMB have been heavily relying on that service to successfully drive down cost while increasing profitability.

 I mean the offering is great: get the SLA of a large organization at a fraction of the price and minimize the capital and operational expenditures needed to achieve a higher level of business continuity. Genius!

 Metrics must be kept somewhere, but I feel that AWS has grown exponentially in the last 4 years and let’s be realistic, the service received is bang on! How quickly can we spawn a virtual machines? 20, 30 minutes? How efficient is that service to help drive revenue while allowing entrepreneurs to focus on their growth? A life saver for many customers I have the privilege to talk to.

How great does it feel to not have to worry about datacenter management, server BIOs update, OS path…etc… good isn’t it?

When you think that cloud services allow you to build an entire datacenter and have no worries about management, Business continuity and SLA, while allowing the burst of processing power, storage and memory on the fly, truly a dream come true!

And new players are coming in the game with very compelling offerings. Vmware VCHS, Microsoft Azure, RackSpace, to only name of a few, are accelerating the momentum of adoption and creating a new business model, even more agile than we had build in the datacenter for almost a decade now.

 

Microsoft Azure

I want to share my experience with Azure this week. Not that the others are not providing the same flexibility, but the Cloud is all about automation, and while AWS is truly the game initiator in that space, I’ve experienced Azure in an untraditional way this week…

I was engaged this week on a customer call. The challenge was expressed by the customer as a very slow experience with desktop virtualization leveraging their current Desktop As A Service provider a.k.a “DaaS” while using their ERP system.

The result on the business is a very long time to respond to customer’s request, issue quotes and process sales orders. We all admit that could cause a big problem right?

The customer I was talking to was a typical entrepreneur: a great idea, a true builder, IT aware but surely focussed on the growth of his business with not time to spent on anything related to IT infrastructure nor desktops, and faced with a growing demand, doubling his sales force in less than 4 months. 

he has a simple need: service his customers, help them with their pain and build his business on an efficient model. But the desktop infrastructure is not following it. He took the best decision for his business, envisioning the future, and provide his team with a IT model that can follow them wherever they are, whenever they need it. 

While we were listening to his challenges and discussing the potential sources of the challenges in his current IT model, and the fact that maybe it was time to seat down with his IT provider, the customer said something very clear:

whomever helps me will be my go to partner!. I don’t have the time nor the interest in understanding what’s going on. I want it to work and to work now, regardless if I double or triple my organization, the Desktop service has to follow quickly and efficiently. i’m not in IT, I’m in sales.”  

Legitimate demand I would say. There is phrases like that, that are said and make you think that if you do not become innovative, you’re wasting the customer’s time. Frankly not something we want to be faced with. 

And as I was talking with the customer about potential remediations with the account manager, I threw in Azure. Why not AWS? I don’t know. Maybe because my organization is the largest Microsoft LAR in North-America and we know and do Microsoft better than anyone else. Who knows. 

To that, the customer replied: “great, how quickly can I see in it action”?

 

The test-drive a.k.a POC

 Another killing phrase; you have to see in that phrase two sides: you’ve build a trust, now you have to walk the talk.

 There’s a few things in Sales you don’t want to do: oversell, and while i had remained conservative in my conversation about Azure, mainly because, I have much smarter coworkers that are focussed on this offering, I realized I had set an expectation, and now we had a customer that wanted to see it. 

The next lines might sound simplistic but it was truly like that.

 I asked the customer to download teamview and login my computer. I logged in windowsazzure.com with my live.com account, and right there, in front of the customer, pulled my personal credit card and created an account on www.windowsazure.com. Unusual I admit, but now was the time to walk the talk. 

And as we were building the account, and creating virtual machines I had over my shoulder my dear Microsoft Solution Architect, overlooking at the steps we were completing, ensuring I was not drifting in the configurations.

 We selected the type of workload the customer wanted to see in action: Windows 2008R2 with 1 vCPU, 1.5GB of vRAM, 40GB disk space. Eventually this server would be hosting their ERP application.

 My friends, literally it took 4 minutes to set the variable for the server.

 As the server was getting provisioned, we discussed with the customer about the need to migrate away from his current provider to Azure through professional services; as many steps are needed, the technology is today a little more complexed that it used to be and the need for professional engineering is truly a safe investment to ensure such big move ends-up where it needs to be: in a safe zone, transparent to clients with a 100% success ratio. As we were defining an engineering engagement, the server got provisioned and was ready to be access through RDP.

The total time invested was less than 30 minutes. 30 minutes of conversation with a customer that was witnessing an infrastructure been created in front of him. Talk about credibility; 30 minutes to spawn a virtual machine accessible from a public network, that’s impressive. Oh and let’s not forget the networking aspect of that… DNS resolution was working right away! I doubt Microsoft had a bench of engineers spawning that machines, updating the DNS and making it available to us in 30 minutes. No friends, this was ALL automated. Automated and seamless, what the cloud should be all about. 

 Ok, I admit I haven’t been much implicated in the cloud business. I kept it on my radar but truly never experienced the operational aspect of it. The customer could not believe it: 30 minutes later, he had access to a virtual machine, supported by Microsoft Azure, and was enjoying the browsing and Windows experience while planning as a test in ERP application deployment. 

 Actually, our joy (and my surprise) was so high that we went ahead and installed his ERP application as a “POC”, and believe it or not within 68 minutes of conference call, not only had we identified the original challenges, explore alternatives, experience the alternative but had the customer’s financial ERP system running in the cloud.

 68 minutes? all I can say is “wow”, seriously Microsoft has done their homework and provided the cloud space is a very dangerous and compelling offer highly competitive to many others I have seen arising lately.

 Bravo!

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About florenttastet

As an IT professional and leader, my objective is to help an organization grow its IT department with new and innovative technologies in order to have production at the most efficient level ensuring the right alignment in the deployment of such technologies through a precise Professional Services results in a extraordinary experience for the customer. Team member of multiple projects, I have developed a strict work ethic allowing development of superior communication skills, as well as the ability to multi-task and meet precise deadlines. As an IT veteran with a broad background in consulting, management, strategy, sales and business development, I have developed an deep expertise in virtulization using VMware and Citrix products with a strong skillset on Storage Arrays (HP, EMC, Netapp, Nimble & IBM). I have also developed a Security practice through CheckPoints NGX R65-R66 (CCSA obtained) and Cisco PIX-ASA product line. Specialties: Microsoft infrastructure products; Monitoring HPOV, SCOM, CiscoWorks, Firewalls: checkpoint, PIX and ASA. Virtualization with VMware (ESX through vSphere & View/Horizon), Microsoft (Hyper-V server, VDI and App-V), Citrix (Xenserver, XenDesktop, Xenapp), Storage (EMC, HP, Netapp, Nimble & IBM), Reference Architectures and Converged Datacenters (vSPEX, Flexpod, vBlock, PureFlex & HP Matrix)
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