10 Azure Capabilities You *might* Not Know About

Author by Nathan Lasnoski

Everyone knows that Microsoft is building a world class hosting platform in Azure, but what you may not know is that Azure is not only about hosting virtual machines.  Azure has become the platform from which Microsoft is delivering a significant portion of its services.  Here are some of the services in Azure you *might* not know about:  

Azure Active Directory Premium.

This is the future of Microsoft identity.  Think it's new?  Think again.  If you have been using Office365, you've been using it under the covers.  Azure Active Directory Premium is just making it public and exposing a ton of new capabilities.  This includes two way password sync on premise, self-service password reset, protection of corporate SaaS applications, and access to Forefront (now Microsoft) Identity Manager.  Why check it out now:
  • You want to enable self-service password reset for users
  • You want to reduce help desk calls by allowing users to unlock themselves
  • You want to prevent former employees from using your SaaS apps
  • You want to provide ease of use for SaaS apps
  • You want single sign-on everywhere
  • You want to simplify group management
  • You use Office365
   

Azure-RMS

If you aren't using Azure-RMS, your documents are not secure.  I'll be talking with companies about OneDrive and they'll say, "I can't possibly put my content in the cloud, as I'll lose control".   Guess what, you're data is already out of your control.  It already exists on box, dropbox, a USB flash drive, a kiosk computer, your mom's computer, your daughter's computer, and anywhere else you saved or sent the important documents you work with.  Your documents are no more safe than a piece of paper which has been removed from the safe you were keeping it in.  However, there is hope!  Azure-RMS protects the document itself, rather than the repository, so it facilitates protection of documents anywhere, not just when they live in a protected share.  This is the future of document protection.  Why check it out now:
  • You want to protect your documents anywhere
  • You want to control how employees send confidential email
  • You want to control the interior of documents
  • You want to share company protected content with specific external partners
  • You don't want an "I told you so", when company financials are loose in the wild
   

Azure Multi-Factor Authentication

How do I ensure someone is who they say they are?  Can someone access my credit card information from a PC in London and the United States within minutes?  Azure Multi-Factor Authentication provides the opportunity to enable your custom application, or packaged authentication (such as RemoteApp connections) with a multi-factor authentication model.  The multi-factor authentication can utilize a text, phone call, or an app.  Also, it provides the opportunity to monitor authentications as they occur.  Why check it out now:
  • You want to protect your customer's identity
  • You want to protect your customer's credit cards
  • You want to enable secure authentication to your RemoteApp environment
  • You want to have people go "WHOA" when your application calls your phone
   

Azure Automation

Scale your datacenter without scaling your staff.  Azure automation's goal is to enable the same team members to manage an increasing number of systems by automating common activities and normalizing patterns.  Azure automation uses PowerShell workflow to execute PowerShell scripts against automation targets.  These can be on-premise or the cloud and can facilitate exciting DevOps scenarios, as well as process automation.  Why check it out now:
  • You don't like doing the same activity manually twice
  • You want to scale your company without adding staff
  • You want to execute automation in conjunction with System Center or Chef
  • You've listened to Jeffrey Snover lately
   

Azure Site Recovery

Make Azure your failover datacenter.  It's compelling, cost effective, and easy to manage.  All you need is a Hyper-V environment with Hyper-V replica to send virtual machines into Azure and tie them to a recovery plan.  The recovery is orchestrated automatically based on a series of pre-configured steps.  Not to mention it is only $27.00 per machine protected.  Can you build a failover datacenter for $27.00 per virtual machine?  I doubt it.  Azure Site Recovery is a great way to "stick it" to the EMC sales person who wants to sell you a second expensive SAN so you can replicate its storage to your own failover site with its "special replication features".  You can even recover any VM machine with Microsoft's InMage Scout, regardless of where it lives.  Why check it out now:  
  • Your datacenter isn't highly available and you need protection
  • Your failover datacenter isn't your company's competive advantage
  • You like the idea of "sticking it to the SAN sales guy"
  • You have a VM you want protected in the cloud
   

Azure RemoteApp

If you need to run a datacenter application reliably from any endpoint Azure RemoteApp is for you.  Think about it as an "access anywhere" version of Remote Desktop Services that exposes a single application to any device (Windows, Android, iOS, Mac).  Connections can be made to both on-premise and Azure based application targets. Why check it out now:
  • You want simplified access to enterprise applications
  • You want to access session from any device
  • You want to secure the connection
  • You want to remove access when an employee leaves
   

ExpressRoute

Want to extend your datacenter to Azure but don't want to send all the data over the public internet?  ExpressRoute provides this capability, allowing enterprise organizations to use existing private connections to send traffic to/from Azure's infrastructure.  Why check it out now:
  • You want to normalize connectivity to Azure and leverage existing investments
  • You want to provide confidence about network quality
   

HDInsight

Hadoop in Azure?  Yup!  Microsoft offers a full managed Apache Hadoop service in the cloud.  Access unstructured data, structured data, or somewhere in between.  Why check it out now:
  • You need to understand your business better
  • You want to surface information to customers faster
  • Your on-premise datacenter is not your competitive advantage
   

Big Virtual Machines / Linux

Azure isn't just for "small Windows virtual machines".  You can put high memory and high CPU instances of virtual machines in Azure.   This includes Linux virtual machines, as well as Windows.  If you need to scale your VMs, Azure can do it either vertical or horizontal.  Why check it out now:
  • You need to scale up
  • You need to scale up on Linux or Windows
  • You need memory of CPU intensive workloads
  • Your on-premise datacenter isn't where you see this happening
   

Visual Studio Online / Application Insights

Azure is now the home for DevOps.  The new Azure Portal experience provides a completely integrated DevOps experience by bringing the benefits of Visual Studio Online (dev / test tracking), Application Insights (availability, code validation, logging), and administration all in one place.  Visual Studio Online and Application Insights are provisioned through the Azure management interface.  Why check this out now:
  • You're a developer
  • You want to be an efficient developer
  • You want to manage a development team
  • You want to manage applications you've deployed
  • You want to manage releases for applications as you deploy them
  • You want to track bugs and understand analytics
 

Start Planning 

I hope this helps understand that Azure is more than just virtual machines.  Enjoy exploring the new features and stay tuned for more info on each as we do deep dives into Azure technology!  If you want to learn more in-person, come to one of our upcoming technology roadmap events, or our Azure events coming to a Microsoft MTC near you!   Nathan Lasnoski
Author

Nathan Lasnoski

Chief Technology Officer