Cloud computing has revolutionized the IT industry. It has made it possible to manage vast resources easily. As seen from the rise of Big data applications, this was very much needed. In order to go efficiently digital, many enterprises all over the world have chosen Microsoft's Azure platform for cloud computing.
Microsoft Azure, simply called Azure most of the time, is a cloud computing service of Microsoft. Microsoft Azure solution allows enterprises to use the cloud for better development and management of applications- both simple and complex. You can use it to build, test, deploy, and manage applications and services. Microsoft stores everything in its data centers.
It provides Azure in the form of software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model. It supports both Microsoft-specific and third-party software and systems. Understanding the specific demands for enterprise applications, Microsoft offers numerous capabilities to build robust solutions for businesses. This includes a multitude of tools and development environments so as to smoothly deploy the cloud services. The benefits of using the Microsoft Azure platform are discussed next.
About Azure platform
Before starting out with the building part, you must understand the basics of Azure. With the Azure platform, developers can focus just on designing and building highly scalable and resilient cloud-based enterprise applications. It can be used for a range of purposes from developing mobile and web apps to hosting apps. You can consult Microsoft Technology Associate for better understanding too.
You can replace your traditional systems completely, add on to them, or even simply get started. This is especially useful if you are looking to venture into the world of the Internet of Things (IoT). The insights you gain can be used for making better decisions and improving the experience of end-users. For example, you can learn which services your organization uses most and track spending and usage trends. This can ensure that you are able to meet your organization’s basic requirements from time to time.
Azure cloud solutions, similar to any other existing cloud platforms, are based on a technology that is called virtualization in technical jargon. Consider the collection of servers present in any data center in racks or clusters. The racks have multiple blades or servers with modular designs for better optimization. This is done to decrease the use of space as well as energy. The network switch provides network connectivity while the power distribution unit (PDU) gives power.
The servers basically execute simple sets of instructions on behalf of their customers or end-users. This can be considered as emulation of hardware by the software. Some other servers run a distributed application for the management of clouds which is known as a fabric controller. This software allocates tasks that need to be performed. It also keeps a check on the health of the server and services or tasks. In case there are any issues, it will make sure that the servers restore their original functioning.
The fabric controllers are connected to servers that run the software which is responsible for hosting web-based services, Representational state transfer, or RESTful APIs, as well as the databases in use.
When requests are made over the web via the frontend in case of asp .net development services, first of all, validation and then verification of authorized access is done. Once the confirmation process is complete, only then it is checked how to allot resources based on the capacity. Users are free from the burden of maintaining and upgrading hardware as it is automatically done. The process is commonly termed as orchestration in system administration. This saves a lot of time and makes scalability a possibility.
Subscription and Deployment models
The Azure Enterprise portal has two types of subscriptions for its customers who wish to get started with enterprise application development. If you have an all product usage and do not want to go overboard with infrastructure, then Microsoft Azure Enterprise is for you. Another option, enterprise dev/test, is much more suitable for all team dev/test workloads and medium-to-heavy individual dev/test workloads. You can get access to special Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) images and better service rates that you would prefer to use.
Microsoft Azure solution offers two deployment models when it comes to cloud resources, namely, the classic deployment model and the Azure resource manager. In the classic deployment model, all the resources are treated as separate entities and hence are managed individually. These resources range from virtual machines (VMs) to SQL or no SQL databases.
Whereas in the case of Azure Resource Manager, the users can simply form different groups for utilities that are connected or related to each other. This can be useful in order to work on deployment, management, and monitoring of all the closely coupled resources.
Azure Storage and Database
You can use both relational and non-relational databases for your enterprise mobility solutions depending on the purpose of using the available data. If you aim to store loosely structured data, Azure table storage is the go-to option. In case you do wish to use the features of relational databases, the Azure SQL database is the way to go. You can make use of indexing and complex queries for data analysis and manipulation. It is all based on your application whether you wish to use such a shared database.
Azure Backup even enables restoration of Virtual Machines (VM) Scale Sets without heavy expenses. The model enables a logical grouping of platform-managed virtual machines. Scale sets are used for creating VMs using a VM configuration model that is given at the time of scale set creation. They can only manage VMs that are implicitly created based on the configuration model.
Azure allows Dev-Ops connections in order to have control over monitoring and management of the Azure cloud solutions. You do not have to worry about infrastructure management as it is taken care of by the vendor Microsoft. This spares time so that developers can focus on more important things. With the aid of sample projects and the developer community, sometimes apps can be built within a few hours.
