Microsoft Azure App Service, Cloud Services, or VMs?

Learn how to choose between Azure App Service, Azure Cloud Services, and Virtual Machines for hosting your app in the Azure Cloud

When I decided that I wanted to host a web application in the Azure cloud, the opportunity to explore the resources offered by a leading public cloud provider was exciting. How would Microsoft – with their deep experience and mature ecosystem – handle features like high availability, smart load balancing, and auto scaling?

It turns out that just choosing the right hosting service from Azure’s rich collection can be something of a challenge. My excitement quickly gave way to a little confusion and plenty of caution.

The right choice, of course, will depend on the unique needs of a project. We’ll explore some solutions from the MS Azure universe and try to highlight where they’re most likely to be useful.
Azure App Service Compute screenshot
Let’s focus on three services:

Azure App Service (which, until this past April, was called Azure Websites) is a managed platform. This means that Azure takes care of application deployment and management, while the developer only needs to concentrate on app development. Azure App Service supports applications defined by Azure as “Web Apps”, “Mobile Apps”, “API Apps”, and “Logic Apps”.

Azure Cloud Services is a platform that allows developers access to the underlying virtual machines and still manages the application container and deployment automatically. This offers a much more flexible solution than Azure App Service.

Virtual Machines give you full control over application management and deployment. For projects that may require substantial modifications to the technology stack in the future, or for people worried about being locked into a single vendor, the extra work required to launch and maintain Virtual Machines might be worth it.

Azure App Service

So, following the helpful Azure documentation, I successfully deployed my app using the App Service. Things went very smoothly… until I wanted to verify my server configurations and analyze some performance issues. It seems this isn’t possible, since App Service is a managed platform that handles deployment for you. There is no simple way to gain access to the app configuration files once it’s running.
In my case, this wasn’t ideal. I need remote access to the underlying web server, so that I can personally configure server tasks.

To fully understand how Azure App Service works, take a look at Cloud Academy’s Getting Started with Azure App Service course.

Azure Cloud Services

With that in mind, I turned my attention to Azure Cloud Services, which offers a slightly different balance of features. With Cloud Services, you can still enjoy a partially managed platform while, at the same time, maintaining some control over the underlying web servers. This documentation will guide you through deploying your web application using Cloud Services.

Learn more about Azure Cloud Services, in Cloud Academy’s Overview course of Azure Services.

Virtual Machines

What about Virtual Machines? I would say that, if you must have full access to configuration assets and you’re willing to accept the responsibility for managing your whole operation, this might be your best option.

Let’s spend a bit more time weighing these services against each other. As we said, if you are able to live without control over your webservers, then App Service might be for you. If it is, you’ll be able to enjoy some pretty impressive features, including:

  • Instant deployment.
  • Vertical scaling, without having to redeploy.
  • Support for multiple deployments (like staging and production).
  • Automatic OS upgrades for your infrastructure.
  • Integration capability with Git.
  • Integration capability with MySQL.

Azure App Service doesn’t completely lock you out, by the way. If you do sometimes need to run some background jobs along with your App Services deployment, Azure offers an integrated service called WebJobs. With WebJobs, users trigger custom programs or scripts on demand, continuously, or according to a set schedule. You can upload and run executable files built as cmd, bat, exe (.NET), ps1, sh, php, py, js, and jar with no trouble.

If Azure Cloud Services turns out to be a better fit, you’ll get many of the features of App Service, like support for multiple deployment, automatic OS upgrades, and seamless platform switching. But in addition, you’ll also get Remote Desktop (RDP) access to servers, custom MSI installations, the ability to define and execute start-up tasks, and to listen to Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) events.

And Virtual Machines? Here are some of the tasks that developers may still need to manually manage (Note that with some deployment solutions, these could also be automated):

  • Configuration of the application server/framework in the VM.
  • Integration with Azure services.
  • OS patch management.
  • Design and configure the application and infrastructure to handle fluctuating traffic.
  • Seamless platform switching (including the ability to move between 32 bit and 64 bit environments).
  • Security configuration.
  • Identify and apply monitoring strategy for applications.

To learn more on how to create, configure, and monitor VMs in Azure Resource Manager, take a look at Cloud Academy’s Azure Resource Manager Virtual Machines course.

Finally, here’s a partial list of some fantastic common features supported by all three services:

  • Access services like Service Bus, Storage, and SQL Database.
  • Host a web or web services tier of a multi-tier architecture.
  • Host a middle tier of a multi-tier architecture.
  • Support for ASP.NET, classic ASP, Node.js, PHP, and Python.
  • Scale out to multiple instances without having to redeploy.
  • Support for SSL.
  • Visual Studio integration.
  • Remote Debugging.
  • Network isolation with Azure Virtual Network.
  • Integrated Endpoint monitoring.

This diagram illustrates the level of control associated with all three of the Azure services we’ve been discussing:
Diagram showing the level of control associated to Virtual Machines, Cloud Services, and Web Apps While all of these services will host applications well, each has its own flavor. Naturally, you should base your choice on your individual business requirements.

This is a first step. There’s obviously much more to learn about these three solutions – and other Azure offerings – and I hope to continue to share my experiences as I learn and grow along with you. I appreciate your comments and encourage you to contribute when the spirit moves you.

