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|Initial release||October 27, 2008|
|Operating system||Linux, Microsoft Windows, iOS, Android|
|Type||Web service, cloud computing|
|License||Proprietary for platform, MIT License for client SDKs|
Microsoft Azure, often referred to as Azure (/ˈæʒər, ˈeɪʒər/ AZH-ər, AY-zhər, UK also /ˈæzjʊər, ˈeɪzjʊər/ AZ-ure, AY-zure), is a cloud computing platform run by Microsoft, which offers access, management, and development of applications and services through global data centers. It provides a range of capabilities, including software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Microsoft Azure supports many programming languages, tools, and frameworks, including Microsoft-specific and third-party software and systems.
Microsoft's cloud computing platform, Azure, was introduced at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in October 2008 under the codename "Project Red Dog". It was officially launched as Windows Azure in February 2010 and later renamed Microsoft Azure on March 25, 2014.
- Virtual machines, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) allowing users to launch general-purpose Microsoft Windows and Linux virtual machines, software as a service (Saas) as well as preconfigured machine images for popular software packages.
- App services, platform as a service (PaaS) environment letting developers easily publish and manage websites.
- Websites, Azure Web Sites allows developers to build sites using ASP.NET, PHP, Node.js, Java, or Python and can be deployed using FTP, Git, Mercurial, Team Foundation Server or uploaded through the user portal. This feature was announced in preview form in June 2012 at the Meet Microsoft Azure event. Customers can create websites in PHP, ASP.NET, Node.js, or Python, or select from several open source applications from a gallery to deploy. This comprises one aspect of the platform as a service (PaaS) offerings for the Microsoft Azure Platform. It was renamed Web Apps in April 2015.
- WebJobs, applications that can be deployed to an App Service environment to implement background processing that can be invoked on a schedule, on demand, or run continuously. The Blob, Table and Queue services can be used to communicate between WebApps, XYZ, iOS Software and WebJobs and to provide state.
- Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) allows you to quickly deploy a production ready kubernetes cluster in Azure. Azure is responsible for managing the control plane and customers get the flexibility to choose/scale the data place (kubernetes worker nodes).
- Azure Active Directory Connect is used to synchronize on-premises directories and enable SSO (Single Sign On).
- Azure Active Directory B2C allows the use of consumer identity and access management in the cloud.
- Azure Active Directory Domain Services is used to join Azure virtual machines to a domain without domain controllers.
- Azure information protection can be used to protect sensitive information.
- Azure Active Directory External Identities are set of capabilities which allow organizations to collaborate with external users including customers and partners.
- Mobile Engagement collects real-time analytics that highlight users’ behavior. It also provides push notifications to mobile devices.
- HockeyApp can be used to develop, distribute, and beta-test mobile apps.
- Storage Services provides REST and SDK APIs for storing and accessing data on the cloud.
- Table Service lets programs store structured text in partitioned collections of entities that are accessed by partition key and primary key. Azure Table Service is a NoSQL non-relational database.
- Blob Service allows programs to store unstructured text and binary data as blobs that can be accessed by an HTTP(S) path. Blob service also provides security mechanisms to control access to data.
- Queue Service lets programs communicate asynchronously by message using queues.
- File Service allows storing and access of data on the cloud using the REST APIs or the SMB protocol.
- Azure Communication Services offers an SDK for creating web and mobile communications applications that include SMS, video calling, VOIP and PSTN calling, and web based chat.
- Azure Data Explorer provides big data analytics and data-exploration capabilities
- Azure Search provides text search and a subset of OData's structured filters using REST or SDK APIs.
- Cosmos DB is a NoSQL database service that implements a subset of the SQL SELECT statement on JSON documents.
- Azure Cache for Redis is a managed implementation of Redis.
- StorSimple manages storage tasks between on-premises devices and cloud storage.
- Azure SQL Database works to create, scale and extend applications into the cloud using Microsoft SQL Server technology. It also integrates with Active Directory, Microsoft System Center and Hadoop.
- Azure Synapse Analytics is a fully managed cloud data warehouse.
- Azure Data Factory, is a data integration service that allows creation of data-driven workflows in the cloud for orchestrating and automating data movement and data transformation.
