Free ebook: Microsoft Azure Essentials Fundamentals of Azure

NOTE: The Microsoft Press Guided Tours app has been discontinued and is no longer available in the Windows Store. If you have already installed the app, you can continue to use it for as long as you like. All the tours will remain available for download from within the app.

Microsoft Azure Essentials Fundamentals of Azure

We’re happy to announce the release of our newest free ebook, Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure (ISBN 9780735697225), by Michael S. Collier and Robin E. Shahan. This is the first ebook in Microsoft Press’s free Microsoft Azure Essentials series. Future ebooks will cover specific Azure topics, such as Azure Machine Learning, Azure Automation, and others.

Download all formats (PDF, Mobi and ePub) hosted by the Microsoft Virtual Academy .

Below you’ll find the ebook’s Foreword, by Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise group at Microsoft, as well as its full Introduction. Enjoy!

June 6, 2015 update: You can now get this eBook with interactive features by downloading the free Microsoft Press Guided Tours app from the Windows Store.


I’m thrilled to be able to share these Microsoft Azure Essentials ebooks with you. The power that Microsoft Azure gives you is thrilling but not unheard of from Microsoft. Many don’t realize that Microsoft has been building and managing datacenters for over 25 years. Today, the company’s cloud datacenters provide the core infrastructure and foundational technologies for its 200-plus online services, including Bing, MSN, Office 365, Xbox Live, Skype, OneDrive, and, of course, Microsoft Azure. The infrastructure is comprised of many hundreds of thousands of servers, content distribution networks, edge computing nodes, and fiber optic networks. Azure is built and managed by a team of experts working 24x7x365 to support services for millions of customers’ businesses and living and working all over the globe.

Today, Azure is available in 141 countries, including China, and supports 10 languages and 19 currencies, all backed by Microsoft's $15 billion investment in global datacenter infrastructure. Azure is continuously investing in the latest infrastructure technologies, with a focus on high reliability, operational excellence, cost-effectiveness, environmental sustainability, and a trustworthy online experience for customers and partners worldwide.

Microsoft Azure brings so many services to your fingertips in a reliable, secure, and environmentally sustainable way. You can do immense things with Azure, such as create a single VM with 32TB of storage driving more than 50,000 IOPS or utilize hundreds of thousands of CPU cores to solve your most difficult computational problems.

Perhaps you need to turn workloads on and off, or perhaps your company is growing fast! Some companies have workloads with unpredictable bursting, while others know when they are about to receive an influx of traffic. You pay only for what you use, and Azure is designed to work with common cloud computing patterns.

From Windows to Linux, SQL to NoSQL, Traffic Management to Virtual Networks, Cloud Services to Web Sites and beyond, we have so much to share with you in the coming months and years.

I hope you enjoy this Microsoft Azure Essentials series from Microsoft Press. The first three ebooks cover fundamentals of Azure, Azure Automation, and Azure Machine Learning. And I hope you enjoy living and working with Microsoft Azure as much as we do.

Scott Guthrie
Executive Vice President
Cloud and Enterprise group, Microsoft Corporation


Microsoft Azure is Microsoft's cloud computing platform, providing a wide variety of services you can use without purchasing and provisioning your own hardware. Azure enables the rapid development of solutions and provides the resources to accomplish tasks that may not be feasible in an on-premises environment. Azure's compute, storage, network, and application services allow you to focus on building great solutions without the need to worry about how the physical infrastructure is assembled.

This ebook covers the fundamentals of Azure you need to start developing solutions right away. It concentrates on the features of the Azure platform that you are most likely to need to know rather than on every feature and service available on the platform. This ebook also provides several walkthroughs you can follow to learn how to create VMs and virtual networks, websites and storage accounts, and so on. In many cases, real-world tips are included to help you get the most out of your Azure experience.

In addition to its coverage of core Azure services, the ebook discusses common tools useful in creating and managing Azure-based solutions. The ebook wraps up by providing details on a few common business scenarios where Azure can provide compelling and valuable solutions.

Who should read this ebook
This ebook focuses on providing essential information about the key services of Azure for developers and IT professionals who are new to cloud computing. Detailed, step-by-step demonstrations are included to help the reader understand how to get started with each of the key services. This material is useful not only for those who have no prior experience with Azure, but also for those who need a refresher and those who may be familiar with one area but not others. Each chapter is standalone; there is no requirement that you perform the hands-on demonstrations from previous chapters to understand any particular chapter.

We expect that you have at least a minimal understanding of virtualized environments and virtual machines. There are no specific skills required overall for this ebook, but having some knowledge of the topic of each chapter will help you gain a deeper understanding. For example, the chapter on virtual networks will make more sense if you have some understanding of networking, and the chapter on databases will be more useful if you understand what a database is and for what you might use one. Web development skills will provide a good background for understanding websites, and some understanding of identity will be helpful when studying the chapter on Active Directory.

