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How Microsoft's cloud aims to cover the world

A three-pronged strategy

Who will provide the service?

Service provider is the last of the three pillars but by no means the least important. For years Microsoft has supported a vibrant channel and built an ecosystem that encourages its partners to make money by easing access to Microsoft’s products.

As the way we access our networks changes, so too must the way those services are offered to us. This is where a service provider steps in.

At this point I want to introduce you to a new term. We have all grown accustomed to calling anyone providing managed services an MSP, but not everyone who offers cloud services is an MSP. Enter the cloud service provider (CSP).

CSPs are the new black, but many are also the traditional MSPs that you have been using for some time, just rebranded and with a newer, cloudier industry term.

CSPs are the guys Microsoft is betting on to provide vertical integration and localisation of its cloud

CSPs are the guys Microsoft is betting on to step up and provide vertical integration and localisation of its cloud.

In Australia, for example, these are the companies that will customise a solution to fit the healthcare industry where compliance with federal regulation is difficult and expensive.

Microsoft is clearly happy to provide the platform and let each CSP customise it to meet the needs of its clientele.

This has an added benefit. To offer a product that was compliant with every single regulation in every single statute in every single jurisdiction that it operates in would be beyond the reach of Microsoft, even with the massive resources it has at its disposal.

By allowing CSPs to customise and individualise the platform, it gains access to markets that alone it would not be able to cater for, and still keep the mindshare.

This is where we talk about the other reason you pick a CSP. A lot of sysadmins and companies that I talk to about cloud services say the same thing: “We would use cloud services more for our backups, but how do we then get our data back in a hurry?”

This is where CSPs can really shine. As a friendly sysadmin from Canada points out, while it may not have hit our shores yet, local CSPs in his country actively advertise that they offer two major advantages over the multinational competition: no US attack surface (great from a liability standpoint); and the ability to drive to the CSP’s office in the nearest major city and collect a copy of your data on a HDD when the manure hits the fan.

At their most basic levels, service providers offer an easy way to keep your data local and ensure that you (and they) are compliant with all relevant law. This is a big deal as compliance issues affect everything from data sovereignty, localisation, data retention and in some rare cases minimum requirements for disaster recovery procedures.

Hybrid solutions

When most vendors talk about hybrid cloud they talk about it as an all-or-nothing option.

You either pick all-in private cloud, all-in public cloud, or a static level of both and call it hybrid cloud. It can also be difficult, extremely time consuming and in some cases nearly impossible to alter the state or level of your dependence on private and public cloud once you have implemented it.

These static levels are really a throwback to a time when office workers had a single workstation through which they accessed everything necessary for their daily tasks, but clearly it is not a situation that exists now. Let’s look at an example.

Client A is a growing business. In the past year it has grown from five sites and 40 seats to seven sites and 65 seats, and it is planning to add another 20 seats very soon. We have just migrated this client to a Windows Server 2012r2-based virtual environment because it had exceeded the limitations of the XenServer and hardware it was running on.

Within the next three months we will move it to a much bigger, more robust environment. When that happens, this company is a prime candidate for a hybrid cloud solution involving us, as a CSP, offering it a cloud-based backup solution.

We have knowledge of its vertical and can build a solution to the issues created by several of the more dastardly statutes it needs to prove it is compliant with.

We can also do this because Microsoft decided not just to build a single component or pillar, but to go the whole way and build a platform. Its One Cloud OS vision has allowed us to offer services to our clients that other multinational cloud providers could never hope to offer.

They don’t know our vertical, they don’t know the laws and statutes in place and they don’t have the years of boots-on-the-ground experience required to build the custom solution we supply to these clients.

One Cloud for all

The One Cloud OS platform means that everything Microsoft does is inter-linked. Everything that Microsoft learns from its Azure team feeds through to the Windows Server team.

All of the feedback from its service providers, whether about the management tools or the interface or the stability of the product, is incorporated into all of the products.

This is a radical departure from how the Microsoft of old used to operate and it is a welcome and long overdue change.

By using a single shared code base for all three offerings, Microsoft has at last moved to a virtuous cycle of development. This has enabled the company to iterate faster, implement patches and fixes more efficiently and to offer new features and improve existing ones far faster than before.

Windows Server 2012 is now on a yearly release cycle. Azure gets new features monthly and a major release approximately every quarter.

Microsoft has managed to reach the holy grail of the cloud space: it has built a single consistent platform that crosses all previously established borders.

The One Cloud OS is a platform where integration between private cloud, public cloud and service provider cloud is built in from the ground up.

More than anything else though, it has leapt ahead of the competition by building a consistent platform of products that make it easier for those of us on the ground to do our jobs. ®


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