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Inside the beating heart of Microsoft’s expanding Azure empire

Inside the beating heart of Microsoft’s expanding Azure empire

State-of-the-art facility aims to take on rivals AWS and Google Cloud

Azure Cloud Collaboration Centre

Azure Cloud Collaboration Centre

Credit: Microsoft

As customers around the world increase adoption of Azure, including 95 per cent of the Fortune 500, Microsoft has built a cloud control room to meet demand.

Step forward the Azure Cloud Collaboration Centre (CCC), a new, state-of-the-art, 8,000-square-foot facility located on the vendor’s Washington corporate campus.

The centralised workspace is designed to allow engineering teams to come together to resolve operational issues and unexpected events that could impact customers, in a bid to enhance cloud performance and security.

After officially launching in early May, the facility has been billed as the “first of its kind” among major cloud providers, aiming to give Microsoft the edge over industry rivals Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

To do, the CCC houses a 1,600-square-foot video wall displaying the real-time status of Azure, spanning internal processes and network infrastructure to the health status of customer services.

As a result, engineers are capable of identifying potential issues early in the process, before triaging incidents when problems do occur.

“A high priority for us in building this space was to enable faster problem resolution and proactive work to strengthen the Azure platform for our customers,” said Jason Zander, executive vice president for Azure.

Azure Cloud Collaboration CentreCredit: Microsoft
Azure Cloud Collaboration Centre

According to Zander, the mega facility was purpose-built for collaboration, delivered through the Microsoft stack.

“The CCC provides a flexible workspace for engineers to spot potential problems and troubleshoot them in real-time,” Zander added. “Having this kind of collaborative space to push forward the Azure platform and resolve incidents has proven to be invaluable.

“It’s allowed us to provide customers with new levels of responsiveness, security and efficiency.”

Zander said statistics “pepper the displays”, highlighting the global reach and scale of the Microsoft cloud.

Such reach and scale now includes over 100 data centres in 140 countries, backed up by an expanding number of regions at 54, more than any other cloud provider.

Furthermore, Microsoft hosts more than 200 cloud services for more than one billion customers.

“We’re using CCC to take a proactive approach to delivering responsiveness for our customers, who count on our cloud services,” Zander said. “To meet the mission-critical requirements businesses trust, we need to be always looking ahead.

“Delivering innovation in Azure services means identifying new efficiencies and finding new ways to streamline connections with the intelligence we have at every level of the cloud.”

Azure Cloud Collaboration CentreCredit: Microsoft
Azure Cloud Collaboration Centre

Customer tours

As explained by Zander, the CCC’s engineering workspace opened in November 2017, with internal tours of the customer space beginning in early 2018, before guided customer tours kicked off in July.

Since then, 70 different customer groups have received an inside look at the Microsoft cloud through the second-floor Customer Experience Suite.

One of those customers was Volkswagen AG, fresh from unveiling plans to build the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud with the help of Microsoft, the largest dedicated cloud of its kind in the auto industry.

As reported by Channel Asia, the German automaker will use Azure to provide all future digital services and mobility offerings across its entire fleet.

From 2020, more than five million new Volkswagen-specific brand vehicles per year will be fully connected through cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) offerings provided through Microsoft.

“We were impressed by the innovation and scale in the CCC,” said Heiko Huettel, head of connected car at Volkswagen.

Zander said customers such Volkswagen who visit the CCC can “get up close and personal” with the technology that powers Azure data centres.

“We’ve seen case after case of companies that have transformed their businesses with digital services made possible by IoT and the Microsoft cloud,” Zander added. “With the CCC, our hope is to inspire customers with a vision of what they can do with cloud computing.”


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