Windows Azure upgrades

With Cloud Computing becoming ever more popular, I thought it worth a review of the progress Microsoft have been making on the Windows Azure product. There are a great and ever growing number of service offerings from Windows Azure, i’ll attempt to take you over some of the key ones here and my personal experience with them.

  • Virtual Machines – Otherwise known as IaaS provides a managed operating system image running on Microsoft’s Azure cloud technologies (essentially a huge HyperV cluster). The Virtual Machines is deployed from a library of both Microsoft and Open Source operating systems and with a selection of server software or roles preinstalled. Everything from a Linux web server to a Microsoft SQL server. Server can be paired in availibility groups to ensure high availibility and services such as web sites delivered via EndPoints that can then be load balanced.
  • Cloud Services – Web and Worker roles to host your application or web site without having to worry about high availbility and managing servers.
  • Web Sites – Host a web site on Azure for free, or pay for the additional features. Pretty good value if you ask me!
  • Mobile Services – bring your app alive with daat services on Azure to deluver rich and up to date content to your mobile apps. Supports Windows Store/Phone, Android and iOS applications.
  • Backup – use Windows Azure for all of your off site backup needs. Using the Windows Azure Backup agent on any Windows server or via DPM, you can store all of your critical data in the cloud using enterprise class storage and redundancy.
  • Media Services – stream rich media content to your clients using windows media services on Azure.
  • Authentication services – including multi-factor authentication to manage access to your applications and services.

Windows Azure has more features connecting each of the above with some great flexibility. Recently we received an email from the Azure team asking why the replication to our backup had stopped and offering to assist us in finding the root cause. We hd not contact them and Azure Backup only went to GA last week.

Based on our calculations we will be making savings of up to $80k per year in hosting costs!

Below is a quick comparison I worked on for a recent project. We evaluated all of the top cloud providers of today and Windows Azure came out on top: (All prices calculated @ 22/08/13 based on closest match configuration)

Provider Pros Cons Monthly Cost
Azure Local data centers on the way, great benefits through our partner status, successful testing of connectivity, easy to use management portal, very rapid scaling & provisioning, excellent support of Microsoft Software. $0 setup fees, standard price for all regions. 99.95% SLALocations:US (West, East), Asia (East, Southeast), Europe (West, North), AU (Sydney, Melb)* *No AU data centers yet, not likely open to custom requests. $133AU
Amazon Local Data Centres ready to go, maturity, low cost, local support, rapid scaling. $0 setup fees 99.95% SLALocations:AU(Sydney), US (East and West), Ireland, South America No benefits, not a good with Microsoft software stack, more open source, management portal tricky to understand and use, testing has proved tricky to provide connectivity. Price varies depending on region. $211AU
Rackspace Local data centers ready to go, local support. 100% SLALocations:North America (TX, IL, VA), UK (London, Slough), Hong Kong, Sydney High cost, slow support, lack of manageability and flexibility. No rapid scaling. High cost compared to Azure and AWS.  Setup fees. $274AU

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