You’ve probably heard of Microsoft Azure by now, but if you’re still in the dark about what Azure is, how it can benefit your business, and how to get started, you’re not alone in your cloud confusion.

There’s no arguing that the future of computing is in the cloud. People are using more and more cloud services (even if they don’t realize it), and businesses are moving to digitally transform their operations, utilizing the power of cloud computing to become more effective, efficient, and competitive.

Seventy-three percent of organizations have at least one application, or chunk of their infrastructure, in the cloud already, according to a recent report. A further 17% plan to make a move toward the cloud within the next year. Average spend on cloud computing is also increasing, rising from $1.62m per business in 2016 to $2.2m today. And it’s not just enterprises who are shelling out to ensure their business is at the forefront of this digital shift; SMBs now typically invest around $889,000 in cloud tech, up 210% on the average 2016 budget.

As a leader in the cloud tech industry, many of those businesses taking advantage of cloud services will be using Microsoft Azure. Earlier this year, Microsoft posted revenue of over $110bn for the first time in its history; a cash boost powered largely by Azure and Microsoft’s other intelligent cloud services.

It might seem like everyone is doing it, but cloud computing is still a fairly new phenomenon, and there’s still a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about the cloud. But worry not, we’re going back to basics to offer straightforward answers to the questions you were too afraid to ask with our Microsoft technology FAQ series.

What is cloud computing?

Let’s start off at the very beginning. Cloud computing is simply the practice of using the internet to access storage, software, and services, instead of storing, installing, and running programs on your own hardware.

So, you might use a cloud computing service like Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive to store your files. Rather than saving these files on your own computer, where they take up space on your hard drive, they’re stored on Microsoft’s computers—huge servers that can be accessed whenever you need them via an internet connection.

Cloud software works the same way. The software will be installed and run on a remote server belonging to the company who makes the software, and when you want to use it, you connect to a website and access your account from there, using the web browser rather than a traditional desktop program.

There’s an almost limitless number of ways cloud computing can be used, which gives users access to massive amounts of computing power that they may not otherwise be able to generate themselves. There are a lot of benefits that come with cloud computing, which is why it’s taking off so rapidly.

All you need to access cloud apps and services is a device and an internet connection, meaning the burden of buying and maintaining hardware and servers is lessened for businesses. Cloud software is often cheaper and paid for on a pay-as-you-go basis, so companies don’t have to shell out huge amounts of money to buy the software upfront.

Cloud computing also makes software, files, and other services accessible anywhere, at any time, on any device, providing you have an internet connection.

What is Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service offered by Microsoft. There are over 600 services that fall under the Azure umbrella, but broadly speaking, it is a web-based platform on which applications and services can be built, tested, managed, and deployed.

A wide range of Microsoft’s software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) products are hosted on Azure. Azure offers three core areas of functionality; Virtual Machines, cloud services, and app services.

What are virtual machines?

One of the most popular and useful services available through Azure is virtual machines.

A virtual machine is a computer file, sometimes called an image, that acts like a real computer. VMs typically run in a window like traditional computer programs. This computer-within-a-computer is boxed off from the rest of the system, so that any changes made or software run within the VM won’t “leak” into the host machine.

VMs provide a sandbox environment in which developers can safely test things like beta releases, access virus-infected data, build system backups, and run applications on operating systems they may not be naturally compatible with, without the risk of damage to the wider system.

Several VMs can be run simultaneously on the same machine, and each VM has its own virtual hardware, including CPUs, memory, hard drives, network interfaces, and other devices. The virtual hardware can be mapped to the physical hardware, cutting costs by reducing reliance on actual hardware systems and their associated maintenance costs.

What is Microsoft Azure used for?

There are hundreds of services available through Azure; practically any cloud computing product that a business could need can be found on the platform. In terms of scope, Azure covers more regions than any other cloud provider, and is the only consistent hybrid cloud.

