Scenarios for using Windows Azure platform services for your solutions. Data storage and processing

    Aplana Company has prepared an extensive overview of scenarios for the use of Windows Azure platform services. We are pleased to share with you this interesting document that will be useful for any individual developers and companies involved in creating applications and considering the Windows Azure cloud as a platform for their solutions. This manual consists of three parts, in the first part you will learn about data storage and processing scenarios.
    UPD: The second part of the article


    Many companies are already familiar with the concept of cloud computing - an approach to organizing computing with high scalability, fault tolerance and reliability and providing resources on demand with the possibility of payment upon their use. Among the three key options for implementing the “cloud” —private, public, and hybrid, it is difficult to name some of the most preferable options — usually companies choose a hybrid option that makes the most efficient use of the capabilities of the local infrastructure and the services provided by the “cloud”.

    A private cloud is an implementation of cloud services on resources completely dedicated to the customer - either in the local infrastructure or remotely. A resource pool is supported, their dynamic allocation for all departments of the company. A private cloud provides control and configuration of allocated resources.

    The public cloud allows customers to deploy and consume application services running on shared, multi-tenant resources. The highly scalable service platform supports the pay-as-you-go model and resides in the data center of the service provider.

    A hybrid cloud is a combination of the key features of a private and public cloud.

    Windows Azure Platform

    Microsoft provides technology for all cloud options. Tools for creating private clouds are based on the Windows Server server operating system and System Center infrastructure management tools. Microsoft offers the Windows Azure platform as a public cloud.

    The Windows Azure platform is Microsoft's highly-scalable, resilient, cloud-based platform for creating, hosting, and delivering applications and data as services.

    Speaking about the public cloud, it should be noted that usually within the cloud platform it provides one or more types of services - infrastructure services (also called “infrastructure as a service”, IaaS), platform services (also called “platform as a service”, PaaS) and application services (also called "applications as a service", SaaS).

    If infrastructure services are used, organizations rent a hardware platform, including servers, storage, and network infrastructure. In the case of using platform services, the supplier presents a platform and a set of software interfaces on the basis of which various software solutions are created. In the case of using application services, applications are delivered and consumed through a web interface.

    Windows Azure platform services provide a large number of components and functional blocks on the basis of which scenarios and solutions of interest to corporate customers can be implemented.

    Business Tasks and IT Tasks

    Quite often, one encounters a problem when the capabilities of cloud platforms are discussed in isolation from a discussion of the challenges facing a business. Moreover, often tasks that seem at first glance “purely IT tasks” are, first of all, business tasks, they are simply formulated in another language. Understanding how “purely IT tasks” can solve business problems is a key factor in the success of launching, implementing and implementing cloud projects. Let's look at a simple example. The following is a list of typical business tasks as well as typical IT tasks.
    Business objectives
    IT Objectives
    • Business Process Improvement
    • Cost reduction
    • Attraction of new clients
    • Increase labor productivity
    • Increased use of data, information, analytics

    • Using virtualization
    • Cloud Computing Implementation
    • Mobile access
    • Network, communication, collaboration
    • Business Intelligence Implementation

    A careful analysis of the two lists above allows us to conclude ...

    Let's see how some typical business tasks can be solved using services implemented on the basis of a public cloud.
    Effective Work
    • Reduce data storage costs
    • Disaster Recovery
    • Increase Availability and Resiliency
    • Storage and processing of large data

    • Secure Storage File Storage

    The expansion of the customer base
    • Mobile access to resources

    Maintaining loyalty
    • Website Resiliency Improvement

    Quick launch of projects
    • Data collection and processing
    • Marketing programs

    Note that when implementing solutions based on a cloud platform, companies begin to have the opportunity to profit (monetize) data and services, and, in some cases, a smooth transition to the SaaS model can be outlined - i.e. to receive additional income from the provision of a number of services to both partners and customers and end users - for more details, see the section “ Monetization of data and services ”.

    Below we will introduce a number of solutions implemented on the basis of the functional blocks that are part of the Windows Azure platform services. The described solutions are characterized by relative ease of implementation and are designed to solve various business problems facing companies. All described solutions can be customized to customer needs.

