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Research of Azure Cloud Services

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Abstract

The Advancement to Technology is endless and, in this report, we are going to understand the advancement in cloud computing with Azure as an example and its ICT infrastructure and related applications which include Advanced data handling, cloud computing, distributed computing, intelligent agents, software-as-a-service. In this report we will try to understand the Cloud Services offered by Azure and its functioning and also its requirement by its user Microsoft as a case study. AWS being one of the major players in the Cloud Computing market we will also be comparing the services of Azure with that of AWS. This will help us in understanding the different Cloud providers better and also help us with a case study where the customer has had a good experience in using the cloud.

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Keywords: Resource, Azure Cloud Services, Data, Scalability

Introduction

Just to provide a short introduction to Azure Cloud Service, like most other Cloud service providers, Azure is used to Build, Test, Deploy and Manage Applications through a global network of data Centers managed by Microsoft. Basically, the entire structure of the Azure Cloud Service involved servers operating at the many data centers over the world. The Cloud Service mainly uses a technology called as Virtualization, where in the user can access / control various devices including virtual computer hardware platforms, storage devices, and computer network resources remotely and without the requirement for the heavy investment used to obtain the hardware. (“Microsoft Azure Cloud Computing Platform & Services,” n.d.) This feature is said to be achieved by a software called as Hypervisor which is used to create and run virtual machines or databases. These devices may be compatible with any OS such as Windows or Linux. Azure provides various services such as, software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and also supports many different programming languages, tools and frameworks, including both Microsoft-specific and third-party software and systems.

Microsoft Azure Currently has 54 Worldwide Regions which covers up to 140 countries Worldwide.(“Microsoft Azure Cloud Computing Platform & Services,” n.d.) and each data center consists of many racks of servers. One Server in every Rack will contain a software known as a Fabric Controller. The Azure Fabric Controller is a part of the Azure platform that monitors and manages servers and also helps to coordinates resources for software applications (“What is Windows Azure Fabric Controller (FC)? – Definition from WhatIs.com,” n.d.). The fabric controller is a distributed application with a many number of responsibilities. It allocates services, monitors or manages the health of the server and the services running on it, and revives the servers when they fail Hence an introduction to Azure Cloud Services.

The number of Regions available in Azure as per https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/global-infrastructure/regions/

Research Background/ Literature Review

(“Global transport and logistics company goes digital to transform its operations,” n.d.)Technology advancement has a lot of advantages and we can see that with Maersk which is one of the largest companies when it comes to Transport, Logistics and energy sectors. The company serves customers through 374 offices in 116 countries and had all its data in about 5 regional data centers namely in Europe, Asia and the United States thereby, preventing full access by all its employees across the globe. At the same time, due to the high number of customers and data, these datacenters had actually reached their full capacity which limited their growth. There were other problems like service outages and latency which hampered the production from an employee point of view.

Maersk was also concerned about the security of the data and were looking for a more secure option for the entire data.

In order to secure the company’s position and to avoid taking risk, the company had decided to withdraw from service, all of its regional datacenters within a year which was not an easy task considering the 80 business applications and 14.4 million files of users that they had housed.

Maersk by moving its datacenters to the Azure cloud platform, has now ended its use of old technology while decreasing the operating costs, significantly. It has also reduced its on-premises security risks, they by, taking advantage of the tight physical and operational security that Microsoft Azure datacenters provide, which means that there is an option for disaster recovery.

Hence, we can observe that when Maersk were operating on their own datacenters, they were left with many disadvantages such as server outages, latency, storage limit etc. Now that they have migrated to the cloud, they enjoy better reliability, better performance, larger scalability which can be changed anytime and this has improved the performance from an employee point of view and they are confident that the data is disaster proof.

3. Body/Content

As mentioned in the Introduction, Azure is used to Build, Deploy and Manage services. It uses the Technology called Virtualization which refers to the action of building a virtual version of something, along with the virtual computer hardware platforms, storage devices, and computer network resources. This is achieved with a Hypervisor which is something like an emulation of the Virtual Machine (VMs). The devices can run any compatible OS such as Windows or Linux. Each Data Centre Consists of many Servers arranged in racks. The servers are connected by a network switch and only one server in each rack will contain a software called as Fabric Controller.

The above illustration shoes us how the servers are connected to the VM and how they can be used

The Azure Fabric Controller (FC) is the part of the Windows Azure platform that monitors and manages servers and coordinates resources for software applications. The fabric controller is a distributed application with many responsibilities. It allocates services, monitors the health of the server and the services running on it, and heals servers when they fail. Each Azure Fabric Controller is connected to an Orchestrator which manages everything in azure, including responding to user requests. Running the server without much control and using too many resources may result in higher costs and security concerns, which is why we use the Azure Resource Manager

Azure Resource Manager:

Azure Resource Manager API

Resource Manager is a consistent management layer in order to perform tasks through Azure PowerShell, Azure CLI, Azure portal, REST API, and client SDKs. All capabilities that are available in the Azure portal are also available through Azure PowerShell, Azure CLI, the Azure REST APIs, and client SDKs. Functionality initially released through APIs will be represented in the portal within 180 days of initial release. The following image shows how all the tools interact with the same Azure Resource Manager API. The API passes requests to the Resource Manager service, which authenticates and authorizes the requests. Resource Manager then routes the requests to the appropriate resource providers.

To understand the services of Microsoft Azure which was previously known as Windows Azure, is Microsoft’s public cloud computing platform. It does provide a wide range of cloud services which includes those for compute, analytics, storage and networking. Users can pick and choose from these given services to help develop and scale new applications, or run existing applications, in the public cloud. Microsoft Azure is considered widely, both as Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering Service.

