Outcomes Rising from the IT Roadmap Leveraging Microsoft Azure

Chad Leverenz, Vice President, Information Technology, Mercy Housing

Chad Leverenz, Vice President, Information Technology, Mercy Housing

With over 20 years of experience, Chad is working to align the  technology vision with the business strategy by helping to  develop innovative solutions, and provisioning and managing  appropriate technologies in the most cost effective and  efficient manner. IT leader passionate about learning from  others, teaching students, and sharing our team knowledge  and experiences with similar organizations. 

WHAT DOES YOUR ROADMAP ENTAIL?

WHAT OUTCOMES ARE YOU TARGETING? 

The following are outcomes for the typical IT roadmap  utilizing Microsoft Azure enterprise cloud computing: 

THE DEMISE OF LANS AND CORPORATE CLIENT  VPNS 

Local Area Networks (LANs), where clients and servers are  on the same private networks, are relics of the initial Age of  Computing. The future consists of one-to-one relationships  between each client node and cloud endpoint over the  Internet. Endpoints might be services including applications,  file repository, database, portals, collaboration hubs, and micro  services. Furthermore, there will be no need for client nodes  to join a legacy domain and no need to VPN into a network. IT  administrators will neither need to access nor manage the actual  server operating system, server patching, or backup software.  IT departments will not need to image desktops, patch client  operating systems, deny employees from local administrator  access, or worry about installed anti-virus applications. Why? 

Enterprise cloud computing removes the need for virtual  machines (servers) and therefore server operating systems,  backups, and patching. Client nodes do not need to join the  LAN, legacy domain, nor do they need to VPN into any network  because of these one-to-one relationships with the cloud  endpoint. Client nodes do not need anti-virus (though I would still  recommend it) because cloud endpoints scan every object that  is inbound or outbound, uploaded or downloaded, and accessed  or exfiltrated by using anti-malware, anti-virus, network security  groups, access control lists, VNet peering, advanced threat  protection, and Data Loss Prevention rules (DLP). 

This future-state works because all cloud endpoints for this  organization are browser agnostic, operating system agnostic,  and client agnostic (mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop, virtual reality,  etc.). The cloud endpoints use TLS 1.3 and SSL certificates making  data in-transit encrypted. The client nodes have DLP enforced  against them so that they cannot store documents locally (InTune  rule for Azure-joined clients) and are forced to use OneDrive in  Online-Only mode. Therefore, client nodes do not need to be  backed up, imaged, joined to the domain, or patched. These are  truly BYOD assets that the employee purchases as their device of  choice

THE RISE OF CLOUD PRINTING 

Since we do not need LANs, domains, and VPNs  to support corporate client networks, then it is  as challenging to think about the rise of cloud  printing and the lack of a solution in today’s  world. Today, when you print in a corporate  network you typically use private IP addresses,  LAN technologies (switches, routers, VPNs,  etc.), print connector services, and a small army  of expensive assets that print in color. 

In tomorrow’s high rises and commercial  property management firms, printers will  be positioned strategically on each floor to  accommodate the pay-as-you-print model.  Each print is attached to the commercial  property WiFi network, and hence the internet  to the cloud printing provider (e.g. I’ll call it  AcmePrintCo). AcmePrintCo is a cloud-service  that can take your company’s employee user  accounts (UPN via Azure-joined, not domainjoined)  and allow secure-release printing to  any printer on its network across the world  (hotels, commercial, doctor’s offices, grocery  stores, malls, pharmacies, and retail stores).  AcmePrintCo owns the printers– organizations  will not need to invest in this capital expense.  You, the consumer, pays for the output (e.g. one  page of color=$0.5 charged to your credit card  on file). You simply use the mobile app to login,  send the job from your cloud file repository,  and pick it up where you want it using securerelease. 

Your organization has no printers because  they are not in the business of IT hardware  anymore (no computers because of BYOD, no  printers because of AcmePrintCo, no Local Area  Networks because of cloud services, no VPNs,  no servers, etc.). There is very little IT hardware  needed for each organization–a few very  high-powered Wi-Fi access points, switches,  firewalls, and internet circuits that fits in a  small closet with adequate cooling is all that is  needed to make most large offices adequately  capable of enterprise cloud computing. 

THE ABSENCE OF THICK-CLIENT  APPLICATIONS 

Thick-client applications, like those that you  download to install, are going away. They have  been “going away” for the past 20+ years but  it still hasn’t completely happened. We still  download and install Office applications, FTP  clients, Citrix clients, PDF applications, and  other tools like ERPs, CRMs, Fundraising, etc.  The drive to migrate them to web-based apps is  picking up significantly and those that get there  first will reap the rewards due to aggressive IT  department roadmaps. 

Microsoft Office is quickly migrating their  Office applications to the Internet yet full  functionality is still in progress. PDF makers  are working on web-based solutions and ERP,  CRM, and Fundraising providers are quickly  making strides as well. In the future, there is no  market for apps that you download and install.  BYOD, mobile, tablet, laptop, virtual reality  devices, and future nodes will not be a factor in  accessing and utilizing the apps. 

THE DEMAND OF CLOUD SKILLS  (DLP, MICRO SERVICES, CUSTOMER  SERVICES, INFOSEC QUALITY  AUDITOR) 

IT departments and the skills to maintain them  are rapidly changing. Gone are the skills like  network administration, system administration,  application administration, backup and restore  management, server management, storage  area network management, and hypervisor  management. In fact, I would argue gone are  the need for typical IT organizational charts like  Tier-1, Tier-2, and Tier-3. In today’s sophisticated  cloud-based Technology teams, we need skills  that can do all the following well: Customer  service (still number one), Information Security,  cloud-administration, Software-Defined  Networking, quality auditing, DLP rule writing  and testing, and Micro Service rule writing and  testing. These are the skills we need to develop  and grow as we finish migration into enterprise  cloud computing. 

By implementing an enterprise cloud  computing platform, there are no servers nor  virtual machines to manage, no client nodes  to manage, and very few hardware assets  to manage. Locally installed software will  be gone, anti-virus will be incorporated  in all things cloud, and employees will use  the device they choose to purchase. IT will  transform from nearly all CapEx to nearly  all OpEx and the employee skills will be the  most valuable “asset” in the department.  This is our roadmap and the outcomes we  are realizing.

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