Generate value quickly with do-it-yourself cloud migration
The Allscripts development team had been using Microsoft Azure for years, to gain rapid access to development infrastructure and the ability to scale development, test, and training environments during peak use and deallocate them when not in use.
“People sometimes refer to Azure as ‘just another datacenter,’” says Jeff Brady, Senior Program Manager, Azure Transformation at Allscripts. “But I cringe at that description because it is not just another datacenter. Azure provides a wealth of sophisticated services and incredibly elastic computing and storage resources that we can turn on and off as needed. This lets us move quickly and with amazing cost efficiencies.”
Allscripts chose to rehost its newly acquired assets in Azure. In addition to its positive development experiences, the company’s decision was influenced by the Azure platform’s global datacenter footprint and its significant security posture, particularly with regard to healthcare regulatory compliance. Microsoft provides Allscripts with a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Business Associate Agreement, which states that Microsoft maintains personal health information (PHI) and overall HIPAA compliance in its datacenters. “No other cloud provider offers us the level of PHI protection that Microsoft does,” Brady says.
Using a lift and shift strategy, Allscripts rehosted the acquired applications to Azure infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offerings—Azure Virtual Machines, Azure Storage, and Azure Virtual Network—in just three weeks. “By moving our acquired applications to Azure, we were able to get them up, running, and adding value to the business in three weeks versus the three months needed to requisition servers and storage,” Tomlinson says. “And we made the migration with no data loss and great reliability.”
For one of the acquired companies, Tomlinson’s team used Azure Site Recovery to replicate on-premises VMs to Azure and then fail the VMs over from the primary site to the Azure datacenter. “Using Azure Site Recovery, we were able to easily move 500 development VMs running critical healthcare applications to Azure,” Tomlinson says. “These applications ran an open-source stack—Ubuntu, CoreOS, MySQL, and Docker—and moved glitch-free.”
For systems that could not be migrated to Azure, Allscripts moved them to an Allscripts datacenter and set up a VPN between that datacenter and the Azure datacenter in hybrid fashion. “For all practical purposes, these applications appear to be running on our internal network, but they’re running in Azure,” Tomlinson says. “Everyone thinks of Azure as being a Microsoft product–focused cloud, but when you look at the long list of operating systems and networking appliances supported by Azure, many are Linux-based.”
The second acquisition already had 16 Azure subscriptions, so the Allscripts team simply moved the subscriptions to the Allscripts Azure enrollment agreement. That company also had 600 on-premises VMs that still had to be moved to Azure, most of which ran older editions of Windows Server and SQL Server. For these, Allscripts took advantage of the Azure Hybrid Benefit, an offer that lets customers reuse their existing on-premises Windows Server and SQL Server licenses in Azure and realize licensing savings of up to 82 percent.
“With Azure, we had an easy, flexible way to quickly get our acquired intellectual property into a safeguarded, reliable place with very low risk,” Tomlinson says. “Later, we can use the appropriate Azure service offerings to modernize and rationalize the applications.”
In some cases, Allscripts took advantage of Azure SQL Database Managed Instance to gain platform as a service (PaaS) benefits while taking a lift and shift approach. Using this deployment option within Azure SQL Database, existing SQL Server customers can migrate their on-premises applications to the cloud with minimal application and database changes. And they can benefit from built-in PaaS capabilities such as automatic patching, backup, and high availability.
Beyond the 1,000 acquired VMs that Allscripts quickly migrated to Azure, the company is using a similar strategy to migrate another estimated 5,000 to 6,000 VMs to Azure over the next couple of years. “By migrating workloads to Azure, we’ve already closed or moved three of our datacenters, one of which was in Singapore,” Tomlinson says. “It’s much easier for us to manage systems in Azure than hardware in a datacenter half a world away.”