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Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure, formerly known as Windows Azure, is Microsoft’s public cloud computing platform. It provides a range of cloud services, including compute, analytics, storage and networking. Users can pick and choose from these services to develop and scale new applications, or run existing applications in the public with azure consulting services.

The Azure platform aims to help businesses manage challenges and meet their organizational goals. It offers tools that support all industries — including e-commerce, finance and a variety of Fortune 500 companies — and is compatible with open source technologies. This provides users with the flexibility to use their preferred tools and technologies. In addition, Azure offers 4 different forms of cloud computing: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and serverless.

Microsoft charges for Azure on a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning subscribers receive a bill each month that only charges them for the specific resources they have used.

How does Microsoft Azure work?
Once customers subscribe to Azure, they have access to all the services included in the Azure portal. Subscribers can use these services to create cloud-based resources, such as virtual machines (VM) and databases.

In addition to the services that Microsoft offers through the Azure portal, a number of third-party vendors also make software directly available through Azure. The cost billed for third-party applications varies widely but may involve paying a subscription fee for the application, plus a usage fee for the infrastructure used to host the application.

Microsoft provides five different customer support options for Azure:

  • Basic
  • Developer
  • Standard
  • Professional Direct
  • Premier

These customer support plans vary in terms of scope and price. Basic support is available to all Azure accounts, but Microsoft charges a fee for the other support offerings. Developer support costs $29 per month, while Standard support costs $100 per month and Professional Direct support is $1000 per month. Microsoft does not disclose the pricing for Premier support.

What is Microsoft Azure used for?

Because Microsoft Azure consists of numerous service offerings, its use cases are extremely diverse. Running virtual machines or containers in the cloud is one of the most popular uses for Microsoft Azure. These compute resources can host infrastructure components, such as domain name system (DNS) servers; Windows Server services — such as Internet Information Services (IIS); or third-party applications. Microsoft also supports the use of third-party operating systems, such as Linux.

Azure is also commonly used as a platform for hosting databases in the cloud. Microsoft offers serverless relational databases such as Azure SQL and non-relational databases such as NoSQL.

In addition, the platform is frequently used for backup and disaster recovery. Many organizations use Azure storage as archive in order to meet their long-term Data retention requirements.

Azure products and services

Microsoft sorts Azure cloud services into nearly two dozen categories, including:

Compute. These services enable a user to deploy and manage VMs, containers and batch jobs, as well as support remote application access. Compute resources created within the Azure cloud can be configured with either public IP addresses or private IP addresses, depending on whether the resource needs to be accessible to the outside world.

Mobile. These products help developers build cloud applications for mobile devices, providing notification services, support for back-end tasks, tools for building application program interfaces (APIs) and the ability to couple geospatial context with data.

Web. These services support the development and deployment of web applications. They also offer features for search, content delivery, API management, notification and reporting.

Storage. This category of services provides scalable cloud storage for structured and unstructured data. It also supports big data projects, persistent storage and archival storage.

Analytics. These services provide distributed analytics and storage, as well as features for real-time analytics, big data analytics, data lakes, machine learning (ML), business intelligence (BI), internet of things (IoT) data streams and data warehousing.

Networking. This group includes virtual networks, dedicated connections and gateways, as well as services for traffic management and diagnostics, load balancing, DNS hosting and network protection against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

Media and content delivery network (CDN). These CDN services include on-demand streaming, digital rights protection, encoding and media playback and indexing.

Integration. These are services for server backup, site recovery and connecting private and public clouds.

Identity. These offerings ensure only authorized users can access Azure services and help protect encryption keys and other sensitive information in the cloud. Services include support for Azure Active Directory and multifactor authentication (MFA).

Internet of things. These services help users capture, monitor and analyze IoT data from sensors and other devices. Services include notifications, analytics, monitoring and support for coding and execution.

DevOps. This group provides project and collaboration tools, such as Azure DevOps — formerly Visual Studio Team Services — that facilitate DevOps software development processes. It also offers features for application diagnostics, DevOps tool integrations and test labs for build tests and experimentation.

Development. These services help application developers share code, test applications and track potential issues. Azure supports a range of application programming languages, including JavaScript, Python, .NET and Node.js. Tools in this category also include support for Azure DevOps, software development kits (SDKs) and blockchain.

Security. These products provide capabilities to identify and respond to cloud security threats, as well as manage encryption keys and other sensitive assets.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This is a wide range of services that a developer can use to infuse artificial intelligence, machine learning and cognitive computing capabilities into applications and data sets.

Containers. These services help an enterprise create, register, orchestrate and manage huge volumes of containers in the Azure cloud, using common platforms such as Docker and Kubernetes.

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