What is Microsoft Azure? A complete guide to Microsoft’s cloud computing services.
Microsoft Azure is one of the top 3 cloud computing service providers. At its core, it provides solutions including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). Using cloud infrastructure, they provide a range of products to enable businesses with analytics, virtual computing, storage, networking, and many other services. Formerly known as Windows Azure, Microsoft Azure was launched in 2010 and now has over 200+ products and a global reach of 140+ countries.
With data centers in 54 global regions, Microsoft Azure provides businesses with an elastic cloud infrastructure, thereby helping them digitally transform their business operations.
Today, Microsoft Azure is the second-largest cloud company after AWS and serves many customers, applications, and solutions. However, it started back in 2008 as a project named Red Dog. The meaning of the word ‘Azure’ is bright blue like a cloudless sky. Yes, a relatable cloud!
Currently, Microsoft Azure has the second-highest controlling share in the market for cloud services. According to a Statista report, Azure commanded a whopping 22% of the total market share as of 2021’s second quarter. It is also trusted by 95% of Fortune 500 businesses, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft has leveraged its existing market hold in the legacy systems by providing hybrid solutions to push companies to adopt cloud technology. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at everything that Microsoft Azure has to offer in terms of its cloud computing services and certifications and compare its performance with Google and Amazon.
Let us begin by taking a look at some of the services offered by Microsoft Azure.
What Does Microsoft Azure Offer?
Microsoft is consistently growing its range of services; it currently provides you with all the essential tools needed to build a virtual network and deliver services/ applications across the globe.
Here are some of their popular offerings:
- SQL Databases: Azure offers managed SQL databases. This allows you to save the overhead cost of hardware and software. It also avoids the need for hiring an in-house expert, and their elastic model lets you scale up in numbers in a matter of minutes.
- Azure Active Directory Domain Services: This service lets you remotely manage group policy, authentication, and much more. It enables enterprises to maintain a strong and secure network that can be moved with the ease of a few simple clicks. This is built using the same technology as Windows Active Directory.
- Virtual Machines: Microsoft Azure offers a plethora of existing templates to build your own Microsoft/Linux virtual machines in just a matter of minutes.
- Storage: Microsoft offers a very flexible pricing structure making it cost-effective to store their infrequently used data. Their data centers also allow you to leverage centers from across the globe to store and access all of your data.
- Application Services: Azure WebApps has made it super simple to create, manage, test, and deploy web applications with ease. You can leverage prebuilt APIs for popular services like Salesforce or the Office suite and scale your app in no time!
- Visual Studio Team Services: A developers’ sidekick, the visual studio team offers a complete application lifecycle management solution in the cloud. You can share and track code changes, perform testing, and deliver applications worldwide with ease.
These are just some of the many offerings that Azure provides in terms of cloud services. You can click here to explore their full range of services.
Microsoft Azure Vs. Amazon Web Services VS Google Cloud Platform
While there are one too many cloud providers in the market, to try and count for the race for the top has been reserved for three industry sharks, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. The whole world is moving onto the trend of using cloud services, and it is the way to go with the internet. The question is no longer why you should use the cloud but rather more of who should you choose when picking a cloud service provider?
While there are a bunch to pick from in this section right here, we will focus on all the offerings that differentiate the big 3: Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, to help you conclude which one is better for YOU!
Now when speaking of what sets them apart, there is a bunch of things to consider because, on the face of it, all three are great cloud service providers, in a highly competitive rivalry with each other, which means that as a customer, you are guaranteed to get almost all of the mainstream cloud services and be satisfied with their quality from either of the providers regardless of whom you choose.
Comparison at a glance
Microsoft: A very close competitor to Amazon, Microsoft is the runner-up leading cloud service provider in the market. With its years of experience working to help build professional tools to accelerate businesses, you might say Microsoft has an inside window into figuring out the needs of an enterprise. It completely understands the functionality of businesses and focuses heavily on providing seamless interoperability to businesses that are still keeping their roots attached with their private data centers.
