Published Date: 09 December 2022
Comprehensive Cloud Platform
Azure is Microsoft’s cloud platform to build, deploy and manage software applications across a global network of Microsoft managed data centres. Microsoft Azure is a highly flexible cloud platform that provides over 200 products and services.
The decisions behind what you need to use within Azure are often guided by industry, security, compliance, size, and scope of application requirements. You can pick and choose what Azure services and products you want to develop; in this article we explore some key components and capabilities.
What is Azure Active Directory (AD)?
Azure Active Directory (AD) is a cloud base identity and access management service. In the context of business, it helps you and your employees to access internal and external resources. For example, when you log in to use Microsoft 365 or Office 365 you are using Azure AD to obtain access.
In simple terms it enables you to control access to applications based on your business requirements. You can use Azure AD for multi-factor authentication when accessing important organisational resources. It can also be used for single sign-on for app access which means it works with user’s pre-existing credentials.
What are the benefits of using Azure AD?
- Comprehensive security and compliance is built in to protect users and data
- Leverage an enterprise identity service to guard against 99.9% of cyber security attacks
- Simplifies access to all your apps from anywhere
- Implement conditional access ad multi-factor authentication to secure your data
- Ensures the right people have access to the right apps, resources, documents
- Provides a seamless user experience – quick and easy sign in experience with minimal friction and reduces time managing passwords
Azure AD is beneficial for businesses of all sizes across all industries as every business needs a way to provide only authorised access to all its digital assets and applications.
What is Azure Data Factory?
Azure Data Factory is a fully managed, serverless data integration service. It enables the integration of big data where it primarily has two function’s the moving and transforming of data, acting as an orchestration tool. With Azure Data Factory you can create data-driven workflows to consume data from disparate data stores. This data can be transformed visually with data flows or through the use of compute services such as Azure Databricks and Azure SQL Database.
Consider a use case within the gaming industry where a gaming company collects vast amounts of gaming logs where they want to analyse these logs to gain insights into customer preferences, usage behaviour etc. and identify growth and upsell opportunities. Azure Data Factory is a platform that solves data scenarios such as this where a vast amount of consumer data can be analysed to help drive business decisions.
Key benefits of Azure Data Factory:
- Cost- effective with it’s pay as you go approach where you can scale on demand
- Powerful and intelligent capabilities to orchestrate and monitor data at scale
- Consume all your data with built-in connectors making it easy-to-use
Azure Data Factory is built for complex extract-transform-load (ETL), extract-load-transform (ELT) and data integration projects. It comes with its own pricing where you pay for only what you need.
What is Azure Sentinel?
Azure Sentinel allows you to collect data across all users, devices, applications and infrastructure, where it detects and investigates threats with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It enables large enterprises to make threat detection and responses faster with AI. In summary it hunts for suspicious activities at scale.
Key benefits of using Azure Sentinel:
- Respond to incidents rapidly with its use of built-in orchestration and automation
- Accessing years of security expertise to find real threats quickly
- Simplify security operations and speed up threat response
- Access behaviour analytics to stay ahead of evolving threats
What is Azure Databricks?
Azure Databricks is a data and AI service available through Microsoft Azure, offering a unified and open platform for all your data. With Azure Databricks scientists, data engineers and analysts can run interactive and scheduled data analysis workloads. It is used by companies to process and transform significant amounts of data and exploration of data via Machine Learning.
With Azure Databricks you also have the following components to strengthen its capability:
- Databricks Data Science & Engineering is simple a workspace to foster collaboration between data engineers, data scientists and machine learning engineers
- Databricks Machine Learning offers an integrated end-to-end machine learning platform where you can train models, track training parameters and models using experiments
- Databricks SQL allows quick ad-hoc queries on the data to be run
What is Azure Synapse?
Azure Synapse is a comprehensive analytics service that brings together data integration, enterprise data warehousing and big data analytics. Data can be queried at scale for immediate business intelligence and machine learning requirements.
A use case for this within financial services would be for fraud detection where end-to-end analytics solution like this enables financial institutions to monitor activity 24 hours a day across accounts and devices to detect fraud at the first instance and keep customers protected.
You can manage all your resources and costs for this end-to-end solution by only paying for the capabilities you use.
What is Azure Data Lake?
