As organizations are discovering their potential to work remotely and enjoy the many advantages that come with it, there is one key component to making all this possible: cloud support services. Post lockdowns owing to COVID-19, nothing has ever been the same, needless to say. What’s more, in spite of lockdowns easing the world over, imminent second waves of the pandemic have confined many to their homes, resulting in business functions that are still far from normal.
Even for companies that aim to revert back to conventional, non-remote methods of working, there’s still a long way to go before absolute normal can resume the world over. Until then, remote work is something that still needs to be embraced, in order to keep the cog wheels turning. While a host of factors go in towards establishing a successful remote work environment, the right infrastructure is one that forms the base for it all. Leading cloud providers have therefore been on the forefront more than ever, either by providing proprietary solutions, or by facilitating external SaaS providers to offer services that help businesses stay productive.
With cloud service providers being at the heart of today’s digitized landscape, how is one to discern which provider is the most suitable depending on specific needs? Being steadily involved in the industry of software outsourcing in Sri Lanka, our experience in the field has taught us a thing or two about what clients are looking for, especially in terms of scalability and cost. While expanding with zero downtime is one of the topmost priorities, so is the ability to scale down when needed – and this can span towards a fluctuating arrangement too, which is often the case for many on-demand services.
With competition flooding between leading cloud service providers today, pricing plans have long since been optimized to reflect maximum cost efficiency, and still continue to be tweaked in order to offer a range of solutions that users can take their pick from, depending on what’s most affordable for the long term. On top of that, some providers also automate this process, which means that the cheapest plan is automatically activated depending on what is being used, when, where and how often.
Returning back to the question that pertains to the best cloud service provider, the answer to this is seldom straightforward, as it requires thorough contemplation on what matters, what the problems are, and what solutions can be implemented for producing noteworthy change. This article focuses on one such leading cloud provider, Microsoft Azure – and what it offers that makes it unique from the rest of its counterparts.
As an Azure partner, our experience in working with this Microsoft-based cloud computing arm is one that has been seasoned over the years – with a number of factors standing out amongst that of its competitors. While a stringent business assessment is compulsory for the task of choosing a cloud service provider that is ideal for your business, here’s a birds-eye view of Azure – and some valuable titbits that you can keep in mind while you source the right solutions.
At a time when leading cloud service providers are on their toes to precisely facilitate what their clients need, how is one to differentiate between what offers more value than the rest? In the case of Azure, it is Microsoft’s long-standing presence and overwhelming dependency on its operating system as well as its Office suite which forms the basis for its cloud arm to also gain leverage. With numerous organizations already relying on Microsoft Office, particularly Office 365, it is more convenient to migrate all cloud-based needs over to Azure, instead of an external provider.
But this doesn’t stop at cloud storage and real-time document access; Azure is replete with advanced offerings, including business intelligence and other analytics solutions. All this and more can therefore be seamlessly integrated to facilitate holistic enterprise functionality that blends in with changing business needs – without having to migrate outside that of the Microsoft spectrum.
What’s more, enterprises that are already bound by Microsoft’s agreements are entitled to discounts when it comes to Azure. This thereby makes the prospect of moving to Azure all the more enticing, which is a great way for Microsoft to retain its current clientele. While seamless integration with mainstream products is Azure’s biggest advantage when it comes to the world of cloud computing, it is also highly advanced in its endeavour for offering tight security over its services and data stored in the cloud.
With Security Development Lifecycle (SDL), this proprietary security framework has been continuously evolving to offer developers the most advanced safeguard measures for the applications they create. In operation for well over a decade, Microsoft has been one of the first to place an early emphasis on cloud security – making it highly trustworthy in terms of keeping all your valuable data and applications safe, as a result.
Lastly, applications developed with a .NET framework fall within favour of Azure – or need we say, the other way around? Again, this encourages compatibility, as .NET-based applications will be easily migrated over to Azure, as opposed to an external cloud provider.
As more and more applications are being developed according to microservices architecture, this shift has subsequently caused increasing demand for solutions that can facilitate containers and keep them running smoothly. This is where Microsoft Kubernetes comes in, as it offers pods (a collection of containers) along with services and deployment that brings in seamless functionality for microservice-based applications.
Microservices offer a whole host of advantages to its monolithic counterpart, mainly because each module functions independently. If a module is out of order, it can be fixed or replaced without affecting the other modules in the container. Since monolithic architecture features elements that are all intertwined with the same custom code, one change to one area of the code will demand a complete overhaul, as all other dependent areas (which shall most often be the entire application) will be affected.
