Recently I began building and deploying sites using the Microsoft Azure cloud. In this post I want to share some of the findings I’ve made that will help you decide how you want to move forward with your cloud adoption.
There’s no question that the #1 advantage to using the cloud (from a developer perspective) is the quick startup time. Within minutes you can have a deployment bed ready for your web application. While you don’t provision an actual web server virtual machine, you’re able to provision what Azure calls a “Web App” where you can specify a unique (and somewhat friendly) URL that your site will launch from. From the moment you click on the “New Web App” link to when you have a sandbox site available to you is a matter of minutes.
You can spin up a virtual machine in a very short timeframe as well. Azure offers a number of pre-configured images that you can choose from, including SharePoint-enabled machines. For anyone who’s installed SharePoint in the past, this is a huge time-saver.
Ease of Administration
Azure offers a very comprehensive portal for managing your cloud resources. At a glance, their dashboard can show you what resources are currently running (most of us do a pay-as-you-go model so you’re paying by the hour), where their location is (i.e. which data center is it primarily hosted from). Metrics for each cloud service you use are quite abundant on this portal as well. As an example, for websites hosted on Azure, you can see at a glance down to the quarter-hour, what bandwidth (up or down) is being used, server errors, CPU time and more. While this is all possible from an on-premise deployment, it certainly isn’t this easy. It makes the job of an infrastructure administrator much easier.
My development tool of choice is Visual Studio 2015. Microsoft now even offers a free “community” version of this product aimed at the individual developer looking to utilize the Microsoft technology stack. Azure has built in integration to this tool for source control (using TFS Online, or as it’s now called, Visual Studio online) as well as automated publishing from your desktop development environment directly to the cloud.
There are positives and negatives with going to a cloud-based model, as I’ve spoken about in other posts, but with using Azure it absolutely makes the back-end infrastructure setup far easier so that developers can focus on what they’re good at and that’s making great software.