Building an Azure Dev Test Lab - Why Azure

Jan 10, 2023 EST
by:   Tim Stanley

This is part of a series on Building An Azure Dev Test Lab.

What is Azure and why use it?

What Is Azure?

Azure is more than a marketing term.  Today (2023), Azure has grown to ~487 categorized services (some duplicates) to cover a large range of business services.

  • General (18)
  • Compute (28)
  • Networking (24)
  • Storage (15)
  • Web (16)
  • Mobile (3)
  • Containers (7)
  • Databases (21)
  • Analytics (15)
  • AI + machine learning (26)
  • Internet of things (25)
  • Mixed reality (2)
  • Integration (26)
  • Identity (23)
  • Security (23)
  • Devops (8)
  • Migration (8)
  • Monitor (11)
  • Management and governance (27)
  • Intune (4)
  • Hybrid + multicloud (15) 
  • Other (132)

Focus Business Resources on the Primary Business

Small companies don't have the overhead to hire teams of people just to manage infrastructure.  When you migrate to Azure, you have a team of people that manage the security, infrastructure, wiring, power, internet connections, monitor and fix hardware, for all your Azure services.  Yes, some amount of time from business resources are needed to create users, set permissions, set policies, but the additional people (or hours) needed to manage everything is all covered by the Azure hosting fees.  Microsoft can scale and achieve productivity at a scale small and medium business can't touch.

Availability and Reliability

Microsoft provides between 99.9% to 99.99% Service Level Agreement (SLA) depending on the service tier [4]. Free services have no SLA. Availability of 99.9% translates into a maximum downtime of 8 hours and 46 minutes over the course of a year and 99.99% translates into a maximum downtime of about 53 minutes per year.

Hidden On Premises Costs Covered by Azure

Real estate, buildings, building maintenance, property taxes, electrical costs HVAC costs, hardware amortization, are all covered by the costs of the Azure fees. Because the Azure systems are done at a large scale, there is significant cost savings compared to what a small or medium business could do standalone. Azure also provides the ability to scale systems almost instantly, thus saving time. Doing that with physical hardware takes time.

Standards Compliance

In today's world, there are numerous standards and compliance rules and policies organizations need to adhere to ranging from government regulations to industry guidelines. Global organizations delivering services to customers in multiple parts of the world have varying rules and regulations to follow.  The Azure Security portal provides the heavy lifting and supporting documentation to help an organization begin the process to comply with those standards, including PCI, EU GDPR, SOC (1, 2, 3) and numerous others. The Azure Compliance Center [5], [6] provides over 100 compliance regulations for over 50 countries and regions. Companies still must ensure the solutions they deliver comply with those standards, but the Azure systems provide all the supporting documentation to ensure a company's hosted services are all in compliance.

Innovation and Leveraging New Technology

Imagine if you wanted to change all your web servers overnight to support .Net 7.0 what a large effort that would be.  When Microsoft released .Net 7.0, the day of the announcement, Azure services were hosting .Net 7.0.  Azure has had a very good track record of providing new features at a very fast pace.

Taxes and Financial Considerations

Traditional US Accounting rules required that when real estate, buildings, hardware equipment all had to be depreciated over the life of the equipment. That requires funding up front, and it can (usually) only be written off over time.  By utilizing cloud-based services, a company can write off 100% of the expense in the year it is incurred. The term shifting from CAPEX to OPEX [3] is used to describe this.

Automation / DEVOPS

Microsoft has geared its entire infrastructure not just around a portion of what is needed to provide a web-based set of software services, but every single end to end detail from authentication, source control, static code analysis, testing, deployment, scalability, all at a scale we have never seen before in the software industry.  By providing all the tooling for automating all those steps along the way, this can reduce costs, reduce the time to market, and increase overall quality.

Summary

Azure provides a wide range of infrastructure and services to cover software and services at a scale few companies can afford to own their own. By using that scale, it allows business to use their own people to focus on business problems and leverage the Azure systems and the supporting teams to provide those services. Azure provides extremely reliable Service Level Agreements, that even most small and medium business would struggle to achieve. Azure provides all the supporting documentation to help companies achieve regional, country, and industry standards. Azure provides new features regularly and rapidly. Companies can leverage other people's real estate, hardware, and employees by using, and take advantage of tax laws to improve financial scenarios when compared to an in-house data center. And lastly, Azure provides an end-to-end eco-system for automating all the steps of the software development and deployment process.

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