Azure is a cloud computing environment that has grown in size and demand over the time, it was first released in 2010 under the name Windows Azure. Later, in 2014, it was renamed to Microsoft Azure. It has a robust, web browser based dashboard that will let you administer all of your cloud resources as well as an extension of PowerShell cmdlets (command line executables) to facilitate resource management and DevOps tasks. It offers multi-platform solutions and different service levels that will accommodate the needs of most companies in a pay-as-you-go schema, moving from Capital Expenditure (CapEx) to Operation Expenditure (OpEx).
There are three service levels in Azure (and most other cloud platforms):
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
This level includes the hardware, network, location and security needed to sustain the lower level of IT computing needs, more commonly relating to Virtual Machines (VMs), load balancers and firewalls. It includes the capability to scale up or down depending on the customer’s needs.
Platform as a service (PaaS)
Second level of service, it includes the tools necessary to develop, host and administer applications and data in the environment when the client doesn’t want to worry about license costs and hardware acquisition, this facilitates the work of remote teams being on the same network (VPN) and adds control to the costs.
Software as a service (SaaS)
Highest level of service, this is aimed to end users and provides full-fledged solutions for specific needs. Such is the case of Microsoft Office, this product shifted to the SaaS model as Office 365, which uses a subscription approach instead of a license per version. This allows the users to have the most recent updates of the software without having to install anything on their machines (other than the preferred web browser).
Microsoft Azure is designed for high availability, redundancy and replication, this means that not only your data can be stored in multiple places for disaster recovery functions, it can also be used as a read only asset to support high demand access to the information. Even applications are benefited by this approach, they can run in multiple instances and the users may submit requests on more than one server or the sessions may be distributed into the instances in a round robin fashion (session affinity).
How is all this possible?
Azure is distributed into datacenters, a collection of data centers (in a relatively close distance) connected on a dedicated low latency network is defined as a Region. Azure has 40 regions currently and 10 more announced for future deployment, this global infrastructure joined with concepts like virtualization, security and data redundancy makes Azure capable of delivering resiliency. With this said, Azure is available in 140 countries and offers a wide range of services that, along with other cloud platforms, are shifting the way IT works.