Recently, I asked the internet a question. (No, not if I should invest my life savings in NFTs.) I wanted to see what people felt the most underrated Microsoft Azure services were.
Why? Because there are some 200 Azure products and services to play with, and it’s good to dig down to the bottom of the bin for some of those cloudy toys we may forget even exist from time to time.
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For a deeper dive into some of the best services Azure has to offer, watch the Azure Service Spotlight series. But for a shallow splash into some underrated Azure gems, read on!
What’s the most underrated Microsoft Azure service?
As we all know, Twitter polls rank just above manatees that predict the outcomes of sporting events in terms of scientific accuracy. So in this post, I’d like to share the results of my extremely methodical and well-researched analysis of the unsung Microsoft Azure services that deserve a moment in the spotlight — and a few that are rightfully overlooked.
There wasn’t a single stand-out choice, nor even a top 3. But of course, on the internet, only one person can be right and everyone else must be very, very wrong, so I’ve picked my favorite suggestions and have given myself the final word in the matter. (So much power!)
You can see the full discussion here on Twitter. Or you can just keep reading this blog post! You’re already here. Why not stay awhile? We have cookies….
In no particular order, here are the peoples’ choice nominees for most underrated Azure service of all time!
1. Event Grid
If “likes” are any indication, Event Grid was a popular choice, championed by the likes of @TomKerkhove and @tiagocostapt, who wrote, “Definitely Event Grid. I stop counting the number of times I demo it to customer to solve real problems is an easy way, and still loads of professionals don’t know it exists…”
He went on to offer a recent example of how he’s used it. “I used the Microsoft.KeyVault.CertificateNearExpiry event to track down Certificates that are about to expire and automate the renewal by calling an API of the cert provider.”
The Event Grid love fest continued, with @lars_almen adding, “Event Grid. For real, that is a powerhouse right there. Wanna do a claim-check pattern? Just use this event. Need a callback on successful res. deployment? Here, use this event! Need to push millions upon millions of custom events rly cheap, and fast? Hook up your own topics!”
My take: I agree with all of the above. Event Grid is a service that at first seems complex, intimidating and hard to get a handle on. However, once you unlock its treasures, the possibilities are vast and efficient.
2. Azure App Configuration
@BenCurranDev suggested Azure App Configuration, saying, “It is SO powerful when you use it right, removes so much BS from deployment workflows but every man and his dog roll their own in a sprawling json file stashed in a public storage account.”
My take: While this is definitely true and can save tons of tears in debugging your applications, it is a rather pricey service too, especially for smaller distributed systems.
3. Azure Storage
@flytzen added, “Azure storage has really nifty features that few know about, such as immutable blobs, indexed tags, pseudo CDN capability, client-side encryption etc. When I design high-performance, scalable and resilient apps, full use of Storage is absolutely key.”
My take: Totally agree. Not only is Azure Storage a fundamental part of the cloud infrastructure, but it is the service that keeps on giving. It’s incredibly cheap when used correctly and extremely stable and dependable. Don’t just take storage for granted, nor face value.
4. Azure Bastion
ACG’s own Stephen Sennett offers up Azure Bastion as his top pick, saying, “It’s the perfect Microsoft service. AWS would say ‘just build your own’ and GCP ‘filthy non-automated peasants’ No need to build and patch VMs, configure rules, or anything. Just a straight-up giving companies something to make their cloud lives easier.”
My take: Yep, Bastion is amazing. It removes another element of your infrastructure from the public Internet, which is the largest attack vector of any cloud system.
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5. Static Web Apps
@John_Papa nominates Static Web Apps, saying, “so much greatness for devs and even more potential!!!” It’s hard to argue with three exclamation points!!!! (See what I did there?)
@TomVerhoeff agreed, adding “the combination of static apps with CDN also seems to be less known than it should be.” He even went a step farther providing some data when asked about times it might useful to add a CDN in front of Static Web Apps.
6. Azure Policy
@skyalin nominates Azure Policy. When I pushed to see if that was underrated because no one cares or because no one uses it, they added, “A little from column A, a little from column B. It’s the first thing that should control config, and is often the last to be considered after everything else is implemented and it is too late to make changes because of the potential impact.”
@BenCurranDev added: “The best things you can do with Azure Policy is really misunderstood by many. DINE Policy to allow you to deploy core infrastructure based on governance rules are amazingly powerful for large scale environments.”
7. Azure SQL
@eHougaard suggests Azure SQL, saying, “that’s an easy one: Azure SQL. It came about when all the “fancy” no-SQL stuff was emerging, but Azure SQL is really awesome!”
My take: Not a brilliant argument, but I do agree that Azure SQL is a solid and managed solution that “just works” from Azure. It doesn’t take away from NoSQL though, which also has its place.
8. Azure Maps
@jimbobbennett said, “I rarely see much @AzureMaps content which is a shame as it has some awesome stuff in it.”
My take: I think we’re so used to seeing and using Google Maps, that using Azure Maps is rare. However, it has great features that tie in with Azure’s other services, such as Azure Active Direction and Power Apps — not to mention the Azure Maps Creator to customize maps for your project.
9. Azure Table Storage
@flytzen made a strong case for Azure Table Storage, saying, “Azure Table Storage by a country mile. Extremely scalable, insanely fast, super reliable and so cheap it may as well be free. No wonder MS tries to pretend it doesn’t exist so you use the Cosmos version instead at 100x the price (yes, really) . . . I built a system that had around 130 million mileage records for 20 million+ cars in table storage. Costs was a cup of coffee or two and retrieve time was ~4ms.”
@jordanisonfire seconded that. “So much this. We have 21 billion partition keys in a single table and still have the same performance as day one.”
My take: Yes, all of that!
10. Azure Search
@kjeld264 and @merill both nominated Azure Search, or Azure Coginitive Search, as its official name is. This is a “cloud search service with built-in AI capabilities that enrich all types of information to help you identify and explore relevant content at scale.” It’s basically injecting machine learning magic into data sets to find things that are related and have contextual links. Very cool.
11. AAD App Proxy
@cgill felt it was AAD App Proxy “hands down,” and @mabster agreed, saying, “App Proxy was a godsend for us! We have a bunch of Windows-auth on-prem legacy apps, and we were able to surface them to the web with Azure AD auth (including MFA) really easily though AADAP.”
My take: I’ll let you in on a secret. I haven’t used AAD App Proxy, so I can’t contribute. Sounds good though!
12. Azure Speech Recognition
@ChristosMatskas suggested Azure speech recognition, with @azwildfire1 chiming in, “Sentiment analysis is the bomb! Works great if you are single and trying to figure out the meaning behind text messages too #geekdatinglife”
My take: This is probably the best comment I got for the whole session on Twitter. So much so, I started using sentiment analysis on my spam email messages. 🤷♂️
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