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Microsoft Azure
Developer(s)Microsoft
Initial releaseOctober 27, 2008; 15 years ago (2008-10-27)[1]
Operating systemLinux, Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
TypeWeb service, cloud computing
LicenseProprietary for platform, MIT License for client SDKs
Websiteazure.microsoft.com Edit this at Wikidata

Microsoft Azure, often referred to as Azure (/ˈæʒər, ˈeɪʒər/ AZH-ər, AY-zhər, UK also /ˈæzjʊər, ˈeɪzjʊər/ AZ-ure, AY-zure),[2][3][4] is a cloud computing platform run by Microsoft. It offers access, management, and the development of applications and services through global data centers. It also provides a range of capabilities, including software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Microsoft Azure supports many programming languages, tools, and frameworks, including Microsoft-specific and third-party software and systems.

Azure was first introduced at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in October 2008 under the codename "Project Red Dog."[5] It was officially launched as Windows Azure in February 2010 and later renamed Microsoft Azure on March 25, 2014.[6][7]

Services

Microsoft Azure uses large-scale virtualization at Microsoft data centers worldwide and offers more than 600 services.[8]

Computer services

Identity

Mobile services

Storage services

Communication services

Data management

Messaging

The Microsoft Azure Service Bus allows applications running on Azure premises or off-premises devices to communicate with Azure. This helps to build scalable and reliable applications in a service-oriented architecture (SOA). The Azure service bus supports four different types of communication mechanisms:[28][29]

Media services

A PaaS offering that can be used for encoding, content protection, streaming, or analytics.[31]

CDN

Azure has a worldwide content delivery network (CDN) designed to efficiently deliver audio, video, applications, images, and other static files. It improves the performance of websites by caching static files closer to users based on their geographic location. Users can manage the network using a REST-based HTTP API.[32]

Azure has 118 point of presence locations, across 100 cities, worldwide (also known as Edge locations) as of January 2023.[33]

Developer

Managements

Azure AI

Azure Blockchain Workbench

See also: Confidential Consortium Framework

Through Azure[39] Blockchain Workbench, Microsoft is providing the required infrastructure to set up a consortium network in multiple topologies using a variety of consensus mechanisms. Microsoft provides integration from these blockchain platforms to other Microsoft services to streamline the development of distributed applications. Microsoft supports many general-purpose blockchains including Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric and purpose-built blockchains like Corda.

Function

Azure functions are used in serverless computing architectures where subscribers can execute code as an event driven Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) without managing the underlying server resources.[40] Customers using Azure functions are billed based on per-second resource consumption and executions.[41]

Internet of Things (IoT)

Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack HCI is a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) product that uses validated hardware to run virtualized workloads on-premises to consolidate aging infrastructure and connect to Azure for cloud services.[49]

Azure Orbital

Launched in September 2020, Azure Orbital lets private industries and government agencies process satellite data quickly by connecting directly to cloud computing networks. Mobile cloud computing ground stations are also available to provide connectivity to remote locations without ground infrastructure. Third-party satellite systems, like SpaceX's Starlink and SES' O3b constellation, can be employed.[50][51]

SES plans to use Microsoft's data centers to provide cloud connectivity to remote areas through its next generation O3b mPOWER MEO satellites alongside Microsoft's data centers.[52] The company will deploy satellite control and uplink ground stations to achieve this. SES launched the first two O3b mPOWER satellites in December 2022; nine more are scheduled between 2023 and 2024. The service should begin in Q3 2023.[53]

According to Microsoft, using satellites to connect to cloud data centers may provide faster speeds than complex fiber routes. For online media, entertainment, or gaming activities, connecting from home to the cloud can involve longer routes with multiple hops. Through their experiments with Xbox Cloud, Microsoft has discovered that satellite connection is faster than terrestrial networks in certain parts of the world (including specific locations in the USA).[54]

Regional expansion

As of 2018, Azure was available in 54 regions,[55] and Microsoft was the first primary cloud provider to establish facilities in Africa, with two regions in South Africa.[56] Azure geographies consist of multiple Azure Regions, like "North Europe" (located in Dublin, Ireland) and "West Europe" (located in Amsterdam, Netherlands).

Middle East cloud data centers

On June 19, 2019, Microsoft announced the launch of two new cloud regions in the United Arab Emirates – Microsoft's first in the Middle East.[57] Microsoft's management stated that these new data centers would empower customers and partners to embrace the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and achieve more using cloud technologies.

