The Business Value of Microsoft Azure - Part 4 - Virtual Machines

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This article is part 4 of a series of articles that focus on the Business Value of Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure provides a variety of cloud based technologies that can enable organizations in a number of ways. Rather than focusing on the technical aspects of Microsoft Azure (there’s plenty of that content out there) this series will focus on business situations and how Microsoft Azure services can benefit.

In our last article we focused on data loss from the standpoint of system failure, corruption or other disasters that requires access to a backup. Today, and I’m surprised it took me to part 4 to get to it, we’re going to focus on Virtualization. One of the simplest and most common Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions is virtualization, or the creation of virtual machines in a cloud infrastructure.

Take, for example, the story of a local town. They have an ERP system that is currently running on Windows Server 2003. The nature of the application is such that it runs best through Remote Desktop (RDP) and is how both their local and remote users access the system. Like many towns they were wrestling with the best path forward for their infrastructure. Here are a few characteristics that defined them:

  1. They had an older ERP system that they needed to upgrade because it was currently running and only supported on Windows Server 2003. Windows Server 2003 hits end of life in July of 2015.
  2. They weren’t certain if the next version of their ERP system was where they wanted to be in the long run, but hadn’t found a suitable replacement as of yet.
  3. Any investments in hardware/software to support the new ERP would therefore need to be questioned given the fact that it was conceivable they would only run it for another year.
  4. They had several locations throughout the town that all connected over RDP to access the ERP system because it was not designed to run well as a client/server system over a WAN.

After an initial assessment it was determined that their existing infrastructure would not be able to support the new environment. A local IT vendor quoted them approximately $50,000 in hardware and software to create a new virtual server environment on-premise. Were it not for the ERP upgrade requirements, their existing hardware/software would continue to be sufficient for a number of years. $50,000 is a significant amount given that the town isn’t sure it is going to stick with the ERP system. What else could this town do?

Enter Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines

In order to give the town some breathing room on making a switch to a different ERP system and ease their need to upgrade their on-premise infrastructure, the town turned to Microsoft Azure. Using the virtualization capabilities of the Azure platform the town created a new RDP environment along with the ERP system server and database. This solution, which the town connected to their existing environment with the site-to-site VPN capabilities of Azure, provided the town with a secure, reliable and easily expandable environment to meet their needs.

The key benefits of this approach were as follows:

  1. Eliminated $50,000 of up-front cost for revamping their existing hardware and shifted them to a reasonable $1,000/month Azure subscription model
  2. Avoided a sunk cost should the town decide to move to a different ERP solution, perhaps one that follows a SaaS model. With Azure, if a set of services is no longer needed you simply turn them off and you don’t get billed further.
  3. Allowed them to continue to get life out of their existing on-premise infrastructure
  4. Established a pattern that could be followed for other applications in that the town now had the option to quickly and easily add additional virtual machines into their Azure subscription to support other workloads.

Before your town or business elects to go down the traditional path of investing 10s of thousands of dollars in a new on-premise infrastructure, take a look at Microsoft Azure for your virtualization needs.

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