Azure credits are a perk offered by Microsoft that help you save money on your cloud bill. Like a gift card for a retail store, credits are applied to your account to help cover costs until they are exhausted or expire. In a sense, these credits act as a spending limit because any usage of resources or products that are not free will be deducted from the credit amount. We found 7 different ways that you can earn credits and start saving on your Azure bill.
1. Visual Studio Subscription
If you’re a Visual Studio subscriber, you get monthly Azure credits that can be used to explore and test out different Azure services. The amount of Azure credits that you receive will depend on the type of Visual Studio subscription that you have.
With a Visual Studio Enterprise subscription, you get a standard of $150 in monthly credits. For subscriptions through MSDN Platforms you get $100 a month. For Visual Studio Professional and Visual Studio Test Professional, you get $50 a month.
2. Azure for Students
Full-time students at an accredited, two or four-year educational institution in a STEM-related field are eligible for these credits.
When a student signs up with their school email address, Microsoft gives them $100 in credit in order to help them further their career and build their skills in Azure thanks to the free access to learning paths, labs, and professional developer tools.
3. Azure Free Account
With a free account, you get access to a number of popular Azure services for no cost. In addition to access to free services, you’ll also get a $200 credit. It’s important to note that while the free account lasts for 12 months, your credits must be spent in the first 30 days.
Whether you’re just getting started in Azure or are looking to further your knowledge, a free account is always a great way to test the waters without having to make a long term commitment.
4. Microsoft Partner Network
In the Partner Network, those that are members of Microsoft’s Action Pack program receive $100 of Azure credits every month. Based on your computing needs, you can use these credits for any Azure service; some examples include, Virtual Machines, Web Sites, Cloud Services, Mobile Services, Storage, SQL Database, Content Delivery Network, HDInsight, Media Services, and more.
The great part about this is that there are a handful of usage scenarios that won’t consume all of the $100 credit – you can use this pricing calculator to estimate how much you could use with a $100 credit.
Any of the unused monthly credits can’t be carried over to succeeding months or transferred to other Azure subscriptions, so make sure to use it while you can!
5. Microsoft for Startups
This global program is designed to help startups as they build and scale their organizations. Part of the technical enablement features that are always free and available to all startups is $200 of Azure credits that can be used towards any service for 30 days. This is a great option for startups because it’s free and gives you the ability to explore all the different offerings without having to spend any money.
6. Azure for Education
With Azure for Education, users are given access to the learning resources and developer tools that educators and students need in order to build cloud-based skills. This program is available to students, educators and institutions – once signed up, educators get $200 of Azure credits.
Whether you’re teaching advanced workloads, interested in building cloud-based skills, or just getting started in your Azure learning journey, this program provides guidance and resources for individuals looking to further their knowledge in Azure.
7. Microsoft for Nonprofits
In an effort to make their technology more affordable and accessible for nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, Microsoft offers donated and discounted products. Each year, approved organizations receive $3,500 in Azure credits which can be used to purchase all Azure workloads created by Microsoft (excluding Azure Active Directory, which is licensed under EM+S).
No matter the industry you’re in or learning level you’re at, there are a wide variety of credits and resources offered that can help make Azure an affordable option for you.
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Each of the ‘big three’ cloud providers (AWS, Azure, GCP) offer a number of cloud certification options that individuals can get to validate their cloud knowledge and skill set, while helping them advance in their careers and broaden the scope of their achievements.
Between the different PaaS specific, role-based (such as dev. or architect) or domain focused certifications, CSPs have numerous options available to help you bring more value to your organization as you keep up with the new business demands and continue to challenge yourself and grow with this world. With these certifications, you are more likely to achieve business goals thanks to your proficiency in specific areas – and benefit from an extra edge on your resume in your next job search.
Here’s an overview of the certifications offered by AWS, Azure, and GCP and what capabilities an individual validates by completing these certifications.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certifications
AWS offers certifications for different learning levels. The four different categories/levels of certifications include:
- Foundational: individuals should have at least six months of basic/foundational industry and AWS knowledge.
