Farewell AWS?

Written by Greg Sik‌‌‌‌‌‍‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‬orski on 13 October 2014
Cloud services providers are a competitive bunch, we take a look at how Azure has come on leaps and bounds in recent years.

A number of years ago we decided to adopt Amazon Web Services (AWS) as our platform of choice for delivering cloud hosted services. At the time, it was relatively mature and Amazon themselves were using the platform to host their own global e-commerce sites. 

It offered unparalleled flexibility for provisioning scalable hardware, virtual networks, redundant storage and an absolute bucket-load of other services. 

At the time, Microsoft Azure was in its infancy and seemed to be focusing more on providing pure application hosting as opposed to Platform as a Service (PaaS), which Amazon was offering. 

An awful lot has changed in the last few years however. Microsoft has added feature on feature, year on year and now offers as many services as AWS. 

Critically, we can now deploy long-running virtual machines with both our own OS images as well as a host of preconfigured images provided by Microsoft. 

To give some real-world examples, we recently undertook a project to deliver some enhancements to an existing web application. One of the age-old problems with testing any large piece of work is ensuring you have suitable test data to test against. Azure made this process simple.  

We started up a private network (which effectively lets you run servers not directly exposed to the Internet) and created a new virtual machine based upon a backup image taken of the live server (which just happened to be running on AWS) and voila! In next to no time we had an identical copy of the live system running for us to test the new code against.  

With the pay-as-you-go model, we were also able to turn the server off and on as and when development resource was available, which meant costs were kept to a minimum too. 

We also recently took on a project which involved a company moving office (and downscaling significantly). We took the opportunity to suggest moving to Azure to host three of the existing servers. We established a hybrid cloud environment that would allow us to perform a phased migration - one by one we moved the existing servers into the Azure virtual network. We set up a permanent site to site VPN tunnel between the existing offices and the new virtual network so that connectivity was available between all the servers at all times. They even stayed on the same Active Directory domain.

Some of the virtual machines were particularly large, but due to some clever compression and defragmentation we were able to upload nearly 800 GB of virtual machine images in three nights. 

At the end of the project the customer now has an infrastructure with a 99.9% uptime SLA, fault tolerant disk storage mirrored to another country and high speed access for all the remote office workers. They also no longer have to worry about hardware warranty, failing drives, maintenance and power costs! 

As a result of this and other recent projects, we have now selected Microsoft Azure as our preferred platform for deploying all new cloud solutions. We look forwards to showing you some of the other clever stuff we can achieve, including PowerShell scripting of Azure services, in the coming weeks! 

If you have any questions about how we can help you take advantage of Azure - please get in touch using the form below.


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About the author
Greg Sik‌‌‌‌‌‍‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‬orski
Greg, Polymorph's Technical Director, has over 20 years’ experience delivering software and infrastructure projects for the likes of Manchester Airport, Center Parcs, Manchester City Council and the Ministry of Defence.
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