Why Microsoft Azure?
Notes on : A brief discussion in comparison of Cloud Services
Discussion Team Member: Mehedi Hassan, Klaudia Zmij, Kubanychbek Azhygulov,
Bharath Raveendra, Sonika Sitaula
Published On: April 1, 2021
Overview of the service
Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service that works similarly to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google’s cloud platform. The Microsoft Azure Platform is the main component of Microsoft cloud computing services. From a technical perspective, the Windows Azure Platform provides a programming model designed to create scalable and available applications; it also provides mechanisms to increase and decrease the computing resources of applications and service2 (G. Tajadod,2012).
The Microsoft Azure provides a catalog of hundreds of different services you can use, including full virtual machines, databases, file storage, backup copies and services for mobile and web applications.
Microsoft announced its plans to create it in October 2008, and in early 2009, the platform began working in beta testing. Since then, it has been constantly evolving, adding both infrastructure and application capabilities. In 2008, Ray Ozzie, Chief Software Architect for Microsoft announced the imminent release of Windows Azure (later change to just Azure). Azure was originally designed to serve as a SaaS platform for several Microsoft products, but quickly morphed into a cloud services provider modeled after Amazon1 (R. Kelley,2020). It enables quick build, deployment and management of applications across the global network of Microsoft datacenters, as well as easy application scaling and support to any chosen language, framework or tool for application development3 (B. Di Martino,2014).
The service was presented as a cloud platform that allows you to develop and run applications, store data on servers that are distributed in the data centers of the corporation. All data centers are interconnected and form the global Azure infrastructure. The principle of operation of Azure is to deploy a remote virtual machine for each instance of an application or service. The user determines the required amount of data storage and the amount of computing power that will be required to complete the task, and then connects to the platform. The convenience of this model of providing platform services is that the initial volume of consumed resources, as the task is completed, can decrease, and this, in turn, will save on payment for the resources used.
Windows Azure was created and initially developed as a system that implements the cloud-based PaaS (Platform as a Service) scheme. Unlike the IaaS scheme, which actually provides the customer with only the possibility of renting a virtualized infrastructure, PaaS also includes a full set of development and execution tools for applied solutions (operating environment, necessary frameworks, infrastructure and application services).
What does the service provide
Microsoft announced the release of its cloud computing platform called Microsoft Azure in October 2008, although it was available commercially in February 2008. It was also called Windows Azure back then. This platform offers all the three types of cloud services: software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). It has over 600 services4 (Microsoft Azure, 2021). It also supports various operating systems, databases and many tools assisting the developers. There has been an exponential increase in the demand for Azure services, which is highlighted by the fact that most of Fortune 500 companies (almost 90%) make use of Azure5 (Jain. N., 2019). Below, we have tried to give a brief explanation of the services which are most popular6 (Loughman. K., 2019)
Application Services by Azure
Azure application services assist you develop, deploy, and maintain varied applications on the Azure platform. These embrace Azure AI, Azure Analytics, Azure IoT, Azure Active Directory (AD), Azure Media Services, and Azure hardware.
The most significant among these are:
Microsoft Azure allows your AI groups to get fast access to AI services and helps you interact with customers, empower your staff, and optimize business processes across the organization. Your developers will produce interactive applications on Azure’s AI Platform that offers AI capabilities like IP, speech recognition, voice synthesis, face detection, video compartmentalization, and text analytics. In addition, Azure Bot service delivers intelligent agents on to several platforms like skype, FB messenger, a website, etc., so that one can make use of it to produce intelligent chat applications.
Azure analytics can be used to form intelligent vital business choices by processing and analyzing massive amounts of data. Data engineers and data scientists can work on analyzing real-time data in a large quantity using real-time interactive workspace provided by this analytics service.
Azure Internet of Things (IoT)
This service helps an organization to create IoT solutions without having to wait on anything. Pre-configured solutions are offered by Azure’s IoT Central (SaaS). You can develop custom solutions needed for your business using “Azure IoT solution accelerators”. Azure IoT Hub (PaaS) is the core which supports Azure IoT Central and Azure IoT solution accelerators. Also, one can integrate the IoT devices using several SDKs and integration support provided by Azure IoT.