- Associate: expected to have one year of experience solving problems and implementing solutions with AWS.
- Professional: aimed for individuals that have two years of comprehensive experience operating, designing and solving solutions using AWS.
- Specialty: each of the certifications in this category are based on a technical AWS experience in the specialty domain. Requirements for these certifications can range from a minimum of 6 months to 5 years of required hands-on experience.
AWS certifications offered include:
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
- Individuals are expected to effectively demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of AWS fundamentals and best practices.
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
- Individuals in an associate solutions architect role have 1+ years of experience designing available, fault-tolerant, scalable, and most importantly cost-efficient, distributed systems on AWS.
- Can demonstrate how to build and deploy applications on AWS.
- AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
- This certification is meant for systems administrators that hold a systems operations role and have at least one year of hands-on experience in management, operations and deployments on AWS.
- They must be able to migrate on-premises workloads to AWS
- They can estimate usage costs and identify operational cost control methods.
- Must prove knowledge of deploying, operating and managing highly available, scalable and fault-tolerant systems on AWS.
- AWS Certified Developer – Associate
- This is for individuals who hold a development role and have at least one or more years of experience developing and maintaining AWS-based applications.
- Display a basic understanding of core AWS services, uses, and basic AWS architecture best practices.
- Demonstrate that they are capable of developing, deploying, and debugging cloud-based applications using AWS
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional
- Individuals in a professional solutions architect role have two or more years of experience operating and managing systems on AWS.
- They must be able to design and deploy scalable, highly available, and fault-tolerant applications on AWS.
- Must demonstrate knowledge of migrating complex, multi-tier applications on AWS
- They are responsible for implementing cost-control strategies.
- AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional
- Intended for individuals who have a DevOps engineer role and two or more years of experience operating, provisioning and managing AWS environments.
- They are able to implement and manage continuous delivery systems and methodologies on AWS.
- Additionally, they must be able to implement and automate security controls, governance processes, and compliance validation.
- Can deploy and define metrics, monitoring and logging systems on AWS.
- Are responsible for designing, managing, and maintaining tools that automate operational processes.
- AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Speciality
- Intended for individuals who perform intricate networking tasks.
- Design, develop, and deploy cloud-based solutions using AWS
- Design and maintain network architecture for all AWS services
- Leverage tools to automate AWS networking tasks
- AWS Certified Big Data – Speciality
- For individuals who perform complex Big Data analyses and have at least two years of experience using AWS.
- Implement core AWS Big Data services according to basic architecture best practices
- Design and maintain Big Data
- Leverage tools to automate data analysis
- AWS Certified Security – Speciality
- Individuals who have a security role and at least two years of hands-on experience securing AWS workloads.
- Exhibit an understanding of specialized data classifications and AWS data protection mechanisms as well as data encryption methods and secure Internet protocols and AWS mechanisms to implement them
- Knowledge of AWS security services and features to provide a secure production environment
- An understanding of security operations and risk
- AWS Certified Machine Learning – Speciality
- Intended for individuals in a development or data science role.
- Ability to design, implement, deploy and maintain machine learning solutions for specific business problems.
- AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Speciality
- Intended for individuals who have a role as an Alexa skill builder.
- Individuals have demonstrated an ability to design, build, test, publish and manage Amazon Alexa skills.
Microsoft Azure Certifications
Following the Azure learning path under Microsoft, there are certifications available that allow you to demonstrate your expertise in Microsoft cloud-related technologies and advance your career by earning one of the new Azure role-based certifications or an Azure-related certification in platform, development, or data.
Azure certifications include:
- Azure Solutions Architect Expert
- Intended for individuals that have an expertise in network, compute, security and storage so that they can design solutions that run on Azure
- Azure Fundamentals
- Individuals will prove their understanding of cloud concepts, Azure pricing and support, core Azure services, as well as the fundamentals of cloud privacy, security, trust and compliance.