Here’s a brief overview of Azure’s services:

Compute
Linux Virtual Machines Functions Azure Batch AI Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)
Windows Virtual Machines Batch Service Fabric Cloud Services
SAP HANA on Azure Large Instances Container Instances Virtual Machine Scale Sets SQL Server on Virtual Machines
Networking
Content Delivery Network Virtual Network VPN Gateway Network Watcher
ExpressRoute Traffic Manager Application Gateway Azure Firewall
Azure DNS Load Balancer Azure DDoS Protection Virtual WAN
Storage
StorSimple Blob Storage Queue Storage Archive Storage
Data Lake Storage Gen2 Disk Storage File Storage Azure NetApp Files
Data Lake Storage Gen1 Managed Disks Storage Explorer
Web
App Service – Web Apps Content Delivery Network Notification Hubs API Apps
API Management Azure Search
Mobile
App Service – Mobile Apps API Apps Azure Maps Xamarin
Notification Hubs Visual Studio App Center
Containers
App Service Azure Container Registry Service Fabric Web App for Containers
Batch Container Instances Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) Azure Dev Spaces
Databases
Azure SQL Database Data Factory SQL Server on Virtual Machines Azure Database for MySQL
Azure Cosmos DB Redis Cache Table Storage Azure Database Migration Service
SQL Data Warehouse SQL Server Stretch Database Azure Database for PostgreSQL
Analytics
SQL Data Warehouse Stream Analytics Azure Analysis Services Log Analytics
Azure Databricks Data Lake Analytics Apache Spark for Azure HDInsight Data Catalog
HDInsight Event Hubs Apache Storm for Azure HDInsight Data Lake Store
Data Factory Power BI Embedded R Server for Azure HDInsight Azure NetApp Files
AI and Machine Learning
Azure Databricks Azure Bot Service Machine Learning Services Cognitive Services
Azure Batch AI Microsoft Genomics Machine Learning Studio Azure Search
Internet of Things
IoT Fundamentals IoT solution accelerators API Management Stream Analytics
IoT Hub Time Series Insights Event Grid Logic Apps
IoT Edge IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service Machine Learning Notification Hubs
IoT Central Azure Maps Machine Learning Services and Studio Azure Cosmos DB
Integration
Biztalk Services Logic Apps Event Grid Service Bus
Identity
Azure Active Directory Azure Information Protection Active Directory for Domain Services Multi-Factor Authentication
Security
Key Vault Azure DDoS Protection Azure Information Protection Application Gateway
Security Center Azure Advanced Threat Protection Active Directory for Domain Services VPN Gateway
DevOps
DevOps Application Insights Visual Studio App Center HockeyApp
Visual Studio Team Services Azure Lab Services Developer Tool Integrations Azure DevOps Project
Developer Tools
Visual Studio Visual Studio Code SDKs CLI
Visual Studio Team Services API Management Developer Tool Integrations Blockchain Workbench
Management Tools
Backup Automation Network Watcher Azure mobile app
Site Recovery Traffic Manager Azure Service Health Azure Policy
Application Insights Log Analytics Microsoft Azure Portal Cost Management
Azure Advisor Azure Monitor Azure Resource Manager Azure Managed Applications
Scheduler Security & Compliance Cloud Shell Azure Migrate
Media
Azure Media Player and Video Indexer Media Services Encoding and Content Protection Live and on-demand streaming
Migration
Site Recovery Cost Management Azure Database Migration Service Azure Migrate
Azure Stack
Azure Stack Operator Azure Stack User
Sovereign Clouds
Microsoft Azure US Government Microsoft Azure US Government Microsoft Azure Germany Microsoft Azure China 21Vianet

Who uses Microsoft Azure ?

Due to its accessible nature and massive scalability, Azure can be and is used by companies of every size and circumstance, from garage startups to Fortune 500 companies; in fact 90% the Fortune 500 trust run processes on the Microsoft cloud.

In addition to the vast choice of innovative, and business-critical services, there are many other benefits to Azure which make it appealing to organizations across the board.

Azure is flexible; users can add new services, up their storage capabilities, and create new applications as they go, without having to worry about whether they have the infrastructure to support any changes.

As Azure largely eliminates the need for costly hardware like servers, routers, and load balancers—plus the in-house IT manpower to maintain them—it can save companies a lot of money. Many Azure services operate on an on-demand, pay-as-you-go, and users can get a real-time view of how much they’re spending through their admin portal, making budgeting IT spend much easier and more precise.

