CHANNEL PROS ARE FAMILIAR with server management, network management, and even virtualization management. They’re generally far less familiar with the ins and outs of managing virtual instances and network resources in public clouds like Microsoft Azure.
According to Shashank Katikaneni, vice president of operations at American Technology Services (ATS), a cloud services management company in Fairfax, Va., managing in Azure is similar to on-prem. “You still have OS updates, security updates, and the like,” he says. The biggest mental hurdle, “is that you have no hardware but a lot more flexibility.” If something isn’t working correctly, you can spin up a new instance and restart.
Eric Boyd finds that the difficulty or simplicity of managing Azure depends on your customer’s IT structure. If it’s centralized, “Azure is much simpler,” says the founder and CEO of responsiveX, a management and technology consultancy headquartered in Chicago. If decentralized, he suggests building a central platform with other groups attached in a hub-and-spoke arrangement, with each group having their own landing zone that connects to the hub.
However, he notes, Azure management is ultimately not a matter of harder or easier, but different. Once you get over the learning curve of treating server management much like a development process, it’s simpler. “You have to learn automation and scripting and consider management like code. Then it’s much easier and much more consistent and reliable once configured.”
VIAcode, an Azure development and optimization company in Redmond, Wash., does its best to erase the line between cloud and on-premises management. “Our server management guidelines are the same, as we follow best practices in financial management, security, and operations,” says Victor Mushkatin, CEO. “We follow the cloud center of excellence and start with an assessment of the customer environment.”
While the details differ, he continues, “you still need the same processes.” When migrating a customer from on-prem, for instance, the Azure environment offers more options to consider, such as for file shares. Rather than a file server, you may point users to a SharePoint server on a VM.
Mushkatin divides migration and management into three phases: landing zone, workload, and management. The first covers basic details like identity, connectivity, and security. If customers prefer their existing Cisco VPNs, for example, you can keep them, or move to Azure tools. Azure has a built-in firewall, load balancer, and gateways too, or customers can keep their existing systems.
Workload concerns applications and the user environment. Do you provide apps straight from the cloud or in a virtual desktop? Management includes backup, monitoring, and application controls.
“Backups are more complex,” Mushkatin says. On-prem, once you backed up a VM or a database, you were done. Azure Backup, however, omits some workloads. Azure Application services, SQL, and others have their own backups, and each application prefers their own approach to protect their own data. “Integrators often must bring in a third party to properly back up their environment,” Mushkatin says.