- Azure DevOps Engineer Expert
- Individuals will demonstrate an ability to combine people, process, and technologies to continuously deliver valuable products and services that meet business objectives in addition to end user needs.
- Azure Developer Associate
- For individuals that can design, build, test and maintain cloud solutions – such as applications and services – and partner with cloud solutions architects, cloud administrators, cloud DBAs, and clients in order to implement these solutions.
- Azure Data Scientist Associate
- Intended for individuals that apply Azure’s machine learning techniques to train, evaluate, and deploy models that will ultimately help solve business problems.
- Azure Data Engineer Associate
- For individuals that design and implement the management, security, monitoring, and privacy of data – using the full stack of Azure data services – to satisfy business needs.
- Azure AI Engineer Associate
- Intended for individuals that use Machine Learning, Knowledge Mining, and Cognitive Services to architect and implement Microsoft AI solutions – this involves natural language processing, computer vision, speech, agents and bots.
- Azure Administrator Associate
- Individuals must demonstrate their ability to implement, monitor and maintain Azure solutions – this includes major services related to storage, compute, security and network.
- Azure Security Engineer Associate
- Individuals are expected to be able to implement security controls and threat protection, manage identity and access. Additionally, they must be able to protect data, applications, and networks in the cloud as well as hybrid environments as part of end-to-end infrastructure.
- Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty
- In this specialty, architects have extensive experience and knowledge of the SAP Landscape Certification process and industry standards that are specific and critical to the long-term operation of an SAP solution.
- Azure IoT Developer Specialty
- In this specialty, individuals must prove that they understand how to implement the Azure services that form an IoT solution – this includes data analysis, data processing, data storage options, and PaaS options.
- Must be able to recognize Azure IoT service configuration settings within the code portion of an IoT solution.
Google offers three different levels of available certifications:
- Associate certification – focused on the fundamental skills of deploying, monitoring, and maintaining projects on Google Cloud.
- This certification is a good starting point for those new to cloud and can be used as a path to professional level certifications.
- Recommended experience: 6+ months building on Google Cloud
- Professional certification – span key technical job functions and assess advanced skills in design, implementation, and management.
- These certifications are recommended for individuals with industry experience and familiarity with Google Cloud products and solutions.
- Recommended experience: 3+ years of industry experience, including 1+ years on Google Cloud
- User certification – intended for individuals with experience using G Suite and determines an individual’s ability to use core collaboration tools.
- Recommended experience: Completion of Applied Digital Skills training course and G Suite Essentials quest, and 1+ months on G Suite.
Available certifications include:
- Associate Cloud Engineer
- Intended for individuals that can deploy applications, monitor operations, and manage enterprise solutions.
- Individuals display an ability to use the Google Cloud Console and the command-line interface to perform common platform-based tasks to maintain one or more deployed solutions that leverage Google-managed or self-managed services on Google Cloud.
- Individuals display an ability to set up a cloud solution environment, plan and configure a cloud solution, deploy and implement a cloud solution, ensure successful operation of a cloud solution, and configure access and security.
- Professional Cloud Architect
- For individuals that enable organizations to leverage Google Cloud technologies.
- These individuals can design, develop, and manage secure, scalable, and highly available solutions that drive business objectives.
- Individuals display an ability to design and plan a cloud solution architecture, manage and provision the cloud solution infrastructure, design for security and compliance, analyze and optimize technical and business processes, manage implementations of cloud architecture, and ensure solution and operations reliability.
- Professional Cloud Developer
- These individuals build scalable and highly available applications using Google recommended practices and tools that leverage fully managed services.
- Have experience with next generation databases, runtime environments, and developer tools.
- Have proficiency with at least one general purpose programming language and are skilled in using Stackdriver.
