Each of the leading cloud platforms has specific strengths and advantages. Businesses should understand the opportunities they find in these environments so they can benefit from them. Sikich teams are deeply familiar with Azure and other cloud offerings. Here are some key points that stand out about Azure when we discuss it with clients, survey our collective experience, and review published literature.
As part of its project Embrace, SAP announced partnerships with three cloud leaders—Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services (AWS). When companies deploy SAP ERP in the cloud, they can choose the platform that best fits their business. If it is to their advantage to also implement Microsoft Dynamics 365 in a hub-and-spoke architecture with SAP, at least a subset of their operations will take place on the Azure cloud, where Dynamics 365 is at home. For IT, it will be more efficient and less costly to manage and integrate both ERP solutions on Azure.
A strategic decision like choosing a cloud platform can impact an organization for many years. It should be treated with a clear view of the potential advantages and consequences. Companies should not simply accept Azure as an incidental condition but explore its value and build a business case for it. What distinguishes Azure from other cloud technologies that, to all intents and purposes, look to be quite similar? What are specific Azure strengths that a company should consider as it plans what its hub-and-spoke ERP will look like?
We consistently hear several comments when we discuss the Azure experience with our clients, and they are similar to what one reads in many articles and posts that review and compare Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud.
The hybrid cloud can thrive.
Azure receives high praise as an excellent choice for hybrid cloud environments. Companies can easily deploy Azure public or private cloud services from their data center and maintain a portfolio of on-premises and cloud-based applications. For companies that run Dynamics 365 in the cloud and still have SAP ERP on-premises, that should be welcome news, because it keeps their options open and flexible.
The Azure platform provides a consolidated management portal, where IT managers can access their cloud and on-premises technologies. It also offers APIs to facilitate the interoperability of the two ERP systems and make it easier to connect specialized business systems to cloud and on-premises ERP solutions.
A great solution for PaaS.
One well-known Azure advantage is the strength of the platform in enabling platform-as-a-service (PaaS). In addition to an infrastructure of servers, storage, and networking solutions, PaaS provides resources for software development, business intelligence, database management, and more.
Taking advantage of PaaS on Azure, development operations reduce the time it takes them to create new solutions, develop more efficiently for multiple platforms, and enhance their capabilities without onboarding more people. Users familiar with Azure and AWS sometimes point out that, if you want a more foundational infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering, AWS may be the stronger choice. Still, Azure is preferable when you’re looking for PaaS, of which IaaS is a subset.
Freedom from needless restrictions.
Overall, flexibility and openness are prominent characteristics of the Azure platform, compared to the other cloud leaders. Microsoft has taken great strides in enabling Azure to interact well with Linux and VMware technologies. That includes compatibility with Linux container platforms. The platform’s many server apps support a variety of programming languages, including .NET, Java, Node.js, PHP, and Python. Azure supports containerization with such tools as Docker and Kubernetes. By using Azure VMware Solutions, companies can run VMware natively on the Azure platform.
Hyperconvergence made manageable.
Many companies implement hyper-converged infrastructures (HCI) to streamline technology management, reduce their data-center footprint, and generate substantial savings. By utilizing HCI, they often also boost the performance of systems and applications, improving the user experience. Companies take advantage of Azure Stack HCI to take HCI and virtualization to a higher level of efficiency and reliability. Azure Stack HCI is reported to be particularly strong in supporting large-scale implementations of virtual desktops, virtualized instances of Microsoft SQL Server, and high-intensity workloads that involve the network edge—field locations, branch offices, retail stores, remote subsidiaries, and more.
Best fit for Windows solutions.
Not surprisingly, Azure comes with highly-rated enterprise-class support for all Windows-based technologies. For companies that use such software products as SQL Server, SharePoint, or Office 365, the manageability and usability of their Azure and Windows technologies can save time and costs, and enhance the productivity of business users and IT.
Strong security, identity, and access management.
With Azure AD and a host of access and identity management (IAM) and cybersecurity solutions on Azure, the platform commonly receives high ratings for its identity and security management. Integrated, robust IAM and security management on the Azure cloud are said to be easily scalable across the globe and extremely efficient to manage.
Global network, comprehensive services.
Microsoft maintains a global network of data centers to deliver the Azure platform in 54 regions around the world, with comprehensive localization options. Currently, Azure offers 154 different services, many of which are similar to what you find at AWS or Google Cloud. Particularly highly reviewed are Azure services that facilitate big-data analytics, business intelligence, data warehousing, IoT integration, predictive analytics, and DevOps.
Much like AWS and Google Cloud, Azure supports serverless computing and allows technologists and developers to create their own high-performance computing environments or build mobile apps for their users. Developers often speak highly of Azure Machine Learning Studio, which lets you write, test, and deploy algorithms.
People you want, with skills that matter.
Businesses should consider the availability of Azure programming and administrative expertise as they build an IT team that can support their strategy. Many IT professionals, including early-career employees, still looking for the right company to make a lasting contribution, are familiar with Azure programming tools like Visual Studio and .NET. They can quickly become productive in refining and supporting an organization’s Azure-based ERP system.
Predictable cost management.
Many businesses feel that Microsoft provides a simple, easy-to-understand cost structure for Azure. They can realistically forecast and plan their expenses for Azure services without confounding ambiguities and, generally, without asking for assistance.
At Sikich, we work with Azure every day, helping clients gain the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365, Office 365, and other technologies that reside on this platform. Azure can be a valuable asset for your business, and you should not miss the opportunity to make the most productive use of it. Cloud, technical, and industry expertise can make a significant difference in accomplishing this. Get in touch with us to learn more about Azure and get the best returns from the cloud.