Microsoft Cloud Partner To Midmarket: Azure 'Has Come A Long Way'

As senior director of Connection's Microsoft Cloud Services practice, Gina Montgomery spends hours speaking with midmarket customers about their cloud needs, and she has found that many of those businesses employ a multi-cloud strategy that includes a blend of SaaS applications or multiple public cloud platforms.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for midmarket IT leaders, but Montgomery believes an improved Microsoft Azure can help companies turn to one platform for more needs than they think.

"Microsoft Azure has come a long way – Microsoft, in general," Montgomery said Tuesday at the Midsize Enterprise Summit, which is hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company. "They're so friendly now with what used to be our competitors. It used to be Windows vs. Linux. Microsoft vs. Citrix. That's not the case anymore."

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Montgomery said she has seen a shift toward supporting more "open and flexible ideas" since Satya Nadella became Microsoft's CEO in 2014, and that the Azure platform's diverse array of services and support embodies that changing direction. Among those services are a collection of PaaS offerings, security and management tools, hybrid cloud tools, app development platforms and networking services – in addition to the foundational IaaS offerings.

Connection, No. 22 on the CRN Solution Provider 500, has already witnessed rapid adoption among the large enterprises. More than 85 percent of the Fortune 500 uses Azure, according to the Merrimack, N.H.-based company, and the platform is adding about 120,000 new customer subscriptions per month.

Digital transformation-minded midsize enterprises can use Azure to build apps on PaaS, IaaS and Azure IoT, Montgomery said, and use features like application insights and the Azure OS Suite to manage them more effectively.

Gartner found that cloud office platforms can be significant money-savers for tool-savvy midmarket organizations, as well. The research firm said in a separate MES session that businesses using either Office 365 or Google G Suite could potentially save up to $1.5 million per year on top of those platforms by investing in resources such as Office 365's Delve insight engine and Teams workstream collaboration.

Bill Lindsey, information technology director at Huntsville, Ala.-based Calista Corporation, said his company moved to Office 365 and maintains an Azure presence via Active Directory Federation Services, and SharePoint.

Azure made sense, he said, because Calista maintains multiple domains within a single tenant, making it a better alternative to creating multiple VPNs. However, that presence remains limited.

"The majority of everything we do is on-prem. Still in the sand stage," Lindsey told CRN. "Not quite sure we went the right way with hyper-convergence because it seems like you can get more speed with it. They seem much easier to manage now than in the past."