Microsoft Azure Development - Cloud ComputingMicrosoft Azure allows businesses to easily offload on-premises IT functions to the cloud, helping move them towards becoming truly cloud-based enterprises. Since Azure dwells within the Microsoft ecosystem, it also tightly integrates with other Microsoft solutions, such as SQL Server, Office 365, and SharePoint.

In future articles, we will address some of the common issues that organizations face when deploying Office 365 and/or SharePoint in conjunction with Azure. This article introduces Azure and its components, and lists some of its key benefits.

Microsoft Azure: Something for Everyone

We won’t re-hash the same old pros and cons of cloud computing, as we all know the story: flexibility, scalability, and accessibility vs. security, compliance, and privacy. The bottom line is that the cloud is appropriate for many organizations, but not appropriate for others, with many finding the best of both worlds through hybrid on-premises/cloud computing.

Microsoft Azure is a cloud-based solution that offers both Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) capabilities. It contains a range of features that provide its appeal:

  • Data Management: SQL database, storage blobs, storage tables, import/export, file services;
  • Networking: Virtual network, traffic manager, ExpressRoute;
  • Developer & IT Services: Visual Studio Online, Azure SDK, Azure Tools for Visual Studio, automation, API management;
  • Identity & Access: Active directory, multi-factor authentication;
  • Mobile: Mobile services, notification hubs;
  • Backup: Site recovery, backup;
  • Messaging & Integration: Storage queues, service bus queues, service bus relay, service bus topics, Biz Talk Hybrid Connections, Biz Talk Services;
  • Big Data: HDInsight, High Performance Computing (HPC);
  • Commerce: Store and marketplace.
Cloud Computing with Azure

Microsoft Azure features a trio of computational platforms that can be used individually or in combination, as needed. The platforms are largely characterized by their scope, purpose, and need; options include:

Virtual Machines (VMs)
Azure Virtual Machines are ideal for creating and managing virtual machine instances in the cloud, typically from an available or supplied image. This approach, termed Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), provides a quick, easy, and straightforward way to take advantage of cloud computing for specific purposes. For example, development/testing, moving applications from datacenters to Azure, and using VMs as an on-premises extension of your existing data center.

Web Apps
Azure Web Apps are used to run a website application (and/or a website) in the cloud without having to manage the underlying Web server (e.g., installing patches, updating, etc.). This is essentially a managed Web environment that enables developers to move existing Web apps to the cloud or build their own from scratch using technologies such as .NET, PHP, Node.js, Java, or Python — relational storage is supported via SQL database and MySQL. Web Apps has built-in support for 3rd-party Web apps such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. The whole idea with Web apps is to remove the Web architecture management aspect from the equation and to facilitate the creation of scalable and low-cost websites and Web apps that reside in the cloud.

Cloud Services
Azure’s Cloud Services solution, a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) option, combines the managed Web environment of Web Apps with the administration & configuration access of Virtual Machines. Cloud Services is the ideal option if you need to build a highly-scalable Web application in the cloud, need full admin capabilities (e.g., installing your own software), but don’t necessarily want to configure & manage the underlying Web server. Cloud Services is a cost-aware solution because it is designed for scalability; for example, it automatically creates more or fewer instances based on demand (i.e., you only pay for actual usage).

Azure’s Place in the Microsoft Universe

Microsoft Azure is quickly transforming the way organizations can expand by facilitating easy access to cloud platform technology. This obviously intersects with Office 365, which is also a Microsoft cloud computing platform. In future articles, we will continue our look at Microsoft Azure by examining its relationship to Office 365 and SharePoint as well as what issues come up when using Azure in conjunction with Office 365.

Crow Canyon Systems has 18 years of experience assisting organizations in leveraging their existing infrastructure, rather than requiring new hardware & technologies. We specialize in building upon your collaboration platforms, such as SharePoint and Office 365, in order to give your Help Desk and Support Staff the tools they need to provide assistance without the need for additional infrastructure.

Want to learn more about how our solutions can transform your SharePoint experience? Give us a call at 1-888-706-0070 or contact us by e-mail at