Azure Data Lake makes it easy for developers, data scientists and analysts to store data of any size and shape. It offers full flexibility and speed to do all types of processing and analytics across platforms and languages. Using Azure Data Lake means there is no infrastructure to manage but you can process data on demand, scale as required and pay per job.
You can build Data Lake Solutions on:
- HDInsight – run popular open-source frameworks using Azure HDInsight for enterprise grade open-source analytics
- Data Lake Analytics – provides an on-demand analytics job service with per-second billing
- Azure Data Lake Storage – acts as a single data storage platform, enables data to be ingested across a range of tools such as Azure Databricks, Synapse Analytics to HDInsight
Azure Data Lake Storage integrates with:
- Azure Data Factory
- Azure HDInsight
- Azure Databricks
- Azure Synapse Analytics
- Power BI
What is Azure Blob Storage?
Azure Blob Storage is Microsoft’s storage solution for the cloud, any application or website that needs to store data can use Azure Blob Storage. It is designed for:
- Storing files for distributed access
- Streaming video and audio
- Storing data for backup and retore, disaster recovery, archiving
- Serving of images or documents directly to a browser
It’s a scalable solution therefore suited to businesses of all sizes from a small business website needing to store its web images and documents to enterprise level organisations needing to store significant amounts of files and perform system backups of its applications.
A key benefit of using Azure Blob Storage is that enables businesses to collect and store all its digital assets (media, files, documents etc.) in one central place that can then be served to multiple devices and applications anywhere at any time at scale. The speed, security and ease of access makes it an attractive offering for small, medium and large organisations.
Store data securely
What is Azure Data Studio?
Azure Data Studio is a cross-platform data tool that enables the use of other cloud data platforms – it runs on Windows platform, Linux and macOS. Its portability is a key benefit where it provides a data visualisation platform that makes it easy to bring in data sets from various places into one central place. This can then be turned into information that is easier to understand.
It provides built-in query editor and customisable dashboards for database specialists to create the optimal work environment. Azure Data Studio is a solution for those looking to:
- Create database diagrams quickly or visualise result sets
- Execute and edit queries
- Bring in data from other cloud platforms
What is Azure Front Door?
Azure Front Door is a cloud delivering network (CDN), a service that delivers a secure user experience for your content and applications. The key capabilities of Azure Front Door:
- Integrates deeply with a range of Azure services such as Azure Web Apps
- Provides performance and scalability
- Protects apps and digital assets with advanced security services including web application firewall, bot protection and DDOS protection
It is used when delivering content, files or building apps and APIs, Azure Front Door delivers a secure experience to users wherever they are.
Reasons for using Azure Front Door:
1: to build and manage modern internet first architecture as it provides the required levels of reliability and security
2: to scale out and improve performance of apps
3: to take advantage of Microsoft’s dedicated private global network to achieve high network reliability
Any organisation that has its own applications that reach both local and global users Azure Front Door can keep your application and your users protected at all times whilst providing high availability.
What is Azure Monitor?
Azure Monitor helps to maximise the availability and performance of your applications and services. It collects, aggregates and analyses metrics, logs and traces to send relevant alerts and notifications. This information helps you to understand how your apps are performing and enables the proactive action of identifying issues that effect them and the resources that depend on them.
The benefits of Azure Monitor:
- Detect and diagnose issues across applications and dependencies
- Deep dive into monitoring data via log analytics to support troubleshooting and deeper diagnoses
- Create visualisations with Azure Dashboards
The types of data that can be collected by Azure Monitor:
- Application level for performance and functionality of code
- Azure Resources level to capture data about the operation of Azure Resources
- Azure Subscription level for the operation and management of a subscription
- Azure Tenant level to understand Azure services in use such as Azure Active Directory
Applications and services running in Microsoft Azure cloud are often complex pieces of software that are comprised of many moving components. Therefore it’s imperative to track how users are using the system, monitoring and tracking resource usage to assess the overall health and performance of an application. With monitoring in place, the data collected can be used to detect and correct potential issues before they become an issue.
What is Azure Arc?
Azure Arc is a bridge that extends the Azure platform to enable you to build apps and services that can run across multiple datacentres. It is for those businesses who need to manage resources that are deployed within Azure and outside of Azure through the same interface. It enables organisations with legacy infrastructure to join the hybrid cloud approach by implementing Azure Arc.