The reliability offered by Microsoft’s cloud services is also a bonus for businesses. Azure’s 99.99% uptime guarantee, huge range of disaster recovery plans, and thorough backup systems mean organizations, their processes, and their data, are in safe hands.

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What’re the benefits of Microsoft Azure?

The extensive services available through Azure can be enormously beneficial to businesses. This kind of computing power would be incredibly difficult—and massively expensive—to replicate in-house, but Azure’s on-demand licensing model gives businesses access to cutting-edge technology and resources that they may not otherwise be able to get their hands on.

Using the intelligent tools offered by Azure and associated third parties, businesses can digitally transform their operations and processes, helping them be more productive and efficient.

Its scalability means that businesses can react quickly to changes in demand or circumstances, without having to factor in changes in infrastructure to handle additional work.

Analytical and database capabilities help surface valuable, actionable data, and empower organizations to make better, more informed decisions that will allow them to move in the right direction.

Being backed by a dependable, secure service can also lend credibility to companies, and increase trust when dealing with client and customer data.

Where is Azure data held?

Azure runs on datacenters around the world, enabling the service to cover more regions than any other cloud provider; Microsoft’s datacenters contain enough fiber cabling to reach the moon and back three times over.

Azure currently operates 54 regions—a set of locally-based datacenters dedicated to a particular geographic location—in 140 countries; customers can select the region that’s right for them, allowing users around the world to preserve data residency, maintain compliance and take advantage of a wide range of resiliency options.

Microsoft has invested over $15bn in infrastructure since opening its first datacenter in 1989, and continues to add new regions to its Azure coverage all the time, expanding the services available to each location. However currently, not all Azure services are available in every region.

 

How do businesses get access to Azure?

If a business is ready to start using Azure, they simply need to sign up to Azure’s Pay-As-You-Go service, by providing basic information about the company, and inputting a payment method. If they want to test the waters first, they can sign up a free account, and receive $200 in credit for 30 days.

Once a company is ready to go all-in on Azure, they can take advantage of Microsoft’s FastTrack program, which helps businesses get their Azure services up and running, and migrate any data they might need to carry over from their on-premise systems.

How much does Azure cost?

Due to the number of services available, the cost of Azure varies enormously depending on which parts of it a business decides to use, and how much they actually use it.

There are no upfront costs involved with Azure, and customers only pay for what they use, with many services charged by the hour.

For example, Azure App Service, which allows users to create powerful cloud-based apps for web and mobile, starts from $0.013 per hour. Using Azure’s managed relational SQL database as a service costs $0.021 per hour. Both of these, like many of Azure’s services are free for the first 12 months.

Some services, such as REST-based “blob” storage for unstructured data, is charged according to data usage, rather than time; blob storage costs $0.002 per gigabyte, with 5GB free for the first 12 months.

Other services are charged by the number of executions a user performs through Azure; the Functions service costs $0.20 per million executions, with the first million free every month.

What can users get with the Azure free account?

The Azure free account is available to all new customers of Azure, provided they’ve never had an Azure free trial or been a paying Azure customer in the past.

For those users who want to tip a toe into Azure services, Microsoft provides $200 credit to spend on services in their first 30 days. In addition, users can get free access to a range of Azure’s most popular services for 12 months, and more than 25 products that are permanently free.

At the end of these 30 days, account holders can continue using the free services, though they must upgrade to a pay-as-you-go Azure subscription and remove the spending limit first. Provided users stay within the usage limits of the complimentary services, their Azure subscription will remain free.

Services included free in the first 12 months include:

  • 750 hours of Azure B1S General Purpose Virtual Machines for Microsoft Windows Server
  • 750 hours of Azure B1S General Purpose Virtual Machines for Linux
  • 128 GB of Managed Disks as a combination of two 64 GB (P6) SSD storage, plus 1 GB snapshot and 2 million I/O operations
  • 5 GB of LRS-Hot Blob Storage with 2 million read, 2 million write, and 2 million write/list operations
  • 5 GB of LRS File Storage with 2 million read, 2 million list, and 2 million other file operations
  • 250 GB of SQL Database standard S0 instance with 10 database transaction units
  • 5 GB of Azure Cosmos DB with 400 reserved in units
  • 15 GB of bandwidth for outbound data transfer with free unlimited inbound transfer

Azure market information

Although AWS tops the public cloud market, commanding roughly a third of the market share, Microsoft is continuing to gain ground with Azure. In early 2018, Azure’s share jumped to 13%, up from 10% the previous year. AWS’s share has remained at 33% for the past 12 quarters, despite the market almost tripling in size.

