The 5 common issues when starting with Azure



February 14, 2022

Starting with Azure components – even when already working in IT or enterprise integration – is not a simple task. The components themselves are easy enough to work with, but the problem is there are so many of them. It's almost impossible to know them all, let alone now everything about each of them. And of course, a lot can go wrong when connecting the incorrect (or not most ideal) pieces together. It makes solutions prone to errors and often results in unexpectedly high consumption bills.

I've seen many things go wrong when starting with Azure and decided to write up the five that came to mind first, plus some tips on how you can stay ahead of the game.

1. Thinking you know Azure

As Microsoft states on its website: “Microsoft Azure is an ever-expanding set of cloud services to help your organization meet your business challenges. It’s the freedom to build, manage, and deploy applications on a massive, global network using your favorite tools and frameworks”.

Recap: Azure is enormous. Going to the Microsoft website listing all Azure Services alone is enough to get someone nervous. Questions like: Where do I start, What service should I choose for my challenges, and which components can best be connected to each other? There is more than one way to solve an issue, more than one combination of different services and components to be integrated and used together. And after this is all sorted out, you would still have to know what specs to choose for e.g. the Virtual Machine you are creating.

2. The Azure billing jungle

In Azure, all different services and components are priced differently. Not understanding how stuff is charged can create bills you did not see coming, even in the development stage. On Microsoft’s pricing website for Azure components you can find out prices for specific products, there is even a calculator that lets you put all needed components and specs together. This calculator could be used every time you need an estimate for e.g. the finance department and could give you insight in expected cost. Still, “Thinking you know Azure” applies, you would have to know exactly what you need and what the specs are before you are able to get the right price. 

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Another thing about pricing is that no one on the development team is responsible for cost and efficiency. A developer or architect usually does not consider cost, since we are used to work with compute that is already payed for and software that is licensed. With Azure, finance starts caring about the cost when the first invoices are received. But even then, the high costs might be overlooked because finance does not know about IT, and you could end up spending too much money for months.

3. Securing what?

Security is always important, even more so when going to the cloud. Fortunately, with transitioning of on-prem environments towards the cloud, most people are more aware of security because they think Microsoft Servers are less secure than their own. A lot of time is spent on securing ExpressRoute, API’s, LogicApps, and Databases.

Still, many take security for granted on a whole other level; making everyone an administrator, using personal accounts as Azure account owners etc.; the same things that happens on prem. When you are still developing or playing around in Azure you may be tempted to use your account for everything and letting everyone interested look at your creations from an admin account because you don’t know what rights to give them for specific purposes. And then, when your try-out integration works, it goes to production with your account as owner and half the company as admin user; a lot can go wrong!

4. Where to store your data

When working on-prem, Microsoft oriented companies are adjusted to working with SQL Server. In Azure you have more storage options then we are used to, and not knowing what to choose usually results in selecting what you know best. For most of us this would be Azure SQL Database, which is a relational database-as-a-service (DBaaS) based on the latest stable version of Microsoft SQL Server Database Engine.

But that is not always the best way to go, as Azure provides you with a lot of different storage options, each with their own unique purpose and costs.

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When thinking about storage, take in consideration what you want to store, and if that data has to be available to you at all times. This could save you a lot of money.

5. Thinking that administration and monitoring are included

When talking to customers about cloud transition, they often seem to think that administration and monitoring in Azure will take less time and effort then it did in your on-prem environment. I would say that if you are planning to use Azure components to take care of these subjects, you might need even more time and effort because Azure has its monitoring and administration capabilities scattered throughout components and services. It will take you some time to find your way before you are on top. Other points worth mentioning is failing to choose for High Availability and Disaster Recovery options that Azure provides. High Availability Disaster Recovery is driven by two separate and definable metrics; recovery point objective (tolerance of data loss) and recovery time objective (tolerance for downtime). Disaster Recovery is still necessary while being high available; high availability does not make sure your data is not corrupted at some point, so a recovery point to go back to is always very important.

How to stay on top

When you consider the flexibility and agility, effort spent moving applications to Azure is still more than worth it, providing it’s done right.

We can conclude that doing it right in Azure takes a lot of time and knowledge before starting. In the first place, I strongly believe it is important to work as a team, with professionals who know about the different components. This ensures you get the best, most fitting parts out of Azure for your specific needs. Secondly, you have to make sure you are on top of everything that can go wrong. Since we have seen that a lot can go wrong, we should take monitoring into account from the moment we are started planning our Azure Solutions. AIMS is the only monitoring and analytics solution that uses machine learning and anomaly detection for Azure to be able to identify performance problems at an early stage and is able to create anomaly warnings with correlation across Azure and on-premise technologies.

It is also the only solution that uses machine learning and anomaly detection across metrics, consumption and billing data, to provide consumption metrics on hourly basis to gain insight before billing data is available. It provides analytics, reports & dashboards across Azure and on-premise technologies.

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Topics from this blog: Blog

Author

BizTalk and Azure integration consultant, technical writer and #aimsperformancepro.

Eva De Jong

BizTalk and Azure integration consultant, technical writer and #aimsperformancepro.

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