    Key Windows Azure Solutions

    Aplana offers the following solutions based on the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud platform:
    • Secure Storage File Storage
    • Data collection and processing
    • Storage and processing of large amounts of data
    • Reduce data storage costs
    • Website Resiliency Improvement
    • Backup for websites
    • Mobile access to company resources
      • Mobile access to applications
      • Mobile data access
      • Mobile access to web resources

    The listed solutions are distinguished by relative ease of implementation and are designed to solve the business problems facing companies.

    Secure Storage File Storage

    Many companies are looking for inexpensive, practical solutions that allow you to implement a "cloud" file storage with the ability to control access to individual files for groups and individual users. At the same time, users can be like employees of the organization working within the framework of the existing infrastructure, employees who need access to file storage from various mobile devices, company partners, end users, etc.

    The use of existing "cloud" file storages is not always possible - in the scenario described above, different users or user groups are in different "infrastructures" from the point of view of providing secure access, and use different authentication mechanisms. For example, company employees can use authentication at the Windows Active Directory level, and partners and end users can use other authentication systems external to the company used in the company.

    Advantages of the proposed solution:
    • Ability to customize to customer needs
    • Hosting a solution in your own Windows Azure account - simplified payment management, cost transparency
    • Payment only for functions that are really needed by the customer
    • The ability to store files of almost unlimited volume - up to 100 TB

    Among the possible extensions of the above solution to create a "cloud" file storage, we note the following:

    • Automatic file conversion
      • Such functionality can be implemented for files in the Microsoft Office format for converting them, for example, to the PDF format, for converting files in the Microsoft Office format of “previous” versions to files in the Open XML format, as well as for converting files to other most common formats - HTML, XML, etc.
    • Full Text Search
      • If the "cloud" file storage (or part of it) is used to store files in the Microsoft Office format, the indexing and full-text search function for such documents can be implemented.

    Example The
    government needed a simple but flexible solution that allowed civil servants equipped with tablets based on the Windows 8 operating system to have mobile access to documents necessary for their daily work. Aplana specialists proposed a solution based on reliable, scalable and fault-tolerant “cloud” storage of Windows Azure Storage, which allows not only accessing documents via open communication channels, but also realizing user-level sharing of documents through the use of Windows Azure Active Directory

    This decision allowed to increase the productivity of civil servants, to ensure their mobility and timeliness of decision-making.

    A representative office of a large western company was looking for a solution that allows for the exchange of large files, both between employees of the company itself and its partners. The solution proposed by Aplana uses scalable, fault-tolerant and reliable Windows Azure Storage, which acts as a file system in the cloud, and access control and a role model for managing files are implemented based on Windows Azure Active Directory. Takle storage allows you to exchange files of almost unlimited volume, provides automatic deletion of files according to a predetermined schedule, when new or updated versions of files appear, users receive notifications by e-mail.

    This solution provided the company's employees with an easy-to-use tool that significantly reduced the time required to provide access to data.

    Data collection and processing

    This scenario allows us to solve a problem that is often encountered in companies that work both with clients and partners and / or have a large number of employees who spend most of their work time outside the office. Another option in which this scenario may be relevant is when the company has the task of collecting and processing data from any devices.

    Here are a few examples of the applicability of this scenario:

    • Employee survey
    • Opinion poll
    • Population census
    • Filling out standard forms for banks, insurance companies
    • Meter reading

    The benefits of implementing this scenario on a cloud platform are as follows:

    • Incoming traffic is free.
    • Reliable and fault-tolerant storage is relatively inexpensive, data in the cloud can be stored for as long as you like
    • Data processing does not require a lot of resources.
    • The cost of outgoing traffic when uploading data to a local storage or DBMS will be minimal, since the amount of processed data will be significantly less than the amount of incoming data.

    Data collection and processing

    As part of the modernization of the internal infrastructure of one of the largest Russian airlines, it was necessary to create a solution that allows receiving, processing and saving data on the status of flights in real time. During the implementation of this project, Aplana specialists implemented a secure VPN connection to the airline’s infrastructure, provided the necessary data and processed it, created “cloud” storage based on Windows Azure SQL DB and implemented a set of program interfaces (APIs) that provide access to data from the applications and services of the company.