Figures for Microsoft’s fiscal year 2018 showed the company taking revenue of upwards of $100bn for the first time. This increase in earnings was generated largely by an uptick in Azure-based cloud service subscriptions.

In the past year, revenue for the Intelligent Cloud division, which comprises of the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform and its related technologies and services, increased by 23%, bringing in a total of $9.6bn. Earnings generated by Azure itself ballooned by a massive 89%—though Microsoft does not disclose exact revenue—with commercial cloud services and software such as Office 365 swelling by 53% to $6.9bn.

Gartner’s most recent Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service named Microsoft as a leader in the sector. The report noted:

“Microsoft Azure’s core strength is its Microsoft heritage—its integrations (both current and future) with other Microsoft products and services, its leverage of the existing Microsoft ISV ecosystem, and its overall strategic importance to Microsoft’s future. Azure has a very broad range of services, and Microsoft has steadily executed on an ambitious roadmap. Customers that are strategically committed to Microsoft technology generally choose Azure as their primary cloud provider.

“Microsoft Azure’s capabilities have become increasingly innovative and open, with improved support for Linux and open-source application stacks. Furthermore, many customers that are pursuing a multi-cloud strategy will use Azure for some of their workloads, and Microsoft’s on-premises Azure Stack software may potentially attract customers seeking hybrid solutions.

“Microsoft has sustained a very high growth rate over multiple years, and Gartner estimates its end-of-2017 revenue run rate for integrated IaaS+PaaS at more than $4 billion. Microsoft is leveraging its tremendous sales reach and ability to bundle Azure with other Microsoft products and services in order to drive adoption; Office 365 customers often decide it is most logical to adopt Azure. Microsoft is steadily growing the size of Azure customers; many are beginning to spend more than $500,000 a year, and a growing number exceed $5 million in annual spending.”

In terms of the Azure services market, Gartner notes that it remains an experience-scarce ecosystem due to the relatively new nature of the service. While Gartner recommends that new Azure customers utilize the services of a Microsoft Service Provider partner to ensure a successful implementation, Microsoft has only just begun certifying MSPs, which will be identified in partner directories from 3Q18 onwards. Gartner warns that while many traditional Microsoft partners are attempting to support Azure, few have yet built the experience necessary to do so efficiently, and cautions customers to be wary of pitches from inexperienced partners.

What is the difference between Azure and AWS?

When it comes to competition in the public cloud market, only Amazon Web Services sits ahead of Azure in terms of market share, though Microsoft is increasingly closing the gap.

AWS features the same core components as Azure: cloud computing, storage, and networking.

AWS is a slightly more mature product than Azure, having been launched two years earlier, and AWS has the most extensive portfolio of cloud services of any public cloud provider. In terms of geographic availability, Azure covers more regions, and has the benefit of being natively integrated with many commonly used business applications such as Office 365 and Dynamics 365.

According to Gartner: “The global market remains consolidated around two clear leaders. The market consolidated dramatically over the course of 2015. Since 2016, just two providers—AWS and

Microsoft Azure—have accounted for the overwhelming majority of the IaaS-related infrastructure consumption in the market, and their dominance is even more thorough if their PaaS-related infrastructure consumption is included as well. Furthermore, AWS is many times the size of Microsoft Azure, further skewing the market structure. Most customers will choose one of these leaders as their strategic cloud IaaS provider.”

What kind of jobs are available working with Azure?

Azure Consultant/Solution Architect 

An Azure Consultant will provide advice and guidance during the design of customer cloud solutions. Consultants will give pre-sales assistance, gather requirements, and create strategic customer road maps to help users choose, configure, and implement the cloud services they need. Responsibilities include mapping cloud computing strategy, creating adoption policies, application design, and management and monitoring plans.

