Azure Cloud Computing

Microsoft Azure has become dominant cloud computing player in recent times - rapid progress can make it leading cloud player ahead of AWS or Google cloud in future. This article captures some of the basic concepts and offerings relevant to Azure cloud computing.

 

 

What is cloud computing?

In simple terms cloud computing is about doing all computations over the internet, computations involve various components such as servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics etc.

Companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google which offer cloud computing serivces are called "Cloud providers". Four main cloud players are listed below:

  • Microsoft - Azure cloud services
  • Amazon - AWS cloud services
  • IBM - IBM cloud services
  • Google - Google cloud services

Uses and examples of cloud computing

If you are using internet, probably you are using one of these cloud services. You may be saving your personal images in Google cloud, or listening to music from Azure cloud service, playing games hosted in AWS cloud and more. 

Cloud computing is not very old, they are probably decade old in the industry. However the adoptation is fast and technology is evolving rapidly. What are the common cloud services?

  • Host websites and blogs
  • Stream audio and video
  • Store, back up, and recover data
  • Create new apps and services
  • Analyze data for patterns and make predictions
  • Deliver software on demand

Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing

Benefits that cloud computing offers outweigh drawbacks, below is the quick summary of both:

 Benefits of Cloud Computing Drawbacks of cloud computing 
 
  • Offers high availability. Performance depends on scalability and computing chosen.
  • Cloud offers scalability both horizontally as well as vertically
  • No capital cost for consumers, only charges operational costs
  • Always provides multitenant feature
  • Geo distributed data centers available
  • Provides self-servicing features
 
  • For custom hardware requirements cloud is not suitable, consumer is restricted by what is offered by the clod provider
  • Migration & interoperability is problem, especially between the clouds 
  • Data sensitivity(for audit & security purposes) may be an issue in some cases. For example, cloud service typically does not give hardware level logs such as kernel level logs because of shared hosting.

 

Public cloud vs Private cloud

In a public cloud, resources such as servers and storage are owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider and delivered over the Internet. Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services are an example of a public cloud. Here all resources including hardware, software, and other supporting infrastructure is owned and managed by the cloud provider.

In a private cloud, computing resources are used exclusively by one business or organization. All the services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network and the hardware and software are dedicated solely to an organization. Private cloud can be located in organization’s on-site datacenter, or it can be hosted by a third-party service provider.

Advantages of public cloud Advantages of private cloud
 
  • Lower costs—no need to purchase hardware or software, and you pay only for the service you use.

  • No maintenance—your service provider provides the maintenance.

  • Near-unlimited scalability—on-demand resources are available to meet your business needs.

  • High reliability—a vast network of servers ensures against failure.

 
  • More flexibility—your organization can customize its cloud environment to meet specific business needs.

  • Improved security—resources are not shared with others, so higher levels of control and security are possible.

  • High scalability—private clouds still afford the scalability and efficiency of a public cloud.

 

Hybrid cloud - Best of both worlds

In a hybrid cloud, data and applications move between private and public clouds. This gives greater flexibility and more deployment options.

For example, public cloud cane be used for for high-volume, lower-security needs such as web-based email where as private cloud (or other on-premises infrastructure) can be used for sensitive, business-critical operations like financial reporting.

Hybrid cloud combines best of both worlds, gives greater control that private cloud offers and also offers flexibility and cost effectiveness that a public cloud generally gives.

  • Organization can maintain a private infrastructure for sensitive assets.
  • Organization can take advantage of additional resources in the public cloud when you need them.
  • Offers ability to scale to the public cloud, you pay for extra computing power only when needed.

Software-as-a-service(SaaS)

SaaS, is a flexible cloud model that gives you access to software and applications like mail, ERP, collaboration and office productivity without purchasing a licensed copy outright. Instead, you engage with a platform’s tools via subscription, often through a web browser or custom desktop portal.

SaaS provider allows you to simply log in. This is typically available for a monthly cost by usage. No purchasing big software licenses that limit you to a single version.

With SaaS programs, your organizations IT department doesn’t have to manage patches and updates. These are performed regularly by the provider so you always have the latest version with full protection and functionality.

Platform-as-a-service(PaaS)

PaaS is best fit for companies who need development tools in a virtualized environment for more efficiency and productivity.

PaaS service lets you scale resources easily as the need arises, using only what you need, when you need it. Through this model, you can develop, deploy and manage your programs and apps without overloading your own server space.

Infrastructure-as-a-service(IaaS)

IaaS is foundational cloud migration for your business. Through this model, your cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, delivers and manages your storage, your computing power, your networking and your hosting.

In IaaS model, you maintain responsibility and control of your software, data and applications.

With IaaS, you get incredible availability, reliability and security for specific projects or variable workloads.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS

Each of the cloud offering model has its merits and is fit for different needs. Below table summerizes how they differ:

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS

 

Azure cloud computing model

Many think that Azure offers all three model of cloud computing i.e. SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. However that is not true, Azure only offers PaaS and IaaS.

A definition from Microsoft site for Azure: 

"Azure is a comprehensive set of cloud services that developers and IT professionals use to build, deploy, and manage applications through our global network of datacenters. Integrated tools, DevOps, and a marketplace support you in efficiently building anything from simple mobile apps to internet-scale solutions".

Some of the SaaS offerings from Microsoft such as Power BI online or Office 365 are not part of Azure cloud. They are different offerings but tightly integrated with Microsoft Azure.