Avatar

Written by

Vineet Badola

Working as a cloud professional for last 6 years in various organizations, I have experience in three of the most popular cloud platforms, AWS IaaS, Microsoft Azure and Pivotal Cloud Foundry PaaS platform. Having around 10 years of IT experience in various roles and I take great interest in learning and sharing my knowledge on newer technologies. Wore many hats as developer, lead, architect in cloud technologies implementation. During Leisure time I enjoy good soothing music, playing TT and sweating out in Gym. I believe sharing knowledge is my way to make this world a better place.


Related Posts

Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— December 5, 2019

New on Cloud Academy: AWS Solution Architect Lab Challenge, Azure Hands-on Labs, Foundation Certificate in Cyber Security, and Much More

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the craziness of Black Friday has died down, it's now time for the busiest season of the year. Whether you're a last-minute shopper or you already have your shopping done, the holidays bring so much more excitement than any other time of year. Since our...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS solution architect
  • AZ-203
  • Azure
  • cyber security
  • FCCS
  • Foundation Certificate in Cyber Security
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Kubernetes
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— December 4, 2019

Understanding Enterprise Cloud Migration

What is enterprise cloud migration? Cloud migration is about moving your data, applications, and even infrastructure from your on-premises computers or infrastructure to a virtual pool of on-demand, shared resources that offer compute, storage, and network services at scale. Why d...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Data Migration
Nisar Ahmad
Nisar Ahmad
— November 12, 2019

Kubernetes Services: AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud

Kubernetes is a popular open-source container orchestration platform that allows us to deploy and manage multi-container applications at scale. Businesses are rapidly adopting this revolutionary technology to modernize their applications. Cloud service providers — such as Amazon Web Ser...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Kubernetes
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— November 6, 2019

New on Cloud Academy: AZ-900 Exam Update; MS-100 Exam Prep; PRINCE2 Foundation; Azure, Kubernetes, and Google Hands-on Labs; and Much More

This month, our Content Team really kicked it into overdrive with tons of new content. If you're Team Azure, then you'll be amazed at the number of Azure Courses and Hands-on Labs we published this month alone!  At any time, you can find all of our new releases by going to our Training ...

Read more
  • AZ-900
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Kubernetes
  • MS-100
  • New content
  • PRINCE2
  • Product Feature
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— October 30, 2019

How to Get Hands-on Experience on AWS, Azure, and GCP: Lab Challenges

Meaningful cloud skills require more than book knowledge. Hands-on experience is required to translate knowledge into real-world results. We see this time and time again in studies about how kids and adults best learn — doing the actual learning task is key. Hands-on Labs and Lab Challe...

Read more
  • AWS Labs
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Hands-on Labs
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— October 23, 2019

Which Certifications Should I Get?

As we mentioned in an earlier post, the old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and compan...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Computing
  • Google Cloud Platform
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— October 1, 2019

New on Cloud Academy: ITIL® 4, Microsoft 365 Tenant, Jenkins, TOGAF® 9.1, and more

At Cloud Academy, we're always striving to make improvements to our training platform. Based on your feedback, we released some new features to help make it easier for you to continue studying. These new features allow you to: Remove content from “Continue Studying” section Disc...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • ITIL® 4
  • Jenkins
  • Microsoft 365 Tenant
  • New content
  • Product Feature
  • Python programming
  • TOGAF® 9.1
Avatar
Jeremy Cook
— September 17, 2019

Cloud Migration Risks & Benefits

If you’re like most businesses, you already have at least one workload running in the cloud. However, that doesn’t mean that cloud migration is right for everyone. While cloud environments are generally scalable, reliable, and highly available, those won’t be the only considerations dri...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Cloud Migration
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— September 6, 2019

Google Cloud Functions vs. AWS Lambda: The Fight for Serverless Cloud Domination

Serverless computing: What is it and why is it important? A quick background The general concept of serverless computing was introduced to the market by Amazon Web Services (AWS) around 2014 with the release of AWS Lambda. As we know, cloud computing has made it possible for users to ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— August 30, 2019

New on Cloud Academy: CISSP, AWS, Azure, & DevOps Labs, Python for Beginners, and more…

As Hurricane Dorian intensifies, it looks like Floridians across the entire state might have to hunker down for another big one. If you've gone through a hurricane, you know that preparing for one is no joke. You'll need a survival kit with plenty of water, flashlights, batteries, and n...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • New content
  • Product Feature
  • Python programming
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— August 22, 2019

How to Unlock Complimentary Access to Cloud Academy

Are you looking to get trained or certified on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, DevOps, Cloud Security, Python, Java, or another technical skill? Then you'll want to mark your calendars for August 23, 2019. Starting Friday at 12:00 a.m. PDT (3:00 a.m. EDT), Cloud Academy is offering c...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • cloud academy content
  • complimentary access
  • GCP
  • on the house
Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— August 13, 2019

Content Roadmap: AZ-500, ITIL 4, MS-100, Google Cloud Associate Engineer, and More

Last month, Cloud Academy joined forces with QA, the UK’s largest B2B skills provider, and it put us in an excellent position to solve a massive skills gap problem. As a result of this collaboration, you will see our training library grow with additions from QA’s massive catalog of 500+...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • content roadmap
  • Google Cloud Platform