In many ways, businesses have moved beyond the “either/or” debate of Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) as evidenced by Microsoft’s fiscal Q3 2017 earnings report, which shows Azure revenue growth of 93 percent year over year. For an increasing number of businesses today, Azure plays an equal or even greater role in the cloud strategy of organizations that are also using AWS.
This is due to the fact that Azure’s cloud capabilities are both deep and broad, which is only bolstered by the fact that so many businesses are already Microsoft-based to one degree or another. Understanding the nature of many of those cloud capabilities is an important step to deciding how Microsoft Azure will play a role in each businesses cloud strategy.
Azure has operations across 19 regions worldwide, with multiple data center regions in the US, Europe, China, Asia, and the Pacific.
Azure Integration spans Microsoft SaaS and PaaS offerings as well as:
- Visual Studio
- Active Directory
- System Center and PowerShell
- Microsoft software
- Office 365
- Microsoft Dynamics solutions
- Dynamics ERP (including NAV on Azure)
- And more
These capabilities enhance interoperability and process depth with ERP, CRM, and other business data in a scalable environment to enable greater speed and reliability. Non-Microsoft users benefit from Azure’s BizTalk Services for application integration solutions for SAP, Oracle EBS, and many other technology providers. Azure is also highly compatible with other operating system standards, with Linux-based Android apps being the latest entry.
Business changes and growth can be unpredictable, so Azure’s ability to be infinitely scalable enables bursting capabilities during spikes. Equally important is its ability to scale alongside a business’s applications as a cluster that allocates a web application to a specific set of processes. This means applications do not run on a single server, which ensures never running out of server capacity. In addition, Azure provides auto-scaling capabilities based on load or schedule.
Data Storage Capabilities
Azure allows the storage of file data, structured data sets, or queries in a reliable and fast environment and shares it across virtual machines (VMs) using the industry-standard SMB 2.1 protocol.
Microsoft Azure HDInsight service brings an Apache Hadoop solution to the cloud, which allows organizations to handle and analyze any amount of data at one time with Excel integration that enables flexible data visualization opportunities.
Azure Management Capabilities
- Azure Automation enables task automation via creation of workflows known as “runbooks” that eliminate the need for costly monitoring and maintenance resources of the cloud environment.
- API Management enables secure and scalable publishing of APIs to a business’s employees and/or customers.
- Task automation capabilities facilitate log cleanup, application maintenance, or pulling data from an API or feed, among others.
- VM capabilities can be provisioned in minutes for Linux and Windows servers with storage needs as high as 32 TB and as much as 50,000 IOPS (input/output operations per second).
- Azure is interoperable with Hyper-V, which can provide additional advantages for businesses running Microsoft’s VMs in their data center as well as those using the Azure Stack private cloud system.
- Like AWS, Azure supports relational databases (Azure SQL Database, Amazon Relational Database Service, and Redshift) and NoSQL databases (Azure DocumentDB and Amazon DynamoDB).
- Azure Resource Manager is an infrastructure management solution that enables administrators to monitor, manage, and deploy a cloud application's resources as a group rather than individually.
- The Azure Virtual Network extends the on-premises network through site-to-site VPNs.
- The Azure platform provides the ability to build and deploy applications for Android, iOS, and Windows that utilize the cloud. These include web, mobile, media, and line-of-business solutions.
- Azure developer tools and capabilities are extensive and include the ability to leverage open-source solutions.
Azure backs up six copies of a business’s data across two separate Azure data centers for 99.9 percent uptime guarantees. The Microsoft Recovery Services Vault allows automation of the backup process of both cloud and on-premises data.
Azure’s Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle is designed to provide security at all phases from planning to launch and through operation with continuous security-health monitoring that includes:
- Identity Security
- Infrastructure Security
- Application and Data Security
Keep in mind that this brief overview of Microsoft Azure’s cloud capabilities represents only a portion of what the cloud platform can deliver to organizations. From the smallest business to the largest, these capabilities are constantly being refined and expanded to serve the different and changing needs of users in a constantly changing digital business landscape.