Microsoft Azure, formerly called Windows Azure, is a public cloud platform with a comprehensive suite of services that offer both Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) features. The Azure platform includes over 60 products and hundreds of services that cover a broad range of areas that include Windows and Linux virtual machine hosting, scalable cloud storage, data management, messaging, mobility, application development with Visual Studio, Internet of Things (IoT), content delivery, media encoding and streaming, and machine learning based on Cortana technology.
Public clouds have revolutionized computing but also present a raft of questions for business executives, chief information officers, network architects, and IT managers. Should public cloud services supplement or replace your private cloud or on-premises data center? How do you deal with legacy solutions that are not easily migrated to a public cloud? What about performance-driven applications that are not appropriate for virtualized servers? How much direct control are you comfortable handing off to a public cloud? What about security, compliance with data sovereignty regulations, management automation, application development, troubleshooting? How does Microsoft Azure compare to Amazon AWS, and what services should you use among the hundreds that are available? Most organizations dealing with these questions adopt hybrid solutions that incorporate private and public clouds in order to accommodate and modernize all their information assets. To find the cloud solution that maximizes business value for your company requires careful study and a thorough familiarity with modern IT technology.
Progent has extensive experience assisting organizations of all sizes to design, deploy and manage IT networks that incorporate various combinations of public and private clouds and physical datacenters. Progent offers online and onsite expertise to help you assess the benefits and risks of different cloud-centric and hybrid network models, and Progent can help you integrate your network with the Microsoft Azure cloud products and services that are right for you. Progent can help you deploy VMs on Azure Virtual Machines, set up easily scalable cloud storage using Azure Storage services, simplify identity management with Azure Active Directory, and implement backup/restore solutions with Azure Backup. Progent can also help you establish secure and convenient access between your stationary or mobile users and Azure cloud resources by helping you configure and troubleshoot VPN connections and firewalls.
Popular Microsoft Azure Cloud Services
Microsoft Azure offers more than 60 IaaS and PaaS products and many hundreds of services covering virtually all areas of information technology including compute, data and storage, networking, management, security, web, mobile, applications, and development. Azure services are available on a subscription basis. As with Amazon Web Services, you pay for what you use. Popular Azure products and services for which Progent offers advanced consulting and technical support include:
Azure Virtual Machines hosting service allows you to deploy, scale and manage virtual machines on the Azure cloud. An Azure Storage account provides storage for the operating system disk and any data disks. Azure Virtual Machines support Windows Server, SQL Server, Linux, IBM, SAP, Oracle Database and Oracle WebLogic Server, and other platforms. Various classes of virtual machines (VMs) are available and priced based on CPU performance, memory, disk capacity and I/O latency. You can access Windows VMs via Remote Desktop Connection (RDP). In addition to being able to run Windows enterprise applications such as SQL Server, Exchange, SharePoint, Dynamics, R Server and System Center, you can run popular Linux distributions including Red Hat, Ubuntu, SUSE and CentOS plus open-source solutions like Chef, Puppet, and Docker.
In 2014, Microsoft Azure introduced Azure Resource Manager, which supersedes what is now called Azure Classic as the preferred VM deployment model. Resource Manager dramatically simplifies VM management by allowing you to provision, deploy, manage, and monitor all the services for your Azure VMs as a group whose members share a common lifecycle, rather than handling these services individually. Azure Virtual Machines deployment options with Resource Manager include Azure Portal, Azure Resource Manager template, Azure PowerShell and Azure Tools for Visual Studio.
Azure Storage provides massively scalable and automatically load balanced cloud storage. Subscribers with General Purpose Storage accounts have access to storage services for Blobs, Tables, Queues, Files, and Azure virtual machine disks. The capacity limit for each account is 500TB. An optional Premium storage tier is available for virtual machine disks and allows you to run VM workloads on high-performance solid state drives (SSDs).
Blob storage for a General Purpose Azure Storage account is intended for large amounts of unstructured object data such as documents, social data and media, backups, web content, logs, and Big Data. Blobs are organized into containers, which facilitates the assignment of security policies to groups of objects. To import or export very large blobs that are impractical to send over the Internet, you can ship a hard drive to Microsoft.
A special type of Blob Storage account is intended for applications that use only block or append blob storage. Blob Storage accounts allow you to specify Hot or Cool access patterns for block and append blobs (not page blobs). This allows you to classify frequently and infrequently accessed objects in your storage accounts in order to achieve an appropriate balance between performance and costs.
