Azure: the Unknown Soldier

I call Microsoft Azure “the unknown soldier” because when it comes to the Philips SpeechLive dictation workflow system, it’s ‘the’ cloud platform that SpeechLive runs on. It really is a big deal and here’s why.

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service created by Microsoft Corporation in 2008. It is specifically designed to test, deploy and manage applications and services through a global network of Microsoft managed data centers.1

Essentially this means it’s a giant cloud where web applications are published and managed for consumption by people and organizations wherever the Internet may reach. Philips SpeechLive runs on this very cloud.

Azure is an important distinction for companies that use it to deploy its applications not just because the benefits it provides, but because of the undeniable power that Microsoft has to deliver trust, reliability and security.

In fact, Azure offers the most comprehensive compliance coverage with 50 compliance offerings. Azure has been recognized as the most trusted cloud for U.S. government institutions, including a FedRAMP High authorization that covers 18 Azure services.2

More Certifications Than Any Other Cloud Provider
Used by 90% of Fortune 500 Companies

Azure’s Global Presence

Azure maintains a global presence to help customers and partners meet their goals. This means that it has the greatest ability of any cloud provider to deliver redundancy, speed, governing compliance cultural standards, security and performance than any other cloud provider.

SpeechLive is able to leverage all these advantages.

Azure region availability

Azure Security

Through the Azure platform, the Philips SpeechLive solution can leverage Microsoft’s decades-long experience of building enterprise software and running some of the world’s largest online services such as Bing, MSN and XBOX. Azure has a robust set of security technologies and practices that ensure its infrastructure is resilient to attack. Philips can safeguard access to the SpeechLive environment and keep customer data secure through Azure’s encrypted communications along with its threat management and mitigation practices which include regular penetration testing.

Encrypting communications and operation processes
Whether between user devices and Microsoft’s data centers or in transit between data centers themselves all the way to data at rest, Azure has built in transport protocols which offer a wide range of encryption capabilities. The AES-256 encryption standard is the highest military grade level of encryption ever produced.

Securing networks.
Azure blocks unauthorized traffic to and within Microsoft data centers, using a variety of technologies.

Managing threats
To protect against online threats, Philips has a number of powerful Microsoft tools at its disposal to help mitigate threats to the SpeechLive platform;

  • Microsoft Anti-malware for cloud services
  • Microsoft intrusion detection
  • Microsoft Denial-of-service (DDoS) attack prevention,
  • Regular penetration testing
  • Data analytics and AI style tools

More Compliance than Any Other Cloud Provider

Philips SpeechLive relies on the most trusted cloud solution every built. In a world where data breaches are almost a daily occurrence, it was essential for Philips to choose a cloud service provider that makes every effort to protect customer data.

Microsoft is committed to the highest levels of trust, transparency, standards conformance, and regulatory compliance to address the most rigorous security and privacy demands. Microsoft provides the most comprehensive set of compliance offerings (including certifications and attestations) of any cloud service provider.

“Did you know Azure is compliant with the E.U. Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) and has several of its services compliant with several compliance programs including ISO 27001:2005 and HIPAA?”

These regulatory compliance programs cover many important issues including:

  • Data privacy
  • The rules on how data is transferred over servers internally
  • How data is stored and backed up (redundancy)
  • Cyber security
  • Environmental laws and sustainability

Environmental Sustainability

An issue that is long reaching and important to Philips is environmental sustainability. Microsoft achieved Carbon Neutrality in 2014 and achieved its goal for all new data centres to have an average 1.125 power usage effectiveness (PUE), which is one-third less than the industry average data centre PUE of 1.7.

The Fastest of the Fast

The functionality of Azure simply can’t be matched by on-premises or even other cloud providers. This is incredibly important for an application like SpeechLive which needs to combine large audio files, process optionally process them through a Speech Recognition algorithm all while maintaining 256 AES encryption. This creates an unusual and intense demand in processing power and bandwidth which no other platform can handle like Azure.

Agility and Reliability

Using Azure, the Philips team can concentrate on developing and testing SpeechLive without concern over managing a hardware infrastructure. This means that can explore new avenues and new technologies.

More importantly, because Microsoft produces so many popular applications overall, the natural agility they build into each to work cohesively is second to none. This means that not only can Philips can take advantage this natural integration in Microsoft’s programming tools but also with more common products like Excel and Word.

Disaster Recovery

Whether a disaster is caused naturally, technologically or an evil man with bad rockets, it is important to have in-built fail-over and disaster recovery capabilities.

Azure covers this in better than anyone with capabilities such as;

  • Regional and global fail-over options
  • Hot and cold standby models
  • Rolling reboot capabilities
  • Locally Redundant Storage (LRS)
  • Geo Redundant Storage (GRS)

Through Azure, Philips’ SpeechLive cloud can leverage a global network of data centres to maintain availability 99.999% of the time.

Azure Deployments

Azure deployments generate over $2 Billion USD to Microsoft’s coffers annually and is growing fast with an estimated 29% of all planned cloud projects being developed globally. This means that Azure is a clear hotspot for Microsoft to continue investing in.

A Summary of the Relationship Benefits with SpeechLive

  • Cost – SpeechLive is inexpensive for subscribers
  • Security – Encryption, Intrusion Prevention, Secure Access
  • Speed and Agility – Updates are deployed seamlessly multiple times a year
  • Global Scale – Philips emerging SpeechLive community can scale up as fast as needed
  • Reliability – Data Back Ups & Disaster Recovery
  • Compliance to Data Privacy and Personal Information
  • Environmental Sustainability – Carbon Neutral

Footnotes and sources

1.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Azure

2.https://azure.microsoft.com/en-ca/

3.http://blog.aajtech.com/blog/top-five-benefits-of-microsoft-azure/

4.https://www.redpixie.com/blog/top-ten-microsoft-azure-business-benefits

5.https://www.redpixie.com/blog/microsoft-azure-aws-guide

A full and current listing of all Azure compliance practices can be found on the Microsoft Azure Trust Center Compliance page

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