Our pivot to Microsoft Azure public cloud

Posted: 27th Nov 2020
The milestones just keep coming at Atlas Cloud with our pivot to Azure public cloud in what happens to be our 10th year of helping companies work securely from anywhere. Our CEO, Pete Watson, provides the inside track on decommissioning our very first data centre and celebrating our 10th anniversary in the space of a few very busy months.

Goodbye private cloud, hello public cloud

Atlas Cloud has been very successful over the years at servicing our customers with private cloud solutions. Providing greater security and scalability than most in-house infrastructure could achieve, private cloud once seemed like the IT pinnacle to which every business should aspire. However, times change and public cloud has had a rapid and significant rise to prominence over the last few years. Indeed, at Atlas we’d already decided that our future was public cloud before the pandemic came along an expedited those plans.

The first step was to pick our cloud, and in many ways this was by far the easiest step. With our pre-existing expertise and confidence in the Microsoft 365 stack it made sense to put our eggs firmly into a basket that was built to get the best out of it; Microsoft Azure cloud. Not only that but Microsoft works incredibly closely with Citrix, the vendor we’ve been using for years to provide the backbone of our remote working solutions. With cloud-based solutions emerging such as Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops Standard for Azure – building upon the foundations of Microsoft Virtual Desktops – it just felt the perfect fit for Atlas.

The next step was to say a fond farewell to our old private data centres; the data centre in which we housed our very first customer. After months of preparation, on Sunday the 4th of October, we finally said our goodbyes. Decommissioning the data centre was no mean feat and for that I have to congratulate our CTO, Chris Morris, and the entire Atlas Cloud team who all had their part to play in what was a hugely successful migration.

We continue to manage our other private cloud data centre and are still able to offer customers the level of service, redundancy and security that they first came to us for. Indeed, private cloud will still play its part into the future, more so for virtualising apps that aren’t currently supported by their manufacturer in public cloud environments.

Microsoft Azure - blue triangle design

So why did we move to public cloud?

As I’ve said, it’s a move we’ve been planning for some time. However, it certainly wasn’t a knee-jerk decision. We weighed up the pros and cons as with anything in life, but in the end it came down to the following two key drivers:

1. Public cloud offers great security

The age-old argument that private cloud is more secure then public cloud has truly had its day. If there was ever a time that this held true it has long since been overturned by the massive investments that public cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon AWS have made in recent years. Their budgets have advanced security way beyond what any private cloud provider could ever achieve. I just need to take one look at Microsoft Azure’s accreditations and I have no doubt they’ll exceed the expectations of even the most cautious of customers.

One of the chief concerns around data security and public cloud was the location of customer data. In the early years of Microsoft Azure this could have meant a UK company having their data hosted on US servers. This meant that the data would fall under US law whereby the US government could request access to it without the customers consent. This was obviously at odds with EU law where the GDPR states that you must gain explicit consent for storing personally identifiable data, including if that data is to be accessible by third parties, which in this scenario would be the US government.

Thankfully, this is no longer a valid concern with Microsoft commissioning more and more data centres throughout the world. Crucially, for Atlas Cloud and our customers, this expansion has been significant within the EU, allowing us to offer managed Azure hosting in the UK.

2. Public cloud offers true scalability

Arguably even more important to Atlas Cloud than the heightened security (as private cloud data centres are not exactly unsecure), is the fact that Azure allows us to move towards a truly scalable consumption-based model.

Private data centres may be scalable to a degree but the per user/per month model often requires a commitment of two or three years as expensive servers to be bought, installed, maintained and managed by the provider. With Azure public cloud and the consumption-based model, it is Microsoft who is responsible for the ownership of the servers. If you’re not using the services, your costs diminish, as Microsoft will shift the capacity to someone who does need it.

This type of consumption-based model can only be made possible through the type of global demand a company the size of Microsoft can garner. Crucially for Atlas Cloud, this means that we can offer our customers rolling monthly commitments. Use it one month, you pay for that month’s use. Don’t use it the next month, it’s bye-bye to unnecessary bills. After all, who would want to pay for a service they’re not using?

Our reason for being remains unchanged

We’ve always made enabling secure remote working our niche and today, it would be fair to say, our services are more important than ever. However, flexibility has become vital in this world of uncertainty and our move to Azure cloud has removed the largest barrier for customers wanting to adopt cloud-based services. Now customers can enjoy IT costs that expand and contract naturally in tandem with their business and their demand for IT services. It truly feels like the end for sunk IT costs and depreciating hardware and I’m sure CEOs, CTOs, and CFOs alike will join me in saying “good riddance”.

Wait! Didn’t you say milestones (plural)?

Yes I did, and this is one which passed with fairly limited fanfare given the current pandemic. However, I think it’s worth mentioning again that, at the height of lockdown, Atlas Cloud actually turned 10 years old.
Atlas Cloud employees celebrating on a Microsoft Teams meeting
The celebrations were virtual, unfortunately the hangover was not

From the difficult early days to the blossoming, innovative, and trusted organisation that we are today, I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank all Atlas Cloud employees, both past and present, for the parts they have played. I’m truly proud of the organisation that stands in front of me today.

With our future dedicated to delivering services in Microsoft Azure and our recent high-profile management additions, the next 10 years is looking extremely bright for Atlas Cloud, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

About The Author

Pete joined Atlas Cloud soon after its formation to become CEO in 2012. He’s led the company through its start-up phase to become a recognised player in the managed services sector, having recently won Best Virtualisation Product at Computing’s Technology Product Awards. Fanatical about enterprise, Pete has an extensive background in business consultancy and has mentored start-up leaders for almost a decade. He holds an MBA from Durham University and is also Chairman at Newcastle Sixth Form College.

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