Azure Engineer/Technical Architect  

An Azure Engineer will lead the delivery of technical cloud solutions and infrastructure, architecting and delivering Azure platforms and services to meet customer needs. Azure Engineers will often be required to have very technical knowledge and experience of hybrid environments and migrating from on-premises to the cloud.

Azure Administrator 

An Azure Administrator is responsible for managing and maintaining an Azure cloud solution, whether that be for a customer or internally, and providing resources and tools to help users. They’ll perform tasks like monitoring performance, setup, data processing, research and development, and security and privacy.

Azure Stack Operator 

An Azure Stack Operator is responsible for managing the Azure Stack infrastructure end-to-end, including planning, deployment and integration, packaging, and offering cloud resources and requested services on the infrastructure.

Azure DevOps Engineer  

Azure DevOps professionals are responsible for operationalizing the development of apps leveraging cloud resources, cloud platforms, and DevOps practices, driving the automation of building, testing and deployment.

What Azure certifications are available?

Azure professionals wishing to earn a certification in the platform should follow the Cloud Platform and Infrastructure path on Microsoft’s new certification roadmap.

On this path, professionals earn one of four mid-level MCSA certifications—Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016, Linux on Windows, or Cloud Platform—before earning the top-level Cloud Platform and Infrastructure MCSE.

Earning an MCSE requires professionals to pass either two or three exams, depending on the certification.

Those who choose to obtain the MCSE: Windows Server 2012 must pass three exams; Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012, Administering Windows Server 2012, and Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012.

Those taking the MCSE: Windows Server 2016 route must also pass three exams: Installation, Storage, and Compute with Windows Server 2016; Networking with Windows Server 2016; and Identity with Windows Server 2016.

To obtain an MCSE: Linux on Windows, only two exams are required; Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, and Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator.

Two exams must also be passed to earn the MCSE: Cloud Platform, however in this case, professionals can choose which two exams they sit from three options; Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions, Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, and Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions. A fourth choice, Configuring and Operating a Hybrid Cloud with Microsoft Azure Stack, will be available shortly.

To obtain the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, professionals need to pass one of nine exams. Professionals may choose which exam of the exam options best reflects their experience, or the skills they’re attempting to bolster.

The exam choices are: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions, Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions, Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions, Designing and Implementing Big Data Analytics Solutions, Securing Windows Server 2016, Implementing a Software-Defined Datacenter, Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure, and Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure. An additional option—Configuring and Operating a Hybrid Cloud with Microsoft Azure Stack—will be made available shortly.

Earning an MCSA: Cloud Platform provides the foundation for a position as a cloud administrator or architect and is the first step on your path to becoming a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE).

Each exam costs USD $165 per attempt, so attaining an MSCA would cost USD $330, and an MSCE a further USD $165. This cost is for a single attempt, and retakes must be paid for again.

What is Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances?

An Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instance (RI) is a virtual machine (VM) on the Microsoft Azure public cloud that has been reserved for dedicated use on a one- or three-year basis. Exchange or cancel reservations as your needs evolve.  Budget and forecast better with upfront payment for one-year or three-year terms. Get prioritized compute capacity in Azure regions. Significantly reduce costs—up to 72 percent compared to pay-as-you-go prices—with one-year or three-year terms on Windows and Linux virtual machines (VMs). When you combine the cost savings gained from Azure RIs with the added value of the Azure Hybrid Benefit, you can save up to 80 percent*.

What is the Azure Portal?

Azure Portal is an interface through which users can view and manage all of their applications in one unified hub—including web apps, databases, virtual machines, virtual networks, storage, and Visual Studio team projects. Enjoy the flexibility of using the Azure portal’s graphical experience or the integrated command-line experience provided by Cloud Shell.

From the Portal, you can create and administer servers, computing services, and monitor your existing cloud infrastructure as well as integrate with Visual Studio Online to help your business introduce DevOps practices to the workflow.

What databases are available in Azure?

A cloud database is a bank of information that runs on a cloud computing platform, and access to it is provided as a service. Managed database services take care of scalability, backup, and high availability of the database.