This ebook might not be for you if…
This ebook might not be for you if you are looking for an in-depth developer or architecture-focused discussion on a wide range of Azure features, or if you are looking for details on other public or private cloud platforms.

Organization of this ebook
This ebook explores six foundational features of the Microsoft Azure platform, along with insights on getting started with Azure, management tools, and common business scenarios. There are many services in the Azure platform that are not in the scope of this ebook, such as HDInsight (Azure's Hadoop service), Service Bus, and Azure Automation, to mention just a few. To learn about all of the services available in the Azure platform, start your journey at

The topics explored in this book include:

  • Getting started with Azure: Understand what cloud computing is, visit the management portals, and learn about billing.
  • Websites and Cloud Services: Learn about Azure Websites, from deployment to monitoring, and gain an understanding of the web and worker roles used in Azure Cloud Services.
  • Virtual Machines: Explore the basic features of Azure Virtual Machines, including how to create, configure, and manage them.
  • Storage: Read about the basics of Azure Storage, including blobs, tables, queues, and file shares.
  • Virtual Networks: Learn the basics of virtual networks, including how to create one, and why a virtual network might be necessary. This also covers site-to-site and point-to-site networking, as well as ExpressRoute.
  • Databases: Explore two relational database options available in Azure: Azure SQL Database and SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machines.
  • Azure Active Directory: Explore basic features of Azure AD, including creating a directory, users and groups, and using the application gallery.
  • Management Tools: Explore three common tools for working with Azure: Visual Studio 2013 and the Azure SDK, Azure PowerShell cmdlets, and the Cross-Platform Command-Line Interface
  • Business Scenarios: Explore four common scenarios for utilizing Azure features: development and test, hybrid, application and infrastructure modernization, and Azure Mobile Services.

Conventions and features in this ebook
This ebook presents information using conventions designed to make the information readable and easy to follow:

  • To create specific Azure resources, follow the numbered steps listing each action you must take to complete the exercise.
  • There are currently two management portals for Azure: the Azure Management Portal at and the new Azure Preview Portal at It is necessary to move between both portals to explore all Azure features; unless otherwise specified, assume the Azure Preview Portal is used.
  • Boxed elements with labels such as “Note” or "See Also" provide additional information.
  • A plus sign (+) between two key names means that you must press those keys at the same time. For example, “Press Alt+Tab” means that you hold down the Alt key while you press Tab.
  • A right angle bracket between two or more menu items (e.g., File Browse > Virtual Machines) means that you should select the first menu or menu item, then the next, and so on.

System requirements

For many of the examples in this ebook, you need only internet access and a browser (Internet Explorer
10 or higher) to access the Azure portals.

Chapter 2, "Azure Websites and Azure Cloud Services," and Chapter 4, "Azure Storage," use Visual
Studio to show some concepts used in developing applications for Azure. For these examples, you will
need Visual Studio. The system requirements are:

  • Windows 7 Service Pack 1, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows Server 2012, or Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Computer that has a 1.6GHz or faster processor (2GHz recommended)
  • 1 GB (32 Bit) or 2 GB (64 Bit) RAM (Add 512 MB if running in a virtual machine)
  • 20 GB of available hard disk space
  • 5400 RPM hard disk drive
  • DirectX 9 capable video card running at 1024 x 768 or higher-resolution display
  • DVD-ROM drive (if installing Visual Studio from DVD)
  • Internet connection

After installing Visual Studio, you must also install the Azure Tools and SDK version 2.4 or higher.  You can do this using the Web Platform Installer at, or, if  preferred, you can manually install and configure the required components by following the  instructions here: (SDK 2.4) or here: (SDK 2.5).

Links to both version 2.4 and version 2.5 are provided here because version 2.5 has some breaking changes. If you have any other Azure solutions that use SDK 2.4, you should read the release notes for version 2.5 before upgrading:

The system requirements for the Azure SDK that are not included in the Visual Studio system requirements are as follows:

  • IIS7 with ASP.NET and WCF HTTP Activation, Static Content, IIS Management Console, and HTTP Redirection
  • Web Deployment Tools 2.1 or up
  • Internet Explorer 10 or higher

Depending on your Windows configuration, you might require Local Administrator rights to install or configure Visual Studio 2013.

The Azure community is made up of many people bound together by this one technology. We are honored to be members of this community, and we thank you for your help and support. We would like to especially thank Neil Mackenzie, Mike Martin, Gaurav Mantri, and Fabien Lavocat for their detailed technical reviews and feedback. All of them provided additional insights that greatly enhanced the overall quality and value of this ebook.

Special thanks to the team at Microsoft Press for their unwavering support and guidance on this journey. It was a pleasure to work with our editor, Devon Musgrave. Devon provided immensely helpful advice from the days when this ebook was just an idea, all the way through to final copy.

Most importantly, we are profoundly grateful to our families and friends for their love, encouragement, and patience. Many nights and weekends were sacrificed in the writing of this ebook.