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​Microsoft looks to fix multi-cloud mess with Azure Australia Central

The tech giant now boasts four Azure regions in Australia, with its latest, Azure Australia Central, allowing organisations to collocate legacy and modern applications.

Microsoft has announced the go-live of two new regions in Australia targeted towards government, financial services, and critical national infrastructure clients in Australia and New Zealand that are making the move to multi-cloud.

The new offering, Azure Australia Central, has been designed for mission-critical workloads, and comes after Microsoft achieved official accreditation from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) in June, allowing the company to offer 50 services on the ASD Certified Cloud Services List across Azure and Office 365.

Offered out of Canberra Data Centres (CDC), the two new Azure cloud regions will allow for the storing of unclassified and protected-level data.

CDC built its facilities in advance as top secret, which allows Microsoft to offer services from within CDC, inheriting the characteristics already in place and thus complying with Australian government requirements.

Read more: Microsoft partners with Canberra Data Centres to cash in on government IT spend

Speaking with ZDNet ahead of the launch, Azure engineering lead for Microsoft Australia James Kavanagh said that although multi-cloud is the model many Australian organisations are moving to, it comes with challenges around how disparate and segregated data becomes, as well as security-related concerns that this presents to national critical infrastructure.

"If you are sourcing applications in multi-cloud from lots of different places, you start to lose assurance of where your data is, where your applications are being run from, what the network is between them, and how to deal with access and management and identity and integration -- and a multi-cloud strategy," Kavanagh said.

"Even though it makes total sense and is the way we see things working, what we're seeing is a really disparate multi-cloud strategy emerging from most enterprises where their data is in lots of places, their applications are in lots of places, and they have a lot of complexity bringing them together."

Aside from the security status CDC boasts, another characteristic of CDC Kavanagh said Microsoft is taking advantage of is its ability to offer collocation space to customers.

"These are flexible spaces that for customers to deploy their own infrastructure ... it allows a scenario where our customers can bring their legacy systems or systems they want to modernise into CDC and directly connect them to Azure and in their own time, modernise or extend those applications to the cloud," he continued.

"We see that as being critical for some of the most sensitive banking applications, transport, energy, utilities -- they can't just be picked up and dropped into a public cloud environment, they need a long-term of migration and management."

In launching Azure Australia Central, Microsoft has partnered with 47 organisations such as SAP, Telstra Health, AXON, DXC Technology, Accenture, Dimension Data, Veritas, Citrix, and Leidos; and local software companies including Intelledox, Gravity, GIS People, and Ralleo that also build on Azure.

See also: Government bowel cancer screening register delayed to 'late 2019' | ATO gives DXC Technology further AU$735m for IT services | Five years and AU$103m later, DHS' new child support system has a staff interface | ASD gives Dimension Data protected-level cloud certification

Open-source partners such as RedHat, Cloudera, and MapR will also be delivering their respective solutions out of Azure Australia Central.

Microsoft launched Azure in Australia in 2014 with regions in Sydney and Melbourne. Azure Australia Central brings its total datacentre capability in the country to four.

CDC is 49 percent owned by the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation, which provides super services and products to Australian government employees and employers.

CDC has been operating for around 10 years, and now boasts a large portfolio of datacentre assets in Canberra split across two separate campuses. As of August, 40 government departments and agencies offer services to around 80 government agencies out of its facilities.

The CSIRO's Bracewell supercomputer is also housed within CDC.

"There's a perfect storm; an acceleration toward cloud adoption, but it's very fragmented and adding complexity," CDC chief executive Greg Boorer told ZDNet.

"What utopia looks like is having your legacy infrastructure sitting next to, in the same facility, as your cloud platform, and the benefit of that is you're saving hundreds of thousands of dollars minimum per month in moving data in and out of these platforms.

"What we're seeing is that by collocating legacy with modern -- new world and old world together -- what we're actually creating for government and national critical infrastructure-type industry organisations is what we call a transformation runway which actually will provide a runway to accelerate the digital transformation and modernisation without the huge duplication and cost and complexity that we're seeing in the market today."

The availability of Azure Australia Central follows last week's announcement that Microsoft Australia had launched an initiative to deliver critical cloud computing skills to 5,000 public sector workers by 2020.

Microsoft recently announced that the Victorian Supreme Court is undertaking a digital transformation that uses Microsoft Azure to connect all 34 courtrooms and underpin a digital case management solution to streamline and speed the process of justice.

The company's Azure cloud services and bot technologies also support the Australian Department of Human Services, while the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has placed Dynamics365 and Microsoft Azure at the heart of a new system aimed at streamlining Australian Border Force cargo inspections.

The Bendigo Hospital, Victoria's newest acute care facility, is delivering "anytime anywhere" access to patient and clinical information with the help of local Microsoft partner Mexia on Microsoft Azure; emergency services in Queensland, NSW, and Victoria also rely on Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office 365 to respond in the event of natural disasters; and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science was one of the first government agencies to federate with Microsoft Azure and one of the first government departments in the greater APAC region to roll out Dynamics365.

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