Channeling the Cloud

New Azure Releases Make It Easier for Partners To Sell Microsoft's Cloud

From security to storage to identity management, the recent raft of new Azure services gives Microsoft partners multiple ways to meet today's business requirements.

Five years after launching Microsoft Azure, partners are still trying to get their arms around how -- and perhaps why -- they can benefit from offering services and solutions based on it. It's not a dissimilar question partners faced with the launch of Office 365.

After a barrage of new, focused solutions in the Azure cloud service portfolio over the past year, there are a number that could be quick wins because they address today's current business requirements and are ready to deploy. Among the services that look promising:

  • Authentication and Identity Management: If your customer is already using or starting to migrate to Office 365, they automatically have Azure Active Directory (AAD) accounts because it's the user authentication and identity component of both services. Partners can help customers federate AAD with their on-premises Active Directory instances. Partners can also upsell AAD Premium, which offers higher levels of security such as multifactor authentication and, along with Intune, is the basis of the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite for mobile device management. They can also tie it into the Microsoft Rights Management Service in Office, enabling organizations to produce documents and e-mails.

  • Disaster Recovery: Microsoft has invested heavily in targeting Azure and its global network of geo-redundant datacenters as an alternate facility with its new Azure Site Recovery (ASR). ASR takes advantage of new capabilities such as Hyper-V Replica for replication and its new ExpressRoute WAN offering. ExpressRoute addresses the last-mile issue by providing high-bandwidth connections via telecom partners including AT&T, British Telecom, Colt, Level 3 and Verizon. As an added incentive, Microsoft is offering its Azure ExpressRoute 10 Mbps Network Services Provider (NSP) free of charge through the end of June.

  • Storage and Backup: Disaster recovery is just part of a data protection strategy, of course. Azure can also be used for standard backup and recovery, archiving and storage -- in some cases as an alternative to creating an on-site SAN. While in some cases Azure is a viable replacement for a SAN, it's far from displacing it on a broad level any time soon.

  • Remote Desktop Services: The new Azure RemoteApp is now available; in a nutshell, this is an application delivery service delivering Windows-based programs to iOS and Android devices providing native functionality via the Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) protocol.

  • Key Vault Service: If your clients are still wary of using Azure due to security concerns, the new Azure Key Vault Service lets them encrypt their data and hold onto the keys. According to Microsoft, it doesn't have a copy of those keys and, therefore, can't access customer data. Microsoft describes it as a bring-your-own-key service.

These are among some options partners can quickly offer to customers, all of which require the same level of professional services as the on-premises brethren of Azure. And given the hybrid components to most of these offerings, you can leverage and extend your existing skills.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.