Microsoft Azure came late to the cloud market but gave itself a jump start by essentially taking its on-premises software – Windows Server, Office, SQL Server, Sharepoint, Dynamics Active Directory, .Net, and others – and repurposing it for the cloud.

Microsoft Azure

A big reason for Azure’s success: so many enterprises deploy Windows and other Microsoft software. Because Azure is tightly integrated with these other applications, enterprises that use a lot of Microsoft software often find that it also makes sense for them to use Azure. This builds loyalty for existing Microsoft customers. Also, if you are already an existing Microsoft enterprise customer, expect significant discounts off service contracts.

Microsoft Azure Features

Similar to AWS cloud services, Azure offers a full variety of solutions for app developer needs. The platform gives you the ability to deploy and manage virtual machines as scale. You can process and compute at whatever capacity you need within just minutes. Moreover, if your custom software needs to run large-scale parallel batch computing, it can handle it too. This is actually a unique feature to AWS and Azure over the Google Cloud Platform. The all-encompassing Azure features integrate into your existing systems and processes, offering more power and capacity for enterprise development.

Azure Compute

  • Virtual Machines: Microsoft’s primary compute service is known simply as Virtual Machines. It boasts support for Linux, Windows Server, SQL Server, Oracle, IBM, and SAP, as well as enhanced security, hybrid cloud capabilities and integrated support for Microsoft software. Like AWS, it has an extremely large catalog of available instances, including GPU and high-performance computing options, as well as instances optimized for artificial intelligence and machine learning. It also has a free tier with 750 hours per month of Windows or Linux B1S virtual machines for a year.
  • Additional Services: Azure’s version of Auto Scaling is known as Virtual Machine Scale Sets. And it has two container services: Azure Container Service is based on Kubernetes, and Container Services uses Docker Hub and Azure Container Registry for management. It has a Batch service, and Cloud Services for scalable Web applications is similar to AWS Elastic Beanstalk. It also has a unique offering called Service Fabric that is specifically designed for applications with microservices architecture.

Azure Storage

  • Storage Services: Microsoft Azure’s basic storage services include Blob Storage for REST-based object storage of unstructured data, Queue Storage for large-volume workloads, File Storage and Disk Storage. It also has a Data Lake Store, which is useful for big data applications.
  • Extensive Database: Azure’s database options are particularly extensive. It has three SQL-based options: SQL Database, Database for MySQL and Database for PostgreSQL. It also has a Data Warehouse service, as well as Cosmos DB and Table Storage for NoSQL. Redis Cache is its in-memory service and the Server Stretch Database is its hybrid storage service designed specifically for organizations that use Microsoft SQL Server in their own data centers. Unlike AWS, Microsoft does offer an actual Backup service, as well as Site Recovery service and Archive Storage.

Azure Key Cloud Tools

  • Cognitive Services: Microsoft has also invested heavily in artificial intelligence, and it offers a machine learning service and a bot service on Azure. It also has Cognitive Services that include a Bing Web Search API, Text Analytics API, Face API, Computer Vision API and Custom Vision Service. For IoT, it has several management and analytics services, and its serverless computing service is known as Functions.
  • Supporting MSFT Software: Not surprisingly, many of Azure’s top tools are geared around supporting on-premises Microsoft software. Azure Backup is a service that links Windows Server Backup in Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016. Visual Studio Team Services hosts Visual Studio projects on Azure.

Microsoft Azure summary

  • What is Microsoft Azure? Microsoft Azure is a collection of various cloud computing services, including remotely hosted and managed versions of proprietary Microsoft technologies, and open technologies, such as various Linux distributions deployable inside a virtual machine.
  • Why does Microsoft Azure matter? Azure lacks upfront costs or an appreciable time delay in resource provisioning—capacity is available on demand. With a usage-based billing formula, Azure is a compelling option for enterprises transitioning from on-premise Windows servers to the cloud.
  • Who does Microsoft Azure affect? Azure can be utilized at any scale, from a garage startup to a Fortune 500 company. Because of the ease of transition, organizations with an existing Windows Server deployment may find Azure to be best suited to their needs.
  • When was Microsoft Azure released? Azure reached general availability in February 2010, with additional services and regional data centers being added continually since launch.
  • How do I get Microsoft Azure? New users receive a $200 service credit good for 30 days when signing up for Microsoft Azure; the credit can be applied toward any Microsoft-provided service. Additional discounts and credits are available for startups, nonprofits, and universities.

In addition to the aforementioned storage, virtual machine, CDN, and Windows-related services, Azure also offers a variety of other services.

  • Azure IoT Suite offers various options for connecting and monitoring devices, as well as providing telemetry and analytics services.
  • HDInsight is a customized Hadoop deployment.
  • Azure Redis Cache is a managed version of the popular open-source Redis data structure server; Azure Cosmos DB is a hosted NoSQL database for specific use cases; and Azure Search is an OData-based managed search service.
  • Azure Media Services offers cloud-based video playing, indexing, transcoding, and content protection services.

Microsoft, in coordination with hardware vendors such as Lenovo, Dell EMC, HP Enterprise, Cisco, and Huawei, offers the Azure Stack appliance for use in hybrid cloud deployments. The Azure Stack certified hardware allows organizations to run Azure applications from the public Azure cloud while leveraging data hosted on-premise, as well as running the same services from the public Azure cloud on the Azure Stack platform.