What are some services offered by Microsoft Azure?
Here is a bunch of services that Microsoft Azure offers:
- Game and app development
- Scalable data warehousing
- Blockchain technology
- Big data and predictive analytics
Amazon: AWS is the leading cloud service provider. They were the first to market and enjoyed staying in the market without any competition, allowing it to establish its market share for quite sometime before Microsoft and Google came around. AWS is a powerful cloud platform, but its primary focus is on the public cloud, meaning interoperability is not the top priority at an Amazon data center if you are a private or hybrid cloud enterprise. Their cost structure can also be a little confusing for businesses to understand fully.
What kind of services would you find at Amazon Web Services?
Amazon offers a range of cloud services, and they are adding to this list quite frequently. Nevertheless, when you sign up for AWS, you are signing up for:
- Developer, engagement, and management tools
- Database and storage solutions
- Business productivity tools
- App integrations
- Machine learning and predictive analysis
Google: While Google was the last to enter the cloud market, they are a very well-funded enterprise in the competition. Compared to the other two, it does not focus on enterprise, but where it lacks in this, it more than makes up for its tech expertise. Google is an industry leader when it comes to deep learning, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
What kind of services would you find with Google Cloud Platform?
GCP offers relative ease of use and setup, making it easy for newcomers looking for cloud services. With GCP, you can find:
- App development
- SMB business analytics and AI
- Productivity and workload management tools
- Data management and storage
Here is a table that gives you an overview of the key differences between the three platforms:
Everything You Need To Know About Azure Certifications
Microsoft Azure is one of the most in-demand cloud service providers. The cloud industry is growing by storm, and Azure is one of the giants riding this wave. A Microsoft Azure certification can help you land a job working with Microsoft. Hence accelerating your career and providing you with a whole new field of opportunities.
Why get an Azure certification?
Like we just said, Microsoft is one of the fastest-growing cloud service providers in the industry. Getting certified with Azure opens up a whole range of opportunities and comes packed with benefits. Here are some top reasons to consider getting an Azure certification:
- Cloud is an ever-growing space; having an Azure certification opens up the door to more career options.
- It validates your learning experience.
- Flexible Career: These certifications allow you to explore a variety of roles. It is also a universally accepted certification, making it an ideal choice for individuals looking to travel.
- Attractive Salary Packages: Currently, the demand for cloud practitioners is very high. The starting packages for individuals with an Azure-specific certification are much higher than a generic certification. Microsoft is looking to expand its universe of developers.
- Safest career choice: Having a career in the cloud safeguards your future. All businesses are making a switch to the cloud. An Azure certification provides individuals with the opportunity to be a part of the future.
Now that we have covered all the reasons to get certified, let us deep-dive into Azure’s certifications.
What are the different kinds of certifications offered by Azure?
Cloud computing is a dynamic space that’s consistently evolving and expanding with technological evolution. This is why companies like Microsoft are consistently reviewing and updating their courses to ensure that these certifications are up to date and offer all the practical knowledge needed to work in the field of cloud technology.
Currently, Microsoft Azure offers 18 certifications that are divided into 19 exams. These certifications are spanned across 3 levels: Fundamental, Associate (Role-based), and Expert. They focus entirely on testing an individual’s familiarity, comfort, and expertise in cloud technology being used at Microsoft.
Fundamental Level Azure Certifications
- Microsoft Azure Fundamentals Exam AZ-900: The ideal certification for beginners looking to get their feet wet with cloud certifications. It helps non-technical candidates understand cloud services that span across areas like sales, purchasing, and marketing. It covers concepts like High Availability, Scalability, Fault Tolerance, Disaster Recovery, Scalability, and the difference between CapEx and OpEx. It also tests a candidate’s knowledge of regions, availability zones, Azure Resource Manager, architectural components, firewall, DDoS protection, describes Azure subscriptions and pricing plans.
- Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals Exam AI-900: Artificial Intelligence is gaining immense popularity. This certification tests a candidate’s knowledge of artificial intelligence and machine learning. It tests whether candidates can describe AI workloads, identify features of common AI workloads, and describe fundamental principles of machine learning on Azure. It also tests an individual’s knowledge of computer vision workloads on Azure and the ability to identify tools and services needed for NLP workloads and computer vision tasks. If you are comfortable describing features of conversational AI workloads and identifying common use cases, this certification is for you.
- Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals Exam DP-900: This exam covers concepts of core data such as relational and non-relational data and a candidate’s ability to implement them on Azure architecture. It tests knowledge of different core data workloads, data analytics, relational Azure data services such as PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS delivery models. It explores an individual’s ability to identify basic management tasks like provisioning and deploying relational data services and describing query techniques using SQL languages. It also focuses on non-relational data workloads, offerings, analytics workloads, and components of data warehouses. In summation, this certification is the perfect foundational course for anyone interested in data.
Associate Level Microsoft Azure Certifications
- Azure Administrator Associate Exam AZ-104: An updated version of Administrator AZ-103, this exam covers the knowledge and capabilities required to configure and manage compute, storage, virtual networking, and understanding of the Azure environment. This role tests role-based access control, Azure policies, and resources, managing storage accounts and data. Configuring virtual machines, virtual networking, backup, and monitoring Azure resources.
- Developer Associate Exam AZ-204: This certification tests an individual’s ability to design, build and test applications using Microsoft Azure. It requires 1-2 years prior experience in development experience and knowledge of data storage, Azure SDKs, monitoring, debugging, and performance tuning. It also tests an individual’s knowledge of IaaS services, implementation of Azure functions, ability to develop solutions for Cosmos storage and blob storage, knowledge of Azure security, and knowledge regarding developing applications and managing APIs.
- Microsoft Azure Security Engineer AZ-500: This certification fits individuals who can implement and manage security controls, identity, and access management. As a security engineer at Azure, you are expected to know how to manage and secure cloud-based solutions. It also looks into the ability to secure hybrid solutions. This exam is ideal for you if you have a strong aptitude for automation and scripting and are an expert in virtualization tech and networking.
- Azure Data Scientist DP- 100: This certification tests a candidate’s ability to apply Azure’s machine learning approaches in the evaluation, training, and deployment of models to solve business problems. It is meant for individuals who are well equipped to create and configure data science environments, transform data into usable data sets, and identify and solve any irregularities.
- Data Engineer DP-203(Replacing DP-200 & DP-201): To become an Azure certified Data Engineer; earlier, an individual had to clear two exams, the DP-200 and DP-201. There is one exam, DP 203, which is designed to implement data solutions related to the provisioning of data storage, batch data processing, implementing security and retention policies, and accessing external data sources. Individuals must use Azure’s storage spaces like SQL databases, Cosmos DB, and more.
- Database Administrator DP-300: Ideal for anyone looking to get into administering cloud-based database systems. This certification tests the ability to administer and manage relational databases on cloud and on-premises developed using Azure data services and SQL servers.
- Azure Network Engineer AZ -700: This certification exam measures your ability to accomplish the following technical tasks: design, implement, and manage hybrid networking; design and implement core networking infrastructure; design and implement routing; secure and monitor networks, and design and implement private access to Azure Services.
- Azure Stack Hub Operator AZ 600: Candidates for Exam AZ-600 are Azure administrators or Azure Stack Hub operators who provide cloud services to end-users or customers from within their datacenter using Azure Stack Hub.
- Azure AI Engineer AI-102: Candidates for this exam build, manage, and deploy AI solutions that leverage Azure Cognitive Services, Azure Cognitive Search, and Microsoft Bot Framework. Their responsibilities include participating in all phases of AI solutions development—from requirements definition and design to development, deployment, maintenance, performance tuning, and monitoring.
- Azure Data Analyst DA-100: The Data Analyst should have a fundamental understanding of data repositories and data processing both on-premises and in the cloud. Data Analysts enable businesses to maximize the value of their data assets by using Microsoft Power BI. As subject matter experts, Data Analysts are responsible for designing and building scalable data models, cleaning and transforming data, and enabling advanced analytic capabilities that provide meaningful business value through easy-to-comprehend data visualizations.
