Using data center and application infrastructures on the Internet with Azure
57 percent of the Fortune 500 companies already use the Microsoft service Azure to access their cloud services via the Internet. What might this kind of cloud solution look like? Eric Berg, Senior IT Consultant at SoftwareONE and Microsoft MVP, presents the three areas of the Microsoft cloud service Azure: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.
What does the cloud service Microsoft Azure actually offer?
To acquire a better understanding of the services behind Microsoft’s cloud service Azure, it is a good idea to divide cloud services into three fundamental areas:
Microsoft Azure: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IaaS means that companies use servers, storage, network and the other elements of the data center infrastructure as abstract, virtualized services via the Internet. The IaaS services provided are charged dependent on use. Nevertheless, users continue to control the operating system and applications. The IaaS model permits flexible adjustments (meaning more or less) in the scope of infrastructural use – via the Azure Portal – to meet current requirements.
IaaS products generally provide computing, storage and network infrastructure (firewalls, load balancers etc.). The services are typically delivered as virtual machines whose contents are controlled by the user. Therefore, IaaS displays similarities to traditional hosting: Enterprises use the host environment as a logical expansion of the in-house data center, but are required to maintain the corresponding servers in the same way as the ones installed in the company.
Microsoft Azure: Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a cloud computing model that provides more sophisticated cloud services in addition to hardware and operating systems. Here, Platform as a Service (PaaS) delivers the application infrastructure in the form of technical frameworks (databases and middleware) or even the entire development platform.
PaaS allows companies to create and implement customized applications as services. The underlying infrastructure (computer, VMs, storage and network) is hidden behind the services and interfaces for developers to allow them to concentrate fully on developing applications.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS providers deliver ready-made applications via the Internet. The SaaS applications can be used immediately or are modified individually to suit the installed systems. The Microsoft cloud services are on-demand applications based on a subscription model and hosted services, in which end users receive a uniform user experience across a variety of devices. Here, the company operates merely as an application user. Microsoft offers other products and services in this respect, for instance CRM Online, Office 365 or Microsoft Intune.
Microsoft Azure provides solutions for Internet-based "Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)" and "Platform as a Service (PaaS)":
In Microsoft Azure, companies use data center infrastructures such as servers, storage and network as services
In addition, they create and execute user-defined applications as services
Cloud services like Microsoft Azure: Where’s the value added?
How do companies actually benefit?
Let’s stick to the example of Microsoft Azure, as it offers an open and flexible platform for companies, allowing them to respond faster and to complete their tasks more effectively. To manage this, Microsoft operates huge cloud data centers on almost all continents. Companies can use infrastructures, platforms or software in these data centers. The services are charged dependent on use: So we only pay for what we actually consume. Precisely here is where we find the value added in cloud technologies. Whereas now we maintain hard and software in our own data centers to deliver the requisite performance in peak load periods, in future we will simply source the capacities we need on demand and only pay for what we actually use.
What’s more, the services are entirely streamlined. They can be handled exactly like a managed SQL instance if it is necessary to maintain control over the entire infrastructure.
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