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It seems like Azure is getting a lot of buzz lately, but it's doesn't seems to make sense for us. Here are our basic details

  • Primarily .NET/Microsoft
  • Primarily intranet applications, but also have a public company website
  • Have a full time IT staff and manage our own servers
  • Offices in 4 major cities
  • Internet traffic is localized around those major cities

Is there any reason for us to move to or even consider moving to Azure? It seems like total cost of ownership for Azure would be a lot higher, without any real benefit. I would love to here reasons for or against us considerting Azure or even another cloud provider

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Since you already have a bunch of servers, making them useless by moving to Azure (or EC2) will not pay. But when the time comes to replace or add hardware you should consider a hosted (i.e. "cloud") environment, or even directly hosted solutions.

Your supposition of higher TCO for Azure/EC2 is far from certain. If fact, it is more likely that the reverse is true. How does your cost structure change if you don't own server and storage hardware? The monthly cost has to be much higher than you think for server ownership to be cost effective.

The compelling bigger issue is whether your company will trust Microsoft/Amazon and is willing to not have the servers and data on site. These issues are a problem for many companies - personally I am on the fence. A couple of podcasts ago Jeff and Joel talked to the guys from DocType who run on EC2.

Reasons to consider the cloud ..
1- Money. No hardware is owned, you just pay per month for usage. Lower "TCO".
2- Less Administration. No hardware, no obsolescence, no failures, etc. Fewer people.
3- Flexibility. Capacity is fluid, not discrete, and can be changed on the fly.
4- Availability. When is the list time Amazon has been down?

Reasons to not consider the cloud ..
a- Security. You have to trust the cloud provider.
b- Money. You are paying monthly. Some companies don't like that.
c- Availability. The apps are down if the internet connection is down.
d- Comfort. Some people/companies like to have the infrastructure under their control.

Other issues anyone?

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He might not want to make plans to lay off a chunk of his existing IT staff, since your list advocates fewer people on payroll. Also, you go so far as to say it might be cost-effective to move storage hardware to the cloud. If his company works frequently with large files on a LAN, like graphics/movies/CAD, they might not like the slow speeds of non-local file access. It really depends on the company, their business, and their comfort level (as you point out.) – mfinni Feb 2 '10 at 19:30
@mfinni True about big files, although that kind of situation likely would have made his bullet point list of issues! – tomjedrz Feb 2 '10 at 19:40
not necessarily. He didn't tell us his industry, the employee count, the headcount of the IT staff, what any of their intranet apps are, if they developed them in-house or they're off-the-shelf, if any of them are 24x7 or just 8x5, and if any of them directly relate to revenue. He left out a lot of relevant detail. – mfinni Feb 2 '10 at 20:06
@mfinni - Yes, much relevant detail is missing. So I answered presuming typical business users, assuming that he would have specified non-typical things. – tomjedrz Feb 4 '10 at 14:54

"Cloud" offerings fit a couple scenarios very well, I don't know about Azure specifically but let's assume they're like AWS and Google Apps.

  1. DR (as Copper3 said). You can host the whole app up there and pay for high availability, or you can use Azure as the DR site for a self-hosted app.

  2. Handling spikes cost-effectively. If you know that the app is going to get hit with 5x normal load for 1 week a month, do you pay for in-house capacity equal to peak load that goes unused 3/4 of the time? I'm talking processing and RAM, bandwidth is often available in "burstable" or usage-billed plans.

From how you describe youself, you're probably not a good customer for a cloud app environment, unless your intranet apps are so mission-critical they need to be available even if your own server closet is flooded or on fire and you don't want to pay for failover capability to a recovery site.

Edit - some commodity things are showing good value in the cloud. Hosted Exchange (or any other email server) is a good example.

Also - A public website that just gives company info is often best/easiest to leave to a hosting company, who can do DR/HA cheaper than you can for a static site anyway.

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Do you have an existing DR solution? It could be used for that.

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My take on Azure is that Cloud Computing has been a buzzword for several years now, and Microsoft has had a back-seat. Azure is Microsoft's way of making it clear they are thinking about this space and you can participate with your windows-only cluster.

I would ask your question differently: Is Cloud Computing something you need or want? Others have answered quite nicely on this topic. If you choose "yes", then asking which of the various offerings is the right answer is the next step.

Azure might be getting all the buzz, but EC2 is certainly getting plenty of paying users.

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