I have just completed the Azure for IT Professionals training course on Microsoft Virtual Academy. As someone who is very new to Azure, this course offered quite a bit of helpful information as to what Azure is and what it can do.
Windows Azure is a service offered by Microsoft that allows on-premises services to be run in the cloud. It provides IaaS and PaaS services. Having this capability would allow businesses to do everything they could do previously without having to manage large amounts of on-premises hardware. Azure also allows businesses to integrate Azure with their existing data centers so they can have a mix of cloud and on-premises services.
Having services in the cloud can help businesses in a number of ways. One being that it takes very little time to set up and test a server environment in Azure whereas setting up the same thing on-premises could take a very long time to complete. A common use of Azure for developers is to quickly set up a staging environment, test it, and remove it when completed. Doing this on-premises could be very expensive if new hardware needs to be purchased to set up the environment.
- Azure is not a Windows-Only service. It has support for Linux servers and more
- You pay only for what you use. (Ex. Your Windows server 2012 on Azure is allocated 100GB of hard drive space but you only have used up 50GB. You only pay for the 50GB of space that you have used.)
Azure has a very easy to use management portal that allows administrators to create, manage, and monitor their services
PowerShell is an incredibly useful tool when working with Azure. It can be used to go in depth with managing any services that Azure offers without ever having to visit the management portal. It also gives administrators the capability to automate tasks, such as creating multiple VMs with a single command.
Azure also makes it very easy for users to migrate their existing servers, VMs, etc. There is a tool called Disk 2 VHD that allows data on a drive to be converted into a VHD image that can be installed in Azure.
Security & Operations
Microsoft uses 8 global data centers and 24 Content Delivery Networks to allow for Azure to work. All of their data centers have industry-wide certifications for security standards. The Azure Trust Center website goes into the details of the specific certifications.
- Use Azure to back up on-premises devices
- Redundant customer data to allow for 99.95% up-time per year
- Integration with System Center for monitoring Azure with Operations Manager
Active Directory can be greatly improved by taking advantage of Azure’s services. Businesses can create an additional Domain Controller in Azure so if there is a problem with the one in the data center, users will still be able to authenticate.