Taking complete control of virtual machines that span across multiple zones, the Kubernetes API is sufficient to function as a moderator that regulates function across multiple containers which are housed within these virtual machines, while also scaling up and down as needed. Kubernetes is also versatile enough to manage containers outside the hosted platform, including both on-premise and hybrid. On top of that, Kubernetes takes things a step further by automatically monitoring the functionality of containers, and fixing as applicable. This makes Kubernetes an orchestration software that undertakes complete responsibility of not just maintaining smooth functionality, but also monitoring overall container health and ensuring it’s at peak condition.
A thriving open-source community includes developers that constantly create and release Kubernetes-powered extensions which further enable others to integrate into their own applications. In turn, this creates added autonomy since custom plugins are always being introduced, and the option to create a bespoke orchestration software is always within reach.
Albeit not being completely open to the public, Azure Quantum caters to select clientele in order to empower stronger and faster decision-making for some of the world’s greatest quandaries. Being open-source and uniquely customizable, this full-stack framework is replete with everything necessary across multiple application areas – optimization, machine learning and quantum simulation. The stack also comes complete with software tools and hardware (both classic and quantum-level). Additionally, its partnerships with IonQ and Honeywell further enable seamless integration, which makes existing applications based on these frameworks easily transferable over to Azure and its quantum computing technologies.
Again, this implies better integration from a basic enterprise level too, since the regular Office 365 Suite now has the potential to permeate to quantum computing, should an organization wish to entertain this. What makes Azure Quantum even more appealing is its capability to offer freedom on how one wishes to create their own version of quantum computing, together with all the readily available tools from Azure.
A NoSQL database service that contains APIs to other leading database repositories such as MongoDB and Cassandra, Cosmos DB is Microsoft Azure’s very own database facilitator that orients itself towards enterprise objectives across a multitude of industries. Starting off, Cosmos DB integrates with Azure Synapse Analytics to deliver AI-powered results on data, without compromising on regular operational performance. Cosmos DB also blends well with IoT, as it can tell devices what to do based on data gathered. This has worked wonders for the fleet management industry, as Cosmos DB delivers smart fleet management solutions that’s coupled with AI-backed analytics, once again.
On the retail front, dynamic databases are also able to influence e-commerce websites, recommending different products across different demographics in order to suggest products/services that are most relevant to customers. Again, this happens with zero downtime or latency, while also optimizing steady performance for users the world over.
With an ever-increasing demand for software applications, there’s no doubt that DevOps is a popular practice to follow. Enabling faster implementation, continuous delivery and operations to flow more smoothly between developers and system administrators, nurturing the otherwise conventional software development lifecycle with DevOps is something that is bound to streamline functions for developers, businesses and even end users.
Microsoft Azure is therefore at the top of its game even over here, with its suite of applications in Azure DevOps. Featuring Kanban-style applications to monitor throughput (Azure Boards), its testing platforms (Azure Test Plans) ensure all forms of testing are within reach, from within Azure itself. The DevOps offering also consists of seamless integrations with GitHub (Azure Repos) which is also free and unlimited for use.
As a result, developers have all the tools and assistance they need while creating from within Azure itself – removing the need to look elsewhere for a solution that will help track and test applications at scale.
As remote work environments continue to be the mode of work for companies across the globe thanks to COVID-19, the need for a stronger, faster cloud is also on the rise. After all, it’s cloud computing that is making remote work affordable and accessible even for companies that were functioning by otherwise traditional means. It’s no surprise that organizations are constantly on the search for a reliable cloud service provider, and cloud computing giants are subsequently vying to be the first choice for these organizations that seek the services they offer. While choosing a suitable cloud service vendor is a great undertaking that involves discussions and assessments prior to making the final call, paying some focus to one cloud provider that has been a leading name in the industry helps provide some perspective.
This leading cloud vendor is Microsoft Azure, and unlike its AWS and Google Cloud counterparts, it’s got a few good advantages to its favour. While it’s the best choice for existing Microsoft applications (especially those that are used on an enterprise level, such as Office 365), it is therefore easiest to migrate over to as it doesn’t involve transferring to an external provider. Add to that applications which are developed under the .NET framework (which is a Microsoft programming framework), integration here is equally seamless too.
While these happen to be the biggest advantages for Microsoft Azure, it’s also a power hub for some of the world’s leading technologies, such as quantum computing. Azure is never complete without mentioning Kubernetes, its software orchestrator that manages and monitors containerised applications created with microservices architecture. Last but not the least, Azure also provides a complete suite of DevOps tools that streamline development pipelines, by offering everything from Kanban-style boards to comprehensive testing tools, as well as integrations to leading code repositories such as GitHub.