This is part 1 of an ongoing series on Azure for Developers, based on a set of forthcoming videos from LinkedIn Learning.
Azure is big…
…really big. There is so much to it, that getting started can be totally daunting.
Let me start by saying that there is a lot of literature, documentation, videos, etc. on Azure; much of it free on the Azure home page
The problem is that there is so much documentation that again, it is hard to know where to start. In addition, Azure is a moving target. It seems that each week brings new features, or changes to the existing interface to Azure (for example, the Portal, discussed below).
Because Azure is so big, it is terribly difficult to drop into the documentation, where you will see sentences like this: “Azure Service Fabric is a distributed systems platform that makes it easy to build, package, deploy, and manage scalable and reliable microservices.”
Say what? (Don’t get me wrong, the documentation is fantastic, and incredibly well written… it is just that it can be difficult to understand anything until you understand everything. That is why I’m going to take a very narrow, developer-oriented, step by step approach.
Azure: A Sea of Topics
If you’re not careful, you’ll find that there is documentation and articles about a sea of topics, which may or may not be related to one another. These include:
- Azure Applications
- Azure Databases
- Blob Storage
- VSTS and Git
- Unit Testing
- Authentication and Authorization
- Stateless and stateful Azure Services
- Service Fabric
- Deploying Applications
- Service Reliability
and a whole lot more.
Breaking Azure Into Meaningful Chunks
There are a number of ways to break up Azure, but one of the most common and most useful is to divide it into three key “Services”:
- IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
- PaaS (Platform as a Service)
- SaaS (Software as a Service)
Here is the 90,000 foot view:
IaaS consists of things like virtual machines, load balancing, network infrastructure, scaling. In IaaS the developer manages the application, the data, the runtime the middle ware and the operating system, but Azure takes care of the rest. In IaaS Azure essentially works as your data center, keeping the machines up and humming and distributing your application as needed.
PaaS will be the focus of the first tutorials. It provides all your computing resources, and there is no need for the developer to manage hardware, middleware, the OS, and so forth. You focus on creating your application and Azure does the rest.
SaaS provides ready made solutions. You don’t even have to write the application: it comes right out of the box. This is great for setting up a fairly simple web site, etc. In short, with SaaS Azure takes care of the entire application that is then consumed by the end user.
To confuse things a bit further, within the Platform as a Service are a number of Services. It is these Services that will be our focus. These include things like Web App Services, Mobile App Services, etc. There are a lot of services to choose among within PaaS.
Before we go any further (and there is a lot further to go!) the first step is to get yourself an account. There are a number of ways to do so:
- Go to Azure.Microsoft.Com and sign up for a free account
- Use your MSDN account
- Use a Visual Studio Ultimate Account
- Use a corporate account from your employer
- Use one of the special offers from Microsoft for start-ups or students
There are probably other ways to get an Azure account as well.
You can use the Azure calculator to get a sense of how much setting up your Azure system will cost. This is totally premature, of course, but it is fun to play with.
The central point of departure for all things Azure is the Portal (http://portal.azure.com)
Here you will see a huge list of services that you may want to make sue of, as well as all sorts of helpful “toolbox” options. Trying to list our way through this would be overwhelming and pointless. Instead, what we’ll do is to create some applications and see what it is like to use Azure to develop and deploy applications.
We’ll get started on that in Part 2 in this series.