- Azure Data Lake is a scalable data storage and analytic service for big data analytics workloads that require developers to run massively parallel queries.
- Azure HDInsight is a big data relevant service, that deploys Hortonworks Hadoop on Microsoft Azure, and supports the creation of Hadoop clusters using Linux with Ubuntu.
- Azure Stream Analytics is a Serverless scalable event processing engine that enables users to develop and run real-time analytics on multiple streams of data from sources such as devices, sensors, web sites, social media, and other applications.
The Microsoft Azure Service Bus allows applications running on Azure premises or off-premises devices to communicate with Azure. This helps to build scalable and reliable applications in a service-oriented architecture (SOA). The Azure service bus supports four different types of communication mechanisms:
- Event Hubs, which provide event and telemetry ingress to the cloud at massive scale, with low latency and high reliability. For example, an event hub can be used to track data from cell phones such as coordinating with a GPS in real time.
- Queues, which allow one-directional communication. A sender application would send the message to the service bus queue, and a receiver would read from the queue. Though there can be multiple readers for the queue only one would process a single message.
- Topics, which provide one-directional communication using a subscriber pattern. It is similar to a queue, however, each subscriber will receive a copy of the message sent to a Topic. Optionally the subscriber can filter out messages based on specific criteria defined by the subscriber.
- Relays, which provide bi-directional communication. Unlike queues and topics, a relay doesn't store in-flight messages in its own memory. Instead, it just passes them on to the destination application.
Azure has a worldwide content delivery network (CDN) designed to efficiently deliver audio, video, applications, images, and other static files. It improves the performance of websites by caching static files closer to users based on their geographic location. Users can manage the network using a REST-based HTTP API.
Azure has 118 point of presence locations, across 100 cities, worldwide (also known as Edge locations) as of January 2023.
- With Azure Automation, users can easily automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, often prone to cloud or enterprise setting errors. They can accomplish it using runbooks or desired state configurations for process automation.
- Microsoft SMA
- Microsoft Azure Machine Learning (Azure ML) provides tools and ML frameworks for developers to create their own machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) services.
- Azure Cognitive Services by Microsoft comprise prebuilt APIs, SDKs, and services developers can customize. These services encompass perceptual and cognitive intelligence features such as speech recognition, speaker recognition, neural speech synthesis, face recognition, computer vision, OCR/form understanding, natural language processing, machine translation, and business decision services. Many AI characteristics in Microsoft's products and services, namely Bing, Office, Teams, Xbox, and Windows, are driven by Azure Cognitive Services.
Azure Blockchain Workbench
Through Azure Blockchain Workbench, Microsoft is providing the required infrastructure to set up a consortium network in multiple topologies using a variety of consensus mechanisms. Microsoft provides integration from these blockchain platforms to other Microsoft services to streamline the development of distributed applications. Microsoft supports many general-purpose blockchains including Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric and purpose-built blockchains like Corda.
Azure functions are used in serverless computing architectures where subscribers can execute code as an event driven Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) without managing the underlying server resources. Customers using Azure functions are billed based on per-second resource consumption and executions.
Internet of Things (IoT)
- Azure IoT Hub lets you connect, monitor, and manage billions of IoT assets. On February 4, 2016, Microsoft announced the General Availability of the Azure IoT Hub service.
- Azure IoT Edge is a fully managed service built on IoT Hub that allows for cloud intelligence deployed locally on IoT edge devices.
- Azure IoT Central is a fully managed SaaS app that makes it easy to connect, monitor, and manage IoT assets at scale. On December 5, 2017, Microsoft announced the Public Preview of Azure IoT Central; its Azure IoT SaaS service.
- On October 4, 2017, Microsoft began shipping GA versions of the official Microsoft Azure IoT Developer Kit (DevKit) board; manufactured by MXChip.
- On April 16, 2018, Microsoft announced the launch of the Azure Sphere, an end-to-end IoT product that focuses on microcontroller-based devices and uses Linux.
- On June 27, 2018, Microsoft launched Azure IoT Edge, used to run Azure services and artificial intelligence on IoT devices.
- On November 20, 2018, Microsoft launched the Open Enclave SDK for cross-platform systems such as ARM TrustZone and Intel SGX.
