Why Microsoft Azure?

So, you're thinking the cloud might be what you need for your company to create incredible software products and deliver the value and user experience your customers expect. Certainly, the Azure cloud platform can help you accomplish that. With its vast resources and compute power, plus a wide array of intelligent services, you can build highly scalable, dynamic apps, and pay only for what you use. But there are many cloud vendors out there today, each offering unique capabilities and products. So, again, why Azure?

With Azure, you get the deep knowledge and expertise of Microsoft, a company that has been at the forefront of both personal and enterprise-level computing and IT solutions for more than 40 years. Microsoft has been designing, building, and running massive-scale datacenter operations and networks for its own purposes for decades. That experience and know-how is woven right into the fabric of Azure. It's at its very core.

Azure gives businesses, large and small, as well as government organizations, educational institutions, and any user of IT services the ability to more easily and cost-effectively manage their digital worlds, both for themselves and their customers. In a nutshell, here's how:

  • Deliver cross-platform software experiences, like mobile, desktop, web, and hybrid experiences: Azure provides services with which you can implement these scenarios "out of the box," like Azure App Service, including Web App and Mobile App, and Mobile Center and Visual Studio Team Services for delivering and managing all application types.
  • Deliver services wherever they need to be: Azure is unique in its breath of deployment options: the public cloud, hybrid solutions, and Azure on-premises, in your own datacenter (via Azure Stack). All of these options can provide massive scale at an affordable price, while keeping your data where it needs to be.
  • Deliver an intelligent, massive scale, data platform: Azure has many services that you can use to capture, store, analyze, and present your data. These are services like Azure SQL Databases, Data Lake Store and Data Lake Analytics, HDInsight, Event Hubs, Cognitive Services, and many more. All of these services can create an affordable, intelligent, and massively scalable data platform that gives businesses the tools to extract valuable insights from the vast amount of data being churned out today.
  • Deliver high-quality software, fast: You need to test always and fail fast to deliver quality software. With Azure, you can do so through integrated CI and CD mechanisms directly in services like Web App, or through Visual Studio Team Services. Features like App Services Deployment Slots make it possible for you to deliver fast, with no downtime. And, to know that your app is working as expected in production, Azure provides monitoring services, like Application Insights that let you know exactly how your app is doing and where you can improve.

Who uses Azure?

Adobe, Jet.com, Geico, GeekWire, and DocuSign are just some examples of customers all around the world that look to the Azure platform to help them achieve their business goals and deliver more value to their customers. Some of those goals include the request for App Services to Serverless, Artificial Intelligence to Azure IoT and even Media streaming. Let's look at some interesting ways that customers have used the Azure platform to meet their business needs.

South Korean industrial giant Samsung creates everything from phones to televisions, to washing machines, major kitchen appliances, and air conditioners. The company decided to use Azure to increase the efficiency and robustness of its air conditioners by performing remote monitoring and maintenance. The company uses Azure IoT Hubs to collect massive amounts of data sent from sensors embedded in its air conditioners that monitor the status of the machines as well as the environment in which they run. This data is captured in Azure SQL for real-time analysis. Engineers then can use the information they extract to adjust the behavior of the air conditioners, resulting in energy savings of 15 to 18% on average for its customers.

The Coca-Cola Company, one of the worlds most recognized brands, first introduced its eponymous soft drink in 1886 and has been a global leader ever since. In 2012, the company launched Coco-Cola Journey, a highly ambitious project and website whose purpose is to help Coca Cola better connect with a new generation of customers who more and more take their purchasing cues from nontraditional marketing channels. The company wanted to take advantage of social media and a Microsoft service called How-Old.net to create a fun and engaging interactive experience for users, while simultaneously gaining insights into its customers. Based on the Cognitive Services technology, How-Old.net analyzes data extracted from facial imagery to establish the age and gender of individuals. But Coca-Cola asked the Microsoft team to take the project a step beyond facial recognition by using machine learning models to detect individual objects in pictures. For one month, the site invited users to submit a photo of themselves and a Coca-Cola bottle with a visible logo to see what happens. If the web app detected a bottle, the bottle's age appears and the page turns red. Then, Coke fans were encouraged to share their experience on social media and to further explore the Coca-Cola Journey site to learn more about the venerable contour bottle.

CarMax, the largest used-car retailer in the United States, redesigned its website using the Azure platform services to deliver faster response to the 16 million people who visit its site every month. Rather than "lift and shift" the site into an Azure IaaS environment, CarMax instead chose to rebuild the site using the Azure PaaS offering. This made it possible for CarMax to modernize the site with new cloud functionality, make it 100 percent mobile-friendly, and, most important, move to a dynamic DevOps development paradigm. CarMax is quickly moving toward a microservices architecture, which will give the company the ability to scale and update parts of applications independently of the other parts. Although this will take years to accomplish, choosing Azure as its development foundation will help the auto retailer get to microservices faster.