Data Services by Azure
All the storing and managing of data is done on cloud. There are many data services offered by Azure. Azure Storage, Redis Cache, Azure SQL Database, StorSimple and Azure DocumentDB.
Structured and unstructured data can be stored using Azure data storage services. It is both scalable and secure. Azure storage offers guaranteed safe integration of your on-premises information with the cloud data. One can store all types and sizes of data such as blob, file, queue, NoSQL and from small blob to a big file. This can be done as per the business needs and that too without any effect to the production environment.
Development Services by Azure
One can use various development services and tools provided by Azure, in order to improve the development and deploying of the software. One of the more popular one is Azure DevOps.
Azure DevOps automates your software system delivery method and enhances your software system development by offering an alternative to the self-managed CI/CD servers and open supply DevOps tools. Microsoft Azure DevOps offers fast and trustable tools to help you in a hassle-free delivery.
Compute Services by Azure
Application workloads are hosted and are run using the Azure compute services. These hosting services are Azure Container Service, Azure VMs, Azure Batch, Azure Service Fabric and Azure App Services.
Azure Virtual Machines (VMs)
This is a very scalable resource and highly in-demand. The cloud administrators just need to choose an OS, configure the resources needed and create the web server. There is no need for the user to purchase any hardware and maintain it.
Azure Container Service
One can take advantage of the modern container-based development practices and micro services architecture, using Azure. Azure Service fabric can be used in migration of .NET applications to micro services. Also, there is a provision to store and deploy images using either Docker Hub or Azure Container Registry. The most important advantage is that it takes less space than Virtual Machines, starting instantly and accelerating the process.
Network Services by Azure
These are the services which carry out networking operations inside Azure and between on-premises infrastructure and Azure. These comprise Azure ExpressRoute, Azure Traffic Manager, Azure Virtual Network, Azure-provided DNS, and Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN).
Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Azure CDN offers high bandwidth content to distribute huge files. This results in the file download time decreasing. Latency and the application load are also reduced by alleviating it from the entire content delivery process. The file is cached to the nearest (to the user geographical location) Azure Data center.
Azure Pricing Overview
Azure as a leading enterprise-grade cloud computing provider offers highly available applications and APIs with no upfront cost, no termination fees, and customers are only paying for what they use. Azure explains that standard bandwidth charges apply for moving data in and out of Azure as well as moving the data between other Azure data centers.
Thus, as for right now transferring data in is free as well as the data transfer within the same availability zone, and from Azure origin to Azure CDN. However, starting from July 2021, the free data transfer between various Virtual machines across the zones will convert into a billed activity. The data transfer for intra continental clients starts from $0.02 per GB for regions within North America and Europe, while Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East along with Africa is billed already at $0.08 per GB. The most expensive data transfer is billed for customers in South America with the bill rate at $0.16 per GB.
Moving forward, in terms of internet egress, the pricing varies if its routed via Microsoft Premium Global Network or via preferred ISP network routing. Azure starts billing for any traffic over 5GB/month, and prices depend on the source continent as well as the data size. With that said, client is paying less with more data routed, wherein clients in North America for data between 5GB-10TB/ a month will pay $0.0875 per GB and for data within 150-500TB range is billed at $0.05 per GB. Internet egress routed via preferred transit ISP network runs slightly cheaper with bill rate for the lower their data transfer of 5GB-10TB/ a month being billed $0.08 per GB, and the 150TB-500TB/Month* being billed currently at $0.04 per GB9 (“Pricing- Bandwidth”, 2021).
