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The best and worst of Microsoft Azure in 2021

Lars Klint
Lars Klint

So much has happened in 2021, and some of that stuff was around cloud computing! As we wind down the year, let’s take a moment to celebrate the good, the bad, and the cloudy around all things Microsoft Azure with the Azure This Year awards.

Looking back on the year in Azure, we’ll be honoring tools, certs, and incidents in the following categories:

I’ll be your host, Lars Klint of Azure This Week. Sit tight, grab the popcorn, and read on for the Azure year in review!


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Welcome to the end of year awards for Azure, or what we like to call “The Kroonenburgs.” We won’t dilly dally and drag out the time like on other awards shows. We are digging in right now!

Most underrated Azure service of the year

The first Kroonenburg of the evening is for the most underrated Azure service of the year. And the nominees are:

  • Azure Storage for its continued improvement and addition of new features you never knew you needed. Immutable tags, client-side encryption, and indexed tags are a few of the new features you probably didn’t know existed.
  • Azure App Configuration for being able to centrally manage application settings and feature flags as well as debug environments fast and efficiently.
  • Event Grid for its versatility and applicability in a ton of scenarios, including checking claims between services, pushing millions of events to a large number of services, and checking any number of properties in a system.

And the winner is Event Grid!

Really, that wasn’t a hard choice. Congratulations, Event Grid! For more of the most underrated Azure services, check out this blog post, appropriately titled The Top 13 Most Underrated Azure Services.

Most catastrophic Azure incident of the year

And we go from hidden service to not-so hidden events. 2021 brought a few “whoopsies” in the cloud, and we think they should be remembered.

The nominees are:

  • The Azure AD outage in March where pretty much all of Azure login and authentication went down for 2 or more hours.
  • The August Cosmos DB breach incident that exposed over 3,000 customers data to . . . well, anyone.

And the Kroonenburg goes to . . . It’s a surprise upset! AWS for not one but TWO AWS outages in as many weeks. Ouch. (Want to know more about what happened there? Check out AWS This Week for a full report.)


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Best new or updated Azure tool

Let’s get to the hands-on award of the year, the best new or updated tool. There are so many tools on Azure, of which some are excellent, some not so much. The nominees are:

  • Azure Virtual Desktop for allowing everyone to work from home on a managed environment that doesn’t require any installation or software.
  • Azure SQL Database Ledger for providing cryptographic evidence that centralized data stores haven’t been tampered with.
  • Azure Arc for allowing VMs, containers, and SQL databases anywhere to be managed through Azure.

And the winner is . . . Visual Studio Code for now being 100% online and accessible through your browser. Just a fantastic tool for any developer, cloud or not.


Cloud challenge: Lars vs AWS

What happens when Azure-loving Lars goes to the dark side and tries his hand at AWS tasks? We challenged Lars to walk (or stumble) through a scenario he’d never seen on a cloud platform he didn’t know.


Best Azure serverless service

We’re getting to the pointy end of the evening. The next two awards have been at the top of the cloud computing mantel piece of several services. The first award is the best serverless service of the year. The nominees are:

  • Azure Functions for providing the easiest way to pretend there are no servers in the cloud.
  • Azure Functions for enabling complex architectures with decoupled and distributed projects.
  • And Azure Functions for enabling thousands of developers to create fast and efficient solutions to real business problems.

And the Kroonenburg goes to . . . Azue Logic Apps for continuing to surprise everyone with the powerful integrations of hundreds of services with little effort and amazing value. Congratulations, Logic Apps.

Best new Azure certification

One of the things that Azure does very well — apart from giving us infinite compute — is testing our knowledge on the cloud itself. After all, the value of a certification includes showing that you understand a subject and are taking your cloud journey seriously.

The nominees for best Azure certification exam are:

  • AZ-700 for recognizing networking in the cloud is what binds all of Azure together.
  • AZ-800/801 for finally looking after the huge on-prem segment that looks to using Azure in a hybrid capacity.

And the winner is…. all of the certifications, as they all help learners succeed in the cloud, jump-start their cloud careers, and get on the path to a better career.

There are a lot of certs, if you didn’t notice. Fortunately, we have a blog covering which Azure certification is right for you. And we have a brand-new video covering all the latest cert changes out of Azure in 2021.

That is it for 2021! I’ll be back in the new year with a whole lot more Azure.

Want to keep up with all of that? Subscribe to A Cloud Guru on YouTube for weekly Microsoft Azure news (plus news from those other cloud providers too). You can also like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or join the conversation on Discord.

Thanks for reading and watching. Enjoy the time with your family and loved ones. And keep being awesome, cloud gurus!

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