- Azure DevOps Engineer AZ-400: This certification is ideal for professionals capable of delivering cloud service by improving collaboration and communications, overseeing the design, and innovating new strategies for app coding. This role involves knowledge of automation. Candidates appearing should be well versed with Azure development and operations processes and proficient with Agile practices.
- Solutions Architect AZ-303 and AZ-304: The Solutions Architect exam requires you to pass two exams AZ-303 and AZ-304. This certification is meant for subject matter experts on implementing compute, storage, networking, and security on Microsoft Azure. A solutions architect must be proficient in gathering requirements, studying cloud infrastructure, and optimizing strategies.
Expert Level Microsoft Azure Certifications
- Azure for SAP Workloads AZ 120: Candidates for this exam should be architects or engineers with extensive experience and knowledge of the SAP system landscape and industry standards specific to the initial migration or integration and the long-term operation of an SAP solution on Microsoft Azure.
- Azure Virtual Desktop AZ 140: Candidates for this exam are administrators with subject matter expertise in planning, delivering, and managing virtual desktop experiences and remote apps, for any device, on Azure. Responsibilities for this role include deploying virtual desktop experiences and apps to Azure.
- Azure IoT Developer AZ 220: Candidates for this exam should have expertise in implementing the configuration and coding tasks required to create and maintain the cloud and edge portions of an IoT solution.
Pros and Cons of Using Microsoft Azure
Like any service or business on the planet, using Microsoft Azure’s cloud services comes with its own set of promises and struggles. While the benefits of using Azure supersedes its drawbacks on any day, being aware of these will help you realize whether or not the platform is the right fit for you!
- High Availability: Microsoft Azure offers high availability and redundancy in data centers across the globe. Thanks to this, they can provide service level agreements of 99.95%; in layman terms, this means they have barely 4.38 hours of downtime per year.
- Data Security: Azure spends many resources to ensure that its security standards are high. They have strong cyber security controls and have several compliance certifications, establishing them as a leading force in IaaS security. They provide multi-level protection, securing the end-user as well.
- Scalability: One of the primary reasons to switch to the cloud. Azure provides an elastic infrastructure making it easy for businesses to scale up or scale down their resources based on their requirements. This also provides businesses with the flexibility to pay for only what they use.
- Cost-Effective: Azure’s pay-as-you-go pricing model has made it extremely convenient for SMBs to manage their IT budgets. The cloud environment allows businesses to launch both internal and external apps in the cloud, saving companies the IT costs of investing in hardware and constant in-house maintenance charges.
- Complicated and requires expert management: Azure offers many products, and larger companies need to have a strict process to ensure that they can regulate their expenses. They also need to invest in a SaaS management solution, and someone trained to understand the cloud processes to manage Azure without any hassles.
- Data Transfer: Azure charges a data transfer fee on changing data between applications; this fee can add up and increase the cost over time.
- Support: Microsoft has a huge volume of customers, and providing individual attention is a struggle. Their cloud service team does face lags when dealing with technical issues.
To Sum It All Up: Here is Everything You Need To Know About Microsoft Azure
Microsoft is one of the leading companies in the world. As pioneers in the computer space of the tech industry, they have managed to stand out and provide stellar hybrid cloud solutions to businesses across the globe. Their experience with Xbox and the gaming industry has made Azure a top choice for tech companies invested in the gaming sector. Microsoft’s varied expertise across different business domains and ever-expanding global footprint give its competition a run for their money in the race to becoming the leading cloud service provider.
Microsoft Azure offers 200+ products, over 18 certifications, and countless more opportunities to accelerate your business and career by leveraging everything that Azure offers. To know more about cloud computing in general, make sure you check out our article here, and if you enjoyed reading this, make sure you check out the other two on Google and AWS to know more about their cloud service offerings.