This detailed guide to Microsoft Azure explains how it is usually used, what its technical limits are, and what you need to know before using it.
With the rise of cloud computing, businesses can quickly set up computing resources without having to build expensive and time-consuming data centers or pay to run servers with extra capacity that isn’t being used because workloads change.
In February 2010, Microsoft released Azure, its cloud computing platform. Azure has traditional cloud services like virtual machines, object storage, and content delivery networks (CDNs). It also has services that use Microsoft’s own technologies. For example, RemoteApp lets you use a virtual machine to deploy Windows programmes, and clients on Windows, Mac OS, Android, or iOS can use the programme through a remote desktop connection. Azure also offers versions of popular Microsoft business solutions like Active Directory and SQL Server that run in the cloud.
This introduction to Microsoft’s cloud platform will be updated from time to time to keep IT leaders up to date on new Azure services and how they can be used. (Note: You can get a free PDF of this article about Microsoft Azure.)
What is Azure for dummies?
Azure for dummies is a platform for cloud computing services that can work with each other. These services include both open-source, standards-based technologies and solutions that are only available from Microsoft and other companies. Instead of building a server installation on-site or renting physical servers from traditional data centres, Azure’s billing is based on how many resources are used, not how much capacity is reserved. Prices change based on the type of service, the type of storage, and where your Azure instances are physically located.
For example, the price of storage varies based on options for redundancy and distribution. Hot locally redundant block blob storage (LRS-HOT) with three copies in one data centre starts at $0.0184 per GB in the Central US region. Geographically redundant storage (GRS-HOT) starts at $0.0368 per GB and has three copies in one data centre and three copies in a second data centre that is far away. Starts at $0.046 per GB for Read-Access GRS (RAGRS-HOT), which lets you read data at the second data centre.
Amodasblog writer Mary Jo Foley characterises Azure’s upcoming CloudPC service as “an alternative for customers who wish to use their own Windows PCs built by Microsoft and/or other PC makers basically as thin clients, with Windows, Office, and maybe other applications given virtually by Microsoft.” Uncertainty surrounds the debut of the new service, which may occur as soon as the spring of 2021.
Azure Stack is a hybrid cloud appliance developed by Microsoft in collaboration with hardware companies including Lenovo, Dell EMC, HP Enterprise, Cisco, and Huawei. In addition to operating the same services from the public Azure cloud on-premises, the Azure Stack certified hardware enables businesses to run Azure apps in the public Azure cloud using data housed on-premises.
What is the significance of Microsoft Azure?
Azure, like other cloud service providers, lets you get computing resources right away when you need them. Compared to the hard work of planning and building an on-site data centre, which includes hardware upgrades, maintenance costs, server cooling needs, electricity costs, and use of floor space–especially for offices, which have real estate costs–the savings can add up very quickly.
But Azure’s benefits go beyond just keeping costs down. When Azure and Office 365 are used together, it is much easier to manage technologies like Windows Server, Active Directory, and SharePoint. This gives IT staff more time to work on new projects instead of maintaining systems.
Microsoft is trying very hard to get companies to move their AI computing operations to Azure. At Microsoft’s Build 2019 developer conference, a preview of Project Brainwave, an FPGA-based deep learning system built for AI that works in real-time, was released to Azure. Microsoft also added algorithms to Cognitive Services to help get insights from structured or unstructured content. It also added features to Azure Machine Learning Service to help developers use “a no-code approach to model creation and deployment using a new visual machine-learning interface,” according to amodasblog.
Microsoft is making it easier for developers to create, manage, and run consortium blockchain networks by adding the blockchain-as-a-service Azure Blockchain Service to its previously announced efforts to bring blockchain services to Azure. A public preview of Azure Blockchain Service was made available at Build 2019.
Who does Microsoft Azure affect?
Azure is a great upgrade for organisations that already use Microsoft technologies, especially Windows Server and Active Directory. Since mainstream support for Windows Server 2008 has ended, it may be better to plan for a move to cloud-hosted Azure services than to buy new server hardware and Windows Server licences.
As with any cloud service, the cost-benefit is more real for cash-strapped startups that don’t have the money to buy hardware and pay for other costs of a traditional on-premise deployment or lease dedicated servers in a traditional data centre. Azure’s billing is based on how many resources are used. This means that a company’s IT infrastructure can grow as the company does.
Azure has 54 regions that can be used right now. Compared to AWS and Google Cloud Services, Azure has a wider reach in developing markets, with more regions in Asia Pacific, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates. There are currently 17 regions set up. Eight of them are used by the government. Two are in Canada, and one is in So Paulo, Brazil. In Europe, Ireland and the Netherlands each have one, while the United Kingdom, France, and Switzerland each have two. China and Australia each have four, India has three, Japan and Korea each have two, and India has one. Both Hong Kong and Singapore are in charge of one region each. South Africa and the UAE each have two regions in the Middle East and Africa.