9 Things to Know About Azure, Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Platform

Many executives and IT professionals are familiar with Microsoft Azure, a major set of cloud application services available to clients through Microsoft. As a company that has been on the vanguard of tech development for decades, the Bill Gates empire did not want to be left out of the cloud game, and so, over the last decade, Microsoft Azure was incubated, born and shepherded toward its eventual development.

Here are some things to understand about Microsoft Azure as it applies to enterprise technology.

The Diversity of Microsoft Azure

Experts count over 600 individual services in the Microsoft Azure toolbox. Many refer to Azure functionality as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), meaning that companies don’t have to implement and scale their own servers. But there’s more to it than that — professionals also talk about Microsoft Azure software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) options.

That’s just part of what this set of services offers enterprise clients, and that’s why it’s giving the traditional cloud vendor, Amazon Web Services, a run for its money.

Microsoft Azure’s Object Storage Model

Tied to Microsoft Azure’s cloud toolbox is an object storage model that allows for the archiving of data objects in much the same way that Amazon’s program does. Through a system of labeling and conceptual object storage, Azure users are able to keep data in digital buckets, and work with it as necessary through hot and cold processes. This really changes the data storage game as the industry moves toward what is called “consolidation,” the idea that computing and storage can be tied together, whether that’s through a network-attached storage fabric, edge computing or some other model. It’s helpful for efficiency and cost savings, and many executives are taking a look.

Microsoft Azure’s Utility in Relational Database

In the earlier days of the relational database, and up through the last few years, Microsoft estimates 1.4 million SQL databases have been deployed in Azure.

The database world is growing more complex and sophisticated, but Microsoft Azure continues to be a popular home for database systems as companies outsource their hardware setups to the cloud. Database is so integral to an SOA that a big part of Azure’s appeal is its database and data management services — but again, there’s a lot more to it than just that.

A Leader in Platform Security

There are several areas in which Gartner, Forrester and other analysts identify Microsoft Azure as a top vendor. In general, its diverse cloud services are hard to beat, and in fields like the internet of things, Microsoft Azure is paving the way for greater innovation, where many smaller companies can’t afford to work up competitive systems.

Availability Zones

Microsoft Azure is available in 32 regions around the world, with more regional growth on the way. This allows the cloud service to offer Availability Zones, implementation where backup services can be located in geographically diverse areas. This also has evident benefits, as companies are forced to adopt redundant systems for industry standards and regulatory compliance.

“Availability Zones is a high-availability offering that protects your applications and data from datacenter failures,” a Microsoft contributor writes on a data page regarding this offering. “Availability Zones are unique physical locations within an Azure region. Each zone is made up of one or more datacenters equipped with independent power, cooling, and networking.”

Big Buy-in

Analysts estimate that 85% of Fortune 500 companies are using Microsoft Azure in some capacity. With the enormous sea change toward cloud services, Microsoft Azure has been quietly scooping up market share. Experts point out some of the major benefits to client companies involving being able to source server activity and processing function directly through the web. AWS represents the biggest individual competitor, and more often than not, these two behemoths battle it out for enterprise business.

Hadoop Implementation and Azure

Not too long ago, Apache Hadoop was a household name for data implementation. In combination with tools like Hive, MapReduce, Spark and others, in-house people achieved big data goals with Hadoop. Now Microsoft Azure has been able to offer its own branded services with HDInsight, on which clients can utilize Hadoop and other major open source or Apache tools for clusters and all of that traditional data wrangling.

Media Services Available

Another lesser-known aspect of Microsoft Azure’s catalog consists of its media and streaming content services. By applying metadata, these Azure tools help with tracking and tagging content, and enable high-density video streaming to a device. There are also content protection features built into the content delivery network (CDN) design. Azure accommodates a full streaming content life cycle from live source to storage, which is one aspect of how automation and AI are changing the world of content.

A Full Sandbox

Some experts describe Microsoft Azure as a full platform where developers can build, test and deploy applications. To this end, Microsoft Azure also accommodates container virtualization — a system where various containers (as an offshoot of virtual machines) share one cloned operating system and house application data and functions for seamless computing.

Developers are clamoring for container virtualization systems, and Microsoft Azure does not disappoint. With Azure Container Instances, the vendor offers all of this functionality through its brand for CI/CD and end-to-end development.

“Manage containers at scale with a fully managed Kubernetes container orchestration service that integrates with Azure Active Directory,” writes Microsoft. “Wherever you are in your app modernization journey, accelerate your containerized application development while meeting your security requirements.”

These are some of the big things to know about a trend-setting vendor cloud suite that is transforming the way we do business. Look for more as Microsoft continues to innovate with its own set of available cloud platforms.

About the Author:

Justin Stoltzfus is an independent blogger and writer for Techopedia.com. He is also a business consultant assisting a range of businesses in developing media solutions for new campaigns and ongoing operations. He is a graduate of James Madison University.

Stoltzfus spent several years as a staffer at the Intelligencer Journal in Lancaster, Penn., before the merger of the city’s two daily newspapers in 2007. He also reported for the twin weekly newspapers in the area, the Ephrata Review and the Lititz Record. More recently, he has cultivated connections with various companies as an independent consultant, writer and trainer, collecting bylines in print and Web publications, and establishing a reputation for excellence in corporate training, marketing campaigns and other media projects.

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