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MoD becomes first tenant in Microsoft's UK Azure datacentre

Microsoft’s UK Azure cloud is now fully operational, offering Azure cloud services and Office 365

Microsoft has opened its UK Azure cloud for business, offering customers in government and regulated industries a means to keep their data resident in the UK.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and London and Maudsley NHS Trust are among the first organisations to run Azure services in the Microsoft datacentres.

Nicola Hodson, COO of Microsoft UK, said the latest set of datacentres offers the first complete end-to-end cloud, offering “world-class reliability and data residency for UK companies”.

Initially, Microsoft will provide Azure and Office 365 from these UK datacentres.

Dynamics 365, which relies on Azure and Office 365, will be available in the first half of 2017, according to Hodson.

The Azure cloud service, which has been in private preview to a selection of private sector and public sector organisations, is being used by South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, one of the UK’s largest providers of mental health services.

The trust has around 4,800 staff working in four main hospitals and 88 other sites, and it has modernised its IT using Office 365 and Yammer, Microsoft’s social media platform.

MoD on Azure

The UK Ministry of Defence is another public sector customer choosing to host its cloud in infrastructure in Microsoft’s UK cloud.

Mike Stone, chief digital and information officer at the MoD, described the MoD’s use of Microsoft as “a full blown leap into the cloud”.

He said the MoD will be using the Azure cloud and Office 365 for common application services and hosting of data. “We are also implementing OneNote, OneDrive, PowerBI, Yammer for social media and Skype for Business.”

Unlike the majority of Microsoft customers, Stone said Microsoft will be running a private instance of Azure for the MoD, saying: “This is a private instance of Azure. It is not on-premise.”

Stone said the MoD’s Azure cloud will enable the organisation to share core IT infrastructure across all elements of defence and will be able to connect to the public cloud and Amazon Web Services. It will be kept updated as and when Microsoft enhances its public Azure cloud, Stone added.

Read more about Azure

  • The Met Office’s Weather Observation Website (WOW) used to run on Google’s cloud, but has switched to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.
  • Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform has gone well beyond mere virtual machines and orchestrated workflows. It can now also power internet of things applications.

The MoD will be the anchor tenant in Microsoft’s datacentres. The contract demonstrates how Microsoft will work with private and public sector customers to build hybrid cloud environments that meet their regulatory and security specifications.

Microsoft’s strategy is to offer its customers cloud services that span public and private clouds. In its 2016 annual report, Microsoft declared: “We are working to enhance the return on IT investment by enabling enterprises to combine their existing datacentres and our public cloud into a single cohesive infrastructure.

“Businesses can deploy applications in their own datacentre, a partner’s datacentre or in our datacentres with common security, management and administration across all environments, with the flexibility and scale they want.”

Ron Markezich, corporate vice-president of Office 365, said: “The UK has been a strong market for the Microsoft cloud. Some customers need data located and stored in the UK. Our strategy is to extend the cloud to other cloud storage providers.” 

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