The Cloud is a journey, not an ultimatum

Through previous posts we have discussed ‘what is cloud’ and examined Infrastructure, Platform and Software as a Service, with the relative benefits and comparisons of these approaches to cloud computing. We also discussed the benefits of customers building their own private clouds. Microsoft is uniquely positioned in this regard; we have been helping customers and partners build and deliver services based on our technologies in their own data centres for many years. And lets be clear, this is still a very valid approach for many workloads across public sector. However given current financial constraints customers are under, the agility demanded by citizens and the need to focus on delivery of services (as opposed to the delivery and management of IT) which lends itself to consumption of commodity IT services from the Public Cloud.  


So the solution? Build a Hybrid Cloud. Lets take a look at Microsoft’s server and Services offerings today:




As you can see from the diagram above Microsoft offers a range on ‘on premise’ server products (such as Sharepoint and Exchange) as well as a comprehensive range of cloud based services (such as Sharepoint Online and Exchange Online). Whilst there are some subtle differences between the on premise server and the online service they are the same product family.


For specifics and a comparison of these features see the online service descriptions available here.






New Business Scenarios


The unique ability to run servers on premise and services from the cloud give rise to a number of interesting business scenarios:


  •  Split email between Exchange on premise and Exchange Online. Why? this is a great way to deliver a differentiated service to your user base i.e. Users with high security requirements have their email service delivered from your data centre. Users with low security requirements have their mailbox in the public cloud.
  • eMail service on premise, archive in the cloud. Why? Disaster recovery, disk space, expensive email archive products, Ease of management.
  • Exchange/Sharepoint on premise, Lync from the cloud. Why? Utilise existing investments, deliver new services from the cloud.  
  • Sharepoint Intranet on premise, Extranet from the cloud. Why? Many organisations struggle with cross organisational collaboration. Do I let business partners into my infrastructure? My Active Directory etc etc. Setting up an extranet in the cloud that compliments an existing Intranet on premise can be a cost effective way of collaborating across organisational boundaries, especially given that the cloud based service is consumption based. Switch it on for a few months, switch it off and pay for what you use.




There are four fundamental IT building blocks in enabling a hybrid Cloud Environment:






We run Active Directory as part of our Public Cloud Services. This can integrate to your Active Directory on premise. This is achieved through the deployment of Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) 2.0. This ensures that your users have a single sign-on experience across the environments and that their identity is consistent.






Our Virtualisation technology (Hyper-V) and the subsequent Virtual machines it creates are supported on premise and in the cloud making it easier to move key workloads between these environments.






We have a single management suite (System Centre) that not only manages down to individual application and system components but supports both on premise and cloud environments. So IT professionals can manage their private and public cloud environments from a single console screen.






Visual Studio provides a single development environment for rich windows applications, mobile applications as well as server and web based applications. Visual Studio now extends this capability to Public Cloud services giving the developer the ability to design, collaborate, build and deploy applications both on premise and the cloud.

by Nick Umney, cloud specialist - Microsoft