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September 16, 2016 By Sumo Logic

What is Microsoft Azure and Why Use It?

An In-Depth Look at the Cloud Services Platform from Microsoft

Today plenty of businesses still have real concerns about migrating applications to the cloud. Fears about network security, availability, and potential downtime swirl through the heads of chief decision makers, sometimes paralyzing organizations into standing pat on existing tech— even though it’s aging by the minute.

Enter Microsoft Azure, the industry leader’s solution for going to a partially or totally cloud-based architecture. Below is a detailed look at what Azure is, the power of partnering with Microsoft for a cloud or hybrid cloud solution, and the best way to get full and actionable visibility into your aggregated logs and infrastructure metrics so your organization can react quickly to opportunities.

Complete visibility for DevSecOps

Reduce downtime and move from reactive to proactive monitoring.

What is Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft has leveraged its constantly-expanding worldwide network of data centers to create Azure, a cloud platform for building, deploying, and managing services and applications, anywhere. Azure lets you add cloud capabilities to your existing network through its platform as a service (PaaS) model, or entrust Microsoft with all of your computing and network needs with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Either option provides secure, reliable access to your cloud hosted data—one built on Microsoft’s proven architecture. Azure provides an ever expanding array of products and services designed to meet all your needs through one convenient, easy to manage platform. Below are just some of the capabilities Microsoft offers through Azure and tips for determining if the Microsoft cloud is the right choice for your organization.

What can Microsoft Azure Do?

Microsoft maintains a growing directory of Azure services, with more being added all the time. All the elements necessary to build a virtual network and deliver services or applications to a global audience are available, including:

  • Virtual machines

    Create Microsoft or Linux virtual machines (VMs) in just minutes from a wide selection of marketplace templates or from your own custom machine images. These cloud-based VMs will host your apps and services as if they resided in your own data center.

  • SQL databases

    Azure offers managed SQL relational databases, from one to an unlimited number, as a service.This saves you overhead and expenses on hardware, software, and the need for in-house expertise.

  • Azure Active Directory Domain services

    Built on the same proven technology as Windows Active Directory, this service for Azure lets you remotely manage group policy, authentication, and everything else. This makes moving and existing security structure partially or totally to the cloud as easy as a few clicks.

  • Application services

    With Azure it’s easier than ever to create and globally deploy applications that are compatible on all popular web and portable platforms. Reliable, scalable cloud access lets you respond quickly to your business’s ebb and flow, saving time and money. With the introduction of Azure WebApps to the Azure Marketplace, it’s easier than ever to manage production, testing and deployment of web applications that scale as quickly as your business. Prebuilt APIs for popular cloud services like Office 365, Salesforce and more greatly accelerate development.

  • Visual Studio team services

    An add-on service available under Azure, Visual Studio team services offer a complete application lifecycle management (ALM) solution in the Microsoft cloud. Developers can share and track code changes, perform load testing, and deliver applications to production while collaborating in Azure from all over the world. Visual Studio team services simplify development and delivery for large companies or new ones building a service portfolio.

  • Storage

    Count on Microsoft’s global infrastructure to provide safe, highly accessible data storage. With massive scalability and an intelligent pricing structure that lets you store infrequently accessed data at a huge savings, building a safe and cost-effective storage plan is simple in Microsoft Azure.

Why are people trusting their workloads to Microsoft Azure?

It’s been said that the on-premise data center has no future. Like mainframes and dial-up modems before them, self-hosted data centers are becoming obsolete, being replaced by increasingly available and affordable cloud solutions. Several important players have emerged in the cloud service sphere, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), perennial computing giant IBM, and Apple’s ubiquitous iCloud, which holds the picture memories and song preferences of hundreds of millions of smartphone users, among other data. With so many options, why are companies like 3M, BMW, and GE moving workloads to Microsoft Azure? Just some of the reasons:

  • Flexibility

    With Microsoft Azure you can spin up new services and geometrically scale your data storage capabilities on the fly. Compare this to a static data center, which would require new hardware and OS purchasing, provisioning, and deployment before additional power could be brought to bear against your IT challenges. This modern flexibility makes Azure a tempting solution for organizations of any size.

  • Cost

    Azure solutions don’t just make it faster and easier to add and scale infrastructure, they make it cheaper. Physical services and infrastructure devices like routers, load balancers and more quickly add up to thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then there’s the IT expertise required to run this equipment, which amounts to major payroll overhead. By leveraging Microsoft’s massive infrastructure and expertise, Azure can trim our annual IT budget by head-turning percentages.

  • Applications

    With a la carte service offerings like Visual Studio Team Services, Visual Studio Application Insights, and Azure’s scalable, on-demand storage for both frequently accessed and ‘cold’ data, Microsoft makes developing and testing mission-critical apps a snap. Move an application from test to production mode on the fly across a globally distributed network. Microsoft also offers substantial licensing discounts for migrating their existing apps to Azure, which represents even more opportunity for savings.