Table storage is low-cost storage for developers creating non-relational NoSQL data with a schemaless design such as data for web applications, address books, device information, and other types of metadata. Table storage supports a subset of the OData protocol for advanced querying and allows JSON and XML-based AtomPub formats. Queue storage simplifies the development of messaging solutions by supporting asynchronous communication between application components running inside or outside the cloud. Azure File storage supports SMB file shares so you can quickly can migrate legacy applications to the Azure cloud.
Azure Active Directory is a cloud-based directory and identity management service that enables password synchronization across on-premises and cloud-hosted environments. Azure AD is incorporated in Office 365, Salesforce.com, DropBox, Concur, Dynamics CRM Online and thousands of other cloud applications. Capabilities include multi-factor authentication, device registration, self-service password and group management, privileged account management, role-based access control, application usage monitoring, plus auditing and security monitoring and alerts. Azure AD integrates seamlessly with your Windows Server Active Directory to simplify the integration of on-premises and cloud-based identities. Azure offers high availability by storing your directories on at least three geo-dispersed datacenters. Azure AD also allows you to monitor application usage, provides extensive security monitoring reporting, and enables secure mobile/remote access to on-premises applications.
Azure AD allows single sign-on and self-service passwords to access cloud and on-premises resources
The Azure AD Connect tool has replaced Windows Azure Active Directory Sync (DirSync), Azure AD Sync and Forefront Identity Manager as the preferred means to connect on-premises directories and synchronize identity data with Azure AD, Office 365 and SaaS cloud applications.
Azure Backup is a managed backup service that simplifies offsite backup of physical, hybrid and cloud environments. Three copies of backup data are stored in a single Azure datacenter, and three additional copies can optionally be stored in a geographically separate Azure site. Backup reliability is rated at 99.9%, and retention in Azure can be up to 99 years. Backup schedules can be daily, monthly, weekly, and yearly, and recovery time is faster and less expensive than traditional tape-based solutions. Backup data is encrypted prior to being sent over a secure connection to Azure and is stored encrypted. The encryption key is stored and managed locally. Other features include throttling to take advantage of off-peak hours, compression to improve performance and lower storage costs, and incremental backups to conserve bandwidth. To save time and bandwidth, Azure Import/Export allows you to perform your initial (or seed) backup locally and deliver physical media to the nearest Azure datacenter.
Azure Backup can be integrated seamlessly with System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) to provide specialized support for Microsoft's mission-critical workloads including Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint, and Hyper-V. DPM works transparently with Hyper-V Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) to protect virtual machines without disrupting their accessibility. DPM also offers platform-specific granular restore features such as Exchange mailbox recovery for Exchange, database-level recovery for SQL Server, and Item Level Recovery (ILR) for SharePoint. Azure Backup environments integrated with SCDPM can be monitored with System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) to track system health, performance, and utilization.
How Progent Can Help You with Microsoft Azure Integration
If you want to integrate your network with Microsoft Azure, whether as a cloud-centric environment or as a hybrid on-premises/cloud solution, Progent can help you to evaluate the advantages of the Azure platform compared to other public clouds or alternative networking models such as colocation. Progent can assist you with every stage of a migration to Microsoft Azure including requirements analysis, readiness assessment, solution architecture, pilot testing, implementation, management automation, performance tuning, license management, disaster recovery strategies, security planning, and regulatory compliance validation.
Progent can help you decide which of your applications are appropriate for Microsoft Azure and can help you make your legacy applications cloud ready. Progent can provide cost-effective online consulting expertise is available for small tasks to help you quickly overcome technical hurdles or Progent can Progent can provide end-to-end project management outsourcing or co-sourcing services to that ensure that you Azure integration initiative is successfully completed on time and within your budget.
Microsoft Azure can host a wide variety of workloads from multiple vendors, and according to Microsoft one quarter of Azure virtual machines run Linux. But Azure includes many optimizations for Microsoft servers and applications as well as management and development platforms. Microsoft continues to improve Azure's ability to support hybrid on-promises/cloud environments centered on Microsoft technologies. A major initiative in this area is the Azure Stack powered by Windows Server 2016. Progent's Microsoft Gold-certified consulting team offers expert support for Azure-optimized products by providing services that include Windows Server consulting, Exchange Server expertise, SQL Server integration and development, SharePoint design, Office 365 configuration and training, Skype for Business integration, System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) consulting, System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) support, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) consulting, System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVVM) support, Microsoft Intune management, and Dynamics GP consulting and customization.