What is more, the pricing of the virtual machines also varies depending on their CPU performance and disk capacity. The lower tier instances that run from 1 core to 8 core processors with the temporary storage of 20GB up to 2040GB are priced starting at $0.02/hour for the A0 instances with 1 core, 0.75GB RAM, 20GB storage, while A4 instance with 8 core processors, 14GB RAM and the storage of 2040 GB is priced at $0.64/hour. Azure offers now faster machines that are prepared for heavier workloads that are suggested for development purposes, servers, and code repositories. Again, the latest A-Series generations run its instances from 1 to 8 core processors, while the lowest A1v2 2GB RAM, 1 core option with the temporary storage is priced at $0.065/hour. Nevertheless, Azure offers other memory-intensive virtual machines for larger databases, server farms, and other heavy workload applications. This includes D and E instances, while D instances in its upgraded versions provide from 2 up to 20 cores processors with RAM capacity starting from 14GB RAM up to 256GB RAM with the temporary storage up to 1000GB, E instances reach up to 64 vCPUs with up to 423GB RAM and 1600 GB temporary memory8 (“Pricing- Cloud”, 2021). Lastly, Azure offers its G- Series Virtual Machines which are mostly dedicated to supporting large relational database servers and its workloads while providing unparalleled computing. All in all, Azure has wide range of Virtual machines that can be easily customized depending on the client’s needs and location. As in Azure client is paying for only used resources, thus, scaling the cloud environment both way, up and down is both easy and cost-effective.
When it comes to other services and products that Azure offers, each service is priced and billed individually on top of previously selected options. However, again the pricing itself in similarity to the virtual machines is based on package and usage. For instance, Azure Blockchain Service offers two plans, basic dedicated for the development and testing environment and a standard that serves the production workloads. Azure explains that the basic option with 1 vCore equipped with the consortium governance is charged per transaction node and validator done $0.0996 per hour, while the blockchain store rates at $0.05 per GB per moth with additional blockchain data manager fee at $0.0001 per transaction7 (“Pricing- Blockchain”, 2021) . As Azure pricing is quite complex to understand as every product is priced separately while clients are billed based on the usage Azure also provides on their website a tool, Pricing Calculator, that helps to estimate the actual cost of the service.
Azure itself offers countless clouds services that are competitive in price with other leaders in the market such as AWS or GCP. For instance, both Azure and AWS offer free introductory tiers with lower usage limits and both provide pas as you go model as well as hourly charges. However, when it comes to the actual virtual machines the smallest instances offering 2 virtual CPUs with 8GB RAM run slightly cheaper at AWS with estimated monthly cost of $69 per month and Azure $70 per month. Also larger instance available is as well more expensive at Azure in comparison to AWS, wherein, 3.84 TB RAM and 128 vCPUs being priced in AWS for $3.95 per hour and Azure 6.79/hour10 (“AWS vs Azure”, 2021). Nevertheless, Azure offer more affordable storage prices in comparison to AWS, as the starting princes AWS markes at $0.023 per GB while Azure is offering storage starting at $0.0184. However, to determine better pricing options across any cloud service it is crucial to take in count all parts of the cloud service package as each service, machine, product and storage will have unique usage that will later determine the overall cost of the cloud deployment.
How long has this been around
Azure was officially launched in October 2008 by Professional Developers Conference (PDC) and announced as a commercial availability in February 2010. From there, some of the other products have been transformed but not all of them. Unlike those services Azure has become a core Microsoft service since then. Originally it was called Windows Azure and later it was renamed as Microsoft Azure in July 2014. And furthermore, additional service has been updated continuously because of the service it provides. Over time, Azure has become a long way from its ‘Red Dog’ beginnings.
When Microsoft announce “Window Azure” majority of company thought as an adaptation of Window server by which Microsoft itself would operate its own data centers. The Azure operating system which was named as “Red Dog” after Silicon Valley was created by a group work of Microsoft OS experts including Dave Cutler, the founder of VMS and Windows NT.
From the past decades, Microsoft has separated “Windows” from “Azure” name. But it still has not included some of the major cloud services like Office 365, to run on Azure as it was planned before. Few of the features from Office 365 do operate on Azure but not the core services such as SharePoint, Exchange, etc. They first deny the customers to host Azure in their own data centers but after some years Microsoft released Azure Stack, an Azure appliance platform which gives all the services of Office 365.
Microsoft first officially set up Azure as a Platform-as-Service only but after looking the inflow of cash they got from the customer they launch in the Infrastructure-as-a-Service apace. Then from this very point Microsoft began offering Linux on Azure. Todays, more than half of Azure VMs are operating on Linux not Windows Server.
