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Microsoft Azure- Keeping up with change

Reliance on cloud services continues to grow and recent changes in compliance and legislation have enabled businesses- whether small or large enterprises, to put cloud strategy at the centre of business-critical operations.

Now more than ever, the cloud solutions we rely on need to be secure, compliant with local and global regulations, feature strong data protection and availability to meet business needs.

Azure (Microsoft’s Public Cloud solution) has operated core services at 99.995% average across the global data centre over the past year and the operation spans 54 regions. Microsoft use several techniques to ensure their services are robust, transparent and remain operational during the constant of “change” through onboarding new services, to improving existing services and retiring out-dated offerings.

As cloud services continue to develop, the IT Admin and Developer experience improves, providing organisations with a quicker path to onboarding and enabling services. The process of simplification often means that a number of the core Architecture principles are forgotten or lost in translation, leading to unplanned failures and questions on how to troubleshoot a different architecture.

Ensuring that the standards of Compliance, Reliability and Availability are applied whilst protecting services in line with backup and disaster recovery requirements is a core mission for all organisations. To deliver change successfully, organisations should ensure a number of additional practices are understood and adopted to fit in with the needs of each environment:

  • Safe Deployment practices – Azure offers a range of services that aim to ensure all code goes through life-cycle specific changes. Mapping this into an organisation can be as simple as ensuring services such as “Azure Site Recovery Orchestration“ could be used to create a silo or parallel environment for testing changes, through to fully managed Development Operations “DevOps” code releases into “Development, Test, UAT and Production environments”.

  • Planning for Service Succession – The pace of change is constant, one of the key features of cloud services is to maintain an evergreen presence. Adopting a practice of architecture service review, although at the outset it may seem to add extra costs, having this function as a business service has the benefit of saving costs and preventing outages. For example, switching to a new service plan which enables additional functionality in a service could save costs, whilst reviewing code or services against end of life plans allows time to react and plan for change.

  • Planning for Storage and Application Failover – Microsoft is previewing new service functionality within Storage Accounts, enabling more flexibility to failover and failback storage accounts across a region. The benefit of this may also mean we now start to consider new approaches for Disaster Recovery testing of the entire service stack.

  • Planning for Low or Zero impact Maintenance – Microsoft has invested in Zero or Low impact update technologies, including hot patching, live migration, and in-place migration. These technologies ensure customers are minimally/never impacted by service changes (depending upon the services deployed, businesses still need to plan for self- maintenance).

  • Fault Injection and Stress Testing – It’s only possible for validating systems to perform as designed if they’re subjected to failure. Azure has a wide range of features that enable services to be tested before they go into production.

Ultima works closely with Microsoft's account and technical teams and we are committed to ensuring the benefits are passed onto our clients who wish to develop a trusted relationship, through the process of regular engagement, reviews, blogs, and podcasts to ensure that change is mapped and planned into Road Maps and Budgets.

If you'd like to discuss any of this in more detail, please speak with your Ultima Account Manager, or contact us below.

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Written by Steve Harper, Solution Architect, Microsoft Azure

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