Microsoft and Accenture push Azure hybrid cloud platform for the enterprise

Accenture, Microsoft and Avanade talk up hybrid IT, promoting a platform that allows enterprises to exploit cloud with existing infrastructure

Accenture and Avanade have poured scorn on the notion that enterprises are looking to ditch their datacentres and move all of their IT to the cloud.

The two companies are working on bringing a co-engineered and co-funded hybrid cloud platform to market, on Microsoft’s Azure platform.

The Accenture Hybrid Cloud Solution for Microsoft Azure – as it has been dubbed – was first announced by the three firms in December 2014. A handful of enterprises are now piloting the system as the trio seek to refine the platform, ahead of its general release in the second half of 2015.

Microsoft and Accenture billed the hybrid cloud collaboration as the biggest project they’ve embarked on since creating Avanade in 2000.

Cliff Evans, Azure Business Lead at Microsoft UK, said combining its technology with Accenture’s IT consulting knowhow and Avanade’s technical delivery skills should make it easier for enterprises to move to hybrid cloud.

“We think there is a tremendous opportunity for hybrid cloud, obviously for us, but much more importantly for customers to go out and realise the benefits of hybrid cloud," said Evans.

“The truth is they need something above and beyond a great product to make that happen, and that’s what we think we have.”

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Pilot projects

Mining firm Freeport-McMoRan is one of the companies trialing the technology. It uses it to analyse data collected from sensors that feed back information on what conditions are like in company's mines and the likelihood is of excavating something of value.

Emma McGuigan, managing director of Accenture Technology UK and Ireland, said the company was using virtual machines to process this data, but was keen to add cloud to the mix to help it cope with the deluge of information generated by these sensors.

“We worked with them to implement our hybrid cloud solution which then enabled them to stand up all this additional processing power, to drive the analytics of this sensory data and link it with their existing estate, while only having to look at a single set of metrics,” she said.

“There are other ways they could have done that, but it would have required heavy integration, dealing with custom workload management, which takes a lot of time. We were able to turn this piece around in three months.”

On-premise legacies

The hybrid IT model allows users to make the most of their existing IT investments, while tapping into the benefits of public cloud. Accenture predicted some enterprises will favour the strategy because of their reliance on legacy technology.

Accenture said it was unlikely many enterprises will move all on-premise IT to the public cloud and close their datacentres, a scenario the likes of Amazon and Google have promoted.

“Our clients want to demonstrate they are digital and forward-looking, but they’re not of a mind to move all their existing estate to the cloud as it’s there, it’s robust and it’s working,” said McGuigan.

“They aren’t of the mind that it’s all or nothing with cloud, as they see this as the way they need to manage their IT moving forward, while keeping an eye on the many versions of public cloud happening within the organisation that employees are using with their own credit cards.

“What this solution offers is a chance to put your arms around all of this and manage it.”

Mark Corley, CTO of Avanade, said an all-in approach to cloud was not the right strategy for every enterprise, and companies should not allow themselves to be forced into it.

“Most large organisations and most of the FTSE 100 have large investments in datacentres and, to turn up and say ‘it’s all in to the public cloud’, is just unrealistic,” he said.

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