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Friday, November 4, 2016

What's driving interest in Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft Azure has been growing rapidly ever since its launch, as it closes the gap with longtime industry leader Amazon Web Services and further separates itself from competitors such as Google, IBM and RackSpace. According to Microsoft's quarterly earnings for Q1 2017, the company booked a 116 percent year-over-year increase in Azure revenue. Compute usage also doubled compared to a year ago, just like it had in the last two quarters of fiscal year 2016.

The run rate for Azure combined with Office 365 and Dynamics CRM online is estimated to be greater than $13 billion (run rate is calculated by multiplying the figures for the final month of the quarter by 12 to create an annualized figure). There is undoubtedly surging demand among today's enterprises for Azure, but what exactly is driving it? Here are a few of the things that are making a difference:

1. Simplified IT infrastructure management

Azure is best known as an infrastructure-as-a-service offering. In IaaS, compute, storage and networking capacity is available on-demand to customers, from a pool of resources that is overseen by a third party (in the case of Azure, this is Microsoft). Resource elasticity ensures that supply can keep up with demand, allowing infrastructure to scale as organizational requirements evolve.

In this way, IaaS is much simpler to deal with than any homespun set of infrastructures that you might maintain on-premises. Everything from hardware upgrades to security updates is handled by the cloud service provider. The price for this maintenance is included in the subscription that each company pays for IaaS, which is typically billed on a monthly basis and based on usage.

Overall, IaaS gives organizations flexibility in how much they pay and when. Entering credit card information and picking a service-level agreement are often the only steps cloud customers need to get started with something like Azure. The process is markedly less complex than traditional IT infrastructure procurement.

Azure is a rapidly growing cloud.Azure is a rapidly growing cloud.

2. Superior data security

Security is frequently cited as a top obstacle to cloud adoption. This makes sense on some level, since migrating to the cloud means entrusting the provider to keep all of your data safe even while you are not watching it. However, security concerns have gradually subsided as the cloud market has matured.

The 2016 RightScale State of the Cloud Survey found that security was no longer the top issue cited by respondents. Instead, lack of expertise and resources took the top spot at 32 percent of all responses compared to only 29 percent for security. The robust protections built into clouds such as Azure could be a reason for the new attitude.

Azure features encryption options for data at rest and in transit. There are also VPNs as well as private cloud options available within Azure (e.g., Azure Stack) to further increase customer comfort levels with a massive cloud platform such as Azure. The hybrid cloud capabilities of Azure are much more sophisticated and wide-reaching than other IaaS solutions.

3. Numerous integrations with the Microsoft stack

Azure is the backbone of hundreds of Microsoft services, despite being best known as a pure IaaS offering. For instance, it integrates data across multiple platform-as-a-service and software-as-a-service solutions, too. Organizations can bank on seamless integrations between Azure, Office 365, the Dynamics CRM/ERP family of applications, Active Directory and Visual Studio, among others.

Considering that there are already more than 80 million monthly active business users of Office 365 alone according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the wide existing user base of Microsoft services means that there is fertile ground for Azure adoption. The rollout of major new products such as Microsoft Teams - a competitor to enterprise chat clients such as Slack and HipChat that will be bundled with business editions of Office 365 from late 2016 onward - will create even more incentive for pitching your IT tent in the Microsoft Cloud.

Certifications are your best bet for preparing for the growing world of Azure. You can burnish your skills and further your IT career by getting an Azure certification from a New Horizons Computer Center.

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