The rise of cloud computing has literally reshaped the technology landscape, where decision makers are moving more and more pieces of the data center to virtualized web infrastructure. Microsoft Azure is the industry titan’s suite of solutions for infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS).
What Is Microsoft Azure?
Azure is Microsoft’s platform for both hybrid and fully cloud-based IT architectures. The Azure environment is affordable and infinitely scaleable, allowing organizations to invest in only the infrastructure they need and pay only for the exact services they utilize. As with most things Microsoft, Azure offers interoperability with the industry’s most popular tools and services.
Below we’ll take a look at essential Azure services and how they can help you virtualize your infrastructure and save money.
Azure Extends and Enriches Your IT Ecosystem
Microsoft Azure provides everything you need to enhance your existing infrastructure or build an entire virtual organization from scratch. Many organizations are at some stage of hybridization between legacy architecture and virtualization. Azure’s tools can help you extend your on-premise operations or create new services on Microsoft’s globally distributed hosting centers by offering:
Azure Virtual Network. Build secure networks, isolate testing environments, filter IP traffic with ease from a central command console. Components you can instantly deploy and manage:
- Gateways and routers
- Load balancers
Azure Virtual Machines. Use Microsoft’s machine building tools or select from the industry’s leading array of virtual machine images (VMIs) including:
- Windows, Linux and Ubuntu servers
- Database hosts like SQL, Oracle, IBM and more
- Server fabric cluster images for deploying and managing microservice architectures like Dockers, Chef, Puppet and others.
Pay as you use pricing. With no startup costs, termination fees, or hardware expenditures, benefit from total cost of ownership savings that include:
- Free trial account
- Per-minute pricing for compute services
- Enterprise-grade service level agreements with no additional support contracts
Azure makes available a fully functional virtual version of any piece of hardware required in a datacenter, and does so without a massive initial hardware expenditure. Even better, your infrastructure and services are replicated across Microsoft’s global network, ensuring instant workarounds in the event of local or regional outages.
Does managing all these services, machines, and datasets sound daunting? Azure provides the tools for pinpoint control over when, where, and how often your critical data is backed up.
Build and Run Apps with Microsoft Azure
To many businesses nothing is more critical than the methods they use to build, test, deploy, and monitor applications. Azure brings all of Microsoft’s famous development tools—and some entirely new ones—to cloud architecture, giving developers more options than ever. Here’s a short list of tools in Azure for taking complete control of your applications in either a hybrid or a full cloud environment.
- Visual Studio Team Services. Especially valuable to smaller teams, VST is free for up to five users and supports development in all languages. The customizable Azure Status dashboards provide easy, satellite’s eye view of development and operations.
- Azure DevTest Labs. Quickly outline and provision virtual testing environments, selecting from an extensive library of custom image files to get you started. Manage all of your lab activities from a central screen and streamline work processes to shorten your application delivery cycle.
- Containers. With Azure’s Web App for Containers, support powerful Docker technology to build and customize applications at the micro level. Take advantage of containers’ ability to autoscale with demand and pay only for the power and services you use.
- HockeyApp. Face it: applications crash. When they do Azure’s Hockey application helps developers quickly decipher complex crash reports, chart crashes for similarities to aid in troubleshooting, and trim hours off time spent troubleshooting.
- Xamarin. Develop and manage mobile applications across the ‘big three’ languages—iOS, Android, and Windows—without bogging down in the backend details of coding across platforms. Among other enhancements, Xamarin lets developers in your Azure environment instantly integrate authentication across most popular communities, including:
- Azure Active Directory
- Custom-defined identity parameters
- DevOps in Azure. Put together the above capabilities and the right team and Azure empowers you to build, test, deploy, and continually improve your critical applications with seamless frequency.
With every passing day and the new technologies it brings, the old way of developing and testing applications in-house is moving further into the rearview mirror. Azure doesn’t just replicate the capabilities of hosting all equipment and processes internally, it greatly expands organizations’ capabilities to build and thrive in the cloud era.