Benefits of using Microsoft Azure
Besides being cost-effective and easy to use, there are numerous other benefits of Microsoft Azure. Some of them are mentioned next.
- Use what you already know
Azure has options for using whatever languages, tools, platforms, and frameworks you like. You can improve your knowledge by using technologies that you already know or you can add new skills. There is a global community of developers and all resources are easily available in case you get stuck.
- Save time
The features and development tools integrated into Azure ensure that you spend less time doing tasks that are repetitive in nature. You can automate routine tasks in Azure environments. This helps in better productivity and developers tend to stay less busy in performing mundane tasks that have no actual value. For this, you can create workflows, also known as runbooks. This helps in streamlining everything in your cloud environment. Also, the app developed is still secure and reliable. DevOps is also integrated with the platform.
Microsoft Azure works on a pay as you go model. So, it is great for small businesses that do not want to invest heavily starting off. There are discounts available as per user needs too. This gives an edge to Azure over its competitors since it can offer vast capabilities at low rates comparatively. Based on your subscription plan, you might be able to save a lot as compared to traditional options.
- Scale on demand
When there is a sudden growth in your business or high traffic load, most traditional hosting models tend to break down. It is mainly because it is hard to predict the demand for increased resources during a period of time. But Azure enterprise application development provides auto-scaling options to organizations depending on load or schedule. The applications are run from multiple servers (load balancing) and there is never a complete shutdown of all services. The applications are loaded as a cluster and then the processes are run.
For mission-critical workloads where a failure or decrease in performance cannot be tolerated even for unexpected spikes, larger premium SSD disks sizes (above 512 GiB) have disk bursting support. The on-demand bursting capability enables users to burst up to 6 times (up to 30,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS) and 1,000 MBs of throughput) of the provisioned amount. This improves flexibility and scalability further. This is not true for credit-based systems where bursting is only supported if you have accumulated credits and you cannot make use of it as and when needed.
- Hybrid capability
Azure allows users to create hybrid environments, thereby creating robust solutions. These solutions combine the benefits of both on-premise and cloud environments to build modern solutions for niche companies without heavy costs.
- Data analytics
Any amount of data can be handled and analyzed at once with Microsoft Azure. It offers additional solutions like Apache Hadoop and Excel to gain deeper insights into the working of your enterprise mobility solutions. With growing demands, new features and updates are added regularly so as to allow the smooth functioning of applications.
- Storage and backup
You can store any type of data that you want with Azure. It can be simple text, structured data sets, or more. Importing and exporting is simple and quick. There are standard protocols to share data so that the security and reliability of data can be ensured. At the outermost layer, the platform has built-in Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) protection. DDOS protection gets working in case a DDOS attack gets detected. This is determined via a set specific and predefined threshold. Data in cloud storage is encrypted using AES 256-bit encryption.
If due to any unfortunate event, you lose your data then there is no need to fret. Azure has multiple copies of your data across different data centers. The default resiliency level is known as locally redundant storage (LRS). The backups can help with data recovery speedily and the switchover is handled transparently by the platform.
- Community support
There are a large number of companies using Azure infrastructure. The data centers are present in numerous countries and the entire infrastructure is spread out. This is higher than most other alternatives for building enterprise applications. This means lower latency for people of different countries working on Azure. Support plans are available in many other languages besides English.
How to design and build robust cloud applications
Among the most crucial reasons for developing cloud applications is the ability to access these apps anytime and anywhere. While developing cloud applications on Azure for enterprise, anyone with experience can agree that there are multiple ways for optimization. While some are basic suitable for any general application, others are application-specific.
You should be able to decide what you want. Choosing the wrong cloud operating model can lead to chaos and misunderstanding among the members of the IT department. Increased time to market can increase the pressure on the entire organization and therefore jeopardize the project. Once you know that you have the prerequisites needed to begin, prioritize your goals. You need to have a rough timeline for the application development and implementation.
Compare the available cloud operating models and make a skill readiness plan before starting off. You can start with IaaS to reduce the chances of mismanagement at the onset of the project. At the end of the day, it should not be a tedious task that disrupts all your current business processes. You can talk to a Microsoft Technology Associate in case you get stuck and are confused on how to proceed further. In addition, do not forget that everyone on the team will be working with Azure. They should be comfortable in adapting to newer job responsibilities or it can affect the entire workflow. Good leadership can prove to be very crucial in motivating the workers. You can assign roles such as enterprise administrator, enterprise administrator (read-only), department administrator, department administrator (read-only), account owner.
