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AWS admin working with Azure on project

Understanding Azure for the AWS Admin (Video)

AWS admins, are you interested in switching to Azure or setting up a multi-cloud operation?

Whether you want the enhanced availability and stability of multiple clouds or just want to switch, the following page will provide the information you need to know if you are considering switching from AWS to Azure Cloud. And, if you have any further questions, Agile IT is both Azure DevOps, and AWS certified and can help with both clouds.

Understanding Azure for the AWS Admin

Like all good cloud service providers, Azure has a variety of pricing and subscription levels depending on your need. Azure prices range from free to enterprise level. Their prices are significantly more affordable than comparable AWS services. Once you have selected the services you need, it is important to understand the difference between AWS and Azure accounts.

Azure accounts have an additional level of control through the use of subscriptions. Subscriptions can be assigned to new owner accounts and managed by subscription managers and co-managers. There is only one account owner (who controls billing) and subscription manager (who manages the entire subscription resources). There are multiple co-managers (who have administrative control but cannot change the subscription manager). And, like AWS’s IAM users and groups, Azure has lower level users who can be given access to specific parts of a subscription. Each user of an Azure cloud subscription will be associated with a Microsoft account or an Organizational Account.

Accounts and Data Management

Before we dive into the specific types of services and products are available on Azure and how they are similar to AWS, we will look at how Azure clouds are set up and managed compared to an AWS account.

Creating and Managing Resources

Like AWS, Azure defines any specific computing entity as a resource, whether that is a virtual machine, computing instance, etc. AWS groups resources together in multiple configurations. But, Azure’s resource groups form the foundation of any resource management within Azure. Therefore, each resource is only within one group. They can be moved between groups, but can’t participate in multiple groups like AWS.

Azure resources and groups are contained within a subscription, as discussed above. Because of the discrete approach to the subscription that Azure takes, every resource or group within that subscription is controlled through that one subscription. More diversity of groupings comes lower down in the Azure program within the higher-level subscription system.

Reach, Redundancy, and Regions

In order to protect against hardware failure, manage network latency, and reduce risk of regional failure, Azure instances are built and managed at multiple levels. The most basic level of redundancy is an availability set, the mid-level of redundancy is an availability zone and the largest level of redundancy is a paired region. An availability set is designed to prevent mostly hardware failures; the VMs share the same power source and network switch. An availability zone is designed to protect against the failure of a data center; each set in the zone has a separate power source and network switch. Finally, paired regions help manage data internationally and protect against a region-wide failure.

VMs within Azure cloud services are assigned update domains. This update domain is a group of machines that are all scheduled to update at the same time. Each VM within an availability set, availability zone, or paired region needs to be on a different update domain from others within the set, in order to prevent downtime on too many machines simultaneously.

Services

AWS admin Azure project

Azure’s services include computing instances, storage, networking, database services, security and identity, application and messaging, analytics and big data, the internet of things, and some mobile integration (3rd party apps will likely be needed, especially if you are looking to integrate SMS messaging functionality). In other words, Azure offers all the services that a full-service cloud can. Further, cloud managers can choose which services to implement based on their own unique project needs.

We will look at Azure’s computer services, storage, database, user management, and security, app messaging services, testing and DevOps tools, and big data and machine learning.

Computing in the Cloud

Azure’s compute services compare to AWS’s EC2 services. Azure VMs can be run on Windows or Linux OSs and VMs are charged by the second. Although AWS and Azure run the same types of instances, the amount of RAM, CPU, and storage is different. Compare the sizes of VM service for Amazon EC2Azure (Windows), and Azure (Linux).

VM storage is managed on Azure using data discs on blob storage, similar to Amazon’s Elastic Block Storage. In addition, Azure provides low-latency storage similar to Amazon’s EC2 through the temporary storage and Azure premium storage provides disk IO storage. Besides storage, Azure computing services also include serverless-in-the-cloud products similar to Amazon’s Lamda.

AWS Lamda’s functionality is delivered by several different Azure products. Azure Functions performs coding features, WebJobs manages background tasks, and Logic Apps provide the business communication management functions. Additional compute services from Azure include the capability to scale web servers with virtual machine scale sets, scale apps with app service autoscale, manage Docker containers with Azure Kubernetes Service. Further, services which AWS does not currently offer: Azure Batch for managing scalable virtual machines and a microservices management platform.

Storage

Azure’s basic storage subscriptions are for data (Blob Storage), NoSQL Databases (Table Storage), and workflow processing storage (Queue Storage). Blob Storage provides the same capabilities of Amazon S3 and EBS. Azure’s specialized storage systems include File Storage for legacy systems (similar to AWS EFS) and long term storage plans for low access data (Archive Blob Storage) or medium access data (Cool Blob Storage).

Azure’s storage systems are designed to focus on the type of data and relationships being stored while providing scalability in each type of subscription. AWS products like EBS and S3 are designed to complement each other’s structure and provide scalability. Because of this, the different storage systems within Azure handle entirely different types of data. The different storage systems within AWS handle different amounts of data.

Load Balancing on the Network

Azure’s networking and load balancing services are divided between VM load balancing and app balancing systems, similar to AWS Classic Load Balancer and AWS App Load Balancer. Besides Azure’s Load Balancer and Application Gateway, Microsoft also provides DNS management and traffic balancing, and the Express Route service for site-to-site VPN connections.

Database Services

AWS has Relational Database Service (RDS); Azure has SQL Database, Azure Database for MySQL, and Azure Database for PostgreSQL. Since a database is not run like a server (RAM, CPU, and storage), the costs for Azure database services are based on the size of the database, the numbers of connections and the throughput levels. Additional information for Azure Databases, including Quickstart tutorials and advanced documentation can be found at Microsoft.

Security and Identity

Azure provides database user access through the Azure Active Directory. There are several subcategories of the Active Directory service, including one for B2C and one for B2B applications. In addition to the user management security services, Azure has its own firewall service,  Application Gateway Web Application Firewall, and is compatible with 3rd Party Firewall vendors via a VM service.

Application and Messaging Services

Azure has a simple email messaging service but also uses 3rd party email apps for many subscriptions. Azure’s focused messaging services, Queue Storage and Service Bus provide cloud managers the ability to build communications between apps, networks, software, and other services. These provide the same functionality as Amazon Simple Queueing Service (SQS). For application testing services, Xamarin Test Cloud offers front end mobile testing services and Azure DevTest Labs offers back end testing systems.

These communication systems are also great tools for implementing a change control for an infrastructure plan that will track changes within the Azure cloud and record them within a separate database. The Service Bus messaging system is useful for creating automatic messaging and tracking necessary for a quality change control system.

Analytics and Big Data

Microsoft packaged the Cortana Suite for use as Azure’s big data, analytics, and machine learning service platform. As such, it provides levels of services depending on a cloud manager’s needs and specific aspects of the Cortana Suite can be added to other Azure packages as needed.

The Cortana Suite provides machine learning, AI apps and bots, deep analytics, and even powers the Azure search function.

Additional Packaged Items

There are additional services that can be tailored to Azure such as IoT development and mobile cloud services. Some businesses use Azure as an additional form of redundancy against AWS while other businesses migrate completely over to Azure.

Learn More About Azure for the AWS Admin

If your team is considering porting over from AWS to Azure or adding Azure to your cloud, an Azure Hackathon is also a great way to get a feel for the cloud services and develop some of the first infrastructures your team will need to run your business on Azure. Finally, Agile IT is both Azure DevOps and AWS Certified and can help with both clouds. If your team will need help moving from AWS to Microsoft Azure, then please request a quote today.



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