Microsoft Azure, formerly known as Windows Azure, is Microsoft’s public cloud computing platform. It provides a range of cloud services, including those for compute, analytics, storage and networking. Users can pick and choose from these services to develop and scale new applications, or run existing applications, in the public cloud.
Azure products and services
As of July 2018, Microsoft categorizes Azure cloud services into 18 main product types:
Compute — These services enable a user to deploy and manage virtual machines (VMs), containers and batch processing, as well as support remote application access.
Web — These services support the development and deployment of web applications, and also offer features for search, content delivery, application programming interface (API) management, notification and reporting.
Data storage — This category of services provides scalable cloud storage for structured and unstructured data and also supports big data projects, persistent storage (for containers) and archival storage.
Analytics — These services provide distributed analytics and storage, as well as features for real-time analytics, big data analytics, data lakes, machine learning, business intelligence (BI), internet of things (IoT) data streams and data warehousing.
Networking — This group includes virtual networks, dedicated connections and gateways, as well as services for traffic management and diagnostics, load balancing, domain name system (DNS) hosting, and network protection against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
Media and content delivery network (CDN) — These services include on-demand streaming, digital rights protection, encoding and media playback and indexing.
Hybrid integration — These are services for server backup, site recovery and connecting private and public clouds.
Identity and access management (IAM) — These offerings ensure only authorized users can access Azure services, and help protect encryption keys and other sensitive information in the cloud. Services include support for Azure Active Directory and multifactor authentication (MFA).
Internet of things — These services help users capture, monitor and analyze IoT data from sensors and other devices. Services include notifications, analytics, monitoring and support for coding and execution.
Security — These products provide capabilities to identify and respond to cloud security threats, as well as manage encryption keys and other sensitive assets.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning — This is a wide range of services that a developer can use to infuse machine learning, AI and cognitive computing capabilities into applications and data sets.
Migration — This suite of tools helps an organization estimate workload migration costs, and perform the actual migration of workloads from local data centers to the Azure cloud.
Mobile — These products help a developer build cloud applications for mobile devices, providing notification services, support for back-end tasks, tools for building APIs and the ability to couple geospatial (location) context with data.
Management — These services provide a range of backup, recovery, compliance, automation, scheduling and monitoring tools that can help a cloud administrator manage an Azure deployment.
Azure for DR and backup
Just as they can with other public cloud platforms, some organizations use Azure for data backup and disaster recovery (DR). In addition, some organizations use Azure as an alternative to their own data center. Rather than invest in local servers and storage, these organizations choose to run some, or all, of their business applications in Azure.
To ensure availability, Microsoft has Azure data centers located around the world. As of July 2018, Microsoft Azure services are available in 54 regions, spread across 140 countries. As not all services are available in all regions, Azure users must ensure that workload and data storage locations comply with all prevailing compliance requirements or other legislation.