Partnering for Azure cloud success

The adoption of cloud has been nothing short of meteoric – organisations have been embracing it en masse to stay relevant and to inch ahead of their competition. Cloud is both a catalyst and enabler; public cloud pledging speed to market, heightened security, lower costs, automated self-service delivery, and more innovation. Its promise isn’t static, though; it is constantly changing, and – as it does – so does its complexity. In the scramble to reap its benefits, most have opted for the road most travelled and consumption has largely been through a DIY approach. The result? Many just aren’t using cloud services in the right way. 

Moving to the cloud should enable your business by improving service and reducing cost. Managed correctly the cloud should unlock these much-lauded benefits as well as drive and encourage the acquisition of the latest technologies. When it is badly managed, technical debt, and cost, can spiral out of control. So how should businesses keep pace and harness the full value of the cloud?

As cloud continues to evolve, it is important to choose a partner to help you manage the service, with a strategy aligned to your business needs, goals and direction – one who will really promote growth as the product matures. While a smooth deployment is critical initially, it is essential to look beyond that. Your organisation will need to be supported throughout the lifecycle of the cloud application. Many partners are failing to deliver this crucial ongoing insight.

If your business isn’t being supported by a partner that addresses your fears about the cloud – be it business risk, security, governance, cost creep or on-going management – now is the time to find one that will. Your managed service provider should be more than just a vendor, they will be your strategic partner – assisting with the ever-changing requirements within your digital ecosystem.

The Azure Expert Managed Services Provider programme highlights and promotes only the most capable partners. We are proud to be one of them. Far from being just another certification, this is a recognition of the talent and skill of our cloud experts, proving our ability to pivot and adjust based on your desired business outcomes, regardless of the workload or application. It proves our expertise to unlock the benefit of these technologies and certifies us as influencers of modern and future strategies for digital transformation. We are focused on cloud success and this, coupled with our robust structure and longevity in the market, gives you the peace of mind that you are in a safe pair of hands. We know that there is a better way to leverage Azure, and we can help you reveal its true value.

Datacom’s Beacon on Azure solution delivers a whole ecosystem of managed services on Azure; a myriad of managed and transformational service blocks to create a custom solution to suit each user’s pace of adoption. With visibility of spend and the ability to add, scale and remove managed services to your business requirements. It is an unerringly tech-first stratagem, with the capability to scale at pace. These blocks contain both managed and transformation services, and boast some impressive tools in their armoury.

Managed service blocks include:

  • Azure back-up (and maintenance of crash consistent back-up service)
  • Maintenance of network security group configuration and Azure application gateway
  • Maintenance of VPN/ express route connection configuration
  • Azure ExpressRoute and cloud user/hybrid cloud user management.

Transformation service blocks include:

  • Cloud software development and integration
  • Cloud foundations, network and security
  • Professional consulting.

The cloud juggernaut isn’t going to stop. It is gaining momentum and you need to jump on board if you don’t want to be left for dust. You need someone to help you drive the thing – eyes wide open – to avoid the potholes and obstacles on the way. Let us navigate for you; we’re going in your direction.

Beacon on Azure will help you to unlock the true power of Microsoft Azure to better navigate your cloud transformation journey. Contact us to find out how.

Managing your way to success with Beacon on Azure

The rate of change in technology is accelerating. It is unprecedented, it is unpredictable, and in this – the brave new world of technology revolution – it can be a challenge to keep up with the play. With so many technologies emerging, and so rapidly, the expectations on those who both provide and enable them is greater than it ever has been.

In order to keep step with soaring customer expectations, organisations are taking huge steps to embrace and employ new technologies. The cloud has become a major force – its platforms standing at the pinnacle of digital transformation. Certainly now, with the rapid escalation of COVID-19 worldwide, businesses are clamouring to improve their core operations by leveraging its power. While many have maintained a robust remote structure for years, this has largely been limited to only a few restricted employees. Now entire business units and functions are required to operate in a fully remote mode and interactions are digital rather than physical. The flexibility and agility of cloud solutions are a perfect fit.

While the ability to move faster and hack value is well documented, the reality is that when it is badly managed, the cloud can blow out budget and increase technical debt. An evolving cloud system can be difficult for an IT department to manage, particularly with an accelerated and unprecedented surge in usage. An inability to curbsprawl and initiate effective management practicesoften tarnishes the gilt. In order to keep operational and performance targets on track and within budget, businesses must develop a deep understanding of the interdependencies of the various moving parts of their IT infrastructure. Then policies must be implemented, without compromising on security.

