The cloud is becoming ubiquitous as organizations across all industries are increasingly adopting cloud-first and cloud-only strategies, particularly utilizing Azure and AWS. The market is soaring, and is projected to reach a total of $214.3 billion by 2019. The cloud industry is dominated by several giants, one of which is Microsoft Azure.
Azure Is Too Complex and Time Consuming
A recurring concern is that it’s just too difficult. First-time users worry that it involves too steep a learning curve and that onboarding is a long, tedious, and complicated process.
The truth is that all technology has a learning curve, and absorbing new and challenging information is inherent in development and IT. That being said, Azure is not actually as complicated as it has been made out to be.
For starters, there are many management tools that can help simplify Azure. These include native Microsoft tools, third-party platforms, and open-source applications. Microsoft recently launched Azure Advisor, a cloud consultant which supplies users with free and personalized recommendations based on their needs. The service helps customers adhere to best practices to optimize their use of the cloud across many parameters such as security, high performance, and cost efficiency. Furthermore, Microsoft offers the support of specialists that can assist in anything from initial onboarding to full-blown managed packages.
Finally, Windows Admins and Windows Partners have some advantages when it comes to Azure. Azure offers native integration for Windows development tools such as Active Directory, SQL database, and VBS. Moreover, Azure Cloud Solution Provider (Azure CSP) offers Microsoft Partners an array of managed Azure services which can simplify onboarding and ongoing Azure management. This program can be extremely useful for new Azure customers who wish to set up and maintain an Azure environment, but do not want to devote extra resources to this task. Azure CSP allows partners an end-to-end ownership of customer lifecycle, either directly, or indirectly through a third-party provider.
It’s Not Secure Enough
A common misconception of Azure is that it is not secure enough for sensitive applications. In truth, Microsoft Azure can actually be configured to be more secure than local environments. Local data can be quite vulnerable and is subject to many threats, be it out-of-date anti-virus software, weak passwords, or improperly configured backups. Microsoft has established itself as an industry leader in data security and privacy protection, and users have this state-of-the-art security technology at their disposal.
Although Microsoft operates under a shared responsibility model, leaving the customer responsible for many aspects of security, Azure offers its customers a wide range of configurable security options which can ensure comprehensive security, both on-premises and in the cloud. These include built-in features as well as third-party solutions that integrate with Azure.
Azure’s technology spans many different layers of security, including infrastructure, customer data, applications, operations, storage, networking, compute, and identity. Azure’s platform has built-in protection against DDoS which automatically monitors traffic and mitigates attacks. Azure has also developed a number of tools for application security, one of which is Application Insights which detects performance anomalies. In the layer of data, Azure offers various tools for encryption of data both in transit and at rest. As far as identity and access management goes, Microsoft has also developed many security practices and technologies which include hybrid identity, multi-factor authentication, token-based authentication, and Active Directory identity protection, just to name a few. For network security, users are provided with various security capabilities such as network filtering and controlling access to and from your Azure Virtual Network. A great place to start exploring Microsoft’s vast security offerings is the Azure Security Documentation.
Finally, Azure Security Center offers users a holistic view of their security posture. This management system provides users with a single security dashboard equipped with log analytics, recommendations, and alerts.
Upon a closer examination, it would seem that not only will data be sufficiently secure, but it will probably be more secure than it was beforehand.
It’s Not Open-Source Friendly
Microsoft’s former hostility towards Linux in the early 2000s has contributed to Azure’s bad reputation when it comes to open-source. While this reputation still lingers among some, Microsoft has dramatically transformed its open-source policy under CEO Satya Nadella, endorsing Linux and investing in open-source technologies.
Linux now runs as a first-class citizen in Azure, and is becoming more dominant by the day. In 2017, Microsoft announced that 40% of Azure’s Virtual Machines run on Linux, and in 2018 this number increased to about 50%. A wide selection of Linux distributions are currently supported such as CentOS, CoreOS, Debian, Oracle Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise, openSUSE, and Ubuntu.
Azure’s new-found love for open source doesn’t end with Linux. It’s is now compatible with a broad range of open-source operating systems, programs, and languages, such as Python, Node.js, and Ruby, establishing the public cloud as an open and highly flexible cloud platform.
Microsoft has also begun to invest heavily in open-source projects and to make significant contributions to the open-source community. One such project deals with Kubernetes, an open-source container orchestration system. AKS (Azure Container Service) is a container service that enables quick and efficient deployment of Kubernetes clusters and lifecycle management, taking away the complexity of container orchestration and the dynamic scaling of infrastructure. As for the open-source community, GitHub crowned Microsoft in 2016 as its #1 open-source contributor, surpassing even Google and Facebook.
