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How to create an Azure account and manage the subscription

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Begun in February 2010 after the announcement of its development two years before, MS Azure has quickly grown, adding many services - including the flagship Azure Virtual Machines, an IaaS compute platform.

This Introduction to Microsoft Azure course, created by our Azure expert Ganapathi Subramanian, is an introduction to the whole Microsoft Azure Platform. It will start from the most basic concepts you'll need to get started with the whole Azure family. We'll also give you a quick overview of the most important services in the platform for computing, storage, and database.

Who should follow this course

This is a beginner, introductory course to Azure, so you can enjoy it with no previous knowledge. You might, however, want to take a look at our introductory courses "Introduction to Cloud Computing" and "Introduction to Virtualization Technologies" to learn more about Cloud Computing and Virtualization from a low-level, provider-agnostic point of view.


In this final lecture of the Introduction to Azure course we'll see how Azure manages accounts and subscriptions. We'll also cover some of the billing strategies supported in Azure.

This diagram shows a high level view of Azure Subscription Architecture. Azure subscription is hierarchy based and supports various roles. To use an Azure resource you must first create an account using the Azure management portal.

How to setup a Microsoft Azure account

Microsoft Azure Accounts are set up using a Microsoft Live ID or Windows Azure Active Directory ID if it's configured. The account setup process accept user and payment details. Setting up an Azure account will create an account admin user who is responsible for managing other users and subscriptions. The account admin creates a service admin user who is responsible for managing the subscription and services. The account admin can be a service admin, too. The service admin is responsible of setting up the subscription. There can only be one account admin and one service admin for each Azure account.

Subscriptions are the key billing and resource boundary in Azure. An Azure subscription is a container in which all the resources in Azure are created, all the resources created in Azure are associated with a subscription ID. A subscription allows logical grouping of Azure resources for management and billing.

In an enterprise, subscriptions can be created for each line of business like human resources, customer services, etc. And the user's pattern and billing can be monitored at the subscription level. Co-admin users are delegates created by the service admin to manage one or more subscriptions. The co-admin can manage subscriptions assigned to them and create resources within the subscription. Azure supports a variety of account types used according to need.

Enterprise accounts vs Retail accounts

Enterprise accounts are suitable for organizations willing to commit up front on certain usage. Enterprise accounts also get volume discount base on usage. Enterprise accounts can be charged based on purchase orders, credit cards or credit received from other channels like MSDN.

Retail accounts are created for normal usage and are charge based on retail prices using credit cards. Retail accounts are suitable for small to medium size organizations that plan to use Azure in a limited way. Accounts in Azure can be created by leveraging existing Microsoft MSDN benefits. Using MSDN, the account gets a certain amount of free usage of Azure resources, these accounts are suitable for prototyping the Azure platform using test applications. Azure also provides some free usage for standard accounts, this helps getting started with Azure concepts before committing to the platform for larger use. Azure billing can be viewed by the account admin or service admin using the Azure management portal.

Azure Billing Management

Azure billing provides details like the type of resource, region, hours of consumption and data transfer. Billing details can be grouped by subscription, usage pattern or region. Azure also provides a daily usage view which shows the daily usage pattern. Azure billing shows a usage details for a subscription and the billing details can be downloaded as CSV files. 

The subscription charges are consolidated at the account level and the overall billing happens at the account level.

About the Author
Trevor Sullivan
Microsoft PowerShell MVP

Trevor Sullivan is a Microsoft MVP for Windows PowerShell, and enjoys working with cloud and automation technologies. As a strong, vocal veteran of the Microsoft-centric IT field since 2004, Trevor has developed open source projects, provided significant amounts of product feedback, authored a large variety of training resources, and presented at IT functions including worldwide user groups and conferences.