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Overview of the Azure services

Overview of the Azure services

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 lecture we'll learn more about the various types of services that are offered in the Azure platform.

This diagram shows a high level view of the services supported in Azure. These services are classified broadly into compute services, data services, application services and network services.

Compute services support scaling computing power configurations like CPU and memory in the Cloud which can be leveraged by the applications. Data services provide a highly scalable and cost effective storage platform for persistent application data.

Application services support value added features on top of the core Azure services. Network services provide features to extend the network and security of the Azure platform. Let's go through a brief overview of each of these services. Compute services provide raw computing power like CPU and memory in the Cloud. The compute services are build based on usage and it support elasticity though quickly scaling up or down the number of instances. The compute services supported in Azure span across PaaS and IaaS Cloud models. Some of the most popular Compute services in Azure include Websites, Cloud services and Virtual Machines. Azure Websites are highly scalable, shared low cost services which can be used to quickly deploy solutions.

Azure Websites support a large number of pre-built applications frameworkd like WordPress, Drupal etc which can be use to jump start an application development.

Azure Website is an ideal framework to get started with Azure as it provides a low cost, easy to deploy model for simple application. Azure Cloud services is a PaaS based compute services framework where the platform the application is deployed on is managed by Azure and the application is responsible for managing only it's components. Multi-tiered enterprise applications can take advantage of the flexibility offered by Cloud services.

Applications are implemented using tools like VisualStudio. Net and then packaged and deployed in Azure. Virtual Machines as IaaS based services which support creating compute resources managed by the application. Virtual Machines support creating various types of operating systems like Windows and various Linux distributions. Virtual Machines support a hybrid Cloud model by extending Azure's infrastructure. They can also be used to run custom off-the-shelf, cots, solutions.

Mobile services enable the quick creation of back end solutions for mobile applications. These services can target mobile platforms like iOS, Android and Windows phone. The notification features of mobile services can be used to build real-time notifications and messaging. It also enables seamless integration with on-premise systems. Azure supports many types of storage services, each one of the services is intended for a specific scenario. Popular data services in Azure includes storage, SQL Azure, HDInsight, Cache and DocumentDB. Azure Storage is a massively scalable storage mechanism. It supports storing terabytes of data with built-in features for backup and recovery.

There are three types of storage supported in Azure. Blobs are meant for storing unstructured data like images, documents, audio, video etc. Tables are for key/value pair based noSQL data storage for storing structured data. Queues are messaging services which support storing messaging data for asynchronous systems. File storage allows data to be stored as standard file systems in the Cloud. SQL Azure DB is a database as a service. It allows application to store data in relational format. SQL Azure DB supports a variety of tiers and performance levels.

It can be accessed using familiar SQL tools in ADO.net. HDInsight is the big data service in Azure. It's built on top of the open source Apache Hadoop framework and supports analysis of petabytes of data.

HDInsight can be used to analyze both structured and unstructured data. Azure Cache is a service built using the open source Redis Cache framework for caching data. Azure DocumentDB is the specialized storage service for storing documents.

Documents stored in DocumentDB can be accessed using a JSON noSQL-style mechanism. Azure supports many kinds of application services which can be leveraged to build various types of applications quickly. Azure media services is a Cloud based service aimed at delivering any type of media content to various types of devices. Media services support end-to-end workflow for managing the media content. Media services support encoding, packing and distributing media content to users. The Content Delivery Network CDN is a service to cache and deliver content from edge locations closest to the user. Contents like video, audio, document, images and webpages can be delivered using more 30 edge locations spread across the globe. Azure service bus is a generic messaging service for connecting applications, services and devices. Service Bus supports many messaging patterns and can be use to integrate with on premise systems. Azure Active Directory is a Cloud based identity and access management system that supports single sign on services for Azure and non Azure applications. It supports integrating and synchronizing with an on-premise active directory. Azure Active Directory can also be use in applications to implement federated authentication.

Azure BizTalk services is a Cloud based integration service built on top of a Microsoft BizTalk server. It enables various types of application integration patterns like B2B, EAI and hybrid on-premise integration.

Azure Networking services enables extending the Azure infrastructure locally. Azure Virtual Private Networks or VPNs supports extending Azure infrastructure on-site through VPNs.

Resources created using VPNs can be isolated to support more security. Azure traffic manager is a load balancing service to route traffic across Azure in external resources. Express route is a dedicated high speed private network service which can be used to extend the on-premise network to Azure. Private network connections can be build through partnerships with major vendors like AT&T and Verizon.

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.