- Individuals display an ability to design highly scalable, available, and reliable cloud-native applications, build and test applications, deploy applications, integrate Google Cloud Platform services, and manage application performance monitoring.
- Professional Data Engineer
- Intended for individuals that enable data-driven decision making by collecting, transforming, and publishing data.
- Individuals should be able to design, build, operate, manage, and monitor secure data processing systems.
- Individuals display an ability to design data processing systems, build and operationalize data processing systems, operationalize machine learning models, and ensure solution quality.
- Professional Cloud DevOps Engineer
- Individuals are responsible for efficient development operations that can balance service reliability and delivery speed.
- Individuals are expected to be skilled in using Google Cloud Platform to build software delivery pipelines, deploy and monitor services, and manage and learn from incidents.
- Individuals display an ability to apply site reliability engineering principles to a service, optimize service performance, implement service monitoring strategies, build and implement CI/CD pipelines for a service, and manage service incidents.
- Professional Cloud Security Engineer
- Intended for individuals that enable organizations to design and implement a secure infrastructure on Google Cloud Platform.
- They are expected to have a thorough understanding of security best practices and industry security requirements.
- These individuals design, develop, and manage a secure infrastructure leveraging Google security technologies and should be proficient in all aspects of Cloud Security.
- Individuals display an ability to configure access within a cloud solution environment, configure network security, ensure data protection, manage operations within a cloud solution environment and ensure compliance.
- Professional Cloud Network Engineer
- Intended for individuals who implement and manage network architectures in Google Cloud Platform.
- These individuals ensure successful cloud implementations using the command line interface or the Google Cloud Platform Console.
- Individuals display an ability to design, plan, and prototype a GCP Network, implement a GCP Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), configure network services and implement hybrid interconnectivity.
- Professional Collaboration Engineer
- Intended for individuals that transform business objectives into tangible configurations, policies, and security practices as they relate to users, content, and integrations.
- Individuals use tools, programming languages, and APIs to automate workflows.
- Individuals display an ability to plan and implement G Suite authorization and access, manage user, resource, and Team Drive lifecycles, manage mail, control and configure G Suite services, configure and manage endpoint access, monitor organizational operations and advance G Suite adoption and collaboration.
- G Suite User – User Certification
- This certification lets employers know that you possess the digital skills to work collaboratively and productively in a professional environment, complete common workplace activities using cloud-based tools to create and share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and files.
Where to Start
If you aren’t sure where to start, each cloud provider offers a certification that only requires a basic understanding of the platform and are a great way to help you get the ball rolling in your cloud certification journey. The three certifications for beginners are: AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals, and Google Associate Cloud Engineer. Good luck!
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Azure Internet of Things (also known as Azure IoT) is a collection of cloud services managed by Microsoft that monitor, connect and control billions of IoT assets. Basically, this is a solution that operates in the cloud and is made up of 1 or more IoT devices and 1 or more back-end services that communicate with one another. Organizations across all industries use Azure IoT to help them improve their business and achieve their IoT goals.
There are three main parts that make up an IoT solution – devices, back-end services, and communication between the two. In this blog, we’ll dig in a little more into these components, different IoT services, and possible challenges.
How to Use Azure IoT
IoT devices are pretty much anything that has a sensor attached to it and can transmit data from one object to another or to people with the help of the internet. Typically, they are attached to a particular object that operates through the internet, enabling the transfer of data among objects or people automatically without human intervention. It’s also important to note that many of these devices can communicate through a Wi-Fi chip as well. Some examples of IoT devices that work with Azure IoT may include:
- Pressure sensors on a remote oil pump
- Temperature and humidity sensors in an air-conditioning unit
- Accelerometers in an elevator
- Presence sensors in a room
With Azure IoT Hub you can connect, manage and scale your IoT devices to communicate securely with back-end services in both directions. Here are some examples of how this communication works:
- Your device may send temperature from a mobile refrigeration truck every 5 minutes to an IoT Hub.
