What is the core of Azure?

Why do we care what is the core of Azure?

Here is why. It seems Microsoft marketing has overwhelmed the target audience with dozens of made to be equally important Azure “services” (for the lack of better word). The “full Monty”: Posters, charts and animations. It is enough for Azure newcomer (developer or decision maker) to make and keep her dizzy, instead of producing focused and relaxed visitor, when entering the Azure yonder.

Key Azure Components
Abstract shapes or Key Azure Components?

I, in particular, and you as in optional might care for this as the marketing tactics to make us buy part of Azure which we do not need or possibly will never need.

And do not ever forget: Marketing is a science for manipulating the customer’s focus. I am repeating this and will repeat this many times over.

So. What is this core set of necessary Azure components? Thus we will buy what we need now and perhaps latter what is optional.  Ok, fine. First of all..

Is there a Core?

There is indeed a subset of Azure services which are the core of its functionality. And which simply must be part of every solution based on Azure. Strangely enough, it seems nobody has separated them as a such. I myself am not entirely sure what exactly are they.

There are also (very) few enabling technologies on which Azure is based. And yet, it seems nobody associated them with Azure services.  Should we perhaps think of them as “technologies” or as “services”?

So, I dare to think,  classifying Azure functionality publicly and online, two Key Categories missing are:

  • Core Functionality
    • Everybody needs
  • Optional Functionality
    • For exact requirements

What are the core components everybody needs?

Why this ( or variant of) top-level classification is not in existence already?  I am (slightly) not surprised. Same as with Office 365 mind-boggling “plans“, customers are simply purposefully confused and paralyzed at the very shop entrance. Where to go? What too look for?

And that is what it seems, might be considered marketing tactics on behalf of Azure marketing department. To manipulate customer focus away of the Azure core. Away of the necessary. Mix it all together and sell it as a such.

That was the reporting concept of banks “too big to fail” before the Credit Crunch: when reporting, mix all the kinds of credits together. Do not show the acid credits separate. One example of focus manipulation. Now back to Azure marketing.

Practical example? Possibly a key infrastructural part of Office 365 core and its key component is AAD (Azure Active Directory). It has nothing to do with much-trumpeted office “data” (plain old documents actually).  Still AAD is absolutely essential. AAD firmly connects any current company with the Azure cloud. Each and every Office365 plan has it running under the bonnet. Visible or not. One can buy it as a separate “service”.  So, if it is that important can we please know about it first, or “see” it? It is there, alas well hidden, under “Security + Identity” classification.

To further illustrate this “marketing practice”. If you buy “just” Exchange Online plan and you use good old off-line Office, in that case you are skillfully avoiding few “honey traps” Azure/Office365 marketing department has prepared for you.  But to find that as a separate O365 plan it is not easy. But it is there. You just have to type the two words “Exchange Online”. How many customers have ever been able to figure that out? Almost none is a very likely answer. They just hit the button and buy it all mixed together. Including Microsoft “Sway”, “One Note” and the rest of totally unnecessary apps, nobody ever uses. Unless forced.

Each little saving you make is one income opportunity less for “them”. Do not forget that. Ever.

Back to Azure

Let’s try and look at it from your (the key stakeholder) point of view.

What is really important in Azure is what is presented together with optional

Those mandatory components that every resilient system based entirely on Azure, or having it as a part of it, must contain, are simply not clearly explained as a such.

A current official view is rather flat:

So, how do we decipher what are the Main Components?

By understanding what has the founding father said. Dave Cuttler is the founding father of Azure. So no surprise there. Pay attention to this answer of his in this interview:

There are four main components of the RD (“Red Dog”, Azure project code name) system:
1) the fabric controller,
2) storage,
3) the integrated development tools and
4) emulated execution environment, and the OS and hypervisor.

The one component that we think provides RD with a significant advantage is the fabric controller. The fabric controller owns all the resources in the entire cloud and runs on a subset of nodes in a durable cluster. It manages the placement, provisioning, updating, patching, capacity, load balancing, and scale out of nodes in the cloud all without any operational intervention.

“Red Dog” (RD) was the code name of what we know today as Azure. So as the creator says: 4 main components. One very important fact about the Azure, well covered and lost under the carpet bombing of marketing.

What is today making this “fabric”? The one of four Main components, Dave has named. (“the one component that provides the significant advantage” )

Is it perhaps what we know today as Azure Fabric?  I think not. AF seems much narrower in scope when compared to Dave’s explanation. I think it is the fabric of the data centres hosting the Azure infrastructure.

Thus very (deliberately) fuzzily explained  “thing” that indeed might make Azure what it is today.  And definitely not for sale. Out of the scope of this article.

Almost 10 years later, for customers in the “Azure” restaurant, looking a the menu, there is no explanation what is optional and what is not. What will be the final bill?

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