It is a good idea to limit the number of admin accounts or roles that you set and protect the accounts of those at an elevated level. This is due to the fact that users with such roles can directly or indirectly read and modify all the resources available in your Microsoft Azure environment. This increases your data risks. You can instead use just-in-time (JIT) access which is an option for enabling permissions temporarily.
To get started, you can use a template, and then later you can add your app to Azure AD tenant. The purpose of developing these applications is to provide good quality services to employees and partners with the aid of Active Directory and private network connections. Knowing basic practices such as storing static assets ( images, CSS files, JS files, and so on) to reduce file size can help in building a high-performing application. This is useful for companies offering asp .net development services.
Content delivery network (CDN) caches these assets at a point so as to get the maximum throughput during data transfer from one place to another. When you co-locate the data stores and cloud services in one affinity group, you reduce the latency and boost the performance. In a recent development, Azure data factory is now available in two more regions, namely, Norway East and UAE North. Users can provision it along with Integration Runtime, and SQL Server Integration Service (SSIS) Integration Runtime in these regions too. In such a case where you have to failover from another region, you can also use these regions for Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) reasons.
This way the entire load is not on the application server in times of high traffic. Azure Traffic Manager enables the geo-replication of saving the data. In case you have an application that does not need a previous state, you can use distributed cache. There are other optimization options in Azure for files, videos, and the like that can be utilized as well.
Read the blog- How Much is Microsoft Azure Really Going to Cost?
- Working on architecture, design, and implementation
Besides these, the basic considerations in terms of architecture, design, and implementation need not be forgotten. The same principles that you apply with other cloud platforms must be followed here. Discuss with your team what the right architecture style for your cloud-based app or solution would be. Based on the issues at hand, design patterns come in handy. Also, knowing what computation and data storage technology stack you need to incorporate should be known beforehand.
The backup feature in Azure allows users to have copies in multiple locations for both online and traditional applications. This way, even if the hardware fails due to unexpected causes, the services are fail-safe. Other issues that can arise include power failure, natural calamities, and short circuits. In addition, you must prefer small-sized virtual machines (VMs) to large ones until absolutely necessary to have better disaster management. One of the reasons behind this is that larger VMs having transient local storage are not safe against failures.
- Testing & Security
In order to protect sensitive data, you should first discover, classify, and label any such data. This will provide you an idea of how to go about designing the appropriate controls so that the critical information can be stored, processed, and transmitted securely. Otherwise, even on using the organization's latest technology systems, you are prone to cyber-attacks.
You can choose to use Azure Information Protection and the associated scanning tool when the sensitive data is located in multiple places such as that on Azure, on-premises (previously), on Microsoft Office 365, and many other similar locations.SQL Information Protection can be beneficial to users in the classification process besides the labeling process. These processes are carried out for information stored in SQL databases.
If you wish to monitor for any unauthorized transfer of data, you can use Azure Storage Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) and Azure SQL ATP to set alerts. This can help you stay informed in case there is a transfer of information to locations outside of enterprise visibility and control with malicious intent. By getting information of a possible security breach, you can make timely decisions and prevent huge losses to the company. Any information which has been classified and labeled comes under this category.
Staying updated in the software field is important. A new Azure Resource Manager–based deployment model for Cloud Services called Azure Cloud Services (extended support) has been recently introduced. In case you are already an existing user of Azure Cloud Services, with the extended support, you can now improve your regional resiliency. Other capabilities that are available now include tags, policy, private links support, role-based access control (RBAC), and the use of templates.
The Azure Service Manager–based deployment model has been renamed to Azure Cloud Services (classic) so as to avoid confusion later on for any existing or new users. However, you can keep using the existing Azure Cloud Services (classic) deployment model for your enterprise apps as long as you want.
To Sum It Up
Given the benefits of Azure, we are seeing a growing adoption among companies in sectors such as logistics, energy and utilities, manufacturing, and many more. This also includes the critical applications which people were earlier skeptical about. Once you have a clear picture of how everything works and is connected to one another, you will have a clear picture of how to achieve what you want. Although you can take the advice of Azure development experts from the Microsoft partner community too.
Azure provides numerous tools for your rescue in case you get stuck anywhere. However, it is still your responsibility to ensure that you develop successfully working fail-safe applications. A proper plan can go a long way in ensuring a faster time to market for your Azure cloud-based enterprise application. So, make sure that you give due time to it with your team members when starting out with a project idea.