Among the most common technical problems organizations run into when migrating to Microsoft Azure or other public clouds is reconfiguring firewalls and VPN tunnels to provide users with secure access to cloud resources. Progent can provide the services of Cisco-certified CCIE network consultants and firewall experts certified by major vendors like Symantec, Barracuda, SonicWALL, WatchGuard, and Check Point to help you set up or debug firewalls for connecting to Microsoft Azure. To support the modern BYOD computing model, Progent's iPhone and iPad technology consultants, Android integration experts and BlackBerry specialists can help you integrate and manage secure mobile endpoints for your Azure users. Progent can set up remote access to your Azure-connected computers and work in concert with your in-house technical staff and Microsoft's support engineers to resolve Azure-related problems quickly and affordably.
Examples of online consulting services provided by Progent to help businesses integrate their networks with Microsoft Azure include:
Additional Cloud Integration Services Available from Progent
- Review hybrid system design for Azure Virtual Machines and Storage
- Build and test virtual machine images for Windows or Linux servers and applications
- Configure, update and troubleshoot IPsec VPN tunnels for access to Azure
- Configure and troubleshoot firewalls from Cisco, Barracuda, SonicWALL, and others
- Set up and debug endpoints
- Configure Cisco AnyConnect for Azure access
- Install and use Azure Active Directory and Azure AD Connect
- Configure Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS)
- Design and manage backup vaults with Azure Backup
- Troubleshoot and repair VHDs
- Set up and verify security rules
- Resolve IP addressing issues
- Design long-term storage solutions based on Azure
- Set up System Center Data Protection Manager for disaster recovery preparedness
- Set up System Center Operations Manager for DPM monitoring
- Resolve synchronization issues with Office 365
- Set up System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) to deploy applications
- Install System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) locally and on Azure
- Design and configure Exchange hybrid deployments
- Tune query performance on SQL Server hosted by Azure
- Migrate to Azure with Citrix XenDesktop
- Configure and install XenDesktop VMs, Licensing Server, Delivery Controllers and Storefront
- Work on PowerShell issues for loading modules to Azure
- Automate software license management
- Resolve certificate issues
A growing selection of public cloud services compete with or complement Microsoft Azure and the range and capability of cloud services is evolving quickly. Microsoft's own Office 365 family of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications, including Exchange Online and Skype for Business Online, are based on the Azure infrastructure and offer alternatives to Azure's IaaS model. Progent can help you assess the business benefits of the major public cloud offerings and can help you integrate and manage IT ecosystems that incorporate an assortment of public and private clouds and physical datacenters. Other public cloud platforms supported by Progent include:
Microsoft offers strong support for building hybrid environments that seamlessly combine Office 365 Exchange Online and on-premises Exchange systems. These hybrid solutions allow you to locate some mailboxes on your local facilities, which may be necessary in order to comply with regulatory requirements, and assign other mailboxes to the Office 365 cloud. Progent's Microsoft-certified Exchange consultants can assist your IT team with any aspect of planning, integrating and troubleshooting a hybrid deployment of Office 365 and on-premises Exchange. Progent's can deliver as-needed support to guide you through especially complex technical road blocks, and Progent can also provide expert project management outsourcing or co-sourcing to ensure that your hybrid Office 365/Exchange initiative is completed on time, within budget, and in accordance with leading practices. To learn about Progent's consulting services for hybrid Office 365 and on-premises Exchange environments, see Office 365 integration with on-premises Exchange.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a wide array of cloud services such as Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) for hosting virtual servers, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for cloud storage, and Amazon Glacier for value-priced long-term archival storage. Progent can help you create cloud solutions based on Amazon AWS and assist you to design and carry out partial or complete migrations of on-premises resources to the Amazon AWS Cloud, resolve connectivity problems, optimize performance, and implement centralized management tools. For details about Progent's integration consulting for Amazon AWS, visit Amazon AWS Integration Consulting.
Amazon Marketplace Web Service (Amazon MWS) is a comprehensive library of APIs that enable companies that sell products through Amazon to integrate their in-house application software for product listings, orders, payments, fulfillment, and reporting with Amazon's services. By integrating in-house apps and processes with Amazon's retail network, businesses can grow their markets, cut operational costs, accelerate responsiveness to customers, and improve their bottom line. To learn about Progent's development consulting for Amazon Marketplace Web Service, refer to Amazon Marketplace Web Service (MWS) Development and Integration Consulting.
Contact Progent for Cloud Integration Consulting
If you need help with any aspect of integrating your network with Microsoft Azure or other public cloud platform, call Progent at 800-993-9400 or visit Contact Progent.