Private Clouds, Datacenters and Azure, can’t we just all get along ?


After the meeting with the client we were walking down to grab a coffee together. The client turned to me asked “The Azure data platform stuff you talked about is all great but will this replace my existing datacenter ?”

Maybe it was the lack of coffee in my veins but I did have to take a few moments and change my line of thought.

On a daily basis, I focus in on the benefits to the client’s technical issues and typically make a beeline to cloud capabilities for a good number of the features sets for solution potentials to talk about. When I think about it, the clients have spent typically, very large sums of money on their existing infrastructure and hope to get good benefit out of it. One of the major questions I would ask if I were the customer would be, why the heck would I care about the cloud, especially if I have my own infrastructure that I just bought and is depreciating!

At this point, I am holding my coffee and probably blocking other people at the cash register waiting to pay for their own coffee and I gave a simple answer which most clients hate: “Yes and No”.

Of course, rather than risking irate coffee lacking patrons, I promised the client that I will publish a blog on the topic.

Let’s examine the at a very core level of what is required in terms of technical assets when trying to architect a solution. Typical areas assets:

  • Network speed
  • Storage
  • Compute

We then add business related SLA (service level agreement) driving requirements which are reflected in:

  • Speed to market
  • High availability, uptime, RTO (Recovery Time Objective), RPO (Recovery Point Objective)
  • Support for Growth
  • Good response from the application
  • Security

These are all factors which must be formally or informally assessed, validated or considered when implementing any type of a project. My argument would be that the actual process of considering these factors would be no different for any hosting option either Azure, Private Cloud or a private data center.

Where I would argue would be the big differences would be in which the benefits/capabilities which these hosting locations provide.

As an example, say we needed to host a database for a line of business. The following table will illustrate support for typical types of requirements for a line of business for an on premise hosted database:

  Hosting on Premise
Provide growth to 500 gigabytes X
Provide 3 millisecond response time X
Provide row level Security X
Support 100 users X

 

The above table/requirements look standard. Where this example hits home is when we consider other types of requirements that the business may ask for. The following table will illustrate:

  Hosting on Premise SQL IAAS SQL Azure SQL Azure Datawarehouse
Provide growth to 500 Terabytes X     X
Provide 3 millisecond response time X X* X* X*
Provide row level Security X X X X
Support 100 concurrent users X X X X
Have the database run exponentially faster during certain periods only   X X X
Not use any compute and not be charged for it   X X X
Be able to triple the workload due to an acquisition   X X X
Be able to share resources across many hundreds of database/applications     X X
Have access to “cold” data when required (often hundreds of gigabytes)     X  

*The above table assumes I have a good connection to Azure using a product like ExpressRoute

The above list is not all encompassing but does provide a good view of what the cloud can add onto the capabilities to satisfy the needs of the business.

Remember, most operational teams see the servers and can clearly differentiate between a server in the cloud and a server in a datacenter. However, most business cannot and will not. The expectation is that services must be provided to satisfy their needs.

These services are readily available and can easily be part of your catalog of services to offer, therefore extending the capabilities of your data center. It is also safe to say that with a typical on premise datacenter, these services would be very difficult to provide.

<<Need a strong conclusion that cloud, hybrid and on prem can be delivered through SQL to meet the specific needs of the customer.>>

After thinking about and writing all of this, I would like to revisit the conversation with the customer and probably with all customers that I may talk to in the future.

 

The answer is “Azure datacenters will enhance your current data offerings. As a service provider, you can continue to provide the current offerings in your service catalog to your customers but now you can enhance this catalog over night. These can be extended offerings to your existing services, as an example using SQL Server on premise but offering archiving with stretch database or being able to offer higher classes of virtual images, such as the G class SQL Servers. As well, with almost no updates to current infrastructure on premise, you can offer a host of new capabilities. Great examples like pausing or scaling of services to provide elastic compute to match the cadence of the business and only paying for resources when you need them. The last and most important point is that any new features that are released, integration and deployment barriers of these capabilities are extremely low. These capabilities will exist on the cloud and leveraging them will be greatly simplified, as an example, looking at TDE (transparent data encryption), it is a simple slide bar now. Azure definitely has the capability to extend your datacenter dear customer”

 

Notes:

Details on SQL Azure and SQL IaaS documentation are available here and here.


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