How Microsoft ISV Partners Can Profit from Azure

27th June 2016

By taking advantage of the cloud, Microsoft ISV (independent software vendors) Partners can increase their margin through increased revenues and reduced infrastructure costs.  It’s not all plain sailing through, there can be hidden challenges in a migration to Azure including rising costs due to higher than expected consumption, and a need for specialist technical skills.

Microsoft Azure is designed to be flexible.  The cloud platform technology was introduced commercially in 2010 and is now has the second largest market-share.  From inception, it has been designed with business use in mind.  Azure was developed to highlight security, scalability, and reliability making it ideal for hosting applications.

Over the past few years, customer demand for SaaS has grown.  The model fits better with modern business than traditional one-off licenses, and also benefits the vendor, as it provides a recurring revenue stream.  This fits well with Cloud technologies, as it enables more control for the vendor when it comes to deployment of their software rather than running the risk of it being hosted in an unsupported environment.

SaaS, combined with Azure IaaS provides more flexibility for ISVs than was previously possible, however there are some key issues that need to be considered in order for it to be as successful as possible.

Common Issue #1: Cost Control

When the architecture for a cloud infrastructure is designed, there are a number of factors to consider.  One of these is the need to create an environment which meets the requirements of the software at peak use.  Servers need to be able to handle peak demand without loss of performance.

If an organisation has 1,000 users within it, the specification of the virtual machines within the network will need to be able to process a high number of concurrent requests in order to serve data correctly.  However, there will be periods of time when demand is much lower – such as outside business hours.

Mostly, cloud virtual machines are sold based on their specifications.  While there is an element of consumption pricing, it is only a component of the overall cost.  As a result, many businesses find themselves paying for unused capacity a lot of the time.

With an ISV model, where software is sold as a service, there are opportunities to reduce the cost.

Balancing Usage

If an ISV sells into multiple territories, there is the ability to spread resource across multiple customers.  This allows for some efficiency and means that the resource is more fully utilised, however this can create issues with information security.

Scaled Usage

With technology like igroup’s Cloud Control, the resource can be scaled based on demand – the number and spec of VMs is reduced at times of lower demand while also protecting the integrity of individual networks.

Common Issue #2: Compatibility

Software needs to be updated as vulnerabilities are exposed or new features are added.  This can create some issues with traditional licensing models, as the software may be deployed on machines with differing specifications.

With a cloud based SaaS model, a standard configuration of server can be specified in Azure that is consistent across all customers.  Once the architecture for this environment has been designed, it is then possible to duplicate it for each new client as they sign up.  This reduces the need for testing compatibility across multiple systems and simplifies the rollout of new features.

Igroup work with ISVs to create test deployments in Azure that replicate the standard architecture used by customers.  This ensures that new versions of software can be rolled out after full testing to reduce customer problems.

Common Issue #3: Identity

Cloud based software offers improved collaboration, but features such as Single Sign On (SSO) can be difficult to configure.  Federated Identity Management using Active Directory is supported by Azure, but requires extensive configuration to get it to work as you would expect.  In some cases, it will also require a separate VM to be deployed that will handle your Active Directory Database – potentially increasing the cloud costs.

We offer a number of solutions to help businesses achieve SSO and manage identity in Azure properly.

Shared AD Server

To reduce the cost of the overall cloud subscription, it is possible to use a shared AD server rather than deploying an additional one for every client you have.  This maintains full security as all data is stored separately.

Active Directory Federated Services

Our experience in deploying complex SharePoint farms that support collaborative working and provide true SSO using ADFS means that we can help provide the underlying identity management for your servers so that users can share information between your application and other business systems more easily.

You can download our whitepaper on using ADFS to manage single sign on to the cloud in Azure by clicking here.

Common Issue #4: Maintenance

A key driver in cloud adoption is the reduced maintenance costs when compared to physical servers and infrastructure.  It is important to recognise though that a cloud environment is not 100% maintenance free – there are still regular tasks that need to be carried out in order to ensure that the system runs correctly including:

  • OS Updates
  • Anti-Malware Updates
  • Scheduled Back-Ups

When you use Azure, you have a choice of buying individual virtual machines, or creating a spec for IaaS.  Beyond a limited amount of forum based support, Microsoft’s standard cloud subscriptions do not include the level of managed services that you would get from a traditional hosting company.

With igroup’s Cloud Control suite for Azure, you benefit from our managed services team handling elements such as OS updates and your data and application server back-ups to increase stability.  We provide a test environment for compatibility testing.

Common Issue #5: Compliance

Historically, security has been the number one priority for any business moving their data to the cloud.  Some industries mandate that data can only be hosted in the UK.  This can preclude the use of Azure where the primary datacentres for the UK market are located in Ireland and the Netherlands.

The flexibility of the cloud means that it is possible to create a hybrid environment in which some elements such as the application itself is hosted in the public cloud (Azure in Microsoft’s datacentres) whereas the database is hosted either locally on a company’s own server, or in a UK based datacentre for compliance.

Azure Stack enables igroup to create an Azure powered private cloud in the data centre of your choice and create a network for the seamless flow of information between the two locations.

Igroup’s experience in providing complex hybrid environments using Azure public and private cloud means we can help our clients structure their cloud management to optimise performance, cost, and compliance.  We can also deploy Cloud Control software on your Azure Stack powered private cloud to enable all of the same benefits as you would gain from using the Microsoft Data Centre.

For more information about how igroup can help your business host applications in Azure and help you reduce costs with Cloud Control, please contact us today on 0207 099 0632, or email hello@igroupltd.co.uk

 

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