This is the first post of a new series: Modernize your Business Intelligence Architecture with the Cortana Intelligence Suite.
If your Business Intelligence (BI) and Big Data solutions are still on-premises, you should really be analyzing the benefits of migrating to the cloud. Or, if you analyzed your cloud options last year and weren't ready, then it is time to take another look - things really are moving that fast.
Microsoft Azure is quickly advancing and has created an improved collection of Platform as a Service (PaaS) data platform tools through the Cortana Intelligence Suite. Through this collection of independent, but tightly integrated products, customers can create robust and scalable BI solutions that are entirely in the cloud and fully accessible to employees and customers in a secure manner. As you go through and analyze your options, the top 5 things you’ll want to consider are listed below.
1. Agility/Time to Value
The number one reason to move to a cloud architecture is because of enhanced agility and time to value. In an on-premises world, corporations must perform comprehensive solution sizing projects, go through long procurement cycles to purchase expensive hardware, sign Enterprise Agreements in order to purchase software licensing, and then pay someone to put it all together in the correct way. If that wasn’t enough, you then have to do this every 3 years to upgrade and migrate your solution to keep up with new technologies.
If you're tired of allocating your team’s resources to the triennial on-premises refresh cycle, then the cloud might be right for you. The Azure Data Platform tools can be deployed in minutes, which allows your team to immediately begin creating business solutions, not worrying about hardware planning and refresh. Your team can also instantly throttle the solution up or down depending on the horsepower needed during its phase of life. This agility is valuable in situations when your data growth increases, or your solution becomes more popular.
2. Lower Total Cost of Ownership
Comparing cloud and on-premises pricing models is challenging. When looking at your all-in price for an on-premises solution, you have to factor in things like licensing, hardware, real estate, electricity, support cost, security, deployment cost, and depreciation. Cloud pricing is much different. You are typically paying an hourly price for a predetermined performance level. Performance levels can potentially even be flexed up and down depending on usage patterns, and sometimes paused depending on the tool being used. The equation for each firm will be different, but the cloud will almost always end up the winner by a small, but meaningful margin.
3. Innovations and Continuous Feedback
Microsoft is now operating in a product development cycle where all new product features are being pushed to the cloud prior to going to on-premises solutions. On-premises software refreshes generally happen about every 2 years. The new features and capabilities getting pushed to the cloud products are typically getting released every month. Additionally, customers are able to influence the priority of the product teams by voting and contributing feedback via sites like the Azure Feedback Forums. While this may not seem that important, it is. The fixes, innovations, and new capabilities being pushed monthly add real business value and allow your teams to create solutions that are impactful to businesses and at a reduced cost.
In almost every industry and trade, having the right tool for the job is imperative for success. The Cortana Intelligence Suite has a collection of tightly integrated tools that each provide different capabilities for different jobs/requirements your company might face. Each tool can easily be deployed and integrated in minutes, which gives your team the right tool for the job without having to provision their own on-premises solutions. As we'll explore more in the next blog post of this series, this Swiss Army knife platform has a tool for just about everything, including real-time streaming solutions, Big Data processing, and Dare Warehousing at scale.
Most people would agree that security is the most unfun aspect of a solution to consider, but it is arguably the most important. Security is held in high regard in Azure which is reflected in the Azure Trust Center, as Azure has the most certifications out of any cloud provider. The data platform tools in Azure are integrated with Azure Active Directory (AAD) to provide authorization and data-level security, encryption of data in motion and at rest, enable IP restrictions, auditing, and threat detection. While putting your data in the cloud for the first time can be very scary for most business leaders, Microsoft makes the transition easy with its focus on security.
There's a lot of cloud marketing out there that says migrating to the cloud is as easy as flipping a light switch. This series isn't one of them. Migrating your BI solution to the cloud isn't always a perfect match to on-premises, and it isn't always straight forward, but we believe it is worth it. At BlueGranite, we help migrate our customers to the Azure cloud, as well as help them build green-field solutions starting out in Azure. We also eat our own dog food, so to speak, as our BI solution has been entirely in the Azure cloud going on 3 years now. In this blog series, I'll walk you through the considerations for migrating/building in the Azure cloud. Stay tuned and check out my next post to gain an understanding of what the Cortana Intelligence Suite is and what capabilities it has.