Managed appropriately, a cloud environment offers stakeholders a comprehensive view of all assets – including software and cloud services – which encourage its efficient, effective use. A robust cloud management platform presents to businesses the ability to firmly grasp a complex and fast changing environment: spending and historical trends can be tracked and monitored, security vulnerabilities can be uncovered, data can be secured, and inefficiencies highlighted.

A cloud management platform helps to manage cloud resources, using a combination of software, automation, policies, governance, and people to determine how the cloud services are made available. Beacon on Azure, Datacom’s managed services offering on Azure, enables all users to access the information they need – when they need it. All stakeholders have a central location from where they can view and understand exactly what is being used in their subscriptions. This ensures that every resource being used is optimised, reducing the amount of wasted spend.

Beacon on Azure is pivotal in managing the security status and vulnerability of your IT assets. Backed by clever application management, wide Azure expertise, innovation, and a security first approach, the platform ensures delivery of a consistent set of rules to make certain that the right levels of control are in place. Monitoring is essential for any organisation leveraging the cloud, both in terms of security and performance. If a business monitors early, data can be used to troubleshoot problems and implement repairs swiftly. Monitoring, alerts and governance are built into each Azure subscription and environment deployed. Log and performance data are aggregated in near real-time and customised reports are generated. This allows for a consistent set of rules to ensure the right level of control is in place.

Many businesses don’t have either the budget or appropriate resources for a dedicated cloud team. Our Co-Pilot programme offers a Datacom Azure expert on hand, not only to provide guidance, but also valuable insights on ways Azure should be consumed. In addition, Level 1 and Level 2 support is provided for Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider customers.

Presenting information into meaningful and contextual information, Beacon on Azure allows businesses to track spend limits, analyse usage patterns and manage their costs effectively.

Beacon on Azure will help you to unlock the true power of Microsoft Azure to better navigate your cloud transformation journey. Contact us to find out how.

Not a tech whiz? How you can manage Azure like a pro

Most smart organisations are already harnessing the considerable power of cloud to glean competitive advantage. Not only are their operating costs lower, but their productivity is amplified as they are analysing data to deftly identify business opportunities and potential commercial threats. 

These are the businesses that are building environments capable of rapid, integrated and automated development, empowering them to step up to the fore and disrupt their industries with powerful new solutions. Failure to join the revolution presents a palpable and deadly threat. Those who are harnessing cloud effectively already will be the first to reap its rewards.

Given the exponential shift to cloud, departments other than IT are spending money on technology. They are identifying more intelligent software and applications to increase business efficiencies and to give them the critical edge against their competitors. Experimenting with, or seeking out, the relevant technology is therefore no longer just the remit of IT. Every position is a technical role and, to stay both relevant and significant, each decision maker must become tech-savvy to nimbly navigate the rapidly growing ecosystem of applications, security tools and networking systems. While it is true that everything within the cloud can be automated, these leaders will still need to manage and monitor the tools involved to enable them to unlock its real and actual value. 

With a lack of technical support and expertise available to them in-house, visibility is key to these leaders. Lack of clarity can hinder efforts to track or diagnose application performance issues, delay the detection and solution of security vulnerabilities, and fail to monitor and deliver against service-level agreements. Without the right insight into services – and how any variations can impact pricing – the business can quickly accumulate unseen and unbudgeted expenses.

Visibility of cost is crucial, and the lack thereof is often cited as a major concern. Cloud costs can sometimes be difficult to estimate, often due to the perceived complexity of the cloud infrastructure. Exceeding consumption forecasts, as well as cloud mismanagement, can lead to a significant unbudgeted spend. Knowing where and how to begin the journey towards cloud cost governance can be a real challenge. Understanding what services are being used, what they cost, how they are used, and how they are being accounted for, is a demanding undertaking, particularly with no single management platform where all stakeholders can access the information they need.

Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t need to be.

Beacon on Azure, Datacom’s community of managed services, gives Azure cloud users the choice and broad expertise they need to seize cloud’s real worth. It enables key stakeholders to view, understand and manage their Azure cloud applications on one dashboard, in one place. This single pane of glass allows users to correlate and visualise data across multiple sources (and user-defined business dimensions) in near real-time. With 24/7 alerts, monitoring and governance – as well as Level 1 and Level 2 service desk support included – the end user is firmly in control. By removing the complexities of managing the cloud, and allowing customisation through service blocks, they can add-on multiple other offerings to build a tailored cloud service catalogue, specific and tailor-made to their business.

