Windows Azure: Introduction

This will be the first part in an ongoing series about Windows Azure. Azure is Microsoft’s offering in the cloud computing/server space. Azure allows organizations from a small businesses to Fortune 500 companies have a cloud presence and take advantage of having their services in a data center that is guaranteed to have 99.9% uptime.

You began using Azure with a by signing up for a free trial. This trial will get you $200 worth of free Azure services. The trial can be found here.

Platform as a Service

Azure is considered a “platform as a service” offering. This is the primary difference between it and competitors. With this type offering, administrators need only manage their code and not the underlying services. That is where the different offerings like SQL databases and Azure Active Directory play in. Microsoft handles patching the underlying servers. Administrators do not have to maintain the VM’s, unless they specifically install VM’s. The largest advantage probably comes with SQL databases. These databases are highly available and replicated across multiple data centers. Microsoft also recently added reporting services capabilities. Most other cloud offerings are “infrastructure as a service”, which is similar to the current on premise VM infrastructures – administrators are responsible for every aspect of the virtual machine.

Pricing

For most organizations, the first thing to look at is pricing. With Azure, pricing is all about what service you are using. For example, SQL servers are priced based on the size of the databases, while regular VM’s are priced based on the number of cores and amount of RAM. For detailed pricing information for services, see here.

Pricing is also available in a pay-as-you-go model, or billed on a six or 12 month plan. The six and 12 month plans are cheaper. I would look at all of this and see what plan fits your organization the best.

Integration

Azure can integrate with almost every other Microsoft product. Do you have System Center Configuration Manager? SCCM can deploy operating systems straight to Azure VM’s. Virtual Machine Manager can manage Azure VM’s from its console. Orchestrator has Azure integration packs available. By combining these systems with Azure, administrators can manage one seamless environment, from server deployment, to moving systems to the cloud, and bringing them back.

Azure also integrates directly into SQL Server 2014 and Visual Studio 2013. This allows application developers to deploy straight to running servers in the cloud. Azure can also be used as a development environment for developers. They will no longer have to wait for infrastructure to develop and test their applications.

Self Service

By combining Azure with System Center, administrators can create a self-service portal to Azure. With System Center App Controller, developers can create their own virtual machines in Azure. This further eliminates time and productivity loss by stream-lining this process.

Azure Services

Microsoft breaks Azure into four classifications of services. These classifications and services will be covered in detail in future posts. The first is compute, which contains virtual machines, web sites, mobile services, and cloud services. This is the core of any virtual environment. The second classification is data services, which includes things like SQL database and backups. Next is application services, which includes things like automation, Visual Studio Online, Azure Active Directory, and Azure RemoteApp. Finally, there’s network services. This classification includes data transfers and virtual networks.

Come back next week for more about Azure.

Disclaimer

All content provided on this blog is for information purposes only. Windows Management Experts, Inc makes no representation as to accuracy or completeness of any information on this site. Windows Management Experts, Inc will not be liable for any errors or omission in this information nor for the availability of this information. It is highly recommended that you consult one of our technical consultants, should you need any further assistant.

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