Below Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Azure has enlarged its territory including variety of Linux distribution available in virtual machines on the Azure. Right now, CentOS, CoreOS, SUSE Linux, Oracle Linux, Clear Linux, and openSUSE ate the most supportive in Azure Platform.
In June 2020 Microsoft moved its whole company to Azure services. Furthermore, SAS services will also be found through Azure marketplace. In September 2020, Microsoft announced to expand its Azure to other area including Canada Central and Australia East focusing on the availability zones to 14.
To bring the services to the light, Microsoft announced three edge computing devices for Azure Stack Edge which are Azure Stack Edge Pro with GPU, Azure Stack Edge Pro R, and Azure Stack Edge Mini R, which are the battery familiar portable Azure server that can fit in a backpack.
For most of the industry accounts, Microsoft is leveled as number two cloud vendor today. There are more than hundreds of services available on Azure currently. Microsoft operates around 54 Azure regions in the world. Azure is a core component that Microsoft is offering today.
the above picture picked from the following link : http://labs.sogeti.com/tag/azure/
Other Comparable Services
It’s a fact that Amazon holds the top position in the market, but it’s not generally an ideal decision for every consumer, at any rate. Each of the cloud service companies has its territories of specialization, which ought to be considered prior to settling on the last decision.
Microsoft Azure has some expertise in supporting programming as a help, retail organizations, and IoT. The framework has different devices for making, overseeing, and setting up sensors. It likewise offers useful assets for continuous information investigation, AI, and knowledge handling.
AWS is a go-to Cloud foundation for endeavors. Its assets are answerable for preparing numerous constant solicitations, taking care of fluctuating client loads, and scaling to various geological business sectors. The stage is domineeringly equipped towards large groups and aggressive stages.
Google Cloud stands apart with its program for new businesses. Companies enlisted in automobile or adventure assets can get an exceptional proposal for utilizing the Google Cloud framework. Along these lines, Google prepares to turn into a main startup Cloud. What’s more, the stage offers a standout amongst other AI devices available11 (Ilyukha, 2020).
Here are some of the major reasons to choose Azure;
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) capabilities:
Azure possesses an enticing combination of IaaS and PaaS services. IaaS empowers endeavors to rethink their framework on Azure and pay for what they use, and PaaS allows them to make their own web applications and arrangements without purchasing and keeping up the basic preparation. Top Azure advisors from the Microsoft accomplice local area can work with Enterprises to use Azure PaaS and IaaS to construct venture applications on the Cloud for sped up business development.
Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) is an industry driving security measure on which Azure has been planned. It involves security at its centre and private information and administrations to stay free from any and all harm on Azure Cloud. Microsoft Azure offers the best consistent inclusion of more than 50 consistent contributions and is the most confided in cloud stage by U.S. government organizations. Likewise, it is the first to accept the new global norm for Cloud protection, ISO 27018. Consequently, Microsoft ensures the best as far as wellbeing for all tasks and information on the Azure Cloud.
Scalability and Ductility:
Applications that run viably, unaffectedly and scale starting with one ten then onto the next million customers can be made with no additional coding by using Azure. Azure Storage gives moldable, ensured, secure and execution compelling limit organizations in the cloud. It gets less unpredictable to change settings and use more processors for the application to use.
Unmatched Hybrid Capabilities:
Azure has a cross variety of capacities that makes it uncommon. Azure empowers straightforward convenience and a strong unsurprising stage between on-reason and public Cloud. Azure gives a more broad extent of hybrid affiliations, including virtual private associations (VPNs), stores, content transport associations (CDNs), and Express Route relationship with improving accommodation and execution.
Integrated Environment with Other Microsoft Tools:
Companies reliant on Microsoft instruments like Office 365, Outlook and SharePoint puts resources into a cloud stage that flawlessly coordinates with Microsoft items. The utilization of Azure works on tasks by utilizing a similar virtual on-premise machine like Windows and Linux.
