This is one in a series of posts on when and where to use a distributed architecture design in your organization's computing needs. You can find the main post here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/buckwoody/archive/2011/01/18/windows-azure-and-sql-azure-use-cases.aspx 

Description:

Many organizations absorb, take over or merge with other organizations. In these cases, one of the most difficult parts of the process is the merging or changing of the IT systems that the employees use to do their work, process payments, and even get paid.

Normally this means that the two companies have disparate systems, and several approaches can be used to have the two organizations use technology between them.

An organization may choose to retain both systems, and manage them separately. The advantage here is speed, and keeping the profit/loss sheets separate.

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Another choice is to slowly “sunset” or stop using one organization’s system, and cutting to the other system immediately or at a later date.

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Although a popular choice, one of the most difficult methods is to extract data and processes from one system and import it into the other. Employees at the transitioning system have to be trained on the new one, the data must be examined and cleansed, and there is inevitable disruption when this happens.

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Still another option is to integrate the systems. This may prove to be as much work as a transitional strategy, but may have less impact on the users or the balance sheet.

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Implementation:

A distributed computing paradigm can be a good strategic solution to most of these strategies. Retaining both systems is made more simple by allowing the users at the second organization immediate access to the new system, because security accounts can be created quickly inside an application. There is no need to set up a VPN or any other connections than just to the Internet.

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Having the users stop using one system and start with the other is also simple in Windows Azure for the same reason.

Extracting data to Azure holds the same limitations as an on-premise system, and may even be more problematic because of the large data transfers that might be required. In a distributed environment, you pay for the data transfer, so a mixed migration strategy is not recommended. However, if the data is slowly migrated over time with a defined cutover, this can be an effective strategy.

If done properly, an integration strategy works very well for a distributed computing environment like Windows Azure. If the Azure code is architected as a series of services, then endpoints can expose the service into and out of not only the Azure platform, but internally as well. This is a form of the Hybrid Application use-case documented here.

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References:

Designing for Cloud Optimized Architecture: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/dachou/archive/2011/01/23/designing-for-cloud-optimized-architecture.aspx

5 Enterprise steps for adopting a Platform as a Service: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/davidmcg/archive/2010/12/02/5-enterprise-steps-for-adopting-a-platform-as-a-service.aspx?wa=wsignin1.0