NBC Sports works with Microsoft to deliver mega broadcast events. In 2016, the two companies collaborated to broadcast the Summer Olympics from Rio de Janiero. NBC used Azure Media Services to stream content from more than 50 Olympic events simultaneously, providing a 1080p profile and covering a whopping 100 million unique users that consumed 2.71 billion minutes of content from a broad range of devices and form factors. Media Services provided the scalability and robustness to deliver this content flawlessly to the viewers.

Azure has global reach

With datacenters in more than 42 countries and regions around the globe, Azure's incredible coverage offers many benefits. First, it can reduce any downtime your applications might experience should an entire datacenter fail (an extremely low probability, in and of itself), because your application can failover to another datacenter and continue to run almost as if nothing happened at all. This can also reduce your disaster recovery costs.

If you use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to reduce latency, the chances are that there is an Azure datacenter in close proximity to where your customers are and where you need to deliver their content. Another benefit that Azure can offer with so many facilities in so many locations is that you have a wider range of choices for data storage. This can help you to ensure that your company remains in compliance with local or regional regulations and laws with respect to data sovereignty.

Microsoft continues to invest heavily in datacenter infrastructure and innovation through open-source hardware development and novel new datacenter solutions such as the underwater datacenters from project Natick.

Azure is extremely resilient

Azure is an intelligent, self-monitoring, and self-healing platform that you can rely on to keep your applications up and available and running well. To back that up, all Azure services operate under comprehensive SLAs that define their performance in specific terms. SLAs range from 99.9% (three nines) uptime to 99.99% (four nines). This means that Azure services are extremely resilient and reliable. Should your services fail to perform to the governing SLA's specifications, you might be eligible for a discount of up to 100% of the service costs on your Azure invoice.

To make sure that your services remain at peak performance, Microsoft monitors the service health for each individual Azure service in every datacenter around the world. These metrics are available for you to monitor, as well, on the public Azure status page.

As we mentioned earlier, Microsoft has been operating datacenters and providing IT services at massive scale since 1989. It has accumulated a lot of knowledge in that time. Today, Microsoft has some of the best minds in the IT industry working continuously to keep Azure up and running so that you can rely on it for hosting your services and storing your data. That's why all of the Azure services have SLAs to back that up.

Azure is compliant with almost every industry

Azure offers the most comprehensive set of compliance offerings of any cloud provider. The list of compliances is huge and growing continually. Some of the standards to which Azure complies include ISO 27001, HIPAA, and SOC 3. Region-specific compliances include the EU-US Privacy Shield and China DJCP.

For instance, by complying with the ISO 27001 certification, Microsoft guarantees that it implements, monitors, maintains, and continually improves its security standards for its global network of datacenters as well as for the individual services in Azure.

Azure even has a specific offering for US government customers called Azure Government, which is basically a "special edition" of the Azure cloud that addresses the unique needs of government entities. Azure Government is run separately from the Azure public cloud, in its own instance, meaning that it runs on separate, dedicated servers on a completely separate and isolated infrastructure.

Azure focuses on capabilities for developers

Azure helps you, as a developer, to be more productive by providing much of the "plumbing" that you would otherwise need to build yourself. With capabilities such as autoscaling and authentication/ authorization tools, you can add advanced features and functionality to your applications with little to no effort. You can integrate services like Azure Search or Cognitive Services that will enhance your applications and please your users.

Azure is open and supports the frameworks of your choice

Write your applications in JavaScript and deploy them to Web App. Or, write them in Ruby, Django, Java, PHP, or .NET; whichever is your preferred environment. Azure has wide support for lots of languages. You can bring your existing application or write one from scratch, and it will run in Azure.

Additionally, you can choose the ecosystem you prefer. Azure supports most operating systems, like Linux and Windows, and you can script everything using Bash if you want. You can also run your application how you want—using containers, Azure Service Fabric, App Services, Azure Stack, and so on.

After you have learned how to use Azure with one toolset, you can use it with any other toolset. The services and the Azure portal work the same for everything.

You can monitor your Azure services on the go

Are you the sort of person who likes to keep a constant eye on operations? With Azure, you can monitor how your services are performing and fix issues that might arise by using the Azure mobile app. This helpful app is designed to give you visibility into your resources even when you are not behind your desk at your main computer. You can handle tasks like restarting a web app and stopping a virtual machine. It also provides a full command-line interface (CLI) experience via Cloud Shell, making it possible for you to do basically everything that you can do with the Azure portal.

Additionally, there are services in Azure that perform smart detections and recommendations for your services and can send you alerts about them. These are things like detecting that a web app is running slower than usual or informing you that an App Service scaled up automatically. Azure Security Center and Azure Monitor are some of the services that can alert you about these things so that you never have to miss anything important.

We are here if you need help

There are lots of ways to get help with Azure if you need it.

You can buy a support plan, that gives you access to the Azure technical support teams and provides other services like guidance based on best practices to design for the cloud, or assistance in planning your migration. Depending on your needs, you can buy a support plan that guarantees responses from the technical support teams within 15 minutes.

Additionally, you can get help for free, 24x7, through many channels. You can tweet to @AzureSupport or reach out to the support teams through MSDN forums, StackOverflow, Reddit, or the Microsoft Tech Community.