But as with most executive information, the true value of all this data power depends on the individual’s ability to see and respond to the critical. That’s where Azure’s rich data management and analytics potential comes in.
Azure Data Management
Azure presents a variety of ways for handling your data so you can customize a storage and backup policy for your needs. Offering both short term (hot) and long term (cool) storage solutions, Azure supports five data formats.
- File. A simple, cloud-based replacement for the data center file server that utilizes server message block (SMB) 3.0 encryption for ironclad security.
- Queue. Build in resilience with infinitely scaleable storage that grows on demand and allows your architecture to use queued data to work around outages.
- Disk. With industry leading high availability and a choice between standard hard disk drive (HDD) or ultra-fast solid state drive (SSD) storage, manage and scale your critical infrastructure data with ease.
- Table. Extremely low latency for structured or unstructured data access to NoSQL, key value storage.
- Blob. Manage billions of objects and exabytes of data between hot, cool, and archive layers, all with built in redundancy distributed across global archives.
Azure Data Backup and Security
Whatever combination of storage formats you employ, Azure Backup gives you a powerful, centralized management screen for working with hot and cool data. Use the handy GUI tools to simplify backups.
- Cheap elasticity. Gone are the days of bulk buying disk arrays in anticipation of coming data growth. With Azure backup your storage needs scale automatically, and as with all Azure products you pay only for the space and compute time actually used.
- Encryption. Provide an extra layer of security for your hot, cool, and archived data with industry leading encryption so virtual machines with highly sensitive data are backed up and secure.
- Simplified compliance. Many regulated industries, including healthcare, government, education, and others, require adherence to compliance policies for using and storing data. Azure Backup makes it easy to instantly create and implement a compliance plan that will satisfy even the most stringent requirements.
On a long enough timeline, dealing with a disaster isn’t a question of if, but when. Inevitably all organizations face a partial or complete failure, and recovering from it can mean the difference between an organization's life and death. Azure Site Recovery is Microsoft’s cloud and hybrid lifeline.
To provide true replication for immediate recovery, physical data centers require a secondary mirror site that can be brought into production in the event the primary center fails. But Azure provides a cloud solution that doesn’t come with massive upfront spending on hardware, personnel, and utility expenses like electricity and climate control.
With Azure Site Recovery it’s simple to automate replication and manage disasters from the central Azure Storage Explorer console. Restore an individual object or an entire production environment, even a heterogenous one that mixes platforms like Hyper-V, VMWare, and legacy physical servers.
In the old datas storing and managing data could be one of the most expensive and time-consuming aspects of IT management. But making Azure an integral part of your cloud or hybrid environment takes the stress (and much of the cost) out of building sound backup and archive policies.
Azure Data Analytics Tools
With so much data streaming around the clock, pinpointing problems that impact performance isn’t finding a needle in a haystack—it’s a needle in a field of hay. Fortunately Microsoft’s cloud platform offers internal tools and partners with third parties to give you options for gaining a visual grasp of your environment.
HD Insight. This open source, fully managed analytics platform powered by Apache Hadoop complies with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Payment Card Industry (PCI), and Service Organization Controls (SOC) compliance regulations, simplifying your control of the fine workings of your environment.
Data Lake Analytics. Simple to spin up and placing almost zero overhead on your network, visualize your operations with Data Lake Analytics, which can be configured to automatically troubleshoot your apps and provide recommendations for improving performance and lowering cost.
Machine Learning. Innovative and evolving data algorithms combined with a drag and drop GUI interface make it simple to build and deploy both machine learning and advanced analytics solutions that are completely managed in the cloud.
Powerful Partnering Solutions. Maximize the power of your Azure environment with the Sumo Logic App for Azure, an industry leader in data analytics, visualization, and monitoring.
Getting Started with Microsoft Azure
With strong competition in the cloud services sector, Azure brings the clout of the Microsoft name along with the company’s proven track record. Azure’s pay-as-you-use pricing and autoscaling elasticity make it an affordable option, especially for smaller shops. See why industry leaders are turning to Azure and to help decide if Azure is the right cloud solution for you!