- The back-end service can ask the device to send telemetry more frequently to help diagnose a problem.
- Your device can send alerts based on the values read from its sensors. For example, if monitoring a batch reactor in a chemical plant, you may want to send an alert when the temperatures exceeds a certain value.
Here are some of the functions a back-end service can provide:
- Receiving telemetry at scale from your devices, and determining how to process and store that data.
- Analyzing the telemetry to provide insights, either in real-time or after the fact.
- Sending commands from the cloud to a specific device.
- Provisioning devices and control which devices can connect to your infrastructure.
- Control the state of your devices and monitor their activities.
Azure IoT Services Offered
Microsoft offers eight IoT services in Azure. With so many different options it can be confusing to figure out which one best fits your needs. Depending on how much help and control you want in building your own solution will affect which service is the best one for you. Here are the available services and what they can be used for:
- IoT Central: This application platform makes the creation of IoT solutions more simple and helps reduce the load and cost of IoT management operations, and development. This service is intended for straightforward solutions that don’t require a significant amount of service customization.
- IoT solution accelerators: This is a group of PaaS solutions that can be used to accelerate development of an IoT solution.
- IoT Hub: This service allows you to monitor and control billions of IoT devices by logging into an IoT hub from your devices. This is especially helpful if you need communication that goes both ways between your devices and back-end. This is the primary service for IoT solution accelerators and IoT Central.
- IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service: This service helps IoT Hub in that you can use this to securely provision devices to your IoT hub. Instead of provisioning millions of devices one at a time, this service gives you the ability to quickly and easily provision millions of devices all at once.
- IoT Edge: This service can be used to analyze data on IoT devices instead of in the cloud. This is a service that builds on top of IoT Hub.
- Azure Digital Twins: This service enables you to create comprehensive models of the physical environment.
- Time Series Insights: This service allows you to store, visualize, and query extensive amounts of time series data that is generated by an IoT device.
- Azure Maps: This service provides geographic data to web and mobile applications.
Things to consider
All IoT devices have different characteristics when compared to other clients, such as apps and browsers. Azure IoT devices, tools and data analytics may help you manage these to achieve your IoT goals. But, adopting IoT technologies can present its own set of challenges. While reducing IoT application costs and easing development efforts are important things to consider when implementing an IoT solution, connecting devices securely and reliably is often the biggest challenge most organizations encounter when using IoT services.
After reviewing the fiscal earnings report for 2019 and the most recent quarterly report from June for the ‘big three’ cloud providers, we thought it was time to take a closer look at the Alibaba Cloud market share. Looking at the numbers, it’s obvious that AWS is still number one overall, but other cloud service providers are not trailing far behind.
Alibaba is at the top of the market in Asia, and dominating in China with cloud revenue up 66% year-over-year. While Alibaba is in the top 5 CSPs worldwide, they still have a lot of plans for the future to maintain this growth and continue to move up. Here’s the deal with Ali Cloud and why it should not be overlooked in 2019.
Note: a version of this post was originally published in May 2018. It has been completely rewritten and updated for 2019.
Alibaba Cloud at a Glance
Following Amazon’s AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, AliCloud is making headlines of its own after they released their latest quarterly revenue and full fiscal year 2019 reports:
To see how much the Alibaba Cloud has grown, here are the 2018 headlines we gathered last year:
Here’s what Alibaba’s 2019 annual reports tell us:
- Cloud computing revenue grew 66% YoY in the most recent June quarter to $1.134 billion.
- For 2019, Alibaba’s annual cloud revenue reached $3.68 billion for the full fiscal year, an 84% increase from last year.
- In comparison, AWS growth was at 45 percent for the same period, and Azure was a surprising 64% YoY – the lowest it’s been in years.
- However, Alibaba’s cloud revenue can’t quite compare with the $30 billion and $33.7 billion generated for 2019 by AWS and Microsoft Azure, respectively.
