How Do I Describe What is Windows Azure?

Category: Azure

sharepointAzureGuideAzure has so many features, services and possibilities it can be a bit hard to understand what is really is. Microsoft has said it is a “cloud platform with a wide range of services to build, deploy and manage solutions for almost any purpose”. I guess that is true, but understanding it is important, and as you will see in my other articles that deciding how and why you are going to use it will affect everything in the end, especially your cost.

How I like to explain Azure is to pretend you are a chef. You want to make some recipes. Perhaps you want to make a small little cake, or perhaps you want to bake a Thanksgiving dinner. In either case, you need some professional cooking tools such as ovens, broilers, pans, mixers and what not so you can cook up your ideas. Think of Azure as your professional kitchen you will be working in.


When you mix the power of a great kitchen with different recipes (that can be microwaved for fast cooking) or baked slowly by hand, you now have the power to become a “Master Chef” producing such delicacies such as apps, big data with Hadoop/HDInsight, Linux Ubuntu/SUSE servers, Node.js mobile services, web sites, CDNs (content delivery networks), streaming video, storage networks and much more.

In this series of articles I will focus mostly on using Azure as an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) to bake create a SharePoint farm (for production or dev /test scenarios). I am not going to focus much on SaaS (more like Office 365) or PaaS (Platform as a Service in this series).

Azure is currently divided into four (4) service offerings (with notations of which part of each service we are using for SharePoint) :

  • Compute services – (our virtual machines for SharePoint, mobile services for apps if you using the SharePoint app model yet)
  • Network services (virtual network for our SharePoint farm)
  • Data services (SQL / BLOB storage SharePoint needs to function, also could be separate drives for log files and storage for backups)
  • App services (Active Directory)

Poster of Azure Feature Capabilities & Service Offerings

There many more services available in Azure, we are just not using them for SharePoint at this time (they are for other things like mobile apps, EDT payment processing, open source hosting, non-SharePoint websites, etc.).

There are also components to create your architecture which I will be diving into a bit more in the near future, however knowing these basics is a good start to get your ball rolling in creating a SharePoint Azure environment.

Other Resources on Describing Windows Azure

*New: I found an amazing demo recently by @TroyHunt titled the Worlds Greatest Azure Demo, I highly suggest you check it out! (Also on GitHub:

Microsoft Virtual Data Center TourVideo of the “behind the scenes” things that make Azure run from Microsoft 

What is Cloud Computing

The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing – NIST Special Publication 800-145 – this link seems to break and move around so feel free to Bing for this publication number…

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