Digital transformation, cost savings, flexibility, and modernization—these are just a few of many reasons enterprises are investing more into the cloud. More specifically, more companies are prioritizing leveraging public cloud environments. RightScale’s 2019 State of the Cloud Report shows that public cloud adoption is up 91% and that the public cloud is the top priority of 31% of enterprises.

With public cloud adoption on the rise amongst so many enterprises, it’s important for decision makers to understand what their options are among cloud service providers (CSPs). So, we’re continuing our Security in the Public Cloud series today with some need-to-knows about Microsoft’s public cloud offering, Azure.

What is Azure?

Similar to Amazon Web Services (AWS)—and a close competitor in terms of market share—Azure is Microsoft’s public cloud computing platform, offering a range of services in 18 main product categories such as compute, analytics, storage, and networking. Officially launched in 2010, Azure is widely considered both a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, while also offering Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) capabilities.

Unlike AWS, however, Microsoft’s unique strength is that Azure was born from its on-premises software that was repurposed for the cloud. Knowing that organizations often leverage hybrid cloud environments, Azure integrates well with data centers.

Azure’s commitment to hybrid cloud environments extends to its product offerings as well. According to TechTarget, “Microsoft Azure Stack is an integrated platform of hardware and software that delivers Microsoft Azure public cloud services in a local data center to let organizations construct hybrid clouds.” Azure Stack allows developers to build, test, and deploy applications locally before pushing them to the Azure public cloud environment. The service also assists companies in meeting regulatory and compliance standards, as well as potentially avoid public cloud issues, such as connectivity or latency problems.

Another notable Azure offering is its serverless computing capability, known as Microsoft Azure Functions. This service is designed to accelerate and simplify application development. Software developers and other IT team members use Azure Functions to lessen the need to provision, manage, and pay for long-term compute resources in the cloud. As with any cloud service, it’s important to have proper security measures in place to ensure legitimate users are the only ones deploying and administering functions.

Speaking of security, as with most CSP’s, Microsoft’s Azure Security Center helps organizations strengthen their security posture and protects against threats facing both on-premises and hybrid cloud workloads. Azure Security Center helps customers address three of the most pressing security challenges—rapidly changing workloads, increasingly sophisticated attacks, and the cybersecurity skills gap. Furthermore, this feature helps organizations manage their security policy and meet compliance standards.

Although Azure Security Center provides faster and stronger security for your cloud environment, you can’t rely solely on your CSP for protection. The responsibility of securing your cloud environment is just as much yours as it is Microsoft’s. Shared responsibility means Azure is responsible for protection of the cloud; customers are responsible for protecting data in the cloud.

Benefits and Downsides of Azure

Just like AWS, Microsoft Azure also has global reach, scalability and a competitive pay-as-you-go model. However, it’s Microsoft’s mission to grow customer loyalty and have your back during a misstep that highlights some of Azure’s biggest benefits.

Considering Microsoft’s long history of enterprise expertise, Azure is often an easy choice for enterprises, especially those already deploying other Microsoft software. As expected, the cloud service platform seamlessly interoperates with other on-premises Microsoft technologies. Furthermore, existing Microsoft customers experience significant cost savings by employing Azure for their cloud environment.

Additionally, Microsoft knows missteps happen, and when they do, disaster recovery (DR) is crucial. Azure is the first CSP to offer native DR solutions for IaaS virtual machines (VMs). Azure’s DR offering allows companies to carry out DR drills and has their back during an actual cyber event. Microsoft also ensures this feature is frequently updated as new Azure features are released, and ensures minimal effort from the end user to ensure they can focus on other critical tasks during this all-hands-on-deck situation. However, just like the shared responsibility model of security, Azure’s DR features should be part of your overall DR plan as a company, not your entire failsafe.

Of course, with the good comes the bad.

The downsides to Azure are mostly customer service related. In fact, Gartner has stated, “While Microsoft Azure is an enterprise-ready platform, Gartner clients report that the service experience feels less enterprise-ready than they expected, given Microsoft’s long history as an enterprise vendor,” it said. “Customers cite issues with technical support, documentation, training and breadth of the ISV partner ecosystem.”

The Growth of Azure

Despite the fact that AWS had nearly 4 years on the market prior to the release of Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure is by no means being left in the dust. Thanks in no small part to Microsoft-loyal customers and large enterprise competitors that compete with Amazon, Azure steadily holds the
#2 spot behind AWS for market share, but is quickly shortening the gap.

With continuously updated services and offerings, such as the recently released Azure Blockchain Service, to meet the demands of an ever-evolving cloud landscape, Azure’s presence as a leading CSP will only continue to expand.

If you’re feel as though Azure might be the platform for you, but still need more information, reach out to us today and one of our experts can help walk you through determining which CSP is right for your needs. Additionally, continue to stay tuned for more options as we finish this series with a dive into the newest member on the CSP leaderboard, Google Cloud Platform.