Windows Azure Explained



There are three public cloud providers that are considered to be the top three. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and Microsoft Azure. Azure is a cloud platform provided by Microsoft. It includes infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS), as well as other features for management, security controls, mobility, networking, analytics and more. Azure also supports third-party software.

Azure has a reputation of being difficult to manage, hence Microsoft released Native tools as well as providing the facilities to use third party tools. Microsoft has worked to meet customer needs and provide an application program interface (API) to vendors and developers to extend capabilities. Third-party and open source entities have joined Microsoft in developing tools to manage different aspects of Azure with the hope of providing a better management experience. Hence there are three groups of tools to manage Azure, Microsoft native, open source and third-party.


Azure comes with a management portal and a feature rich Graphical User Interface (GUI). This is used as the primary tool for keeping Azure up-to-date and for testing via its preview page. Azure comes with PowerShell tool which is a scripting environment and framework used by most roles and features in Windows server operating systems where almost all Azure resources can be managed. It can be used to perform a variety of tasks, both interactively at a command prompt and automatically through scripts. The main advantage of using Azure PowerShell is that it gives you the ability to automate repeated Azure tasks through PowerShell scripts. Azure PowerShell is as robust as UNIX shell. Its cmdlets perform the same tasks as the Windows Azure management portal and can be used to create, test, deploy and manage services delivered through the Azure platform.

Command Line

The Azure cross-platform command-line interface offers users open source, cross-platform commands for working with Azure resources. The tool, called xplat-cli, also offers similar functionality to the Azure management portal. While PowerShell cmdlets only work on the Windows OS, the xplat-cli allows non-Windows virtual administrators to interact with Azure resources from a variety of operating systems, including Linux, Windows and Mac.

System Centre App Controller

If you have System Centre App Controller already installed in your on-premises network, you can connect to your Windows Azure subscription, which allows you to easily configure, deploy and manage Azure virtual machines and services. Using App Controller, you can copy an existing virtual machine to Azure, deploy virtual machine templates to Azure, and manage subscription settings.

Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio

If you have installed the Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio, you can view blob, queue and table data from your storage accounts in Windows Azure. Server Explorer, which is part of Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio, gives developers the ability to manage storage accounts you have created in Azure. It also provides the ability to create Azure VMs and use remote debugging of those VMs.

Windows Azure AD Rights Management Administration Tool

Microsoft provides a set of tools to encrypt and assign usage restrictions to content when you subscribe to its cloud services. Rights management helps protect content that is created and exchanged by using Microsoft Office and other applications. If you are an Office 365 customer or if you have subscribed to Microsoft Online Services, you can download the tool to start managing and configuring rights management capabilities for Exchange Online, SharePoint and Office applications.

Windows Azure and Service Management REST API

Software vendors and developers can extend Azure management capabilities by developing software applications using the service management REST API. Azure's REST API provides programmatic access to Windows Azure resources.