Microsoft Azure: A cheat sheet | Azure for dummies

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With the advent of cloud computing, organisations no longer need to invest significant time and money into constructing data centres or maintaining servers with unused capacity as workloads shift.

Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure was first made available to the public in February 2010. Azure provides common cloud services such as virtual machines, object storage, and CDNs (CDNs). Services built on Microsoft’s own tech are also available. Using a virtual machine and a remote desktop connection, users on Windows, Mac OS, Android, or iOS can access and run Windows software. This is made possible by tools like RemoteApp. Popular Microsoft business solutions, such as Active Directory and SQL Server, are also available as cloud-based Azure services.

This overview of Microsoft’s cloud platform will be regularly updated to inform IT managers of any changes to Microsoft Azure or any of its services. (Please note that a PDF of this paper on Microsoft Azure is available for no cost.)

Can you explain Azure to a complete novice?

Cloud services can communicate and collaborate with one another and with on-premises applications using the Azure platform. The services offered here make use of both open-source, standards-based technologies and proprietary solutions developed by Microsoft and others. Azure’s invoicing is usage-based as opposed to the reserved capacity model employed by on-premises server installations and conventional data centres. Azure instance pricing varies dependent on service type, storage size, and region.

The cost of data storage, for instance, may change depending on the level of redundancy and dissemination that you require. Three copies of hot locally redundant block blob storage (LRS-HOT) in a single data centre start at $0.0184 per GB in the Central US region. Costs for GRS-HOT, which stores data in three copies at one data centre and three copies at a separate, far-flung data centre, begin at $0.0368 per gigabyte (GB). Read-Access GRS (RAGRS-HOT), which provides access to data in a second data centre, begins at $0.046 per gigabyte.

Mary Jo Foley, writing for Amodasblog, describes Microsoft’s upcoming CloudPC service as “an alternative for customers who wish to use their own Windows PCs built by Microsoft and/or other PC makers basically as thin clients, with Windows, Office, and maybe other applications given virtually by Microsoft.” The exact release date of the new service is unknown, however it might happen as early as the spring of 2021.

With the help of hardware companies like Lenovo, Dell EMC, HP Enterprise, Cisco, and Huawei, Microsoft created the hybrid cloud appliance known as Azure Stack. Azure Stack certified hardware not only allows organisations to run Azure apps in the public Azure cloud using data stored on-premises, but it also allows them to run the same services from the public Azure cloud on-premises.

In what ways is Microsoft’s cloud service Azure important?

Like other cloud service providers, Azure provides instantaneous access to computing resources on demand. When compared to the effort required to plan and construct an on-site data centre, the savings can be substantial. This is especially true when considering the costs of hardware upgrades, maintenance, server cooling needs, electricity, and floor space, especially for offices, which incur real estate costs.

However, Azure’s usefulness extends much beyond its low price. Microsoft’s Windows Server, Active Directory, and SharePoint are all simplified under the combined management of Azure and Office 365. This frees up time for IT workers to focus on innovative project work rather than routine maintenance.

Microsoft is making serious efforts to persuade businesses to switch over to using Azure for their AI-related computing needs. Previews of Project Brainwave, an FPGA-based deep learning system designed for AI that operates in real-time, were made available on Azure at Microsoft’s Build 2019 developer conference. Microsoft has also implemented algorithms into Cognitive Services to aid in deducing meaning from data, whether that data is organised or not. A new visual machine-learning interface was also added to the Azure Machine Learning Service to facilitate “a no-code approach to model construction and deployment,” as reported by amodasblog.

Microsoft has taken the next step in its declared plans to introduce blockchain services to Azure by releasing the blockchain-as-a-service Azure Blockchain Service. Microsoft debuted Azure Blockchain Service to the public in preview form at Build 2019.

For whom is Microsoft Azure designed?

Businesses that already utilise Microsoft products, such as Windows Server and Active Directory, can benefit greatly from migrating to Azure. Instead of investing in new server hardware and Windows Server licences now that mainstream support has ended, you may want to consider making the switch to Azure services hosted in the cloud.

Startups with limited financial resources may benefit most from the cost-effectiveness of cloud services because they cannot afford the hardware and other expenses associated with an on-premise deployment or the lease of dedicated servers in a conventional data centre. In Azure, fees are calculated according to how many resources are really employed. This allows an organization’s IT to scale up as the business does.

There are currently 54 available Azure regions. Compared to AWS and Google Cloud Services, Azure has a larger reach in developing countries, with more regions in Asia Pacific, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates. There are now 17 regions set up. Eight of them are used by the government. There are three locations: two in Canada and one in So Paulo, Brazil. Europe’s tally is as follows: Ireland and the Netherlands have one apiece, while the United Kingdom, France, and Switzerland all have two. There are four in China, three in Australia, two in Japan and Korea, and one in India. In this arrangement, Hong Kong and Singapore each oversee a separate area. Both South Africa and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have two regions in both Africa and the Middle East.