Microsoft Azure is a cloud platform that enables organizations to host their applications, data, and infrastructure within Microsoft’s datacenters. After you sign up for Azure, you will have access to a portal. That portal allows you to set up your environment and prepare it for use by creating databases, web servers, and virtual machines (to name a few). This article and video are the first of three where I walk you through administering your Azure environment.
What is the Azure portal?
The Azure portal is a single website you use to create and manage Azure services. As you can see in the following image, the portal is made up of three sections:
- Left — A list of resources and services to create and manage your Azure environment.
- Center — A dashboard that you can tailor to meet your (and other’s) needs.
- Top — A search bar to quickly find resources and services, a notification icon, access to a web-based command line, and more.
The portal offers a host of features that make it easy for you to track your projects, investments, and overall service health. I will cover many of these topics in the next video in this series.
Resource groups, resources, and services
Microsoft Azure makes no assumptions as to what you want to do. For example, you might build the next great app, set up a data warehouse, or create virtual machines. Before you can do any of those things, you need to select the resources unique to your needs and configure them.
For example, let’s say you want to create the next great expense reporting application. You will likely want the following features:
- A web app to create websites, APIs, and functions.
- A database to store customer information.
Those features are what Microsoft terms resources. Your app may also require the user to login with a username and password. For that, you might use an Azure service like Azure Active Directory.
Microsoft designed Azure to be a one-stop-shop for all your IT and software development needs. Therefore, if you want to create another app, you don’t sign up for another Azure account. Rather, you create another web app and another database for that second app.
To prevent your various apps from crossing paths and opening up potential security risks, you will group them into Azure resource groups. Think of a resource group as a way to categorize and secure a set of services.
For example, if you are creating an expense reporting app and an invoicing app, then you might structure your Azure resources like this:
- Resource Group: MYEXPENSEAPPRG
- Web service resource: myexpenseappwebservice
- Database resource: myexpenseappdb
- Resource Group: MYINVOICINGAPPRG
- Web service resource: myinvoicingappwebservice
- Database resource: myinvoicingappdb
Of course, your app may use many more resources, but hopefully, you get the idea. You purchase one instance of Azure and then create as many instances of resources and resource groups as you need.
Creating resource groups
While you can technically create a resource group when adding a resource, I suggest you always start by setting up the resource group first. By creating the resource group first, you can put yourself into a frame of mind where you are considering how exactly you want to structure the application.
To create a resource group, you start with the Azure portal, select Resource Group from the left navigation pane, and then Add a new resource group. The following image shows an example of how to create a new resource group.
With your resource group in place, you can now add resources. To add a resource, you select it from the left-pane of the Azure portal or use the search bar at the top of the page. Some resources have a few checkboxes and others will look more like wizards that walk you through the setup process.
The image below shows the creation of a new web app service. As you follow each step, more panes will open, expanding horizontally and to the right.
As I just mentioned in the previous section, creating resources can be many steps long. Rather than creating a bunch of new tabs in your browser, the Azure portal uses a horizontal scrolling method. That scrolling user interface is called a blade, and it is important for you get comfortable with it. After creating a few resources, using the blade will become second nature.
At first, working with the blade can be a little confusing. As you can see in the following image, the scroll bar at the bottom of the page is pretty far to the right, meaning there are plenty of other panes open to the left. Very often, these types of scenarios come up when you create a resource that is dependent on another resource. For example, the image below is creating a web app resource, but first it expects you to create an app service plan.
You can delete resources and resource groups. To do that, select the resource from the portal (or search for it in the top search bar). As you can see in the following image, Azure usually (but not always) forces you to type the name of the resource before the delete button appears.
After you delete a resource, Azure sends it to a queue for deletion. That means the resource may still appear on the dashboard. Be aware it could take minutes or even many hours before Azure entirely removes a resource so do not worry if it does not immediately disappear from your dashboard.
In the next walkthrough, I will show you how to create and tailor Azure portal dashboards to meet your particular business needs.
In the third and final walkthrough, I will show you how to manage Azure using the command line interface (or CLI).
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