Azure Partner Community: Hybrid data centers

Welcome to part 1 of this month’s Azure Partner Community blog series.


by Nick Johnson, PMP
US Partner Technology Strategist

If you’ve followed Microsoft Azure for any length of time, you’ve probably heard or read about hybrid data centers. Hybrid data centers allow you to take the best of the on-premises world and expand it to include the best of the Azure world. It is one of the unique value propositions that Azure enables.

Virtual Machines are a big part of building a hybrid data center. Put them on Azure and you get a tremendous set of resources and opportunity for partners. This month’s Azure Partner Community focus is on re-introducing you to Azure Virtual Machines. We’ll take a look at some of the latest enhancements, design and implementation patterns, migrating to Azure, and how to protect your Azure VMs.

This post is based on the insights I’ve gained in the many conversations I’ve had with partners, about finding new growth areas for their businesses. These conversations, which usually start with the Business Decision Maker and/or a Practice Lead, frequently result in the addition or modification of practices or capabilities, and have three components:

  • We look at the “why” behind Azure
  • We assess the current state of the business
  • We spend time brainstorming and establishing next steps

Let me give you a look are each of these in a little more detail. Since I can’t sit down and have this conversation with every one of you, I’ll share my thoughts on ways you can do a self-assessment.

The case for adding Azure to your data center practice

One way or another customers are asking for cloud solutions. You have an opportunity to be at the center of a growing market. As you can see in the quotes cited below, some customers are motivated by the new and exciting technology while others are looking for cost savings. It really is a matter of if, not when, customers will start embracing cloud. Partners are in a position to help these customers build solutions and plans that will grow and adapt with the ever-changing technology landscape. Azure is a great place to do it.


Assessing your current practice

The next part of the conversation might be the hardest to have, but it is also often the most meaningful. It is important to do some self-assessing. Here are the questions to ask:

  • When you think about your business today, would you say you have a data center practice?
  • Would you say you have an Azure practice?
  • Are these two areas connected?
  • Do they share a common set of capabilities or are they isolated?
  • Are your sales teams ready to sell the solutions you have to offer?
  • Are your sales teams incented to include the Azure solutions in their deals?
  • Do you have a defined set of cloud-based service or solution offerings for customers?
  • Do your financial reporting and goals align with movement to cloud solutions?
  • Are your technical teams ready to support sales process and drive implementations?

Ways to add Azure to your practice

One of the most enjoyable parts of the conversation is a brainstorming session. Together we’ll take a look at their existing offerings and then identify ways to attach Azure to those. In some cases, the partners will choose to extend current offerings and in some they will choose to build net-new practices. When it comes to a data center practice, here are some of the things we might look at in the brainstorming session.


These are a great conversation starter. Helping your customers assess where they are at and build a roadmap for the future can add tremendous value. Assessments allow you to look for thing like:

  • Servers and products that are reaching end of life. As physical assets near an upgrade cycle, start evaluating them for a move to the cloud. For applications there may be upgrade options, but there are also application modernization opportunities using Azure VMs or PaaS solutions.
  • Storage capacity and growth patterns. As data and storage capacity needs grow, you can help customers evaluate and plan for the future. Azure storage options like StorSimple can provide low cost, high capacity solutions. Azure Backup is an easy way to help customers achieve data redundancy between on premises and the cloud.
  • Servers that are underutilized. Assessments can help you find servers that are not being used completely. Consider moving those workloads to Azure and freeing up more expensive assets for on premises high value workloads that need them.
  • Shadow IT deployments. Help your customers determine where they have applications and servers that are not being managed by IT. If they exist, are the shadow deployments being governed by corporate data protection policies? Are they managed in such a way to prevent outside attacks from succeeding? Discovery is the first step in mitigating the risk.
  • Disaster preparedness. Every customer should have a DR plan, but how many do? When was the last time it was tested? Have newer solutions and apps that they are using been added to the plan?
  • Operations management. It takes time and resources to manage data center deployments. Are your customers doing it with the most current functional and efficient tools?
Design services  Beyond assessments, partners have a great opportunity to help customers with the design of a hybrid or could data center. Cloud solutions that are designed for the long term will need partners who are experts at networking, storage, virtual machines, and more.
Project services There are a wide variety of project services you can offer. Things like upgrades, migrations, development, etc. are all areas to consider. If your customers use an app or process in a certain vertical industry, is there IP you could build to re-use and drive higher margins from?
Management and monitoring Every data center needs this to stay healthy. Help customers design solutions that work for them and are easy to use. Microsoft OMS is a great place to start. If customers don’t want to own this piece it presents a managed service opportunity for you.
Business continuity services Azure Site Recovery can be used to protect VMWare, physical servers, and Hyper-V deployments. There is also an opportunity to take this on as a managed service as well. You can design, implement, test, report, and maintain DR solutions for your customers.

Taking the next step

Now that you’ve decided to extend your data center practice to Microsoft Azure, perhaps adding a new capability or solution, here are some of the commitments you’ll need to make:

  • Commit to building complete solutions with necessary marketing plans and support
  • Commit to training and incenting your sales staff on the new solutions
  • Commit to building and equipping your technical resources
  • Commit to a timeframe to ramp resources and create a demand generation campaign for building customer awareness and interest

I hope this look at the first part of the practice-building discussion has been helpful. In the next posts leading up to our Azure Partner Community call on October 15, I’ll focus on sales and technical aspects for Azure and the hybrid data center. The community call will look at an important component of the hybrid data center, Azure Express Route.

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