Azure Arc provides two key benefits:
- management of data services can be centrally managed from within Azure providing instant efficiencies.
- it provides a single point of administration for IT specialists, developers, data scientists and analysts.
What is Azure Service Bus?
The Azure Service Bus is a cloud-based messaging service where it transfers messages between applications and databases securely.
Key Benefits of using Azure Service Bus:
- Reliable cloud messaging service
- Makes complicated messaging workflows simple utilising complex routing capabilities
- Safely routes and transfers data and control
- Load-balances work across competing consumers
What is Azure Stack?
Azure Stack is a portfolio of products that extend Azure Services and capabilities to the environment of your choice. This means you can build, deploy and run various applications across a diverse set of infrastructures both the public cloud and on-premise environments.
It enables organisations to hold sensitive data and information with their own data centres whilst enabling the ability to use the public cloud of Azure. The stack compromises a wide variety of Azure services that can be hosted on the on-premise data centre such as Azure App Services, Azure Functions, Azure Active Directory to manage Azure Stack Identities.
The core benefits of this approach:
- Seamless process to deploy across both the cloud and your own data centres
- Provides a consistent user experience across all environments
- End users benefit from this approach of consistency
Azure Stack is for those organisations and businesses whose operations either won’t benefit from or cannot move entirely to Azure cloud in its current existence.
Get the most out of Microsoft Azure
I‑Finity is recognised by Microsoft as a Silver Partner with a certified competency in their Cloud Platform. This means the skills and expertise we have within our team and the Azure implementations we have in place have been recognised by our level of partnership status achieved with Microsoft. Our team has been building, deploying and managing apps within the Azure platform using a range of Azure products and services for over 10 years.
During this time we have architected, designed and built applications on Azure using a range of products/services such as:
Azure Active Directory
We secure access to our customers apps through using Azure Active Directory as it provides a seamless user experience for those accessing apps and provides businesses with the level of security required to protect their apps, data and users.
Our team used Azure Active Directory to support the authentication for the React App TrackMySSL.com. The integration is with a Business to Customer Tenant and this allows users to sign in using social identities provided by Google and Microsoft. The API for TrackMySSL.com is also authenticated using Azure Active Directory to ensure only authorised identities can perform actions on the app. You can learn more about the technologies and capabilities of TrackMYSSL.com.
Azure Front Door
Our React App TrackMySSL uses Azure Front Door to ensure we deliver a secure user experience whilst allowing for scale and performance. Another key consideration was security by using Azure Front Door and Azure Active Directory it keeps our application, the access and data safeguarded at all times.
Azure Blob Storage
All our web development projects involve the storing of media assets such as files, documents and imagery, we build and deploy these projects on Azure cloud where Azure Blob Storage is used to store all the data. This enables us to store our customers media assets as well as ensuring we store data for backup and restore and disaster recovery.
A flexible and scalable content architecture was required for our customers’ photography website where they would continue to grow the photography collection. The ability to store, serve up images directly to the browser whilst being highly performant was delivered with the use of Azure Blog Storage. Over time it has enabled us to easily scale to support the ongoing growth of our customer’s photography website.
Azure Monitor & Azure Security Centre
Within the Financial Services industry compliance is paramount and with the regular auditing of applications it is essential that apps are proactively monitored to protect highly sensitive data at all times. I‑Finity manages a personal finance software product for one of its financial services customers. This SaaS product is fully architected and managed on the Azure platform, part of our responsibility is to ensure the application remains fully complaint and protected. Therefore, this app uses Azure Monitor as it allows our team to proactively track, assess and detect any potential issues before they become an issue. This level of monitoring is a must in this highly regulated industry. The Azure journey for this customer also resulted in us delivering operational efficiencies such as cost savings by optimising the Azure implementation.
Azure Security Centre is also in use with this customers application where it collects events from Azure, logs analytics within the security engine to provide tailored and pro-active security recommendations to strengthen security. With the nature of continuous and evolving online threats this level of monitoring ensures continuous compliance and protection.
With I‑Finity we have the expertise to design the optimal technical architecture on Azure implementing the necessary components that are comprised of Azure products and services that will best support your application, business and end user needs. Want to learn more about Azure? Visit our Azure Cloud Services page or contact us to discuss your specific needs.
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