Azure offers a number of database options, all of which are fully managed, with built-in high availability and security:

Azure Cosmos DB A globally distributed multi-model database, with support for NoSQL choices, with industry-leading performance and SLAs
Azure SQL Database A fully managed relational database that provisions quickly, scales on the fly and includes built-in intelligence and security

 

Azure Database for MySQL A fully managed and scalable MySQL relational database with high availability and security built in at no extra cost
Azure Database for PostgreSQL A fully managed and scalable PostgreSQL relational database with high availability and security built in at no extra cost
SQL Server on virtual machines To host enterprise SQL Server apps in the cloud

 

SQL Data Warehouse A fully managed, elastic data warehouse with security at every level of scale at no extra cost
Azure Database Migration Service Help to migrate your databases to the cloud with no application code changes

 

Redis Cache High throughput and consistent low-latency data access to power fast, scalable applications

 

Table storage A NoSQL key-value store for rapid development using massive semi-structured datasets

 

Azure Database for MariaDB A fully managed, scalable MariaDB relational database with high availability and security built in at no extra cost

 

What kind of storage services are available through Azure?

Azure Storage includes these data services:

  • Azure Blobs: A massively scalable object store for text and binary data.
  • Azure Files: Managed file shares for cloud or on-premises deployments.
  • Azure Queues: A messaging store for reliable messaging between application components.
  • Azure Tables: A NoSQL store for schemaless storage of structured data.

Each service is accessed through a storage account.

What is Azure Data Factory?

Similar to the Common Data Service for Microsoft’s productivity tools, the Azure Data Factory is a service designed to allow developers to integrate previously siloed data sources, both on-premises and in the cloud. ADF offers access to on-premises data in SQL Server through a data management gateway, and cloud data in Azure Storage and Azure SQL Database.

What is Azure Data Lake?

Microsoft Azure Data Lake is a highly scalable public cloud service that allows developers, scientists, business professionals and other Microsoft customers to gain insight from large, complex data sets. As with most data lake offerings, the service is composed of two parts: data storage and data analytics.

Azure Data Lake is different to Azure Storage, as Data Lake is a hyper-scale repository optimized for big data and parallel processing, while Azure Storage is scalable, redundant, secure storage in the cloud.

What is Azure Search?

Azure Search is a search-as-a-service cloud solution that gives developers APIs and tools for adding a rich search experience over private, assorted content in web, mobile, and enterprise applications. In Azure Search, queries execute over a user-controlled index, sourced exclusively from in-house data provided by users.

What is Azure Active Directory?

Azure Active Directory—also known as Azure AD—is Microsoft’s multi-tenant, cloud-based directory and identity management service that combines core directory services, application access management, and identity protection into a single solution. Azure AD also offers a standards-based platform through which developers can control access to their applications based on centralized policy and rules.

What is Azure Databricks?

Azure Databricks is an Apache Spark-based analytics platform optimized for the Microsoft Azure cloud. Designed in collaboration with Microsoft, Azure Databricks helps customers build a data warehouse and utilize machine learning and real-time analytics solutions. The platform provides an interactive workspace so that data scientists, data engineers, and business analysts can collaborate.

What is Azure Stack?

Azure Stack is a hybrid cloud computing software solution developed by Microsoft based on the company’s Azure cloud platform. Azure Stack is designed to help organizations deliver Azure services from their own data center.

While often a public cloud will offer higher levels of security, availability, and performance than a company’s internal datacenters, there may be a need for a private cloud solution due to availability or regulatory restrictions. Azure Stack allows companies to take advantage of Azure services even if they’re using a private datacenter.

Both infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) services are available through Azure Stack, which shares a standardized architecture—including the same portal, a unified application model, and common DevOps tools—with its public cloud sibling.

With Azure Stack, businesses can develop applications and deploy them either on Azure or on-premises through their own private cloud if they need to meet regulatory and policy requirements.

What is Azure Container Instances?

Containers are standalone “boxes” in which developers can pack not only software, but all of the code, configurations, and dependencies for that software, into one package. The benefit of using a container is that the software will work on any operating system, on any device, because everything that software relies on is rolled in with it. Containers are essentially virtual operating systems for individual pieces of software, which can be deployed anywhere, eliminating consistency and reliability issues.