Below listed are some of Azure products and services: –

As of July 2018, Microsoft categorized Azure cloud services into 18 main types:

Compute — This service enables a user to deploy and manage the virtual machines (VMs), containers and batch processing and to support remote application access.

Web – This service is used to support the development and deployment of web applications, and also offer features used for search, content delivery, application programming interface (API) management, notification and reporting. API is also a User interface, enabling the user to communicate with the VMs.

Data storage — This category of service provides a scalable cloud storage for structured and unstructured data and also supports big data projects, persistent storage (for containers) and archival storage.

Analytics — This service provide distributed analytics and storage, as well as the features for real-time analytics, big data analytics, data lakes, machine learning, business intelligence (BI), internet of things (IoT) data streams and data warehousing.

Networking — This group of service includes virtual networks, dedicated connections and gateways, and also for services for traffic management and diagnostics, load balancing, domain name system (DNS) hosting, and network protection against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

Media and content delivery network (CDN) – This service includes an on-demand streaming, digital rights protection, encoding and media playback and indexing. Which are mainly used for video hosting companies.

Hybrid integration — This is a service for server backup, site recovery and connecting with private and public clouds.

Identity and access management (IAM) – This service ensure that only authorized users can access Azure services, and can help protect encryption keys and other sensitive information in the cloud. Services include support for Azure Active Directory and multifactor authentication (MFA).

A look at the technology behind the Azure cloud.

Internet of things — This service helps users capture, monitor and analyze IoT data from sensors and other devices, remotely. Services include notifications, analytics, monitoring and support for coding and execution.

Development — These services help application developers share code, test applications and track potential issues. Azure supports a wide range of application programming languages, including JavaScript, Python, .NET and Node.js. Tools in this category also include support for Visual Studio, software development kits (SDKs) and blockchain.

Security — These products provide capabilities to identify and respond to cloud security threats, as well as manage encryption keys and other sensitive assets.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning — These are a wide range of services that a developer can use in order to combine machine learning, AI and cognitive computing capabilities into applications and data sets.

Containers – This service helps an enterprise create, register, orchestrate and manage huge volumes of containers in the Azure cloud, using common platforms such as Docker and Kubernetes.

Databases — This category includes Database as a Service (DBaaS) offerings for SQL and NoSQL, as well as other database instances, such as Azure Cosmos DB and Azure Database for PostgreSQL. It also includes SQL Data Warehouse support, caching, and hybrid database integration and migration features.

DevOps — This group of services provides project and collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services, that facilitate DevOps software development processes. It also offers features for application diagnostics, DevOps tool integrations, and test labs for build tests and experimentation.

Migration — This set of tools helps an organization estimate workload migration costs, and then also helps perform the actual migration of workloads from local data centers to the Azure cloud.

Mobile — This product helps an application developer build cloud application for mobile devices, providing notification services, support for back-end tasks, tools for building APIs and the ability to couple geospatial (location) context with data.

Management – These range of services provide a range of backup, recovery, compliance, automation, scheduling and monitoring tools that can help a cloud administrator manage an Azure deployment.

Research Outcomes/Comparisons

The outcome from this research was to do a case study on how the cloud services affects a business and with the example of the company Maersk we could see how their business was transformed. Below is a detailed description of the outcomes of migrating to the cloud.

Better performance with less risk.

By migrating its regional datacenters to the Azure platform, Maersk has ended its dependance on outdated hardware, spending significantly less on operational costs. It has also mitigated its on-premises security risks, taking advantage of the tight physical and operational security that Microsoft datacenters provide.

Maersk also enjoys an excelling performance and scalability, which has significantly improved employee productivity and has readied the company for future growth. With the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model it is easier to scale up and down based on the needs of the respective business units said the director.

With its migration to Azure, Maersk has found a way to merge cloud-based data once stored in its regional datacenters with data still housed on-premises—making it possible to obtain a far better visibility into information across the company.

The intelligence needed for optimal performance

Maersk is using the deeper intuitiveness gained from its advanced data flow to transform its operations. With the ability to better predict maintenance needs, for example, the company plans to take proactive actions that reduce the nearly 4 million repairs carried out on its container vessels each year.

The greater insights also lead to innovative customer products and services that generate new revenue streams. For example, the company’s global logistics firm Damco helps its customers better track product deliveries—identifying supply chain disruptions such as bad weather, container ship crashes, and railway strikes—so they can spot potential problems and keep their goods moving even when something goes wrong.

Chief Supply Chain Officer at Damco says that the service not only helped in their business needs, but also to help us develop insights into data, technology, and the best ways to bring serve customers.

Maersk believes that the power of the cloud will eventually save the company of about tens of millions of dollars each year, based on the accomplishment of Microsoft Enterprise Services, Maersk has recently selected Microsoft as its preferred cloud partner for its larger digital transformational journey. Maersk is banking on Microsoft to fuel its growth by fueling the company’s global logistics across the globe and enabling it to create digital products and services across all of its brands.

Comparison with AWS

Conclusion and Recommendations

In conclusion it is observed that the company Maersk has benefited from migrating to the cloud and has improved their performance port the migration.

References

Microsoft Azure Cloud Computing Platform & Services. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/

What is Windows Azure Fabric Controller (FC)? – Definition from WhatIs.com. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2018, from https://searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/definition/Windows-Azure-Fabric-Controller

Global transport and logistics company goes digital to transform its operations. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2018, from https://customers.microsoft.com/en-us/story/maersk-travel-transportation-microsoft-services

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