[Microsoft Ignite recap] New Azure services that can help you run a cost-efficient cloud environment

Stylized representation of Azure Costs.

Who wants to spend money when you don’t need to? In the Microsoft Ignite 2020 session “Unlock cost savings and maximize value with Azure Infrastructure,” Corporate Vice President Erin Chapple focused on how Microsoft is making it easier for you to save in Azure.

Microsoft Azure has been great at helping people and organizations take advantage of the cloud as they want and need it. Since its launch a decade ago, Microsoft Azure has grown to a fast and reliable network that serves billions of people in 61 regions worldwide, using over 165 miles of fiber and undersea cable to power 170+ network points of presence.

Today, Azure is helping organizations to make better decisions with data and artificial intelligence and by allowing more people to work remotely during the pandemic. Azure can help enable remote work, secure your workloads, and deliver more innovation anywhere in the world.

But, if not managed and optimized, Azure can become expensive. That’s why it’s important to continually optimize your Azure costs. In the session “Unlock cost savings and maximize value with Azure Infrastructure,” Erin Chapple (@erinchapple), Corporate Vice President of Azure Compute discussed how new tools and services can help you save in Azure.

This session did a great job of walking us through some of the new and updated Azure services that can help you run a more efficient cloud environment or protect yourself from expensive surprises. We learned how each new tool can help you save money in Azure if or when it’s implemented. But the session was more focused on the new tools and all of their features than it was on tips to help you reduce your Azure costs today.

Windows Virtual Desktop for Azure

It’s not surprising that we’re hearing a lot about digital transitions in this year’s Ignite. I wouldn’t be surprised if “transformation” ends up being a word of the year.

When faced with COVID-19 and the need to close classes, Windows Virtual Desktops allowed Keiser University to transition to a fully online institution in less than two weeks. They did this by allowing remote work with Windows Virtual Desktop.

By using Windows Virtual Desktop, Keiser was able to spin up VMs and quickly implement remote work in a way that lowered costs compared to their on-premises IT spend. At the same time, shifting to an Azure-based environment helped accelerate system performance and increase security.

In general, Windows Virtual Desktop allows IT teams to deploy scaled, secure remote desktops running Windows 10 in just minutes. Showing the simplicity by example in a hands-on demo, Pieter Wigleven (@PieterWigleven), Principal Program Manager Lead at Microsoft, walked us through the steps required to deploy an app (Microsoft Teams) within a Windows Virtual Desktop environment.

In this session the Microsoft team announced added Windows Virtual Desktop support for:

  • Microsoft Endpoint Manager for Windows 10 integrating familiar workflows for provisioning devices.
  • Azure Monitor adding telemetry data retrieval and troubleshooting purposes.
  • MSIX app attach portal integration easily adding application layers from the Azure portal.

Azure security as a cost saving step

You may be wondering how security relates to cost, and while it may not directly affect your monthly invoice, the cost of a major security event could mean much more than an unoptimized VM.

We all know that downtime is expensive, and 68% of business leaders believe their cybersecurity risks (and risks of downtime) are getting worse. This isn’t surprising since cloud based attacks increased by 630% in the first 4 months of 2020. Cybercrime is expected to cost businesses $6 trillion by 2021.

[In 2019] the global average cost of a data breach [was] $3.92 million, a 1.5 percent increase [from 2018].

2019 Cost of a Data Breach Report, IBM

That’s why Microsoft invests so heavily in security ($1 billion per year), in a bid to save you major headaches and heartaches.

Within Microsoft’s cloud environment, there is a cloud-native application known as Azure Sentinel using both AI and automation to keep the entire organization secure and reduce your risks of costly service interruptions.

New features aimed at strengthening Azure Sentinel were announced during this session:

  • User and entity behavior intelligence analytics
  • Threat intelligence enhancements
  • Connectors for Microsoft Teams

In a preview of another security feature, we learned more about the new Azure Defender, a group of technologies that work to keep your environments and your hybrid cloud workloads safe. It keeps Azure servers, data services, and cloud native services safe from attacks. It helps you protect a wide range of workloads, including multi-cloud servers and SQL databases. Since it exists as part of your SIEM, you can also get prioritized alerts when you need them.

New announcements for Azure Defender include:

  • A new Azure Defender dashboard with a new look and feel in the Azure Security Center
  • Multi-cloud support with Azure Arc
  • On-prem support for SQL with Azure Defender for SQL

Windows Server and SQL Server

According to Microsoft, Windows Server and SQL Server run best on the Azure platform. That’s why customers are choosing “Azure as the trusted destination for their most demanding Windows Server [and SQL Server] applications.”

In particular, using Windows Server and SQL Server on Azure allows customers to save money by reducing large capital expenses for hardware and maintenance. You can also monitor and control storage and compute to reduce costs.

New announcements for Windows Server and SQL Server include:

  • Azure Automanage, which works with any new or existing server on Azure
  • Windows Admin Center

Azure VMs

Most businesses run their business critical applications in Azure. New Azure-dedicated host capabilities and automatic VM guest patching help improve security and compliance. Additionally, the upcoming ability to Automanage platform maintenance will increase productivity while helping with availability and overall platform resiliency.

Soon, you’ll also be able to run VMware workloads on Azure natively with the Azure VMware solution. This can help you increase the speed and the scale of your cloud infrastructure to increase your cloud savings.

Using VMware on Azure can allow organizations to migrate on-premise applications to Azure without the cost of having to re-architect the entire application. This can also help speed up cloud adoption.

New announcements for Azure VMware include:

  • Azure VMware solution
  • Azure VMware solutions assessments available with Azure Migrate.

Reducing costs with innovation

If you’re reading this article, we’re guessing wasting money isn’t on your agenda for this year. The good news is that with the innovations and actions mentioned here, there are more opportunities than ever to save money within your Azure environment.

We hope you found value in this session because reducing Azure costs is a topic near and dear to us. We actually created a tool to help you save on your Azure spending in a fast, user-friendly, and automated way. Check it out for free!

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