In sum, when you look at the facts, it’s extremely open-source friendly, and is getting friendlier by the day.
It’s Too Costly
Contrary to what some may believe, the public cloud offers competitive prices. Microsoft Azure has announced that it has reduced the cost of commodity services, including compute, storage, and bandwidth services, by up to 50%, matching their prices with competitors. In a comparison conducted in 2017, Rightscale found that the cloud’s hourly on-demand prices are consistently lower than other public cloud providers.
Besides its competitive prices, Microsoft Azure offers many services that help manage cloud resources and reduce costs. Azure has developed a set of monitoring tools, such as Azure Cost Management, which supply users with usage statistics, analytics, and insights to optimize their cloud resources. Having identified their sources of waste, companies can then utilize Azure’s many native tools to solve these issues. A wide selection of built-in autoscaling tools are provided which can help companies avoid over-provisioning. Microsoft also enables users to cope with idle resources by using scheduled shutdowns that start and stop VMs during off hours. DevTest Labs is another useful Azure tool for mitigating waste in the cloud. It allows developers to better manage Virtual Machines via scheduling, cost tracking, size, and number control, etc.
Finally, Microsoft Azure can actually save you money. Companies that use it currently, whether big or small, inherit Azure’s enterprise-level technology and capabilities, leading to faster deployment and greater infrastructure capacity. Azure alleviates developers from the task of infrastructure maintenance, allowing them to focus on projects with higher value to the company. In addition, Azure comes with a wide range of out-of-the-box technologies and services such as machine learning technology, cognitive services, and IoT which companies could never afford to develop in-house.
On-Premises Infrastructure Investments Will Be Wasted If We Move to Azure
Some organizations assume that in moving to the cloud, the time and money invested in on-premises infrastructure will be wasted. However, businesses that leverage Azure’s hybrid architecture will discover that this public cloud can actually benefit their local infrastructure. One of Azure’s biggest strengths is its hybrid cloud services. As opposed to the fear that the cloud will wipe out the good old in-house infrastructure and applications, the hybrid platform aims to create a unified environment, with a seamless extension between cloud and on-premises data centers. Azure’s hybrid network architecture supplies customers with different connectivity options, such as VPN and Express Route, which connect on-premises data centers to the cloud. This unified environment allows Azure’s capabilities to extend everywhere.
Platforms such as Azure Stack enable users to run workloads inside their on-premises data centers and apply most of its functionality to them. Moreover, hybrid backup and disaster recovery solutions are offered, such Site Recovery and Azure Backup, which can extend to all enterprise data, backing data up and ensuring it is easily recoverable. Another useful tool is Azure AD, which extends Microsoft’s identity and access management service to the cloud. Looking at all these tools and services, it becomes apparent that Azure is not meant to overthrow existing architecture, but is in fact designed to complement and enhance it.
With Azure My Compliance Standards Cannot Be Met
Finally, some believe that their company’s compliance standards will be compromised. What these companies fail to realize is that by turning to a global cloud provider they inherit their compliance certifications and standards. This is something that’s well worth inheriting. Azure upholds compliance standards for companies all over the world and across all major industry vectors. It has over 50 compliance certifications which include HIPAA, ISO 27001, ISO 27018, SOC 1, SOC 2, SOC3, FedRAMP, HITRUST, MTCS, IRAP, and ENS. Meticulous third-party audits have repeatedly verified Azure’s adherence to these strict regulations.
Azure, along with other cloud providers, operates under a shared responsibility model, which asserts that it is responsible for the security of the cloud as opposed to security in the cloud. In other words, Azure is responsible for security of its cloud infrastructure, while businesses must set their own security configurations, enforce compliance policies, identify misuse of data, etc. That being said, Azure does not leave its customers high and dry, but provides all the required guidance needed to achieve compliance certifications. For example, Microsoft has recently launched a regulatory compliance dashboard as a new component of ASC (Azure Security Center) that assesses and improves compliance posture. So when it comes to compliance, Azure can serve as your trusted and experienced ally.
Microsoft Azure is a big cloud stakeholder, and as such, is a big target for mistrust and criticism. As it turns out, however, many of these opinions are just myths, and it would seem that the myths have it backwards. Not only is Azure not damaging to your data security, compliance, existing architecture, budget, and general peace of mind, but it can actually vastly improve all these things. Those who use Azure benefit from Microsoft’s wealth of resources, knowledge, and technology. When reaching for the clouds, rather than constructing your own ladder, it can sometimes pay off to just climb on top of the mountain that’s already there. In that sense, turning to a big cloud provider is very much in the spirit of Newton’s recommendation to stand on the shoulders of giants, and Microsoft Azure is most definitely a giant.