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What Is Azure? Exploring Microsoft’s Cloud Powerhouse

Written By April Bohnert | August 21, 2023

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In recent years, cloud technology has evolved from a budding innovation to the backbone of the global digital ecosystem. Every swipe on a smartphone, every e-commerce transaction, every remote work session — they often find their roots nestled in the powerful realm of cloud computing. And within this ever-growing space, Microsoft’s Azure has emerged as a formidable contender, rapidly expanding its market footprint and challenging pre-existing cloud paradigms.

Azure’s ascent is not just a testament to its technical brilliance but also its adaptability to cater to diverse business needs. Businesses both large and small are leveraging Azure’s offerings to innovate, scale, and stay agile in the shifting tech landscape. But Azure’s impact isn’t limited to the boardroom or the server room. For tech professionals, Azure represents a realm of opportunity, promising a dynamic and rewarding career trajectory.

In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of Azure: its history, defining features, and the unique skill set of the cloud engineers who work with it. Whether you’re navigating the cloud career ladder or looking to make your next great hire, understanding Azure’s power and potential is the first step to unlocking it.

What is Azure?

Azure, in its simplest form, is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform — a comprehensive suite of services that enables businesses to build, deploy, and manage applications through Microsoft’s global network of data centers. It offers everything from straightforward data storage solutions to sophisticated machine learning applications, all in the cloud, making it a one-stop shop for a broad spectrum of technological needs.

The conception of Azure dates back to 2008 when Microsoft announced its plans to enter the cloud market. Launched officially in 2010, Azure was Microsoft’s answer to the burgeoning demand for cloud solutions. While it started primarily as a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering, it quickly expanded to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) functionalities.

So, why did Azure gain such traction in the tech world? Its tight integration with Microsoft’s other products (think Windows Server, Active Directory, SQL Server) provided a smoother transition for enterprises that already leaned on Microsoft for their IT needs. This seamless alignment made Azure a natural choice for businesses looking to embark on their cloud journey without entirely reinventing the wheel.

But Azure isn’t just about extending the Microsoft ecosystem into the cloud. Its agility, ability to scale on demand, vast array of services, and commitment to open source (yes, you can run Linux on Azure!) have made it a dynamic platform suited for various tasks, be it hosting a website, analyzing data, or anything in between.

Key Features of Azure

Compute Power

Storage Solutions

  • Blob Storage: Azure’s object storage solution is ideal for storing unstructured data like documents, multimedia content, and logs. Think of it as a vast digital warehouse, infinitely scalable and always accessible.
  • Azure Files: This service offers fully managed file shares in the cloud, making it easier to move legacy applications that rely on file shares to Azure.

AI and Machine Learning

  • Azure Machine Learning Studio: This collaborative drag-and-drop tool lets users build, test, and deploy machine learning models without the need to write code. Picture creating an AI model like assembling a puzzle, piece by piece, visually.
  • Cognitive Services: Azure’s pre-built AI tools can recognize speech, detect faces, and more. It’s like giving your applications a pair of smart glasses.



  • Azure SQL Database: This is a fully managed relational database service, based on SQL Server. It’s akin to having an ever-watchful database butler, catering to your data needs 24/7.
  • Cosmos DB: Imagine a database that speaks multiple data languages and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. That’s Cosmos DB — a globally distributed, multi-model database service for large-scale applications. 

Development Tools

  • Azure DevOps: This service offers development collaboration tools, including high-performance pipelines, Git repositories, and agile planning tools. Think of it as the ultimate toolkit for developers, streamlining every phase of a project.
  • Azure App Service: Azure’s App Service platform can be used to build, deploy, and scale web apps and APIs. It’s like having a digital stage where your web creations can shine, without the hassle of setting up the lights and sound.


  • Azure Active Directory: This is Microsoft’s cloud-based identity and access management service. It’s essentially a high-security digital gatekeeper, ensuring that only the right people access your resources. 
  • Key Vault: Key Vault safeguards cryptographic keys and other secrets used by cloud applications and services, acting like a digital vault guarding your prized digital possessions.

