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The Future of Azure PaaS – Cloud Dev for the Modern Enterprise

Welcome from the Microsoft Ignite Conference. It’s been a great conference this week. We’ve had lots of great conversation with customers, partners, and our friends at Microsoft. The conference is huge, both in number of people and the area. I’ve definitely got my steps in for this week 🙂
It’s never been a more exciting time to be a Microsoft Developer. With the investments in cloud, open source, and now Microsoft’s open arms approach to competitors, you really can code your application in any language for any platform.
In talking with our customers, its clear that the full capability of Azure PaaS is the best kept secret in the industry. (I’ll assume most of you who are reading this, likely know what PaaS is. If not, please contact me and I’d be happy to explain further for you.)
Most customers start their cloud journey with IaaS, rather than PaaS. And that’s ok. It’s the easiest way to envision the what the cloud can do for you. You have applications deployed today on web servers in your data center. Building VMs in the cloud allow you to replicate the same functionality and deployment methodologies you use today.
However, you are not getting the most out of the cloud with a strictly IaaS solution. By moving that same app over to PaaS, you can expect a large increase in ROI, up to 400% or more, a 50% increase in your time-to-market, and save up to 80% on your IT time. (According to a Gartner Study published in June 2016 and referenced in the Ignite presentation, I couldn’t find the direct link though) Gartner did name Microsoft as a Leader in the Enterprise Application Platform as a Service space. Notice there is one large name missing from this chart, cough cough, Amazon.
So, what are the various PaaS options that Azure provides:
Azure App Service
You’ve likely heard of this one. App Service is composed of 4 different types of apps – Web Apps (formerly called websites), Mobile Apps, Logic Apps, and API Apps. The App Service platform provides support for all of your enterprise-grade custom apps, hybrid support, a global data center footprint for geo-replication, it’s secure and compliant, and integrates with Azure AD. It’s also a full managed platform, providing: built-in auto-scale and load balancing, high availability with auto-patching, and backup/recovery. As I mentioned above, it enables high productivity development of .NET, Java, PHP, Node, and Python. In addition, there are really advanced capabilities to use deployment slots where you can deploy to a built-in stage slot; then utilize another feature called Testing in Production to route a small % of your traffic to ensure its stable, and finally you can freely swap between slots in seconds. Extremely powerful stuff for developing modern applications for the cloud!
Azure Functions
This service was introduced earlier this year at Build Conference. Azure Functions allow you to run server-side code in a server-less environment. Microsoft describes it as a “no ops” solution. Meaning that you don’t have to build, compile, or deploy the code. Rather, you add your code to a GUI in the browser, then the service executes that “function” on an event-driven basis. I struggled with how to think about this service initially. The best use-case I have found is for Office 365 development. Let’s say you want to build a new App Part for SharePoint Online using the new SP Framework. The code you write for the app part will be all client-side, hitting the O365 API’s, pushing and pulling data. But, you have a small requirement that can only be accomplished using server-side code. This is where Functions can help. Your app part client-side code can call into the Function and get the server-side code result. A pretty cool option for those who don’t want to build and deploy a full-blown Provider Hosted App to execute that server-side code.
Azure Service Fabric
Service Fabric is an enterprise-grade solution to microservices. I sat in on a number of sessions this week on that topic. Service Fabric is a super interesting solution. It’s a VM hosted platform – meaning that you can build a cluster of servers in Azure, on-premises, or in another cloud. So it’s not quite fully PaaS. Azure Service Fabric delivers fast in-place upgrades with zero downtime, auto-scaling, integrated health monitoring, and service healing. It also provides orchestration and automation for microservices, which gives new levels of app awareness and insight to automate live-upgrades with rollback and automatic scale-up and scale-down capabilities. Plus, you can solve hard distributed system problems such as failover, leader election, state management and provide application life-cycle management capabilities so developers don’t have to re-architect applications as usage grows.
With these robust offerings, Microsoft is definitely the enterprise-grade solution to Platform as a Service. Contact us at Perficient and one of our certified Azure consultants can help envision your Azure solution today!

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Joe Crabtree

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