Research partnerships

Microsoft has partners that sell its products. In August 2018, Toyota Tsusho began a partnership with Microsoft to create fish farming tools using the Microsoft Azure application suite for IoT technologies related to water management. Developed in part by researchers from Kindai University, the water pump mechanisms use artificial intelligence to count the number of fish on a conveyor belt, analyze the number of fish, and deduce the effectiveness of water flow from the data the fish provide. The specific computer programs used in the process fall under the Azure Machine Learning and the Azure IoT Hub platforms.[58]

Design

Microsoft Azure utilizes a specialized operating system with the same name to power its "fabric layer". This cluster is hosted at Microsoft's data centers and is responsible for managing computing and storage resources and allocating them to applications running on the Microsoft Azure platform. It's a "cloud layer" built upon various Windows Server systems, including the customized Microsoft Azure Hypervisor, which is based on Windows Server 2008 and enables the virtualization of services.[59]

The Microsoft Azure Fabric Controller maintains the scalability and dependability of services and environments in the data center. It prevents failure in server malfunction and manages users' web applications, including memory allocation and load balancing.[59]

Azure provides an API built on REST, HTTP, and XML that allows a developer to interact with the services offered by Microsoft Azure. Microsoft also provides a client-side managed class library that encapsulates the functions of interacting with the services. It also integrates with Microsoft Visual Studio, Git, and Eclipse.[60][61][62]

Users can manage Azure services in multiple ways, one of which is through the Web-based Azure Portal, which became generally available in December 2015.[63] Apart from accessing services via API, users can browse active resources, adjust settings, launch new resources, and view primary monitoring data of functional virtual machines and services using the portal.

Deployment models

Regarding cloud resources, Microsoft Azure offers two deployment models: the "classic" model and the Azure Resource Manager.[64] In the classic model, each resource, like a virtual machine or SQL database, had to be managed separately. But in 2014,[64] Azure introduced the Azure Resource Manager, which allows users to group related services. This update makes it easier and more efficient to deploy, manage, and monitor resources that work closely together.[65] The classic model will eventually be phased out.

History and timeline

Azure logo used from 2010 to 2012, under Windows Azure name

In 2005, Microsoft took over Groove Networks, and Bill Gates made Groove's founder Ray Ozzie one of his 5 direct reports as one of 3 chief technology officers. Ozzie met with Amitabh Srivastava, which let Srivastava change course. They convinced Dave Cutler to postpone his retirement and their teams developed a cloud operating system.[66][67][68]

Privacy

According to the Patriot Act, Microsoft has acknowledged that the U.S. government can access data even if the hosting company is not American and the data is outside the U.S.[86] To address concerns related to privacy and security, Microsoft has established the Microsoft Azure Trust Center.[87] Microsoft Azure offers services that comply with multiple compliance programs, including ISO 27001:2005 and HIPAA. A comprehensive and up-to-date list of these services is available on the Microsoft Azure Trust Center Compliance page.[88] It's worth noting that Microsoft Azure has received JAB Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO) from the U.S. government under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) guidelines. This program provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud services used by the federal government.[89]

Security

In July 2023, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden called on the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Justice Department, and the Federal Trade Commission to hold Microsoft accountable for what he described as "negligent cybersecurity practices." This came in the wake of an alleged cyberattack orchestrated by Chinese hackers, who exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft's software to compromise U.S. government email systems.[90] Similarly, Amit Yoran, the CEO of cybersecurity firm Tenable, Inc., lambasted Microsoft for what he termed "grossly irresponsible" actions, accusing the company of fostering a "culture of toxic obfuscation."[91]

Significant outages

The following is a list of Microsoft Azure outages and service disruptions.

Date Cause Notes
2012-02-29 Incorrect code for calculating leap day dates[92]
2012-07-26 Misconfigured network device
2013-02-22 Expiry of an SSL certificate[93] Xbox Live, Xbox Music and Video also affected[94]
2013-10-30 Worldwide partial compute outage[95]
2014-11-18 Azure storage upgrade caused reduced capacity across several regions[96] Xbox Live, Windows Store, MSN, Search, Visual Studio Online among others were affected.[97]
2015-12-03 Active Directory issues
2016-09-15 Global DNS outage[98]
2017-03-15 Storage tier issues[99]
2017-10-03 Fire system glitch[100]
2018-06-20 Cooling system failure[101] North Europe region experienced 11 hours of downtime
2018-09-04 Cooling system failure due to inadequate surge protection (lightning strike)[102] Brought down numerous services in multiple regions for over 25 hours, with some services remaining affected until three days later
2019-05-02 DNS Migration Issue[103]
2021-03-15 OpenID Key removal[104] Authentication errors across multiple services using Azure Active Directory for up to 16 hours
2021-04-01 DNS issue impacting multiple Microsoft services [105] Worldwide DNS issues with Azure services
2023-06-09 DDoS attack on Azure Portal [106] An hacktivist group named Anonymous Sudan claimed to have done a DDoS attack on Azure portal, that caused an outage of the Azure Portal and some others Microsoft cloud services between ~15H UTC and ~17H30 UTC.

Certifications

A large variety of Azure certifications can be attained, each requiring one or multiple successfully completed examinations.

Certification levels range from beginner, intermediate to expert.

Examples of common certifications include:

Key people

See also

References

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Sources

Further reading