Category Archives : Cloud Strategy



Retail brands: gain a competitive advantage with modern data management

Retailers today are responsible for a significant amount of data. As a customer, I expect that the data I provide to a retailer is handled properly following the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other compliance guidelines.

I also expect that the data I give to a retailer is being leveraged in a way that improves my shopping experience. For example, I want better recommendations given my purchase history, my “likes,” and my browsing. I expect the retailer to know my email and payment information for a single click checkout. These are small and trivial frictions that can be eliminated, as long as the data is handled properly with the right permissions. And the capture and analysis of big data (general information aggregated from all customers) is an opportunity for the retailer to fine-tune the overall customer experience.

However much of the data collected goes unused. This occurs because the infrastructure within an organization is unable to make the data accessible or searchable. It can’t be used to improve decision-making across the retail value chain. The unused data comes from many sources: mobile devices, digital and physical store shopping, and IoT.



Five options to help actuarial and account processes meet IFRS-17 deadlines

Actuarial compute solutions are what keeps insurance companies in business. The legally required reporting can only be done at scale by employing thousands of server cores for workloads like monthly and quarterly valuation and production reporting. With these compute-intensive workloads, actuaries need the elasticity of the cloud. Azure offers a variety of compute options, from large machines with hundreds of cores or thousands of smaller standard machines with fewer cores. This scalability means you can use as much compute power as needed to finish your production runs with enough time to spare to correct an error and rerun before a deadline.

Microsoft supports a range of actuarial compute solutions running on Azure including popular life actuarial partner platforms from Milliman, Willis Towers Watson, FIS, and Moody’s. All of these companies are experienced in both policy reserving and project modeling. Many life insurance companies today use at least one of these platforms, some of the largest insurance companies use parts of all of them. Partner solutions built on Azure provide different options for model creation and model modification. The solutions are flexible and support customization of both the model and the cloud environment. 

The new regulation, IFRS-17, adds new levels



Reduce costs by optimizing actuarial risk compute on Azure

Actuarial risk modeling is a compute-intensive operation. It employs thousands of server cores, with many uneven workloads such as monthly and quarterly valuation and production runs to meet regulatory requirements. With these compute-intensive workloads, actuaries today find themselves trapped by traditional on-premises systems (grid computing on hardware) which lack scale and elasticity. Many find they cannot even finish simple tasks like production runs with enough time to spare to correct an error and rerun before a deadline. With scalability and elasticity being the cornerstone of the cloud, risk modeling is incredibly well suited to take advantage of this near bottomless resource. With Azure, you can access more compute power when needed, without having to manage it. This translates to a great savings in time and money.

Your immediate savings comes from reallocating your costs from hardware investments to operational expenses. With on-demand compute, personnel are released from hardware and software burdens. They can devote their time and expertise to other production costs, such as writing scripts for the optimum deployment of cores.

More power, less time, faster reports

New regulations, such as International Financial Reporting Standard 17 (IFRS 17), Solvency II, and Actuarial Guideline XLIII, are increasing the pressure



Save money on actuarial compute by retiring your on-premises HPC grids

No insurance company should keep on-premises compute grids for actuarial computing. In the past, resistance to the cloud went along these lines: the cloud has a lack of data security, the cloud is expensive, and no one has experience with the cloud. But those arguments are out of date. I have worked in and supported, compute grids at many different Insurance companies. Just before joining Microsoft, I led a project to move workloads to Azure and to decommission on-premises grids globally. At this point, all insurance companies see the increasing demand from growth in the number of policies processed, and new regulations that require changes to the actuarial and accounting systems. IFRS-17 requires changes to workflows, reporting and control throughout the actuarial and accounting process. Now is the time to move to a cloud-based solution on Azure.

Why wait to move to a cloud-based compute solution?

Over the years, I’ve worked in IT departments supporting actuaries, and in an actuarial department working with IT teams. I have seen three main blockers when moving to an all cloud-based solution. It always starts with the Business Information Security Officer (BISO) who has security and business continuity questions. Then the accounting, legal and



Monitor all Azure Backup protected workloads using Log Analytics

We are excited to share that Azure Backup now allows you to monitor all workloads protected by it by leveraging the power of Log Analytics (LA). This allows enterprises to monitor key backup parameters across Recovery Services vaults and subscriptions irrespective of which Azure backup solution you are using. In addition, configure custom alerts and actions for custom monitoring requirements for all Azure Backup workloads with this LA based solution.

This solution now covers all workloads protected by Azure Backup including Azure VMs, SQL in Azure VM backups, System Center Data Protection Manager connected to Azure (DPM-A), Microsoft Azure Backup Server (MABS), and file-folder backup from Azure backup agent.

Here’s how you get all the benefits.

Configure diagnostic settings

If you have already configured Log Analytics workspace to monitor Azure Backup, skip to the Deploy solution template section.

You can open the diagnostic setting window from the Azure Recovery services vault or from Azure Monitor. In the Diagnostic settings window, select “Send data to log analytics,” choose the relevant LA workspace and select the log accordingly, “AzureBackupReport,” and click “Save.”

