A virtual machine (VM) is simply a digital version of a physical computer. As a virtualized instance of a computer, a virtual machine can execute almost all tasks a physical computer can, including running operating systems and applications.
Azure Virtual Machines are scalable, on-demand computing resources offered by Microsoft. In this article, we discuss Azure Virtual Machines and their features as well as some use cases for them.
What Is Microsoft Azure Virtual Machine?
Azure VM is a computing service that allows users to host their applications or systems in the cloud on Windows and Linux operating systems. Azure VMs provide users with flexible virtualization without having any upfront investment and maintenance costs in physical infrastructure that runs them.
The Azure VM platform allows users to generate their own VMs, flexibly and conveniently work without worrying about their computing environment, increase VM capacity, and choose where they want data to reside.
Read more: Azure Virtual Network (VNET) FAQ
Azure VM Pricing
To determine the price you’ll pay for Azure Virtual Machines, simply identify the virtual machine series that suits your needs.
|Virtual Machine Series||Description||Starting Price Per Month (USD)|
|A-Series||Entry-level VMs for dev/test||$26.28|
|Bs-Series||Economical burstable VMs||$2.74|
|E-Series||Optimized for in-memory hyper-threaded applications||$58.40|
|G-Series||Memory- and storage-optimized VMs||$320.47|
|H-Series||High-performance computing VMs||$581.08|
|M-Series||Memory-optimized virtual machines||$1,121.65|
|Mv2-Series||Largest memory-optimized VMs||$16,286.30|
You can also explore further pricing options based on your needs, using the filters provided on the Azure VMs pricing page. Furthermore, you can use the pricing calculator to calculate the exact monthly or hourly cost of using Azure VMs in your organization.
As part of the Azure Stack, you can purchase VMs according to your needs. The table below shows the VM rates as part of Azure Stack. However, you can also get your estimate by using the price calculator highlighted above.
|Virtual Machines||Price (USD)|
|Base Virtual Machines||$6 virtual CPU/month|
|Windows Server Virtual Machine||$34 virtual CPU/month|
Read more on IT Business Edge: Azure Stack vs. Azure Cloud: Private vs. Public Cloud
Azure VM Components
Azure Fabric Controller
A key component of Azure VM architecture is the fabric controller. Independent of any operational intervention, the fabric controller governs the patching, provisioning, placement, updating, load balancing, and scaling of nodes in the cloud. It provisions, de-provisions, and controls the creation and supervision of the physical servers and virtual machines that make up Azure.
Azure Compute Stamps
Azure contains divisions, which in turn contain fabric controllers responsible for managing the VMs inside them. These divisions are called stamps, which are clusters of node racks; each stamp has one fabric controller. The stamps are either compute stamps or storage stamps.
Two fabric controller partitions are responsible for Azure infrastructure resiliency and availability. These are the Update and Fault Domains. The Fault Domain outlines points likely to suffer from network or hardware failure, while the Update Domain ensures systems can be updated with minimal interruption, as well as ensuring the main services are not unavailable during the update.
Features and Capabilities
Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets
Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets enable users to manage and scale up to thousands of virtual machines on both Windows and Linux platforms. Customers can generate and deploy thousands of VMs while enjoying intrinsic autoscaling and load balancing capabilities powered by centralized templates.
They also enjoy a selection of VM images and consumption models that satisfy their needs, as well as complete control of individual VMs in a scale set.
Azure compute gives users the ability to access a diversified Azure VM portfolio through a wide scope of compute options. These virtual machines are capable of accommodating vast workloads, including the applications users create.
Azure Virtual Machines use an economical approach in per-second billing to allow users to pay only for the compute time they use. Users can also optimize their infrastructure and reduce costs through one-year or three-year Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances terms.
Pricing flexibility extends to spot pricing on virtual machines and scale sets to execute interruptible workloads at great discounts in comparison to pay-as-you-go offerings.
Why Use Azure Virtual Machines?
Scalability and Load Balancing
Through distributing workloads across various virtual machines, VMs expedite application scaling. Azure Virtual Machines have autoscaling features that simplify and improve scaling to thousands of VMs. And Azure’s load balancing capabilities distribute traffic between virtual machines, regardless of whether they are internet-facing or not.
The ability to manipulate servers akin to data shows the impact of virtualization technology. Users can deploy what was previously a predominantly physical resource as software in a handful of minutes. By providing rapid deployment ability, users enjoy the agility to meet and reconfigure organizational and infrastructure needs.
Azure VMs provide prebuilt templates and out-of-the-box tools that save time for users, greatly improving their processes. They are also highly customizable and accessible across numerous internet-connected devices.
Enhanced Organizational Efficiency
The time and energy IT teams need to maintain VM host machines is much less than the time invested in hardware maintenance. As such, IT teams can spend more time in other productive tasks, improving efficiency.
Azure VM Use Cases
Development and Testing
Providing application developers with hardware to develop and test their applications is no longer the only viable approach to application development and testing. The intrinsic cost of hardware with competent specifications to support development needs, as well as the depreciating effectiveness of hardware over time, present a financial concern to enterprises.
Furthermore, these physical workstations may be inflexible, as developers are constrained on where and how they work. Azure Virtual Machines provide a simple and fast way to create a computing environment with the configurations needed to develop and test an application.
Extended Data Center
Azure Virtual Machines can easily be linked to an organization’s network to extend on-premises data centers. Having an on-premises environment alongside a cloud environment fashions a hybrid cloud, which offers organizations flexibility while effectively utilizing legacy systems.
As such, enterprises can develop and deploy applications that can be integrated with both cloud-native and on-premises services. Organizations can also expand their data center capacity or occupy new geographical areas without having to build new on-premises data centers.
Running an application on a virtual machine in Azure caters to the unpredictability in demand for an application. Organizations can cut costs by only paying for the VMs they need.
This prevents them from making a permanent investment in on-premises infrastructure meant to cater to maximum traffic volume; instead, they can flexibly add or remove VMs depending on traffic. Businesses can also comfortably handle periodic demand spikes.
Read next: Proxmox vs VMware: 2022 Comparison
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