What is Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform?
Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing platform operated by Microsoft. It provides many services ranging from Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), to Infrastructure-as- a-Service (IaaS), and container services.
Why use Azure
Microsoft Azure offers a wide range of on-demand compute, storage, networking, SaaS, and PaaS services to help enterprises build an infrastructure to support their businesses. Azure provides a flexible platform which allows the creation of highly customized infrastructure and services. Azure also offers many different APIs, programming languages, tools, and frameworks for both Microsoft-centric and also third-party applications. Furthermore, Azure offers migration services that help streamline the cloud adoption process.
Whether the solution is global, or local, Azure offers the services and capabilities to support use cases across the globe including edge computing and disconnected use cases. Businesses can also take advantage of tailor-made solutions focused on manufacturing, retail, government, healthcare, and financial services.
Azure cloud platform also offers a long list of services:
- Kubernetes engine power deployment
- Machine learning
- AI-powered services
- IoT platforms
- SAP on Azure
- Big data analytics
How does the Azure cloud platform work?
Users typically interact with the Azure cloud platform through its management interfaces. The most common is the Azure Portal, which is a graphical user interface for creating, managing, and monitoring infrastructure and services in Azure. The other very common interface for the Azure cloud platform are APIs. These can be ARM, Terraform, Powershell, Azure CLI, and others.
Outside of the user interface and APIs, IaaS leverages virtualization with a combination of hardware- and software-defined elements weaved in. The Azure hypervisor, Hyper-V, creates the abstraction software layer between the compute hardware and virtual machine workloads. These virtual machines can run a wide range of operating systems, mainly Windows and Linux. This virtualization is then repeated across a massive scale in Azure cloud over many worldwide regions. Each of these regions has a multitude of data centers hosting many racks of compute and storage where the hypervisor is leveraged to deploy virtual machines. Each rack has a fabric controller which connects to an orchestrator. The orchestrator is in charge of managing everything that happens in Azure, including responding to user requests from the interfaces mentioned earlier.
Azure cloud platform networking components
The foundation of Azure IaaS is the virtual network, also known as a VNET. VNETs are a networking component of Azure which is composed of IP ranges/CIDRs which are divided into subnets. You must have a subnet to deploy workloads in a VNET. A VNET’s default behavior provides any workload deployed in a subnet with internet connectivity. That means once a virtual machine is orchestrated in a VNET/subnet, the virtual machine will be provided with a default gateway and NAT services by default.
Azure cloud platform also offers a wide range of networking services:
- Azure load balancers. The Azure cloud platform offers two different kinds of load balancers, internal and public. Internal load balancers can be leveraged to distribute traffic across multiple workloads in your VNETs.
- Application gateways. Application gateways provide Azure users with the ability to secure web front-ends or websites with Layer 7 security. Azure Application Gateway supports both HTTP and HTTPS, and it can also be enabled to provide WAF functionality.
- Virtual network gateways (VNGs). VNGs give customers the ability to connect to the IaaS infrastructure leveraging IPsec capabilities and also border gateway protocol for route exchange. This allows secure remote connectivity to Azure cloud platform IaaS.
- Express route (ER) gateway. For customers leveraging Azure Express Route private circuits, the ER gateways provide the connection to the VNET via that private circuit. The ER gateway bridges the Microsoft Edge router customer VRF and the Azure VNET.
Azure cloud platform PaaS services
Azure offers a multitude of PaaS services to customers. Common PaaS scenarios include development framework, analytics or business intelligence, and others like workflow, directory, security, and scheduling services.
Common PaaS services offered in Azure cloud platform:
- Azure Active Directory
- Azure Cognitive Search
- App Service
- Cosmos DB
- Redis Cache
- Azure SQL Database
- NetApp Files
Azure vs competing cloud providers
How does Azure stack up vs other cloud providers? Azure has the second highest overall market share of the public cloud providers. Azure launched in 2010 behind AWS and GCP, however, they have surpassed GCP and are gaining ground on AWS market share.
Azure & Aviatrix use cases
In Azure, IaaS is one of the leading sources of revenue and represents one of the fastest growing services. One of the major, or most important, dependencies for adoption of Azure cloud is networking and security. The Aviatrix secure cloud networking platform provides Azure customers with the tools needed to fill the gaps in Azure’s networking and security services. The platform also solves the challenges customers are left with when adopting, migrating to, or expanding their IaaS footprint. Whether a single region, multiple regions, or multiple clouds, Aviatrix provides the capabilities that enable customers to easily adopt public clouds very quickly. In Azure, and every other public cloud provider, the networking elements are complex, static, lack advanced capabilities, and are difficult to manage. Furthermore, monitoring and gaining visibility into the network is also complex, difficult to deploy and configure, and building feedback loops around those insights and monitoring tools is near impossible to consume.
Most common Aviatrix and Azure use cases:
- Multi-region security transit network design
- Azure Cloud Adoption Framework made easy with Aviatrix
- Azure Private Link for PaaS leveraging Aviatrix
- Azure irtual Desktop and Aviatrix FireNet
- Azure multi-cloud networking architecture for businesses with SaaS offerings
Pros and cons of Azure
Although each public cloud provider has many products and services they excel in, the following table provides some common pros and cons of Microsoft Azure.
|Large number of services available||Lack of advanced networking and controls|
|High availability||Networking complexity|
|Storage redundancy||Lack of focused technical support|
|Low initial investment||Very slow API|
In terms of Azure’s cons, some of the downsides can be easily mitigated or addressed. Within each of those points mentioned, there lies a large number of issues which compound to create the complexity in both networking and security. From managing network security groups, user-defined routes, to implementing a highly resilient design, Aviatrix networking and security platform provides enterprises with the capabilities to address the challenges that are inherent in Azure cloud.
Furthermore, discovering and gaining granular visibility of the entire cloud infrastructure gives enterprises the piece of mind that any issues will be quickly identified and remediated leading to less down time and more uptime for the business.
Schedule a demo with our world-class, experienced Cloud Solutions Architects and find out how Aviatrix can help you today!
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