- Alibaba Cloud, or Aliyun as some call it, accounts for 7% of Alibaba revenue. For comparison to the other big cloud + retail giant, AWS accounts for 13% of Amazon revenue.
- According to IDC, Alibaba Cloud has grown by 76% annually to hit $1.51 Billion in revenue.
Ali Cloud’s Market Presence
Alibaba is growing its market presence, not only with a firm hold over Asia, but also securing a spot as one of the top 5 cloud providers worldwide. Synergy Research Group reported Q2 2019 cloud market share numbers: Amazon 33%, Microsoft 13%, Google 8%, IBM 6%, and Alibaba 5%. Although Alibaba ranks lowest among the top five, they show consistently steady, upward growth, and land only a hair shy of catching up to IBM at 6 percent.
While AWS has a third of the total market share, Alibaba is holding onto a whopping 47.3% of China’s cloud computing market share. Out of all the China cloud providers, Alibaba is clearly in the lead with the biggest market share. According to Canalys findings, the closest competitor Alibaba Cloud has is Tencent Cloud who holds 15.4% of the China cloud market share. AWS comes in third holding 8.8% of the cloud market share in China.
So far this year, they have opened a second data center in Japan, as well as Indonesia. With the two data centers in Japan, AliCloud will offer 50+ services, such as elastic computing, image search, database, networking, disaster recovery, and storage services. These services can cater to key sectors.
Not only is Alibaba Cloud expanding their cloud footprint in the Asia-Pacific, but they have also recently expanded their reach to offer services in Brazil. They are focused on the bigger picture and continuing to increase their presence in the global marketplace. The company is growing at a rapid rate thanks to an increase in average revenue per customer. Alibaba is currently operating at a global scale in 55 availability zones across 19 regions around the world.
Not only is Alibaba expanding the number of data centers, but they also launched over 300 new cloud services during the June 2019 quarter. These include products and features that are related to core cloud offerings, security, AI applications, and data intelligence. On top of that, Alibaba also caught attention when it was named Salesforce’s exclusive provider in China. In an effort to expand their SaaS offerings, Alibaba cloud announced their SaaS Accelerator program. The goal of the SaaS Accelerator is to enable a seamless integration of SaaS offerings for vendors running on Alibaba Cloud.
We have seen that they are the public cloud provider that has shown the most YoY growth and Aliyun is proving that they are a force to be reckoned with and are showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
What People Are Saying
John Dinsdale, chief analyst and research director at Synergy Research Group, says “While not all cloud providers have released their Q4 numbers yet, it is quite evident that Alibaba growth has once again outpaced overall market growth”
Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group, says “Our growth is driven by the power of Alibaba’s cloud and data technology that helps expedite the digital transformation of millions of enterprises.”
“The growth, evolution, and operating margin profile of Alibaba’s cloud services are following, and should continue to follow, the same path. At present, AWS represents only about 1/9th of Amazon revenue but generates over 60% of its operating profit. There is little reason to believe that Alibaba’s cloud business will somehow veer off trajectory and be different,” said John Freeman, equity analyst at CFRA Research.
“Alibaba’s advanced, secure infrastructure and knowledge of these markets will empower our global customers with a solution that meets local business needs,” said Salesforce, Alibaba’s newest strategic partner.
Alibaba Cloud Market Share – 2019 and Beyond:
So as we continue to see Alibaba cloud market share growth, could they be the next big cloud provider in 2019? Will they jump into the ‘big three’ or will it become a ‘big five,’ including IBM market share? What we know for sure is that we can expect more growth, and that’s a good thing for all of us because growth drives competition, innovation, and better offerings for all. The cloud market is constantly changing, so while we continue looking at AWS, Azure, Google, and IBM in the next year, we’ll also be keeping an eye on Alibaba Cloud to see what they bring to the table.
It’s unlikely that Alibaba will be keeping up with AWS, Azure or GCP in the United States anytime in the near future. We’ll keep up with the changes in the cloud market to see if this changes.