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Before we delve into the depths of Azure as a cloud platform, it is good to know that Azure comes jam-packed with a lot of features. Whether you’re a normal user, or a developer, you’ll have no problem in finding the features that are right for you. So what we’re going to try and do in this particular article is to cover a couple of primary features that would be common to a majority of the users.
A virtual network could be viewed as an overlap of a network that is built on another network – which means that only the virtual machines and services that are exclusively inside this network can contact each other, but outer services can’t. They are generally used to securely extend data centres, or to create a personal cloud virtual network.
Microsoft Azure lets the user create and manage Virtual Private Networks (VPN) that can do all of the above, and also has some additional features of its own. It can create a hybrid between your local machine and Azure’s Virtual VPN - which means that extending your workplace to the cloud is as easy as just setting up and connecting to a remote branch office, and the administrator can remotely control the network topology including the DNS configuration, and IP Address ranges. Hybrid cloud applications built using Azure’s virtual networks can securely connect to the on-site datacenter, thus granting secure access to the on-site SQL server databases using the Azure web application.
Debugging an application is extremely easy as well, as the Virtual Network creates a direct connection between the local machine and Azure’s Virtual Machines, and makes it akin to debugging a local system.
Azure also combines IaaS and PaaS service models – thus allowing the user to build services that depend on other Cloud services or VMs.
And according to their Service Law Agreement, Azure promises its users a 99.9% uptime for its VPNs, making it very attractive for the approximate charge of Rs.2 an hour with the ‘pay as you go’ plan.
COMMAND LINE AUTOMATION
Command line automation is a powerful tool that Azure provides. This tool enables you to automate the creation and management of Azure mobile services – which is very crucial for system administrators. Broad scripting and automation support is also provided for the developers and system administrators that require it.
Importantly, Azure also provides PowerShell cmdlets for managing various Azure resources, for developers who use Linux or Mac systems as well.
Therefore, with Azure the user can combine into a single script or file, the individual commands to automate, create and verify the process, thus automating the entire process of creating and managing mobile services as a whole. And with Azure, it doesn’t matter what the Operating System is – installing the Command Lines tools puts everybody on the same platform.
All that is required to do this is to have an Azure account that has the Azure mobile services features enabled.
One of the key benefits that Microsoft Azure delivers is the ability to rapidly scale the application in response to changes in demand. Azure has the ability to configure itself in a way that minimizes the cost for the computing performance that the application demands. Basically, when the user runs an application in Azure, the roles run as role instances (think of them as virtual machines), and these can be set depending on the number of role instances that the user wants – the more instances you have, the more computing power you have available, but the more it costs you. Azure’s autoscaling features comes into the picture here, where it configures it in a way that would optimize the performance for the user in terms of cost and computing power. Scaling an application can be done in two ways – average CPU usage, and Queue messages. The first one indicates that if the application uses more than the defined CPU power, it can automatically increase its resources. And the second one lets the platform be scaled automatically depending on the number of queued messages. Azure also allows for manual scaling keeping in mind that the priorities of different users would differ.
Frameworks bridge the gap between development and actual deployment. Microsoft Azure supports quite a lot of frameworks to work with, ensuring that the user can develop in the language most suited to him/her. Software Development Kits are freely available for applications running on PHP, .NET, Node.js etc. The frameworks that are supported by Azure are ever growing, and currently include the likes of Apache Ant, CentOS, Debian, Git, Joomla, Magento, Memcached, MySQL, Nginx, Ruby on Rails etc.
The plethora of features that Azure has to offer makes it an exciting proposition for any new user to take up.
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