Launched in September 2020, Azure Orbital lets private industries and government agencies process satellite data quickly by connecting directly to cloud computing networks. Mobile cloud computing ground stations are also available to provide connectivity to remote locations without ground infrastructure. Third-party satellite systems, like SpaceX's Starlink and SES' O3b constellation, can be employed.
SES plans to use Microsoft's data centers to provide cloud connectivity to remote areas through its next-generation O3b mPOWER MEO satellites alongside Microsoft's data centers. The company will deploy satellite control and uplink ground stations to achieve this. SES launched the first two O3b mPOWER satellites in December 2022; nine more are scheduled between 2023 and 2024. The service should begin in Q3 2023.
According to Microsoft, using satellites to connect to cloud data centers may provide faster speeds than complex fiber routes. For online media, entertainment, or gaming activities, connecting from home to the cloud can involve longer routes with multiple hops. Through their experiments with Xbox Cloud, Microsoft has discovered that satellite connection is faster than terrestrial networks in certain parts of the world (including specific locations in the USA).
As of 2018, Azure was available in 54 regions, and Microsoft was the first primary cloud provider to establish facilities in Africa, with two regions in South Africa. Azure geographies consist of multiple Azure Regions, like "North Europe" (located in Dublin, Ireland) and "West Europe" (located in Amsterdam, Netherlands). Each Azure Region is paired with another region within the same geography, forming a regional pair. For instance, the locations of Dublin and Amsterdam create a regional couple.
Middle East cloud data centers
On June 19, 2019, Microsoft announced the launch of two new cloud regions in the United Arab Emirates – Microsoft's first in the Middle East. Microsoft's management stated that these new data centers would empower customers and partners to embrace the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and achieve more using cloud technologies.
Microsoft has partners that sell its products. In August 2018, Toyota Tsusho began a partnership with Microsoft to create fish farming tools using the Microsoft Azure application suite for IoT technologies related to water management. Developed in part by researchers from Kindai University, the water pump mechanisms use artificial intelligence to count the number of fish on a conveyor belt, analyze the number of fish, and deduce the effectiveness of water flow from the data the fish provide. The specific computer programs used in the process fall under the Azure Machine Learning and the Azure IoT Hub platforms.
Microsoft Azure utilizes a specialized operating system with the same name to power its "fabric layer". This cluster is hosted at Microsoft's data centers and is responsible for managing computing and storage resources and allocating them to applications running on the Microsoft Azure platform. It's a "cloud layer" built upon various Windows Server systems, including the customized Microsoft Azure Hypervisor, which is based on Windows Server 2008 and enables the virtualization of services.
The Microsoft Azure Fabric Controller maintains the scalability and dependability of services and environments in the data center. It prevents failure in server malfunction and manages users' web applications, including memory allocation and load balancing.
Azure provides an API built on REST, HTTP, and XML that allows a developer to interact with the services offered by Microsoft Azure. Microsoft also provides a client-side managed class library that encapsulates the functions of interacting with the services. It also integrates with Microsoft Visual Studio, Git, and Eclipse.
Users can manage Azure services in multiple ways, one of which is through the Web-based Azure Portal, which became generally available in December 2015. Apart from accessing services via API, users can browse active resources, adjust settings, launch new resources, and view primary monitoring data of functional virtual machines and services using the portal.
Regarding cloud resources, Microsoft Azure offers two deployment models: the "classic" model and the Azure Resource Manager. In the classic model, each resource, like a virtual machine or SQL database, had to be managed separately. But in 2014, Azure introduced the Azure Resource Manager, which allows users to group related services. This update makes it easier and more efficient to deploy, manage, and monitor resources that work closely together. The classic model will eventually be phased out.
History and timeline
In 2005, Microsoft took over Groove Networks, and Bill Gates made Groove's founder Ray Ozzie one of his 5 direct reports as one of 3 chief technology officers. Ozzie met with Amitabh Srivastava, which let Srivastava change course. They convinced Dave Cutler to postpone his retirement and their teams developed a cloud operating system.
- October 2008 (PDC LA) – Announced the Windows Azure Platform.
- March 2009 – Announced SQL Azure Relational Database.