With the ability to add, remove and scale the service according to individual requirements, Azure users can leverage its full scope and possibility, with the confidence of being supported by the breadth of expertise of the Datacom team. All of this is delivered with minimal personal effort, so even the most tech-shy organisations can become tech-confident in no time. 

Beacon on Azure will help you to unlock the true power of Microsoft Azure to better navigate your cloud transformation journey. Contact us to find out how.

Azure, hybrid cloud, and the importance of monitoring at a business service level

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According to Datacom customer research presented in Before You Go Public, Read This, few organisations are currently planning to go ‘all in’ to public cloud and will, therefore, retain some of their workloads on-premise or in private cloud. Many services are, and will be for the foreseeable future, delivered via applications or workloads with a hybrid set up. For example, an organisation may want to use Microsoft Azure for a front-end application that needs elasticity, and use a private cloud for the interconnected database.

Managing hybrid cloud complexity

Hybrid cloud architecture, however, requires careful management and planning to account for key factors such as latency, security and compliance, as well as potential added complexity and transition costs.

“Making hybrid cloud work well means focusing on integration and interconnectedness, especially in the planning stages of a project. For instance, if an organisation stretches certain components by running them in Azure, what is the impact on other, reliant components? These critical factors are sometimes overlooked,” says Brett Alexander, Solution Architect at Datacom.

On top of this, with greater adoption of public cloud (and proper planning), usually comes a corresponding service orientation and increasing focus on business services and related outcomes enabled by cloud. These outcomes may include risk or reputation management, reducing cost and making key services available when needed and at a suitable quality. They are often delivered through the aggregation of multiple providers, services and solutions – and various SLAs.

Making these services and outcomes happen and managing the many moving parts involved is clearly an important function and a complex task, which organisations can take on themselves or outsource, at least in part, to a qualified partner like Datacom. Whatever the approach taken, there is a growing need for those in the organisation involved in Azure to understand the way different clouds and related services interact and how they can be integrated – with each other and with other environments and types of IT.

Monitor from business service level down

Business services, even something as simple as email, are built from and rely on a number of components, including applications, firewalls, switches, servers and storage. Mapping these services, the applications and infrastructure that enable them, and the interconnections and dependencies of the various components, are an integral part of planning for Azure adoption and optimisation and managing a hybrid cloud environment.

This is why Datacom recommends monitoring at an availability-of-business-service level. This means having dependency-based monitoring from the business service level down through applications and infrastructure, including Azure. We also recommend automated root-cause analysis to provide information and evidence for problem management processes and liaising with Azure support teams, if required. For this, organisations need to implement robust analysis and troubleshooting tools.

In short, if your Azure servers or services go down you need to know what will be affected, for how long, and what impact that will have on your organisation in order to determine and take necessary steps. Among other things, this means knowing what it takes to keep a high availability application operational if X or Y shuts down. And things do go down from time to time.

“Azure has planned, routine outages for maintenance purposes, when servers going offline temporarily. Before this happens, organisations need to know how many more stand-in machines are required to maintain each service in the event of an outage, compared to traditional, on-premise IT,” says Roger Sinel, Operations Manager at Datacom.

Broadly speaking, the skills required for such mapping, monitoring and management include knowing how applications work, how infrastructure works and how they work together. Operations engineers need to co-operate with developers and application specialists to ensure applications run smoothly in Azure through the correct use of resiliency and performance techniques, and by testing and monitoring correctly. What is supported in Azure and what isn’t need to be understood – especially in a hybrid environment. As reliance on Azure increases, along with complexity, automating parts of processes as much as possible using scripts becomes increasingly important.

The recommendations above are among many others made in our free white paper, How to make the most of Azure, which is available to download. It’s based on Datacom’s many years of experience working in partnership with Microsoft on cloud projects of all sizes for a wide range of organisations. These include what is still the world’s largest production SAP migration to Azure, for Zespri International, one of the most successful horticultural marketing companies globally.

For even more information and advice on how your organisation can take full advantage of Azure, please contact us on cloud@datacom.co.nz or cloud@datacom.com.au.