Azure's New Secure Regions Offer a Different Path For Critical Systems

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Following on from the announcement that Microsoft has opened the new Australia Central regions for Azure, in partnership with CDC, I spoke with the company's CTO for Azure, Mark Russinovich about this and the state of the cloud when it comes to local businesses and government.

One of the interesting things Russinovich noted was that the relationship with CDC allows Azure customers to also co-locate their own equipment within CDC's data centres. That can help with the transition as it's also possible for customers to run the Azure stack on their own hardware, in their own data centre, before moving that equipment to CDC and then making a shift to a full cloud solution if that works.

"They can place their equipment directly next to Azure services, so they can access extremely low latency access and the security that comes with being in the CDC data centres".

That allows companies to choose between on-prem, hybrid and cloud solutions and move through that continuum at a pace that suits their business needs.

The other advantage for government customers, he added, was that the CDC data centres are connected to the government's Intra Government Communications Network, dubbed ICON, that links almost 90 government departments over fibre with over 500 points of presence in 2,040 pits around Canberra.

Already, a number of government departments have shifted or are planning to shift services and systems to Azure.

The Victorian Supreme Court is connecting all 34 courtrooms and a digital case management solution to streamline and speed the process of justice and the federal Department of Human Services is exploring how intelligent Azure cloud services and bot technologies can improve customer service. Emergency services in Queensland, NSW and Victoria rely on Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office 365 to respond in the event of natural disasters.

"One that we're very excited about is an application called Citadel, which is a citizen application for reporting suspicious issues using a phone application where they can take video or pictures, upload it with a report that will be processed with cloud services with machine learning with, for example, object recognition and facial recognition and then routing those to the appropriate agency for response. that will be running on Azure in the Canberra data centres," said Russinovich.

The app also collects telemetry from the phone.

The big question I wanted answered was what makes Azure different to its many competitors.

"We are the hybrid-focussed cloud," said Russinovich. "We are designing all our software and services both as software that runs on-premises and software that runs on the cloud with services that connect the two to support that hybrid world".

He noted that the company's history with client-server puts them is a position that better supports hybrid infrastructure than most of their competitors that, Russinovich said, are almost exclusively focussed on the cloud. This is where software such as Azure Stack comes into play, allowing companies to run an Azure environment on their own hardware in their own data centre.

And while he also mentioned the trustworthiness of the platform - every cloud provider I've spoken to says they are highly trusted - and Microsoft's investment in machine learning, it's their foundation as an on-prem company that stands out as a key advantage for businesses looking a a transition to the cloud or a hybrid arrangement.

"Hybrid is here to stay," he said.


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