Each of these features not only showcases Azure’s technical prowess but exemplifies Microsoft’s commitment to delivering a full-fledged, versatile cloud experience. Whether you’re a startup aiming for rapid scalability or a conglomerate desiring robust, secure solutions, Azure’s offerings cater to every nuanced need.

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Must-Have Skills for Azure

Navigating the expansive realm of Azure is no small feat. It’s akin to mastering a vast toolkit, each tool tailored for a specific task but collectively contributing to a larger vision. So, what skills does an engineer need to harness the full power of Azure?

Technical Skills

  • Programming Languages: While Azure is largely agnostic to the programming language you use, having proficiency in languages like C#, Python, Java, and JavaScript can be beneficial, especially when building or deploying applications on the platform.
  • Cloud Concepts: Grasping foundational cloud concepts, such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS), is essential. Understand how cloud models differ and how they can serve varied business needs.
  • Azure Services Familiarity: With the plethora of services Azure offers, it’s advantageous to be versed in some of the core ones, be it Azure VMs, Blob Storage, Azure Active Directory, or Azure DevOps.
  • Database Management: Skills in managing and optimizing databases, especially Azure-specific ones like Azure SQL Database and Cosmos DB, are crucial.
  • Networking: Knowledge of networking principles, including IP addressing, name resolution, and load balancing, will come in handy when setting up and optimizing Azure solutions.

Soft Skills

  • Problem-Solving Capabilities: Having a keen problem-solving ability helps developers navigate challenges, optimize solutions, and innovate for the future.
  • Collaborative Team Spirit: Cloud solutions often require collaborative efforts. Being able to work seamlessly with fellow developers, IT professionals, and even non-technical stakeholders is essential.
  • Adaptability to Rapid Technological Changes: The cloud domain, Azure included, witnesses frequent updates and shifts. Being adaptable and open to learning ensures developers remain on top of these changes, leveraging the latest features and best practices.


While not a strict necessity, Azure certifications can bolster a developer’s expertise. Microsoft offers a range of certifications, from fundamentals like the Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals to more specialized ones like the Azure Solutions Architect Expert. These certifications not only validate a person’s skills but also keep them updated with the platform’s latest facets.

Hiring Outlook for People with Azure Skills

The prominence of Azure in the cloud industry has had undeniable ramifications in the job market. As businesses of all scales increasingly pivot to cloud solutions, the allure of Azure’s capabilities has bolstered the demand for professionals with this unique skill set. In fact, Microsoft Azure cloud deployments are expanding by roughly 33 percent year over year, making those certified in Azure roles, such as Azure Solutions Architects or Azure Developers, particularly important hires. 

But it’s not just about architects and developers. The Azure canvas is vast, encompassing a range of roles and responsibilities. From SysOps administrators overseeing the seamless operation of cloud services to DevOps engineers streamlining deployment pipelines on Azure, the scope is expansive and continually evolving.

This surging emphasis on Azure resonates with the broader narrative of digital transformation. In an era where agility, scalability, and innovation are not just buzzwords but business imperatives, Azure skills have emerged as a valuable asset. For tech aficionados, this presents a lucrative and dynamic career avenue, rife with opportunities and challenges. And for those on the hiring end, securing Azure talent is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity to navigate the digital frontier with confidence.

Key Takeaways

It’s evident that cloud computing isn’t merely a fleeting trend but a foundational pillar of modern technology. Among the giants in this space, Azure has carved out a significant niche, offering a suite of solutions that cater to diverse business needs. From machine learning to fully managed databases, Azure’s presence resonates deeply with both enterprises and tech professionals. 

For those with, or looking to acquire, expertise in Azure, the horizon is shining bright. The market’s demand for Azure skills underscores the platform’s importance and the boundless opportunities it presents. But it’s not just about technical prowess; it’s about embracing a future where adaptability, continuous learning, and innovation are paramount.

To hiring managers and decision-makers, understanding and leveraging Azure’s capabilities is instrumental in driving growth and staying ahead in the competitive landscape. As we move forward, it’s clear: whether you’re looking to transform a business or forge a dynamic career path, Azure is leading the way in a cloud-driven world. 

This article was written with the help of AI. Can you tell which parts?

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