Microsoft Azure Review

A classic solution in jeopardy of losing its flexibility due to becoming SaaS


What is our primary use case?

I work for a Naval Shipyard. We build fighter ships for fighter aircraft. The Navy is our sponsor. Everything that we do is Navy or Navy-related. A lot of what we do is classified; however, I can say that we do some robotic AI work. 

Microsoft is our corporate authentication piece, so everything has to authenticate to Microsoft Azure. Everything in the whole entire company has to authenticate there. Even if you're building something, you have to be leading up to the point where it's going to authenticate to Microsoft. They are the vendor of choice, as far as authentication, but they're not the vendor of choice as far as all things at the shipyard. 

Our entire organization uses this solution. Size-wise, we're similar to a small city.

What is most valuable?

No features really stand out in particular. The reason that we use Microsoft Azure is that Microsoft has left us no choice — that's what I would say. If you use Microsoft, you've been curtailed in your on-prem data center. There are certain things we can do with Azure on-prem that we can't do on the cloud. We're now fully in the cloud. But even most of the Office products, which are in Office 365, are still on-prem. I came to this company to do cloud, but the company isn't ready to go to the cloud. It sounds like upper management is going to be changing some of the business structures. The better information I can give upper management, as far as our features and capabilities, will help them to make better business decisions. That's kind of where I am currently.

What needs improvement?

The support, the cost, the way they have the tiers, this could all be improved. For example, our company has been purchasing Microsoft Office 365 cloud licensing for approximately five years, and we do not have any production. We have five divisions and these divisions have different classification and levels of data. This company has changed hands over the years. We now lead the was as far as IT, but the corporate office didn't do a top-down infrastructure. It's a long story, but the way that we do things is not the way that everybody else does things. Just because others are moving to XYZ doesn't mean we're going to go there today. We might look and see how everybody else is doing everything, and once we decide we're ready to go, then we'll go. It might be 10 years later. It might be next week, but we don't follow the crowd. We follow the Navy.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with Microsoft since the very beginning.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Although I am not the administrator, there are some things that are kind of quirky. The biggest problem is that we're a really, really, really big SharePoint user. Everything that's 100% SharePoint online, is not a one-for-one into the SharePoint that we have on-prem. 

Security is a problem, that's why we only allow web products for Office 365. SharePoint doesn't give us everything that we need. These are a few of the drawbacks for us.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is complex, but only because our company is complex.

How are customer service and technical support?

Support depends. For the professional services, they're usually pretty good.

For other divisions, the support hasn't been that good. Anytime we have problems and we try to ask for support, what we paid for is one thing and what we're getting is another thing. Because of this, we often have to renegotiations with Microsoft. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is very complex because we're a complex corporation.

The review board has actually approved all of the Microsoft Office 2016 products and applications. We have the licenses, however, we're not using them.

Teams is the one collaborative product that everybody wants to use. We've approved Microsoft Teams on the web only. Because of our security constraint, we don't want our users to use every feature that's actually on Teams. We don't want to allow third-party vendors to use that application in order to get into our environment. 

For example, you can share your screen, but I can't share my screen. I can share an application if it's been approved, but I can't share my screen. The only way I can actually talk to you is if we talk about topical issues that you would read about in the newspaper or something like that. I can't tell you anything that's company proprietary.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Right now we're looking at Microsoft TFS, Azure on DevOps. However, all of the features have to be configured by someone. It's not that ADO can't do it, it's just that it would take a lot of time — we'd have to have someone physically come in and do it. That would require Microsoft Professional Services which costs a lot of money. Often, people can just buy stuff off the shelf when they want to use another product. For example, all the ALM tools actually integrate with TFS. So, if we have a product that already has that capability, why are we purchasing those new products? Why are we doing a POC for that? So that's what kind of hat I wear here.

What other advice do I have?

If you're interested in going with Microsoft, my advice would be to do it. Everybody's using Microsoft.

Overall, on a scale from one to ten, I would give this solution a rating of seven.

The problem is that I'm an old Microsoft engineer. I like to build it the way I want to build it.  I don't want it to be SaaS. I liked the fact that you could build your servers in the AWS environment and build out the servers the way you want. They're actually taking away a lot of the applications. More and more companies are switching to SaaS or IAS, etc.

Now, the structure is going towards SaaS. I think I have a three-year lifecycle on my licenses and then I will have to drop or either migrate my data to SaaS. It's probably cheaper for people to go that way, but it gives you less flexibility. There's probably more security, but you're depending on the vendor's security or however they have that set up. You lose a lot of your flexibility when you go into SaaS.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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