By Lina Arshad
As an Azure Developer, you’ll no doubt have a large number of tasks on your daily to-do list and a good variety of skills under your belt to help you build applications for on-premise environments. The advancement of the cloud now means it can provide massive opportunities for growth, scalability, storage and resiliency, as well as access to plenty of services and features that you wouldn’t fit within an on-premises environment.
With the cloud offering so much innovation, it’s only to be expected that you’ll need to both revisit your existing skills for a polish, and acquire some new ones as you come across challenges along the way. With data-based jobs requiring great analytical skills, and administrator roles needing specific skills for compute and storage, you may be wondering what’s needed to shape the best Azure Developers.
From handling unexpected situations, to scaling and creating pipelines, we have rounded up some of the most useful skills that’ll ensure you’re a dab-hand at every issue you could be faced with in your developer role
In Azure, there are over 90 services to pick from, so knowing which is right for your own organization’s goals, and to best run and secure your app on, is crucial.
So, how do you know how to choose if you’re not an architect? Thinking about the amount of control you want over the service you’re using can help you decide. Once you’ve consolidated your preferences, you can then identify the service categories to use and eventually whittle it down to the services that are right for your data, security, and monitoring needs at the very least.
Preparing for future development and disaster is key to reducing downtime and protecting your infrastructure and data. That’s why it’s important to script your environments, so that you’re able to erase everything and build from the ground up again with ease. Plus, doing this means you are only paying for your infrastructure when you’re using it, too.
As well as having it ready to re-implement or for a quicker troubleshoot solution, it’s useful to have your environments saved as code so you can update and deploy automatically. Azure Resource Manager templates and Azure Automation can help you with this.
Although the cloud has been designed to alleviate stress for businesses and professionals alike with its improved scalability and availability, it is susceptible to unpredictability because you’re unable to control the server it’s running on. This is because when you run an application in Azure, it is also run in a Microsoft datacenter that is controlled by Azure. Should Azure find that the server currently running your app is going to fail soon, it’ll switch to another server to avoid any further issues.
Because you don’t know where your application is running, you should avoid using local memory, registry, and file systems to store and cache your data. So instead of scaling and running the risk of not being able to access your files anymore because you’re running on a different server, you can make use of external services to handle your data instead, using features such as Azure Storage or Azure Redis Cache, to keep your data available to you no matter what technical issues arise.
Most of the time, when you’re using the cloud, you only pay for what you use. However, some services do run all day, meaning you pay even when your application is not actually being used. Because of this, it’s advised that you are more mindful of things like your bandwidth, memory, storage, and CPU cycles. But what exactly is it about these aspects you need to consider?
With Azure, you will pay for all outgoing data, so you need to keep an eye on the bandwidth to ward off any high bills at the end of the month. This can happen, for instance, if you’re migrating a system that uses an on-premises SQL server and in the process of moving to cloud, the on-premises applications copy the complete database to its memory to analyze the data hourly.
You also need to be careful of the CPU and memory you use, as well as data. When you use certain platforms within Azure, you may find yourself being billed for the amount of processing time and power it takes to carry out the function you need. So, if you have a slow function that consumes a lot of CPU and memory, you’ll end up paying more.
To make your applications more efficient, you should turn off or scale down your Virtual Machines (VMs) when you’re not using them. Alternatively, you can transfer your App Services to a cheaper pricing tier for when the load is low.
The cloud is built to be extremely resilient, which is why it can still keep your applications running even when a server it was running on goes down. It does this by utilizing mechanisms to support it, most of which come down to your own self-preservation of them.
For example, if your SQL Database is busy processing queries, it stops incoming requests to ensure it’s running smoothly. However, the downside of this is that it can mean block actions being sent to your database while it is occupied, but this is only temporary and will resolve once it’s no longer busy.
If your call to database fails still, it could be because the platform needs to process fewer requests so it can handle more from other customers. If this is the case, you can take advantage of the retry pattern that’s typically implemented in most Azure SDKs.
One of the main benefits of using the cloud is that you can scale your applications both up and down, and in and out, meaning you can easily move to a more powerful server and increase your application instances whenever you like.
Although scaling the cloud platform is easy, you need to remember to also scale your applications to ensure that any new instance you create of your app keeps it running. This requires you to think about things including state in your application. This could also include aspects such as:
If you are planning to scale your applications globally, you need to make sure they can handle multiple instances and consider this in the design of them. Luckily, Azure does have services to help with this. For example, you could use Azure Traffic Manager to automatically redirect users to the best instance for them depending on their location.
As well as scaling your applications, you also need to scale your data to grow alongside it. But before you do this, you’ll have to consider aspects like:
However you approach the above, it’s worth knowing that every business will have a different solution depending on things like who and where their users are, the types of data being stored and if there are any regulations you’ll need to consider.
Azure services such as Cosmos DB, SQL Elastic Database Pools and Database Tools can help you to effectively and efficiently scale your data, whether you need to replicate data to other regions or you want to split your data so some of it sits in one region and the rest in another.
The cloud requires you use many different services to make up your system, so it’s important you’re able to properly understand the nature of the cloud and to identify which parts are running and when, and those that need attention to get your applications running to optimal performance.
In order to do this, you need to ensure you’ve got a pipeline that’s able to monitor and, if necessary, diagnose your services so you can act quickly and reduce any downtime. Your first stop to doing so is to take action from the outset and implement the applications needed that will show you an overview of its health at all points.
Secondly, taking advantage of the tools Azure provides you can help. For example, the Azure Monitor service can help you gauge how everything is running and if there’s anything that needs your attention. You can also use mechanisms like Application Insights and Log Analytics to help you instrument each piece of your infrastructure. There are also services such as Visual Studio that can help you debug your apps and keep them performing as they should be.
As a developer, you’ll need all of these essential skills to do your job as efficiently and effectively as possible. While many of them can be picked up through certifications or experience, it’s useful to take this information into account before you look at your next areas for self-development and start to roadmap your next move.
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