Windows Azure: You've no doubt heard of and know about Microsoft's cloud platform. But what do you really know about Azure? I, for one, wasn't as informed as I needed to be. Thus, I've spent the last several days digging into Azure, and as a result, you can skip that legwork.
When I jumped into the free trial made available by Microsoft, I was immediately overwhelmed by the options available (the figure below shows that start screen).
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The start screen for Windows Azure can be overwhelming, given all the options available.
For me, the easiest one to try first was the virtual machine. So I clicked New > Computer > Virtual Machine > From Gallery to use a VM template. VM options include Windows Server 2012 Datacenter and R2, Windows Server 2008 R2, various flavors of SQL, SharePoint 2013, BizTalk Server 2013, OpenSuse, and Ubuntu Server.
During the configuration, you provide a name and choose the size of your server. I configured my VM with eight cores and 56GB of memory. You configure a few more options, and you're all set. Click Connect in the bottom management tab (shown below), and you can remote right into your new server almost instantly.
Windows Azure's server management dashboard for a server VM
I appreciated that easy setup and fast provisioning. But I especially appreciated the dashboard and monitoring features that let me stay on top of my cloud-based servers.
Next up, I tested the creation of a website. The process is similar to setting up a VM: Click New > Computer > Website > From Gallery, then choose from the many prefabricated sites, which include a blank HTML template, .DotNetNuke, Django, Joomla 2.5, and WordPress. Within minutes, my site was up.
I recently wrote an article about using Azure Active Directory, so I wanted to try out the Active Directory services in Azure. Just as it did for everything else, Azure asked for basic information such as the directory name I wanted as a subdomain for the onmicrosoft.com domain Azure uses. I entered the requested information, and my Active Directory was active in no time.
There are plenty of other features I have yet to try, including SQL databases and media services. Windows Azure has come a long way from its first version, and I'm thoroughly impressed. It's feature-rich, scalable, and flexible -- what more could you ask for in a cloud-based platform?
This story, "Getting started with Windows Azure," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.