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The Greenest Cloud: Looking at Microsoft’s New Green Plan

Microsoft-Green-Plan-300x169 The Greenest Cloud: Looking at Microsoft’s New Green Plan

Microsoft’s Project Natick at the launch site in the city of Stromness. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

With the material world being geared increasingly towards understanding climate change and carbon footprints, we often forget that the digital world contributes to fossil fuel emissions as well. Looking at the trends of today, we can predict that digital consumption will only increase over time, therefore adding to the carbon footprint of these companies. How are different cloud providers dealing with this issue? Let’s look at Microsoft. 

Microsoft, one of the Big Three cloud providers, has brought 2 plans to the climate change table: one to reduce the company’s carbon footprint to allow for a “greener” cloud, and the other to implement underwater data centers powered by renewable energy. Seems like a lot to process? Let’s break it down. 

Microsoft’s new “Green Plan” outlines how their data centres will run on 60% renewable energy by 2020. At the end of 2018, 50% of the company’s energy was renewable and carbon neutral. Wanting to cut their carbon emissions by 75% by the end of 2030, the company has implemented an internal “carbon tax” for business divisions. Taking tangible steps to reduce the effect of the buildings and resources used in the past, they are also redesigning their campuses into carbon neutral havens. Although Apple, Google, Amazon and the likes are all rapidly moving in the same direction, a great victory for companies of such large proportions, Microsoft will be the first company to reach a campus of zero-carbon and zero-waste goals.

What Does This Mean for the Future?

It doesn’t mean being satisfied with what they have done so far. Being at the forefront of technological innovation, one of the most remarkable stories of the digital age proves to be Microsoft’s “underwater data centers”.

natickfrance063-768x512-1-e1584646711233-300x171 The Greenest Cloud: Looking at Microsoft’s New Green Plan

Image by Frank Betermin/Naval Group

 

In the testing stages now, these centers are quick to deploy, and could provide internet connectivity for many years to come. Imagine a 40 foot long data pod, sleekly dropped into the depths of the ocean off the Coast of Scotland. Seems like something out of your sci-fi novel dreams? We agree. Not only is the concept of this data center a force to be reckoned with, but the implementation of this idea could also allow for ways of delivering AI applications and gaming content to end users. Operating without maintenance for 5 years, the pod’s cooling system uses ocean water, sustainably managing itself. 

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, says “Since 50 percent of the world’s population lives close to water bodies, we think this is the way we want to think about future data center regions and expansion”. Data centers are now the backbone of the world. Rather than keeping them in tightly stored boxes lining facilities, Microsoft wants to integrate them into the natural world, and use this sustainable energy to help them get there. Using submarine technology and applying this research, Microsoft is tangibly changing the way that we look at storing data. The whole process of creating one of these underwater data centers took a total of 90 days as compared to the usual 2 years of production time. This would allow the company to react to demand without facing shortages. The Azure Cloud platform is becoming the computer of the world, and the world is Microsoft’s literal oyster.

 

Microsoft Makes a Significant Investment in Canadian Cloud

CanadianCloud-copy Microsoft Makes a Significant Investment in Canadian Cloud

Microsoft Cloud Services has been a core contributor to the growth and development of numerous Canadian organizations and is steadily making more investments in Canadian Cloud. Recently announcing their first Canadian Azure Availability Zone in the Azure Canada Central region and an Azure ExpressRoute in Vancouver, this expansion will provide Canadian businesses greater access to new innovations to accelerate their development. 

An Availability Zone consists of one or more data centres equipped with independent power, cooling, and networking. Microsoft says it’s the only cloud provider in Canada to offer Availability Zones and disaster recovery with in-country data residency. In addition, this will be the largest expansion of its Canadian-based cloud computing infrastructure since the launch of the first data centre in Canada in 2016. According to Microsoft, this expansion will increase computing capacity by an incredible 1300%.

While Azure ExpressRoutes already exists in Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City, this is an important investment for the West Coast. A service that primarily provides a private connection between an organization’s on-premises infrastructure and Microsoft Azure data centre, Azure ExpressRoutes provides more reliability, speed, and lower latency for users. Organizations in Vancouver will now have a secure network connection into Azure without having to cross the country. 

The new Azure Availability Zones and ExpressRoute services are set to go live by the end of March. 

 

For more information email us at info@optimusinfo.com or read more here:

Microsoft announces Canadian Azure Availability Zone, and Azure ExpressRoute in Vancouver (IT World Canada)

Microsoft Makes Significant Investments in Canadian Cloud to Fuel Innovation In Canada (Microsoft News Center Canada)

 

 

Automated Testing on Azure DevOps

If you are looking for automated testing for any of your applications and would like to integrate it with your Azure DevOps infrastructure, Optimus Information has a “ready to deploy” Test Automation solution for you.

Our Azure DevOps based test automation solution uses the latest Azure CI/CD features and offers the following functionalities:

1. Configure automated test cycles using Azure DevOps

2. Schedule and execute Web UI and REST API test scripts on cloud using Azure VMs

    • Self-serviced virtual machines and PaaS resources for testing using Azure DevTest labs
    • Supports automated test scripts developed in Java or C# using Selenium WebDriver, REST Assured and RestSharp

    3. Distribution of apps to beta testers and your collaborators with Azure App Center

      • Selection from a large variety of test devices using the App Center Test Cloud
      • Supports popular frameworks like Xamarin.UITest, Appium, XCUI Test etc.

