May 25 - 27 | 2020 Antwerp, Belgium

Azure App Services, the Swiss Army knife

Azure App Services, the Swiss Army knife

About 30 years ago, everybody wanted a Swiss Army knife, or a MacGuyver knife like we nicknamed it. A full-blown toolset with many functions which heroes used to solve a multitude of problems.

 

Fast forward to our current year 2019 where Cloud Computing is becoming more and more pervasive. Not only in our daily personal lives by using services from well-known vendors, but also on the work floor. Microsoft Azure has become an outstanding platform with many services and possibilities which have been embraced by many while doing their day-to-day job.

 

There are a bunch of marvels to be found on the Azure platform, but the MacGuyver knife would be Azure App Services and for good reasons.

cloud.jpg (1)

App Services have been around for quite some time now, so they had the time to evolve into a robust and trustworthy service. Over the years a Linux variant appeared right next to the original Windows based version. When you want to have a fully isolated, dedicated environment with fine grained control over inbound and outbound traffic, you can also opt for the App Service Environment or ASE. Do mind the price difference though for all those extras.

Taking a quick look into the Azure Marketplace directly shows a lot of opportunities to quickly deploy and set up web applications like Joomla, Wordpress, nopCommerce or Kentico CMS to name just a few. Our Tobania tip: opt for the platform the application was originally written for (Linux or Windows) to get the best result.

As a developer App Services is a breeze. No matter your preferred code language, Microsoft has your back. It has support for ASP.NET, ASP.NET Core, Python, Java, Ruby, Node.js, PHP. Also, to quickly set up a test environment or lift and shift existing on prem applications are possible, and usually easy, scenarios to consider. Staged deployments and an easy swap between staging and production make it a very interesting platform. Another benefit is that Microsoft takes care of all the needed upgrades on the platform so it’s a full PaaS environment that takes away the potential maintenance headache.

For the business department, App Services can be interesting too. Quickly setting up a marketing site with WordPress, adding a cool domain name to it becomes a breeze. Adding an A/B test to see which look and feel of the website appeals more, is easy to set up. The integration with Azure Application Insights provides interesting live metrics of what is going on. User flows, retention insight and impact analysis are very helpful in identifying where users stop their journey on your website and your business is likely missing out on sales.

Kudu is the name of the open source engine that makes the magic of App Services work. We don’t know for sure, but we like to think that the people who created it were also MacGuyver fans when they chose the logo to be an azure colored Swiss Army Knife:

Kudu makes it possible to have different kinds of deployments ranging from local Git, Github, Azure DevOps, Bitbucket to even zip deployment. Via the url <yoursitename>.scm.azurewebsites.net you can get into the Kudu console to wade through the site, see tracing logs, upload or remove files, …

Want to perform some background processing? App Services got you covered as well in the form of Web Jobs. Besides the aforementioned computer languages of choice, you can also make use of PowerShell or Bash scripts to run these. A typical example for such a Web Job is to resize uploaded images in different formats. Another example, one we implemented at our client KBC, was to retrieve all the documents added to SharePoint during the period of the previous scan and keep the URL’s of these in a fast to query storage.

Up to this point, we mainly talked about the Web Apps part of Azure App Services but do know that on the App Services platform there are other players as well.

 

  • API Apps allow you to easily set up a REST based API which could shield off your on prem enterprise services and have Azure AD integrated to secure it. It also makes it easy to set up SPA applications.
  • Function Apps provide the means to run functions, basically small pieces of code, on App Services as well so you can piggyback on what you’re already paying for if you run an Azure Website. Our Tobania tip: you can also run Functions on the consumption plan and only pay for execution as such running them in a “serverless” way.
  • Mobile Apps help developing applications for mobile devices. Offline sync, easy to integrate notification hubs to send push notifications.
  • Web App For Containers makes it easy to deploy and run containerized applications on Windows and Linux while the platform takes care of OS patching, load balancing and capacity provisioning.

If you think about it: Tobania is also like a Swiss Army knife. Instead of metal working tools bundled into a handy companion, we provide a multitude of great people with ditto skills. Analysts, developers, architects, testers, project managers, … all these skilled consultants make Tobania what it is today and even better tomorrow; your trusted partner in achieving a common goal: success.

If this article has whetted your appetite to know more about these wonderful services, be sure to join the Tobania session, presented by Kris van der Mast, during Techorama.