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Transforming the datacenter

Cloud isn't just for scrappy start-ups anymore. Cloud-powered infrastructure gives your operation new flexibility and efficiency, if you approach it with a comprehensive plan.

The biggest fear early cloud adopters overcame was the fear of disruption. How would they move everything from their existing data center to a cloud service without disrupting business operations? The answer was, they didn't.

Transition gradually

Smart companies realized that the safest way to transition from on-premises systems to the cloud would be to first assess all their applications, workloads, and other data assets to determine which would be most amenable to the cloud transition. They began with low-criticality workloads and slowly worked their way up the list. Some are still working through that process.

For those organizations, a new concern emerged. How would they manage an environment that basically consisted of two network cores; one still on-premises and the other now in a cloud facility? Would they need to maintain two separate environments? Two management consoles? Two sets of protocols? What would happen when they needed to combine resources from both environments to accomplish something?

Active Directory to the rescue

The alignment of Active Directory for Windows Server with Active Directory for Azure meant that data center managers could create a unified, seamless system that combined both on-premises and cloud-resident systems under one AD forest. This enables IT to use one set of protocols, one set of user credentials, one set of security standards, and one unified data environment.

It also facilitated the smooth movement of more applications, workloads, and other data assets from the on-prem network to the cloud. Once the two are aligned, it becomes almost effortless to provision new virtual machines and new resource stacks, and move them across the network.

The migration accelerates

Gartner recently predicted that, by 2020, the "cloud shift" will affect more than $1 trillion in IT spending. That means that more organizations will be migrating more of their IT operations to the cloud.Some will still need to port, modify, or rewrite some applications before they can be migrated. The recent embrace of Open Systems by Microsoft clearly signals Redmond's commitment to assist in this challenge. One way in which the company is facilitating cloud migration is by developing more and more enhancements to Azure services that will accommodate a broader variety of platforms and environments.

Many resources combine to provide a complete Azure service for your applications. These include virtual machines (VM), your storage account, web apps, databases, and your virtual network (VLAN). Originally, when you managed an Azure cloud environment, you created, deployed, and managed each of these separately. When adjustments needed to be made, you went to the required consoles manually. When you wanted to replicate your solution in another Azure environment, you had to recreate everything.

The introduction of Azure Resource Management (ARM) in 2014 changed all that, mainly by providing resource groups, which are defined by Microsoft as "a container that holds related resources for an Azure solution. The resource group can include all the resources for the solution, or only those resources that you want to manage as a group. You decide how you want to allocate resources to resource groups based on what makes the most sense for your organization." Now all the required resources can be managed as a group, which saves tremendous time and effort.

The compelling case for cloud

As the cloud revolution marched on, it became clear that cloud customers enjoy better IT services at a lower cost. It made little sense to own and operate your own servers when a cloud provider could deliver a professionally operated data service, while you pay only for what you use.

Now, all of the tools required to ease the path from on-premises to cloud facilities are emerging very quickly. Companies can move from on-premises to robust co-existence and then finally complete the journey to the cloud on their own schedule with virtually no disruption whatsoever.