  • Disaster recovery

    Sometimes the unthinkable becomes the very immediate reality. Another advantage of Microsoft Azure lay in its high-speed and geographically decentralized infrastructure, which creates limitless options for disaster recovery plans. Ensure that your critical application and data can run from redundant sites during recovery periods that last minutes or hours instead of days. Lost time is lost business, and with Azure you can guarantee continuous service delivery even when disaster strikes.

The combination of Microsoft’s vast infrastructure, constant application and services development, and powerful presence in the global IT marketplace has made Microsoft Azure solutions the choice of two-thirds of the world’s Fortune 500 companies. But the infinite scalability of Azure can make it just as right for your small personal business.

Logging capabilities within Microsoft Azure

The secret gold mine of any infrastructure and service solution is ongoing operational and security visibility, and ultimately these comes down to extracting critical log and infrastructure metrics from the application and underlying stack. The lack of this visibility is like flying a plane blind—no one does it. Azure comes with integrated health monitoring and alert capabilities so you can know in an instant if performance issues or outages are impacting your business. Set smart alert levels for events from:

  • Azure diagnostic infrastructure logs

    Get current insights into how your cloud network is performing and take action to resolve slow downs, bottlenecks, or service failures.

  • Windows IIS logs

    View activity on your virtual web servers and respond to traffic patterns or log-in anomalies with the data Azure gathers on IIS 7.

  • Crash dumps

    Even virtual machines can ‘blue screen’ and other virtual equipment crashes can majorly disrupt your operations. With Microsoft Azure you can record crash dump data and troubleshoot to avoid repeat problems.

  • Custom error logs

    Set Azure alerts to inform you about defined error events. This is especially helpful when hosting private applications that generate internal intelligence about operations, so you can add these errors to the health checklist Azure maintains about your network.

Microsoft Azure gives you the basic tools you need for error logging and monitoring, diagnostics, and troubleshooting to ensure continuous service delivery in your Azure cloud environment.

Gain Full Visibility into Azure with the Unified Logs and Metrics

Even with Azure’s native logging and analytics tools, the vast amount of data flowing to make your network and applications operate can be overwhelming. The volume, variety and velocity of cloud data should not be underestimated. With the help of Sumo Logic, a trusted Microsoft partner, management of that data is simple.

The Sumo Logic platform unifies logs and metrics from the structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data across your entire Microsoft environment. Machine learning algorithms process vast amounts of log and metrics data, looking for anomalies and deviations from normal patterns of activity, alerting you when appropriate.

With Log Reduce, Log Compare and Outlier Detection, extract continuous intelligence from your application stack and proactively respond to operational and security issues.

The Sumo Logic apps for Microsoft Azure Audit, Microsoft Azure Web Apps, Microsoft Windows Server Active Directory, Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS), and the popular Windows Performance app, make ingesting machine data in real-time and rendering it into clear, interactive visualizations for a complete picture of your applications and data.

Before long the on-premise data center—along with its expensive hardware and hordes of local technicians on the payroll—may be lost to technology’s graveyard. But smart, researched investment into cloud capabilities like those provided in Microsoft Azure will make facing tomorrow’s bold technology challenges and possibilities relatively painless.

Complete visibility for DevSecOps

Reduce downtime and move from reactive to proactive monitoring.

