In the beginning, Azure was all about virtual machines (VMs). At least for me. My background is in infrastructure, so it is natural for me to think about technology within that framework. Since a lot of the work I do uses virtualization technologies, specifically Hyper-V, VMWare, and Parallels, spinning up a virtual machine in Azure seemed like the natural first step.
Spinning up an Azure VM is a simple 7 step process: log in, click the “New” button, select “Virtual Machine”, select “From Gallery”, select the base image, configure the name and password, and define the DNS name. After a few minutes you’ll have a clean VM, ready to do your bidding. Spinning up a virtual machine is easy. Unfortunately, for many organizations, Azure utilization stops there.
If you’re like me, Azure Web Apps (previously known as Azure Websites) can easily be overlooked. If my organization wants to move to the cloud, why not just spin up a virtual machine, configure IIS, and move the site to the Azure VM (or even migrate my existing on-premise VM to Azure)? Why absorb the cost of learning a new technology and migrate an application to Azure Web Apps?
Northwest Cadence has an internal team developing an application, Visual Cadence, which leverages several Azure technologies, include Azure Web Apps. Since they are actively building modern applications with Azure Web Apps, I asked our team to illuminate me.
Here are 4 reasons why you should ditch your current web solution for an Azure Azure Website:
1) Reduced Administration Costs
IIS is not a simple plug-and-play technology. True, you can deploy a website to IIS and get it up and running relatively quickly, once you have spun up a server. But, there are a lot of configuration settings and options you need to be mindful of if you want to tune for optimal performance.
An Azure Web App pretty much removes the need to manage it. With Azure Web Apps you remove any hardware maintenance and server management requirements. Consider the cost of server maintenance – updates, service packs, and security patches which must be taken into account – and you begin to realize just how costly maintaining your own servers can be. Add the cost of hardware maintenance and management and you can begin to see the potential appeal of Azure Web Apps. Why endure that financial hit to your budget if you don’t have to? An investment in Azure Web Apps isn’t a trivial thing, but there are definite financial reasons which warrant a further look.
2) Simple Scalability
When you use on-premise webservers, your operations team has to take the time to monitor and manage your webserver. Through their monitoring and analysis of the results, the operations team determines whether the webserver is overloaded and when they need to address it. Unfortunately in many instances, the indicator that the webserver needs to be upgraded or your infrastructure requires redundancy, comes after the server has become a bottleneck or has stopped delivering results because it’s overloaded. In other words, improvement to infrastructure happens after an incident and is reactive rather than strategic and proactive.
Azure removes this limitation by allowing you to set the performance threshold for when you need more power to be brought online to handle the increased traffic. Once set, Azure monitors the traffic and performance and once a threshold is hit, Azure will automatically scale CPU, memory, disk queue, HTTP queue or data flow. Once the demand is satisfied and performance returns to a normalized state, Azure will throttle back down. Azure Web App scalability can be implemented simply and in just a few minutes.
3) Easy To Deploy
Forget using FTP. Forget Web Deploy. Azure Web Apps make it truly easy to deploy and manage a deployment. You can deploy directly from source control by using the Azure interface to configure the deployment settings for your web app. All you have to do is select which provider you wish to pull from. Azure Web Apps does the rest.
This means, when you update your application and check it in, or submit a pull request, or you move it to Dropbox, Azure Web Apps will pull the code you just submitted and publish it! Easy. Another advantage of using this feature is that you get the option of rolling back to a previous deployment should you find that your latest deployment isn’t passing muster.
4) Easy Load Balancing
On-premise load balancing requires a bit of planning and potentially several pieces of not-so-cheap equipment. It also requires someone who knows how to configure it. Azure offers a solution that is less cumbersome to deploy and easier to configure. Azure Traffic Manager can geo-route your traffic to support failover, performance, or weighted round-robin. It can route traffic within a single Azure datacenter or to different data centers around the world. With Azure Traffic Manager you can route traffic using equal or weighted load distribution, and configuring Azure Traffic Manager does not require an advanced certification, as it’s easy to configure and implement.
On a separate note, you can set up your Azure Web Apps across multiple regions in order to support traffic from different geographic locations, reducing latency and improving performance for your customers. It’s fairly simple to create a setup where your websites are distributed throughout the world, while configuring an effective load-balancing profile.
Azure Web Apps are simple to deploy, easy to manage, and can reduce the cost of administrative overhead. It is likely that you could migrate your existing solution to Azure Web Apps right now, though depending on the complexity you may need to rework some of your code to take advantage of many of Azure Web Apps features and strengths.
Organizations are continuously looking for ways to reduce cost and ways to improve delivery of value to their customer. Azure Web Apps can do both. It abstracts away the need to manage and maintain servers while providing a platform that simplifies configuration, deployment, and management. It allows development on both Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies and promotes a lean and highly decoupled development practice.
If you have an Azure Subscription, you can start using Azure Web Apps right now. If you don’t, why not try their free trial? Azure Web Apps can revolutionize how you develop software. It did for us!