Be sure to choose the same workspace for all the vaults so that you get a centralized view in the



A quick take on the State of Hybrid Cloud survey

What does hybrid cloud mean to IT professionals, and why are so many companies using it? Microsoft conducted a survey with research firm Kantar TNS in January 2018, asking more than 1700 respondents to chime in. Surveys were collected from IT professionals, developers, and business decision makers to identify how they perceive hybrid cloud, what motivates adoption, and what features they see as most important. Survey participants in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and India were asked their thoughts about hybrid, which for the survey was defined as consisting of “private cloud or on-premises resources/applications integrated with one or more public clouds”. We’ve created a summary infographic of the survey that you can review. A few survey highlights:

Hybrid is common, with a total of 67 percent of respondents now using or planning to deploy a hybrid cloud. Many of those hybrid users have made the move recently, 54 percent of users in the past two years. Cost, a consistent IT experience, and the ability to scale quickly were all given as important reasons for moving to hybrid cloud. The perceived benefits of hybrid cloud, as well as some of the challenges, vary by the geographic location of



Driving industry transformation with Azure – Getting started – Edition 1

Microsoft is highly focused on solving industry challenges, creating new opportunities and driving digital transformation for all organizations. Through dedicated industry resources from Microsoft and premier partners, new solutions, content, and guidance are released almost daily. This monthly blog aggregates a series of the newest resources focused on how Azure can address common challenges and drive new opportunities in a variety of industries.

Banking and Capital Markets Protecting against fraud and financial crime
New types of attack vectors and fraud are emerging every day, and detection systems need to respond faster  than ever. Find banking case studies and information from financial leaders showing how Azure machine learning and AI solutions can rapidly detect and protect against risks. How to upgrade your financial analysis capabilities with Azure
In corporate finance and investment banking, risk analysis is a crucial job. Read how Azure can be used to implement a risk assessment solution. Lessons from big-box retail
Banking customers want more from their services, including new choices, speed, and tailored recommendations. Find out how modern retail experiences can help. Microsoft Azure launches tamper-proof Azure Immutable Blob Storage for financial services
Immutable Blob Storage is now in public preview – enabling financial institutions



Migrate Windows Server 2008 to Azure with Azure Site Recovery

For close to 10 years now, Windows Server 2008/2008 R2 has been a trusted and preferred server platform for our customers. With millions of instances deployed worldwide, our customers run many of their business applications including their most critical ones on the Windows Server 2008 platform.

With the end of support for Windows Server 2008 in January 2020 fast approaching, now is a great opportunity for customers running Windows Server 2008 to modernize your applications and infrastructure and take advantage of the power of Azure. But we know that the process of digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. There are some great new offers that customers running their business applications on Windows Server 2008 can benefit from as they get started on their digital transformation journey in Azure. One of the options available to customers is the option to migrate servers running Windows Server 2008 to Azure and get extended security updates for three years past the end of support date, and this offer is available at no additional cost. In other words, if you choose to run your applications on Windows Server 2008 on Azure virtual machines, you get extended security updates for free. Further, with Azure Hybrid Benefit you



Azure cloud business value for retail and consumer goods explained

For brick and mortar retailers, the world has been overturned. Online retailers have been demolishing their market share and icons of commerce are struggling. But what helped online retailers can help the offline. The cloud can also be used by brick and mortar retailers. In fact, the brick and mortar experience, transformed with cloud technology, can be a real advantage in competition with online only.

Reasons for retailers and consumer brands to move to the cloud

Cloud technologies are enabling new capabilities and those new powers are disrupting the business models of traditional retailers and sellers of consumer goods. The cloud is at the heart of digital transformation.

It is changing the way technology is implemented and managed. It offers the benefit of massive scale, increased business speed, and organizational agility. It makes possible economic benefits related to variable expense, maintenance and deployment. It enables seamless consumer experiences between offline and online. It encourages differentiated experiences that wow customers.

Now you have the key to competing in today’s landscape. For these reasons, it is no longer a question of “if,” but “when” and “how” to move to the cloud for most brands.

Business value of the cloud

Born-in-the-cloud retailers



Enabling partner success at Microsoft Inspire 2018

Next week in Last Vegas, we will be meeting with thousands of partners from all over the world at Microsoft Inspire. The event is a forum to reinforce our commitment to making partner business opportunities the centerpiece of our investments. We continue to extend our cloud marketplace, Azure Marketplace and AppSource, capabilities to make it the best place for partners of any type to be discovered, evaluated, and ultimately have their offerings purchased and deployed by our customer base. The event also gives us the opportunity to showcase the investments we’re making to enable these same capabilities within our channel ecosystem both now and in the future. 

Empowering partner-to-partner joint selling

Next year, for the first time in Microsoft’s history, we will be putting partner solutions, applications as well as consulting and managed service offers, in our product catalog alongside our Microsoft products and services. This means our direct salesforce and partner ecosystem will be able to sell first and third-party solutions individually or combined.

For partners with applications and solutions listed in one of our marketplaces, this will enable joint selling opportunities connecting them with thousands of Cloud Solution Providers around the world. In turn, Cloud Solution Providers will