- November 2009 – Updated Windows Azure CTP, Enabled full trust, PHP, Java, CDN CTP and more.
- February 1, 2010 – Windows Azure Platform commercially available.
- June 2010 – Windows Azure Update, .NET Framework 4, OS Versioning, CDN, SQL Azure Update.
- October 2010 (PDC) – Platform enhancements, Windows Azure Connect, improved Dev / IT Pro Experience.
- December 2011 – Traffic manager, SQL Azure reporting, HPC scheduler.
- June 2012 – Websites, Virtual machines for Windows and Linux, Python SDK, new portal, locally redundant storage.
- April 2014 – Windows Azure renamed Microsoft Azure, ARM Portal introduced at Build 2014.
- July 2014 – Azure Machine Learning public preview.
- November 2014 – Outage affecting major websites including MSN.com.
- September 2015 – Azure Cloud Switch introduced as a cross-platform Linux distribution. Currently known as SONiC
- December, 2015 – Azure ARM Portal (codename "Ibiza") released.
- March, 2016 – Azure Service Fabric is Generally Available (GA)
- September 2017 – Microsoft Azure gets a new logo and a Manifesto
- July 16, 2018 – Azure Service Fabric Mesh public preview
- September 24, 2018 – Microsoft Azure IoT Central is Generally Available (GA)
- October 10, 2018 – Microsoft joins the Linux-oriented group Open Invention Network.
- April 17, 2019 – Azure Front Door Service is now available.
- March 2020 – Microsoft said that there was a 775% increase in Microsoft Teams usage in Italy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company estimates there are now 44 million daily active users of Teams worldwide.
According to the USA PATRIOT Act, Microsoft has acknowledged that the U.S. government can access data even if the hosting company is not American and the data is outside the U.S.[contradictory] To address concerns related to privacy and security, Microsoft has established the Microsoft Azure Trust Center. Microsoft Azure offers services that comply with multiple compliance programs, including ISO 27001:2005 and HIPAA. A comprehensive and up-to-date list of these services is available on the Microsoft Azure Trust Center Compliance page. It's worth noting that Microsoft Azure has received JAB Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO) from the U.S. government under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) guidelines. This program provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud services used by the federal government.
The following is a list of Microsoft Azure outages and service disruptions.
|2012-02-29||Incorrect code for calculating leap day dates|
|2012-07-26||Misconfigured network device|
|2013-02-22||Expiry of an SSL certificate||Xbox Live, Xbox Music and Video also affected|
|2013-10-30||Worldwide partial compute outage|
|2014-11-18||Azure storage upgrade caused reduced capacity across several regions||Xbox Live, Windows Store, MSN, Search, Visual Studio Online among others were affected.|
|2015-12-03||Active Directory issues|
|2016-09-15||Global DNS outage|
|2017-03-15||Storage tier issues|
|2017-10-03||Fire system glitch|
|2018-06-20||Cooling system failure||North Europe region experienced 11 hours of downtime|
|2018-09-04||Cooling system failure due to inadequate surge protection (lightning strike)||Brought down numerous services in multiple regions for over 25 hours, with some services remaining affected until three days later|
|2019-05-02||DNS Migration Issue|
|2021-03-15||OpenID Key removal||Authentication errors across multiple services using Azure Active Directory for up to 16 hours|
|2021-04-01||DNS issue impacting multiple Microsoft services ||Worldwide DNS issues with Azure services|
A large variety of Azure certifications can be attained, each requiring one or multiple successfully completed examinations.
Certification levels range from beginner, intermediate to expert.
Examples of common certifications include:
- Azure Fundamentals
- Azure Developer Associate
- Azure Administrator Associate
- Azure Data Engineers Associate
- Azure Security Engineer Associate
- Azure Solutions Architect Expert
- Azure DevOps Engineer Expert
- Dave Cutler, Lead Developer, Microsoft Azure
- Mark Russinovich, CTO, Microsoft Azure
- Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of the Cloud and AI group in Microsoft
- Jason Zander, Executive Vice President, Microsoft Azure
- Julia White, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Azure
- Cloud-computing comparison
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- Microsoft Azure Dev Tools for Teaching
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