As businesses begin to embrace the Cloud, many are looking for even further reductions in cost while increasing the ability to scale more effectively. Hybrid solutions are making this possible for various enterprise applications including Microsoft’s SharePoint.
SharePoint & Windows Azure
Microsoft SharePoint offers organizations a robust collaborative environment with the familiar Microsoft Office experience. SharePoint can help organizations reduce costs by consolidating intranet, extranet, and Internet sites on a single platform: either on-premise (traditional SharePoint deployment), in the cloud (SharePoint Online), or a hybrid implementation of both. With Windows Azure, Microsoft provides organizations with the platform to build, host, and scale applications within Microsoft datacenters, requiring no up-front expenses, no long term commitment, and the ability to pay only for the resources that are used.
A component of the Windows Azure platform, SQL Azure delivers cloud database services, freeing organizations from building, administering, and maintaining databases. SharePoint 2010 and Windows Azure offer organizations a unique opportunity to leverage the capabilities of both technologies. A hybrid hosting approach, with content databases stored within SQL Azure and SharePoint services hosted in on-premise servers, is an endeavor worthy of consideration and has many advantages.
The Technical Advantages
Integration between SharePoint and Windows Azure can allow your organization to leverage the subscription-based data available within the Azure Marketplace to create a dashboard of useful information within custom applications. Common custom applications can be deployed to the cloud and can be utilized to service multiple customers, creating reusability. External lists can pull data from SQL Azure and SQL Server Reporting Services can be used to provide rich reporting functionality for users in SharePoint.
Windows Azure provides developers with the Azure AppFabricServiceBus to easily integrate cloud-hosted and cloud-connected applications. Using the Service Bus, developers can pull SharePoint data and expose it externally, creating an enhanced experience for your clients, even with Windows Mobile 7.
Save Your Money
Hosting SharePoint data within SQL Azure can reduce the overhead costs of patching, upgrading, backups, and recoveries. Much of this normal overhead infrastructure maintenance would be included in the services Microsoft provides. Additionally, the security and overall architecture would be standard for all your solutions and could speed the deployment of solutions.
Moreover, storing your SharePoint data within SQL Azure allows you to pay for resources as you use them, as opposed to paying for them up front and possibly not using everything you paid for. If data usage is under estimated in on-premise database architecture, the upgrade/increase in hardware can be both costly and complex. With SQL Azure, under-estimating can be addressed by simply changing your Azure plan to reflect your resource needs. By the same token, paying for usage on a monthly basis can also be a drawback. Some organizations may prefer a large bill up front to set up an on premise architecture rather than a monthly (possibly fluctuating) cost.
If your organization stores personally identifiable information (PII) for employees or clients, it is important to consider the risks of having that data stored in a cloud environment as it may violate compliance agreements or privacy laws that require that the data be physically within the organization. Many organizations will also have the uneasy feeling that comes with not having tangible control over the servers on which the data is stored.
The reach, resource, and reusability added by leveraging cloud technology within your enterprise SharePoint implementation make storing your Microsoft SharePoint 2010 data within Microsoft SQL Azure a worthwhile option for most organizations. The considerations and risks associated with storing your SharePoint data within Azure are very similar to those associated with on-premise data storage, but the advantages are hard to replicate on-premise.