What is Azure?

Explaining Azure in simple terms can be a minute conversation, but if you attempt to deep dive into various services, it can even take months. No kidding, I am serious!

Microsoft provides over 200 Services, and you would be spell-bound on the rate at which new features get added on a daily basis.

This blog post does not get into the weeds of each of the services,  but will cover few basic fundamentals that will help you understand the terminology and assimilate some of the technical jargon.

Before even starting on what Azure is, it is a good idea to talk a little about Cloud, as Azure itself is a Microsoft’s flavor of Cloud. There are many other Cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services, Akamai, CenturyLink, CSC, Dimension Data, Fujitsu, Google, IBM (SoftLayer),  Interoute,  Joyent, Rackspace, Verizon, Virtustream, VMware etc. and the list goes on…

So what is Cloud? Why companies want to be on Cloud? Why there are companies providing these services?

Technology plays a very key role in managing business operations and customer relations.

Following image demonstrates Azure replacing some or all of the On-Premise services.

Azure replacing On-Premise Services

Azure replacing On-Premise Services

Shift towards Cloud is not always about monetary reasons, it is also about ease of use and peace of mind.  This is one of the million reasons why companies are leaning more towards Cloud Computing and designing their own Cloud strategy.

Cloud has been a ubiquitously ambiguous. There is no true definition of what qualifies a company as a Cloud Service provider. For instance, one service provider may provide only half of the service provided by its competitors.

For instance, Rackspace does a very good job on providing IaaS services and they could provide solid references from their clientele for those services. Overall as a customer you would assume that these Service Providers would at least provide IaaS / PaaS services.

On a lighter note, you cannot run couple of servers off of your basement and call yourself a Cloud provider. In reality, you should be able to scale-up or scale-out dynamically catering to the demand, security, ability to adhere to SLA of 99.9%  up-time and much more. It is not an easy task. Cloud is a serious business!

Enough said, lets get started on some of the terminology used with in Azure and may be common to most of the Cloud Service providers.

1. Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud

Public Private and Hybrid Cloud Offerings

Public Private and Hybrid Cloud Offerings

2. IaaS, PaaS, SaaS

Following is just a thirty thousand foot view, explaining in detail would require a complete blog post by itself.

If you are interested in knowing more in depth please follow this article.

As a matter of fact, with the Cloud maturing day by day the differences are getting blurrier.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

3. Azure Services

Everything in Azure is termed as a ‘Service’. It could be a VM or Website or CDN (Content Distribution Network).

Azure services are categorized as show below,  to further explore please follow this article.

Azure Services

Azure Services

4. Azure Portals

Microsoft provides easy to use web portals to leverage their services. Usually there are two portals, one in production and one is New portal. The intention of the new portal is to keep up with the ever changing user experience demands and making it mobile friendly. They are both meant for the same purpose. Following are some of the key differences

  • Not all features are migrated into the new portal, some of them may be deprecated or merged with other features.
  • New Portal has RBAC (Role Based Access Management)
    • The current production portal does not have this feature, which means that if you are logged-in, you are an Admin. Scary!
    • With RBAC you can associate roles to the users to have read only, write , contribute or even delegate admin role.
  • More modern user interface, even more mobile friendly.
  1. Production URL: https://manage.windowsazure.com/

    Window Auzre Production Portal

    Quick Peek : Window Azure Production Portal

  2. Preview Portal: https://portal.azure.com/

    Azure Preview Portal

    Quick Peek: Azure Preview Portal

5. Subscriptions

Azure Subscriptions

Azure Subscriptions


6. Pricing Calculator

This is a very useful tool to price and configure Azure services for your scenarios. If you have a Pre-Paid subscription your credit status will appear as an overlay on top of window.

Credit Status

Credit Status

Following is the screen capture of pricing calculator, indicating how much it would cost to add ‘DocumentDB’ as a service.

Pricing Calculator

Pricing Calculator

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and hope this was useful!!


  1. Well documented information. As a newbie to Azure, I have found this post very useful. Thank you.

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