      4. Test result reporting and logging with screen shots and 6 month data retention with App Center

        • Support for notification over mail or other communication tools like Slack

        5. Data persistence support using AzureSQL service

        6. Integration with PowerBI Embedded for reporting and analytics

        7. Built in test script source code management using Azure DevOps

          • Supports integration with third party Git providers like Github if required

          8. Built in test case management for test plans using Azure Test Plans

            • Custom integration possible with other tools like TestLink where supported

            9. Concurrent execution

            10. Ability to start automated testing in short time frame with expense control

            Cloud is important to our customers. The Optimus test automation framework on Azure makes it possible for our customers to seamlessly integrate test automation into their cloud-based development as well as their test and production environments. Contact us to get a more in-depth look to to get a demonstration.

            Automated-Testing-Solution-on-Azure-2-e1554082144564 Automated Testing on Azure DevOps
            All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

            Cloud Data Warehousing with Azure SQL

            If you are running an on-premise data analytics stack on Microsoft’s SQL Server, but running into maintenance, cost and scaling issues, you can consider moving your data system to a cloud-based database service such as Azure SQL Database. Especially for your first data analytics stack, Azure SQL Database provides low startup costs with the ability to easily expand as business grows.

            Advantages of Azure SQL Database

            There are several benefits to moving on-premise SQL Server infrastructure to Azure:

            • Physical acquisition, provisioning and maintenance of SQL Server deployments are a thing of the past. Furthermore, decreasing or increasing data infrastructure is instantaneous with SQL Database elastic pools.
            • Azure assists existing database migration to Azure SQL Database with wizard-based tools.
            • All stored and transmitted data are encrypted via client-side keys.
            • Microsoft accommodates third-party and open-source technologies, such as Python, Java, node.js, PHP and Python.
            • SQL developers feel right at home using SQLCMD or SQL Server Management Studio for development.

            SQL Database Limitations

            Although all SQL Server components, SSIS, SSAS and SSRS are available on Azure, there are still areas where the Azure version is not completely fleshed out. For instance, only a growing subset of T-SQL features are yet available such as cursors, transactions, triggers, all data types, all operators plus logical, arithmetic and string functions.

            Additionally, many T-QSL statements in SQL Database do not support every option available in SQL Server 2016, such as CREATE/ALTER for databases, logins, tables, users and views. Collation of system objects, cross-database queries with three- or four-part names, database collector, diagrams and mail, some events and certain database characteristics that were managed manually in SQL Server but are automatic in SQL Database are also missing.

            For a full list of deficiencies, see Azure SQL Database Transact-SQL differences

            Additional Azure Capabilities

            SSRS is actually replaced with a separate service, SQL Reporting, which incurs a separate charge for reports. It is not a general reporting service since it only works with SQL databases. It does offer a nearly identical development interface to traditional SSRS.

            Azure Tables is a storage service targeted at non-relational database storage, which is a type preferred for data analysis processes. It stores up to 100TB of data via an Azure Storage account and supplies data in row form. Additional advantages include less cost than straight Azure storage and easy scaling.

            Built on top of Hadoop, HDInsight offers unstructured data storage plus a number of tools, such as Sqoop, Pig and Hive for query processing. Your in-house SQL Server, Excel or SQL Database are all able to connect to this service.

            Data Factory is Microsoft’s SaaS analogue to SSIS. It visually coordinates other services to transform raw, unstructured data via data flow pipelines into clean, transformed data ready for analysis engines such as HDInsight or Azure Machine Learning for predictive analytics.

            In lieu of SQL Reporting, you can utilize Microsoft’s SaaS Power BI for report, dashboard and visualization creation. You can use this tool in conjunction with your on-premise SQL Server installation or stored spreadsheets too.

            Steps to Migrating from SQL Server to SQL Database

            SQL Database is, in theory, backward-compatible all the way to SQL Server 2005. In spite of this, the first step in migration is to test and fix any compatibility issues that may exist with SQL Database V12.

            There are several methods to determine compatibility including the use of SQL Server Data Tools, the SqlPackage utility, SQL Server Management Studio’s Export Data Tier wizard and the Azure SQL Migration Wizard. SSDT, SSMS and SAMW can be used to fix any migration issues with your database also.

            The next step is to create an Azure SQL Database logical server and migrate your existing data to it. Although other methods exist, the use of SQL Server transaction replication is the recommended solution since it minimizes live database downtime. Other solutions are to export/import BACPAC files when connection bandwidth is low or unreliable or use the SSMS database deploy wizard for smaller databases.

            Running SQL Server in the Cloud Directly

            There is nothing stopping you to begin or continue your SQL Server-based data analytics development and deployment without Azure SQL Database. Amazon AWS provides any level of SQL Server instantiation online with the advantages of computational, networking and storage elasticity on a pay-as-you-go basis. With a bit more lifting, you could do the same thing on Azure or AWS by utilizing their Virtual Machine services directly for your own SQL Server deployment.

            Conclusion

            Running data analytics in the public cloud brings all the usual benefits of cloud-based operation, the most important of which are elastic storage for big data crunching systems and high availability in-house or mobile across the enterprise.

            Whether or not your business should consider a cloud-based data analytics deployment depends on several factors including TCO, data volume, bandwidth requirements, security and the need to scale operations up or down quickly.

            A wise approach is to work with an experienced Optimus data analytics consultant to collate all factors and develop a full data architectural solution. Our experts can guide you towards the best solution for your needs.

             

             

             

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