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Education Benefits From Evolving Data Centers

14 Jun 2016 by Jessica Hall

Microsoft has been teaching us about the end of SQL Server 2005 for a while, and now the important date has come and gone: April 12, 2016. The deadline for the end of extended support has big consequences for schools that haven’t listened and learned from the continued lessons.

But the benefits of upgrading to SQL Server 2014, Azure SQL Database or a combination, are well worth the expense and challenges of migration. Leveraging more data centers than any other public cloud provider, Microsoft Azure allows you to scale with speed and ease. This solution also offers enterprise-grade security and superior support.

One of the biggest trends in the evolution of data centers is the implementation of a hybrid approach. With Azure, you can take advantage of a hybrid cloud environment, and many organizations are using the technology as an extension of their current infrastructures.

While Azure helps educational institutions adopt this methodology, you should consider how data centers and technologies are evolving within the industry and what you need to do to take advantage of these advancements.

Compliance needs to be considered.

“Most educational institutions fall under the purview of the states in which they reside. They need to adhere to the same technical, compliance and regulatory hurdles as the state government,” says David Mayer, vice president of product management for software at Insight.

“Compliance problems can result for organizations in financial services and other industries where regulations require the use of supported software,” added Mayer, in this recent CIO article.

Mayer points out that two of the most popular solutions, Azure and AWS, have been certified for use in many public agencies.

Understand your systems so they can work together.

It’s crucial to assess your systems before initiating a migration, understanding the complexity of all parts and how they work with each other. “You need to be aware of all the data that gets exchanged between your ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] system and your reporting system, and between your reporting system and your email system,” Mayer says.

“There’s a lot of work and planning associated with making sure that you don’t break any of those connections,” Mayer adds. You can’t just pick up your data center and move it elsewhere. In all reality, some applications will need to stay on premises.

Choose solutions that close the gap.

No matter the age of the students taught by your institution, these users are accustomed to using a variety of cloud tools in their everyday lives. Many students have grown up with social media, web file sharing and other technologies.

However, Mayer adds, “These tools don’t really follow the regulatory compliance necessary to be utilized by an educational institution. There is an expectation of what an education provider should be offering to a student today that supersedes that entity’s ability to deliver it,” he explains. Mayer says that while this gap is starting to close it’s still present.

You’ll work faster than ever before.

With integrated solutions, templates and services, Azure allows developers and IT professionals to build and oversee enterprise, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile and web applications, leveraging their existing skillsets and well-known technologies. This cloud-computing platform and infrastructure offering also facilitates the use of a range of databases, devices, frameworks, operating systems, programming languages and tools.

“Microsoft Azure is built upon the technology underpinnings of the company’s software stack,” Mayer says. “However, now you can run various versions of Linux, including Red Hat, on Microsoft Azure, and they're starting to enable customers to host non-Microsoft-based applications within Azure.”

Be prepared to take a hybrid approach.

“There's a realization that the concept of hybrid cloud is probably the right way to do it,” says Mayer. Before moving applications, he recommends that you evaluate cost, capabilities, management and time to market. “You need to look at your environment on a workload-by-workload basis, weigh all the variables, consider the choice from a cost-savings perspective and determine the right approach,” he suggests.

Mayer believes the industry will see this trend become commonplace in late 2016, and it will continue to accelerate in 2017. It won’t fade soon either — DataCenterKnowledge.com predicts companies will continue to employ a hybrid approach, steadily migrating to a hybrid cloud until 2020.

The market is experiencing a big change.

Enterprise telecommunications companies had previously financed large data centers in order to compete in the cloud services market. However, as also reported by DataCenterKnowledge.com, because Azure, AWS and, to some degree, Google Cloud Platform have obtained the majority of the market share, it has become difficult for other providers to remain competitive. For this reason, many of these organizations are now planning to offload their extensive data center portfolios.

There’s never been a better time to leverage Azure.

Mayer points out that the costs of storage and computing are decreasing. “As cloud vendors scale, they are capable of delivering their service at a cheaper and cheaper cost,” he says. With prices lowering and capabilities rising, there’s never been a better time to move to Azure.

Leveraging our long-lasting partnership with Microsoft, Insight can help you determine if Microsoft Azure is the best solution for your educational institution. Talk to a specialist to learn more.