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At Provoke we are fortunate to have some of the world's leading experts in Microsoft technology. Whether you want to know the latest in SharePoint and Office 365, understand the changing world of Unified Communications, or gain insight into the Cloud and Windows Azure, this is where to get it. Our News is the place to find the latest events, blogs and articles from the clever monkeys at Provoke and our partners.

Jan 28, 2013

Using the Cloud to transform solution delivery

​​​​​​​​​​​No one wants a server room full of expensive, aging hardware that not only is depreciating fast but has the potential to fail. As a business that relies heavily on storage and computing power, the Cloud offers Provoke the opportunity to outsource our needs to a Cloud provider. We’ve chosen Microsoft. 

The trend towards the Cloud continues to gather momentum. It is also becoming an increasingly core part of our business at Provoke, and recently we worked very closely with our client to deliver a major client portal in the Cloud. This particular project gave us the opportunity to leverage many Azure cloud offerings. In this post I’d like to cover two main areas, Azure SQL for seamless collaboration and Azure Preview VMs to deliver the architecture required.

Our project’s first challenge was the client’s Oracle DB data needing to be translated into a denormalised SQL DB for us to consume within our solution. By utilizing SQL Azure to host the new DB we removed the restriction of an on-site server room and gave our client full control over their data. This meant they were able to build up test structures and data very quickly, and because connections to SQL Azure were available instantly, our development team had immediate access to work with an up-to-date database.

During our development phase it was of utmost importance that database changes were made quickly to meet our aggressive delivery deadline. As we were developing we were constantly identifying database modifications and the client was then able to do what was needed from their end to implement the changes. Having our database in the Cloud allowed us to significantly decrease any delays that we would have otherwise been experienced in an on-premise scenario. Short of working physically on site with the client, we would never have been able to reach such smooth collaboration.

The Cloud approach made working in a virtual team very successful. With a client that worked from home and a developer based overseas, having one stable central point of data meant that we never experienced downtime. SQL Azure proved to be a vital decision in the success of this project. Uptime was 100% and integration was no different to what can be offered on premises.



So there’s no doubt at Provoke we love Azure SQL, but what about the other Cloud offerings? We didn't stop at the basics. With a client that is as keen to innovate as we are, we have been able to move our entire solution architecture into the Cloud.

With SharePoint as the platform of choice we couldn't wait for SP13 in the Cloud but needed the ability to easily integrate with external web services.

Limitations with SP2010 online forced us to think outside the box. We chose to pursue the SharePoint on-premises route by leveraging the Azure Preview VMS. What did this decision mean for us? Provoke were able to set up all the infrastructure needed for the solution platform without purchasing any new hardware. Our client didn't have to do a thing (except hand over their credit card for the subscription). Azure really makes moving to the Cloud simple. We already had the SQL Azure piece up and running, all we had to do was add on the VMS and a few services. All the infrastructure and backbone of the project is in one centrally located portal.

How are the Azure VMs different to an on-premises server? Well they're not really. If you take away the stress of hardware you are just left to build the machines and administrate the network.  Our technical specialist was able to script out the creation of our machines and set up the infrastructure as they would in house. Releases and solution delivery was very easy, with a simple RDP connection we were able to continue to use our normal release process. Backups go straight to Azure, so no need to copy anything down to our servers.

VMs are in preview (not yet in general release), so currently they are not under the normal SLA for Azure. We did experience loss of service only once, but with the Provoke technical team smarts, we recovered quickly. This was always a risk that we were willing to take. Since launching to production last month, we have seen no extra outages and the solution is standing up strong in the cloud. In any world this is a success.

There is no doubt that this particular client will always try to choose the Cloud over physical hardware. One of the most attractive traits is; a vendor like Provoke can manage everything and the client still has all the control.

By Alla Boglaeva - Technical Specialist Team Leader