Unlike virtual machines, which run a full copy of an operating system plus all the hardware it requires to run, a number of containers can share the same operating system, and where appropriate, bins and libraries. This means containers require a lot less overhead, allowing users to run two to three times as many as applications on a single server with containers than could be run using a VM.

Azure Containers Instances enable businesses to run containers on Azure without managing servers or having to run virtual machines, allowing users to develop apps quickly, and provisioning additional compute for demanding workloads as and when it’s needed.

What programming languages does Azure support?

Due to the colossal array of apps and services available through Azure, the platform provides a unique opportunity for developers. Depending on which part of Azure is being used to develop and deploy apps and services, a range of programming languages are supported, including; .NET, #C, Python, Java, PHP, Node.js, PowerShell, and Go.

Is Azure secure?

With security and privacy a key concern among businesses today, Microsoft has ensured that Azure is as secure as possible, spending more than $1bn a year on round-the-clock security monitoring.

The Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) addresses security at every development phase and ensures that Azure is continually updated to make it even more protected. Operational Security Assurance (OSA) builds on SDL knowledge and processes to supply a framework that helps provide secure operations throughout the lifecycle of cloud-based services. Azure Security Center makes Azure the only public cloud platform to offer continuous security-health monitoring.

Microsoft Azure has been integrated with Microsoft Active Directory to allow users to be authenticated once and gain access to their Azure applications as well as Office 365 and other Software as a Software (SAAS) applications. This integration is called Azure AD Connect, and it’s built on three components:

  • Synchronization – This component keeps track of all users and groups on-site and ensures that they match what’s in the cloud.
  • AD FS (Active Directory Federation Services) – This is an optional component that is used to address complicated authentication issues.
  • Azure AD Connect Health – This component allows you to monitor all your on-site identities as well as the Synchronization and AD FS components.

Developed to be the best and most secure in the industry, Azure is trusted by major organizations like Geico, Uber, Whole Foods, and the United States Government.

How can businesses migrate to Azure from on-premise servers?

Businesses wishing to move to Azure can take advantage of Microsoft’s proven methodology, a range of free tools, and a vast ecosystem of partners to help make the switch.

Businesses may wish to engage with an Azure partner or contractor to help them migrate their data and processes to the cloud. An Azure migration should begin with an assessment of on-premises apps, data, and infrastructure, the mapping of performance requirements, and the prioritizing steps for cloud migration. Once this audit has been completed, and a roadmap is in place, a business can work with their Azure pros to make the move to Azure, and ensure everything is configured for maximum efficiency.

Alternatively, businesses can utilize Microsoft’s Azure Migrate service, a highly useful facility to migrate data into the cloud with minimal impact on the overall business and maximum return on investment without affecting performance and reliability. Azure Migrate includes Azure virtual machine rightsizing and integration with Azure Database Management Service.

What kind of machine learning services are available through Azure?

Machine learning is a way to analyze data automatically, by using statistical techniques that allow computer systems to “learn” from data, without being specifically programmed to do so. Through machine learning, computers are able to identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention.

Azure offers several services to allow users to benefit from machine learning technology:

Machine Learning Studio 

Machine Learning Studio is a browser-based, drag-and-drop authoring environment that allows users to build, deploy, and share predictive analytics solutions in a simple and accessible way.

Cognitive Services 

Azure features a number of APIs that can be configured and published from the Azure Dashboard. These APIs help infuse business apps, websites, and bots with intelligent algorithms to see, hear, speak, understand, and interpret user needs through natural methods of communication.

Chatbots 

A subset of Azure’s cognitive services, users can utilize the platform’s pay-as-you-go Bot services to build, connect, deploy, and manage intelligent chatbots that can interact naturally with users on their websites, and apps, as well as third-party platforms like Cortana, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack, and Facebook Messenger.

Is it possible to handle Big Data in Azure?

Yes, Azure includes HDInsight, and you can have Hadoop, Spark, R Server, HBase, Storm, and Kafka in Azure. HDInsight can be stored in an Azure Storage or Azure Data Lake and data can be analyzed using Azure Machine Learning.

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