    This reliable, scalable and fault-tolerant solution made it possible to provide information on the status of flights on-line both to consumers within the company and beyond.

    Storage and processing of large amounts of data

    The solution for storing and processing large amounts of data allows you to implement the task belonging to the big data category. For example, in the case of storing and processing data about bank customers to identify trends, the sources of such data may be:

    • Internal data
      • CRM, loyalty programs, profiles, purchase history, contacting support, etc.
    • External data
      • Geography, demographic data, etc.
    • Data from devices
      • Telemetry, GPS, NFC, ATMs
    • Social Media Data
      • Ratings and reviews, forums, questions / answers, Facebook, Twitter, foursquare, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.

    The task of collecting and subsequent processing of such data may require a large number of both computing resources and resources for storing input and processed data - in this case, the “cloud” platform provides everything necessary for the rapid implementation of such a scenario. After the data is collected and processed, they can be transferred to the analytical system for display, analysis and other actions.

    Storage and processing of large amounts of data

    Example A
    large Western telecom operator needed a solution with which to analyze tens and hundreds of millions of log files to find various information. Before processing, the log files were cleared of any personal information. One example of such an analysis is the collection of data on the use of transport - private or public, allowing the relevant services to have a detailed picture of the movements of people and, accordingly, to regulate the operation of vehicles during peak hours.

    Aplana's solution allows you to process huge amounts of data by optimizing the execution of processing algorithms that use the maximum number of computing resources of a virtual machine — parallel computing, storing processed data in memory, etc. Due to this, it is possible to significantly reduce the amount of data processed and ready for further analysis. The analysis implemented on the Microsoft SQL Server platform allows not only to obtain data in the required format, but also to present them on maps for more visual visualization.

    Reduce data storage costs

    In this scenario, we use Windows Azure Storage to reduce storage costs. Ongoing costs may include the creation and maintenance of a file storage that requires the creation of backups and ensuring its reliability, availability and fault tolerance. For obvious reasons, cloud storage must be scalable, reliable, highly accessible, and secure.

    Note that often in a relational database documents, files, graphics, etc. are stored. This leads to the fact that relational storage becomes more expensive to maintain, requires more resources to create backups, increases the time required to create backups and subsequent data recovery.

    When choosing this scenario, you should pay attention to the following:

    • It may be necessary to make changes to applications that work with databases whose contents have been optimized in terms of reducing data storage costs
    • Cloud Transfer Rate
    • The cost of receiving data from the cloud storage is the cost of outgoing traffic,
    • The speed of data transfer from the cloud storage

    Reduce data storage costs

    Example The
    Russian representative office of a large foreign company specializing in providing information on pharmaceutical products for specialists and end users required the modernization of existing infrastructure. During the project, Aplana specialists migrated data from the Microsoft SQL Server database server to the “cloud” - to the Azure SQL DB platform, ensured the reliability and fault tolerance of the storage, and also implemented a set of scalable software interfaces that allow receiving information on medicines and create various solutions based on them.

    About Aplan Company

    Aplana company specializes in the development, testing and maintenance of software created in accordance with the specific requirements of customers and provides services for the implementation and integration of applications for corporate clients in the Russian and foreign markets. The Aplana company is a member of the IT Co. Group, it has representative offices in Russia, the USA and the UK.

    Aplana is an official Microsoft partner and has a number of Microsoft Partner Awards in the field of software development ... in 2013, Aplana received the Partner of the Year award in the nominations ...

    Aplana company was the first Russian company to become a member of Azure Circle, a program that brings together leading Microsoft partners who perform a full range of work on creating applications on the Windows Azure platform for corporate clients. Participation in this program allows Aplan to expand the range of services provided, raise the technical level and quality of ongoing projects, and also provides an opportunity to attract Microsoft resources when searching for solutions to emerging issues and suggesting optimized design solutions.

    The company employs developers who pass the Designing and Developing Windows Azure Applications exam, confirming their qualifications in the platform and cloud technologies of Microsoft. In addition, Aplana has implemented a number of successful projects for Russian and foreign customers, including the Telegraph Media Group, UBM Medica, Sheremetyevo Airport and several other companies.
    Read on in the next article ...

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