Deep Dive Into Microsoft Azure

As we all know, Azure is a Cloud Computing Service given by Microsoft. Earlier, it was called Windows Azure but now it is Microsoft Azure.

Azure Definition

As per Microsoft,

"Microsoft Azure is a growing collection of integrated cloud services which developers and IT professionals use to build, deploy and manage applications through our global network of datacentres. With Azure, you get the freedom to build and deploy wherever you want, using the tools, applications, and frameworks of your choice." – Microsoft Azure

IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS

A Cloud Computing platform such as Microsoft Azure provides various kinds of services which can be joined together into three categories called service models,

  1. IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
    It delivers Cloud Computing infrastructure which includes servers, network, storage, operating systems. The customers, instead of buying the complete infrastructure, will buy the resources as a service on demand. It means the resources are available as a service in IaaS.

    E.g.
    Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Compute Engine (GCE) etc.
  1. PaaS (Platform as a Service)
    It is built on top of Virtualization concept i.e. you can demand resources as per your need and can scale up or down as per the requirement. It does not offer the software over the web; instead, it offers a platform to create the software, which is later delivered to the web.

    E.g.
    AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Force.com, Google App Engine etc.
  1. SaaS (Software as a Service)
    It is a form of cloud service for consumers. In SaaS, the software is hosted on a remote server, which can be accessed through a browser over the Internet. The users need not worry about hardware, software updates, and patches.

    E.g.
    Google Apps, DropBox, GoToMeeting, Citrix etc.

Looking at the above definitions of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, we can say that in Microsoft Azure, Virtual Machines is an example of IaaS approach, Cloud Services is an example of PaaS approach while Office 365 is an example of SaaS approach.

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Supported Languages / Frameworks in Microsoft Azure

As shown below in the diagram, we can build applications using PHP, Java, ASP.NET, Node.js in Microsoft Azure.

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Azure Data Centres

Azure is an expanding network of data centers around the world. These data centers in Azure are called Regions. As of now, there are 30 regions (approx.) around the world including multiple regions in the United States, UK, Europe, India, and Japan. Whenever we deploy an application in Azure, we need to select a region for deployment and the best practice is to select that region which is geographically close to your current location. (E.g. – If I am in Mumbai, I will select the region as India). You can also deploy your application in multiple regions.

Azure runs millions of computer servers, physical machines that are spread across these regions, which is referred as data centers.

Now, having enough idea about Azure, we will see some features that are available in Microsoft Azure.

Creating a Virtual Machine

Step 1

For creating a resource in Microsoft Azure, we need to provide some configurations for Azure to create our resource. With Virtual Machine, the configurations include the type of Operating System or Application Infrastructure you want to install.

In Microsoft Azure portal, click on “Virtual Machines” link onto the left, as shown below and follow the images thereafter.

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We can also create Application Infrastructure like a machine with Visual Studio and can select from the options, as shown below (For this article, I am going to create Visual Studio 2017 Community Edition).

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Step 2

Once you click on Visual Studio, it will show the various editions available of Visual Studio 2017 which we can create in Microsoft Azure.

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On the right side, there is an option to select the “Deployment Model” which provides two options in the drop-down – Classic and Resource Manager. You have to select any one of the options and this is a choice that you have for many Azure resources that you will create.

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Step 3

Once you click on Create, two panes will open which will ask for the settings of the Virtual Machine.

  1. Basics

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  2. Size

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  3. Settings

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  4. Summary

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NOTE

When you create a Virtual Machine in Azure, it is dependent on a number of other resources mentioned below.

  1. Network Interface
  2. Storage Account
  3. Public IP Address
  4. Network Security Group (It is like a Firewall – you can allow remote desktop connections to the virtual machine)

Whenever you will open your Virtual Machine in Windows Explorer, there will be two drives – one as C Drive, which is stored in Azure storage (and will be backed up in case of hardware failure), and a temporary D storage drive. If there is some sort of hardware failure in Azure, then Microsoft will move the Virtual Machine to a different Server in which case, your data will be lost that is stored in the temporary drive.

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Important Points to Remember for Virtual Machines

What if you need a powerful virtual machine? What if you want to add more storage? What if you want to add more disks?   All these can be done from Azure Portal.

  1. You can attach a new disk, which will be just a VHD file in Azure storage, and you can download that file whenever required.
  2. You can connect or disconnect to other Virtual Machines.
  3. Size Settings – If you feel that your virtual machine is not performing as well as you would like to, you can put your virtual machine on a more powerful server and more powerful virtual machine, just by selecting other options available in size settings. At the same time, you can also scale down your virtual machine if you think your machine is performing very well and that is how you can save money.
  4. Another way of saving money with virtual machines is to STOP the virtual machine when you are not using it (this way you do not have to pay for compute costs for the virtual machine). You can very well START the virtual machine back when you want to use it again.

Azure Important Reference Links

NOTE

Everything you do in Azure can be automated (E.g. – using PowerShell script) which means that all your software development and application releases can be repeated and will be reliable.

Summary

In this article, we got an overview of what Microsoft Azure is and what Azure can do. We also got the overview of how to create a Virtual Machine.

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