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Many modern organizations are using Agile, continuous deployment, and similar approaches to push out updates on a daily or weekly basis. But this new app ecosystem presents challenges from a monitoring and maintenance viewpoint. In some cases, IT teams still rely on the same old siloed tools they had used for their legacy environments. Many struggle to get visibility into the entire application stack in modern, diverse environments where fast performance and 24/7 availability are mandatory. Cloud-based machine data analytics vendor Sumo Logic recently commissioned UBM to research these trends in greater depth. In December 2016, UBM conducted a survey of 235 IT operations, application development, and information security professionals at companies with 500 or more employees to assess the current state of IT operations and modern app tools. 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It encourages closer collaboration between developers and IT operations staff, and DevOps shops often rely heavily on automation to speed the delivery of new applications and updates. The concept has been around for less than a decade, but it has quickly gained traction among organizations seeking to increase their agility and improve their responsiveness. In fact, only 12% of the organizations surveyed said they have no plans to adopt DevOps practices. However, most organizations are either still experimenting with the concept or have limited adoption to a few teams. Eleven percent of respondents said their entire IT organization has embraced the approach, while 57% have implemented DevOps on a limited or trial basis. This suggests that organizations may adopt DevOps more widely if they experience the anticipated benefits of the approach. Because continuous delivery is one of the hallmarks of DevOps, it shouldn’t be surprising that the embrace of DevOps is leading many organizations to increase their pace of application development and deployment. In fact, 42% of those surveyed said they are deploying apps more frequently than in the past. And only 8% of respondents said they were deploying apps less frequently than in previous years. Faster updates and more frequent deployments should help them better meet customer demand. However, despite their development and deployment speed increases, organizations have plenty of room for improvement if they want to remain competitive. It still takes most teams months to develop new apps or release updates. Only 3% of those surveyed said they could turn out a new app in less than a week, and just 16% could do it in a month. For the majority (51%), app development takes several months, with 12% saying it takes about a year, and 6% take even longer. 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Since the earliest days of the cloud, organizations have been worried about the potential risks to applications and data that are on infrastructure outside of their direct control, and many cloud vendors haven’t yet completely addressed those concerns. When asked about their opinion of the security of the public cloud, only 6% described it as “excellent.” And the majority (55%) said public cloud services are more secure than they used to be, but they still have room for improvement. In addition, when asked about their biggest challenges related to cloud computing, security was the top answer, selected by 27% of respondents. Other key challenges included migrating applications and data to the cloud (15%), obtaining a unified view of cloud and traditional IT infrastructure (8%), and managing cloud-based apps and operations (7%). Two of respondents’ biggest cloud challenges — obtaining a unified view and managing cloud-based apps — directly relate to one of the other big trouble spots for modern IT: management tooling. The changes in infrastructure mean that IT operations must monitor, troubleshoot, and secure more applications and platforms than ever before. Stack, tool, and data diversity have become the new normal, and many teams are struggling to keep up as applications, data, and tools proliferate. Among those surveyed, most organizations are using between four and 10 tools to manage their growing portfolio of custom apps. And, more than one in 10 are actually using more than 20 application management tools. This suggests that many organizations have siloed tools that perform only a few tasks rather than unified management solutions that allow them to monitor and maintain their entire stacks. However, organizations don’t expect this situation to change anytime soon. A majority (59%) said they expect the number of tools they are using to stay the same or increase slightly over the next two years. These teams may not realize that modern tools could help them gain the unified view they are seeking while also helping them improve IT operations efciency and application availability. The good news related to IT management is that organizations are using more advanced tools to analyze their operations data. Among those surveyed, 67% use log management tools, and 85% expect their use of log management tools to increase or stay the same over the next two years. In addition, 79% are either already applying analytics or machine learning to their log data, or they plan to do so. By consolidating some of those tools, IT operations may be able to break silos and better troubleshoot and monitor their applications. Kalyan Ramanathan, vice president of product marketing at Sumo Logic, observed, “The survey data suggests that management tooling hasn’t kept up with the pace of the other changes occurring in enterprise IT. Adopting a secure, cloud-native, unified solution could help organizations streamline their optimization and troubleshooting efforts while providing the level of availability and performance their customers require.” Organizations Need Full Visibility Many of the changes taking place in IT are good for enterprises. Trends such as the cloud and DevOps are helping organizations become more flexible and responsive to market conditions. But most companies still have work to do when it comes to their pace of innovation and their ability to support the modern app ecosystem. [epq-quote align="align-right"]“The survey data suggests that management tooling hasn’t kept up with the pace of the other changes occurring in enterprise IT. Adopting a secure, cloud-native, unified solution could help organizations streamline their optimization and troubleshooting efforts while providing the level of availability and performance their customers require.” - Kalyan Ramanathan, VP of product marketing, Sumo Logic[/epq-quote] As they embrace the cloud and DevOps, organizations are finding themselves with complex, heterogeneous environments that are difficult to monitor and manage. IT teams no longer have to worry only about legacy client-server applications running on their own hardware. They now have public, private, and hybrid cloud environments to manage, as well as their traditional architecture. This new reality is pushing traditional tooling past its breaking point. Most enterprises are using far too many tools to monitor what is happening with their systems and cloud services. This lack of unified tooling makes IT operations less productive, and it hampers their ability to ensure constant availability and to troubleshoot performance slowdowns. Enterprise IT needs a way to gain full visibility and intelligence of the entire IT application stack. Modern, consolidated app monitoring and management tools that have been designed from the ground up to support today’s more diverse environments may help overcome these challenges. This centralized tooling could also help improve security and compliance while enabling organizations to become more competitive. Key Findings from the State of IT Operations and Modern App Tools Survey 80% of those surveyed are using or planning to use public cloud services. 66% are using Microsoft Azure, compared to 55% using AWS. 68% either plan to adopt DevOps practices or are already doing so. 42% are deploying and updating apps more frequently than in the past. 55% said public cloud services are more secure than they used to be, but they still have room for improvement. Most organizations are using between four and 10 tools to manage their growing portfolios of custom apps Reporting Methodology Sumo Logic commissioned UBM plc to conduct an online survey in December 2016 exploring the current state of IT operations and modern application tools in enterprises. The final data set comprises 235 IT operations, application development, and information security professionals. All respondents are from companies with 500 or more employees, with roughly half from companies with 5,000 or more employees. About one-third of respondents work in IT management, including titles such as CIO, CTO, VP of IT, IT director and IT manager. Respondents’ companies are in a wide variety of industries, with the healthcare and financial sectors strongly represented. The margin of error for the total respondent base (N=235) is +/- 6.4 percentage points. UBM plc was responsible for all programming and data analysis. These procedures were carried out in strict accordance with standard market research practices. Download this report as a PDF.