One of the biggest challenges for any organisation that is migrating data or infrastructure to the cloud is finding the right skills and knowledge to ensure that the move is seamless. Many traditional IT companies have adapted to the new (virtual) world and recruited cloud specialists, but there is a major skills gap when it comes to specialists on the different platforms. An Azure Consultant who is fully qualified by Microsoft can bridge this knowledge gap.
Many cloud consultants take a platform-agnostic approach. They work with Amazon EC2, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. This can work well during the initial process of selecting the right cloud platform to fit business needs, but for also falls short in the longer term, when specialist skills are required to manage the infrastructure and contain costs effectively.
There are consultants who specialise in one platform or another – as igroup do with Azure. Their knowledge of the platform is deeper and helps businesses get more out of their infrastructure, but there is a major shortage of specialist Azure consultants, so businesses don’t always get the best advice possible.
There are a number of reasons why it’s quite difficult to find an accredited Microsoft Azure specialist consultant rather than one who focuses on the other major cloud platforms.
The biggest player in the public cloud space, Amazon launched the precursor to EC2 in 2006. They weren’t the first to market, but their scale meant that they quickly became the biggest player in the space and captured a dominant market share.
Microsoft Azure was announced in 2008 but didn’t reach the market until 2010 – 4 years after EC2. This allowed Microsoft to create a more mature product that reflected the needs of enterprise businesses but also meant that the market that they entered was more crowded. As a result, there was a smaller talent pool available, with experienced consultants already specialising.
Microsoft was able to leverage their partner network to grow the scale of the Azure consulting base, and as the market share has grown, the need for specialist Azure consultants has advanced, but there is still a marked shortage.
As noted above, Microsoft’s partner programme is well established, and the company provides extensive certification and training to gold partners to ensure that they offer the required skillset for clients to benefit from the various platforms.
In order to achieve Gold Partner status for Microsoft Azure, two people in a business need to pass a number of specific exams from the following list:
- Technical Assessment for Using Microsoft Azure for Datacenter Solutions
- Technical Assessment for Using Azure for Data Analytics and Data Platform Solutions
- Technical Assessment for Using Microsoft Azure for Application Development
- Exam 70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions
- Exam 70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions
- Exam 70-534: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions
The qualifications require substantial knowledge and leverage existing experience of both cloud and Microsoft technologies, so they are difficult to achieve without extensive study, putting them out of the reach of some smaller consultancy firms.
Becoming a Microsoft Gold Partner for Azure also carries an annual fee – which means that it’s something that consultants need to be serious about investing in.
At igroup we were one of the first UK Gold Partners to specialise in Azure technologies. This came from our background as SharePoint specialists – we already had a strong technical team in place to be able to manage the transition to covering Azure and gain the required certification to manage complex cloud migrations into Azure.
Microsoft market Azure as being the Enterprise Cloud, but as with the other major public cloud providers, a consultant with sufficient experience is able to configure an environment in Azure that is suitable for any type of business needs.
The ability to virtualise infrastructure using Azure’s basic functionality is on par with any other cloud service, and the introductory prices are competitive – however the perception that it can only benefit larger organisations means that many consultancy firms who specialise in working with smaller companies with less complex hosting needs gravitate toward other providers.
Over the past 6 years of working with Azure, we have helped companies of all sizes move to a cloud infrastructure – from smaller businesses that require a simple environment of virtual machines to host applications and data through to international organisations where their virtual infrastructure includes large server farms configured to serve data and host applications that need to be accessed worldwide.
What an Azure Consultant Can Do
Whether your organisation has already moved to a cloud platform or is planning a migration, an experienced Azure Consultant will be able to help in a number of ways:
Understanding your Needs
All organisations have different requirements. You will have a set of objectives that you want to realise from cloud technology – whether they’re reducing costs, improving reliability, or putting in place security. An Azure consultant will work with you to understand those requirements and plan a solution that helps you realise your goals.
Plan your Architecture
Based on your needs, they will be able to determine the optimal configuration for virtual machines and storage that blends cost efficiency with the power and processing that you need
Help with a Migration Plan
Your consultant should be able to review the applications that you already use, and create a plan that helps you move them to a virtual environment. Similarly, they will be able to aid in the transfer of data to the new platform to minimise downtime and ensure no losses occur.