Business Insights - Microsoft Azure
by Nathan Stewart
Role: Cloud & Enterprise Product Marketing Manager
Degree Course: Marketing Management – Lancaster University
What is Azure?
Azure is Microsoft’s cloud platform. The cloud is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. Azure is leading the way into the future for Microsoft through a variety of services from data storage, to security to enabling the Internet of Things.
What is the Cloud?
‘The cloud’ is one the most used buzzwords in technology at the moment. However, most people struggle to explain it or understand it, even though we use it on a daily basis. If you use social media, store your data online, stream movies or TV, then you’re using the cloud!
The first thing you should understand about the cloud is that it is not a physical thing that we’ll see (unless you work in a datacentre). The cloud is a network of servers, and each server has a different function. Some servers use computing power to run applications or deliver a service. There are datacentres where these servers are held and are owned by large companies like Microsoft which power’s our cloud products, such as our cloud platform called Azure – Azure is the Microsoft ‘cloud’.
Why is Azure important to Microsoft and its’customers?
Microsoft Azure has a long list of features that it can offer, from data and storage, analytics, identity, compute, developer services and more. Essentially, through the Azure businesses can meet fundamental needs that they have such as storage, the ability to scale to meet high demand, reduce costs, manage user identities and have security, plus more.
The ‘cloud’ and Azure is something that a lot of businesses are trying to learn more about, as the majority of businesses still use servers that are on premise (ones in their offices that they manage). To explain the difference between managing your own servers and utilising the cloud, we need ice cream.
Take a company using, managing and maintaining their own servers on-site (or on premise), and call this vanilla ice cream in your freezer. Now call the cloud, such as Azure, a permanent ice cream van outside your house.
The vanilla ice cream in your freezer is fine, you can eat it, it tastes fine, and it does the job.
However, it’s plain and can be a bit limiting. It runs out quickly if you eat a lot and so you have to buy another whole tub again (perhaps more than you need). You also have to pay for the bill that your freezer is building up, storing the ice cream that you may not be eating every day, or month – it’s definitely more popular in those summer months.
Now the ice cream man can offer you that plain old vanilla ice cream, whenever you like and that’s fine. However, you only pay for the ice cream you eat and don’t spend more than you need, plus you don’t have to pay to maintain his van – he does that.
Say you wanted to expand your horizons, try something different, or you have guests who want something else… Ask your ice cream man for a different flavour of ice cream, or get sprinkles or sauce because he has far more on offer than you do in your freezer. Oh and again pay for what you need at that moment and not another whole tub.
Through ice cream, you can now understand why the cloud is beneficial to businesses. You can scale your business appropriately with a reduced cost and react to a changing environment, for example, businesses using the cloud on days like Black Friday can pay for more compute, or storage, to deal with increased demand. Businesses still using their own servers would have to pay for more servers and install them which means hiring more IT staff to set them up, manage and maintain them – which is costly!
Why is the Cloud important to Microsoft?
The reason that Azure, or ‘the cloud’ is important to Microsoft is because it’s a way that most businesses, governments and all manner of organisations will operate in the future. There is a huge gain to be had from a financial perspective but also from a strategic point of view. For example, a company investing in Microsoft Azure is making a strategic commitment to use Microsoft’s services for their different working activities. Furthermore, businesses are utilising the cloud to provide their customers with different and an increased number of services. For example, the rise of businesses like Netflix and BlinkBox are leading the way in innovation and customer service by adopting the cloud and changing to a service driven business model.
What I do for Azure
I am a Product Marketing Manager for the Cloud and Enterprise Business Group, within the Marketing and Operations team at Microsoft. My work consists of working on projects concerning our products such as Azure, Windows Server, SQL Server, Enterprise Mobility, Internet of Things plus more.
One part of my role is customer evidence, which comes under my marketing responsibilities. I work with customers who have used our products and been successful as a result of it. I project manage the creation of case studies, videos, blogs, social content and PR for Microsoft based on the customers we have worked with.
The customers we work with vary and include the likes of Aston Martin and Just Giving, to the NHS and Universities. This is a great way to learn more about different products and to interact with customers to understand their business needs and the solutions they are implementing.