Analytics and Intelligence capabilities:
Azure encourages SQL and NoSQL information benefits and inherent help for delving further into information and revealing key bits of knowledge for improving business cycles and dynamic. Azure is the solitary cloud stage that offers Blockchain as a Service (BaaS), Machine Learning, Bots, and Cognitive APIs capacities.
Picking the correct Cloud merchant is a vital choice for Enterprises. Various undertakings have seen sped up business development by picking Azure as their cloud stage.
Easy learning curve:
Recognizable tools like Visual Studio, ASP.NET, and programming dialects like Visual Basic, C++, C#, and so on are utilized to create local cloud applications; it is hence simple for experts to create cloud-based endeavor applications.
Microsoft’s pay-more only as costs arise model permits you to pay for what you use to fabricate or extend assets utilizing Azure administrations. This reduces the IT organization expenses to a base as the framework is taken into consideration by Microsoft on Azure. It interfaces data centers to the cloud easily and upholds 42 locales like no other cloud supplier.
Amalgamated applications can be created for on-premises applications, for example, cloud data set with Azure. Purplish blue guides Internet conventions and open guidelines like XML, SOAP, REST and HTTP. A product improvement pack for Java, PHP, and Ruby is accessible for applications written in those dialects and Azure devices for Eclipse.
Identity & Access Management (IAM):
Azure offers secure IAM capacities with Azure Active Directory administration to empower the right clients to get to the correct data. With Azure, Enterprises can receive and develop IAM abilities to lessen character the board costs and become more dexterous, accordingly supporting inventive business activities.
Other public cloud stages, for example, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform, additionally give comparative capacities like Microsoft Azure. Nonetheless, with the sheer speed that Microsoft is dispatching new segments in Azure, it is evident that it is scored higher in the commercial centre. Believed Microsoft accomplices, for example, Saviant, are assisting endeavours with building versatile and secure cloud local applications by exploiting the Azure stage. As an enlightening model, US-based utility specialist co-op in building a Smart Water Metering framework utilizing the full heap of Azure administrations12 (SAVIANT intelligent solutions, 2021).
- Ilyukha, V. (2020). Jelvix. Retrieved from https://jelvix.com/blog/aws-vs-google-cloud-vs-azure
- SAVIANT intelligent solutions. (2021). saviantconsulting. Retrieved from https://www.saviantconsulting.com/blog/10-reasons-why-choose-microsoft-azure.aspx
- Pricing – Blockchain Service: Microsoft Azure. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/blockchain-service/
- Pricing – Cloud Services: Microsoft Azure. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2021, from https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/cloud-services/.
- Pricing – BANDWIDTH: Microsoft Azure. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2021, from https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/bandwidth/
- R. Kelley, A. D. Antu, A. Kumar and B. Xie, “Choosing the Right Compute Resources in the Cloud: An analysis of the compute services offered by Amazon, Microsoft and Google,” 2020 International Conference on Cyber-Enabled Distributed Computing and Knowledge Discovery (CyberC), Chongqing, China, 2020, pp. 214-223, doi: 10.1109/CyberC49757.2020.00042.
- G. Tajadod, L. Batten and K. Govinda, “Microsoft and Amazon: A comparison of approaches to cloud security,” 4th IEEE International Conference on Cloud Computing Technology and Science Proceedings, Taipei, Taiwan, 2012, pp. 539-544, doi: 10.1109/CloudCom.2012.6427581.
- B. Di Martino, G. Cretella, A. Esposito and R. G. Sperandeo, “Semantic Representation of Cloud Services: A Case Study for Microsoft Windows Azure,” 2014 International Conference on Intelligent Networking and Collaborative Systems, Salerno, Italy, 2014, pp. 647-652, doi: 10.1109/INCoS.2014.76.
- Microsoft Azure. (2021). Retrieved from https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/
- Jain, N. (2019). List of Top 10 Azure Services [Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.whizlabs.com/blog/top-azure-services/
- Loughman, K. (2019). An Overview of Microsoft Azure Services [Blog]. Retrieved from https://victorops.com/blog/microsoft-azure-services-overview
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