My statement may be controversial to some. In my opinion, Azure should be a clear partner for SaaS founders who are working on building a minimal viable product (MVP). The cloud landscape is continually evolving with Snowflake entrance and Oracle ceding top-line growth and dominance of business applications and database technology losing ground to new players.
AWS is top dog, and everyone else is figuring out how to catch up. I must say the innovative AWS apps have significant potential for industries such as financial services to move away from legacy applications. Although financial services executives’ comfort to expose material nonpublic information in a full cloud environment has sparked the need for hybrid public/private clouds.
Successful SaaS founders have an obsession with delivering the best possible product. There are a few paths to get there. My experience as a business analyst positioned me to be a frugal, lean thinker. The burn rate for MVP must be realistic from a cost perspective. If you have a tight budget, it’s best to spend less on infrastructure.
According to Microsoft Azure, AWS is roughly five times more expensive. As stated earlier, it’s clear AWS is the top dog, but will that stay valid five years from now? Azure is launching new products monthly. The improvement I’ve noticed over the past five months of building in Azure is phenomenal. They are not just incremental but significant improvements.
Here are a few reasons why I’m so crazy about Azure.
- Azure SQL
- Azure Cosmos DB
- Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)
- Azure Cognitive Services
- Azure Functions
First, Azure is free for the first 12 months with limits. Generally, while you are building MVP, you don’t require production scale. It is best to build, iterate, and figure out the features to build a loyal user base. Tableau is an excellent example of a community-focused product that made things easy for the end-user. This might seem obvious, but your product should always address a problem and make life easier for the people, businesses, or institutions it is marketed towards.
Azure SQL is the next generation cloud SQL solution. The benefit of serverless computing is less time on infrastructure management. Spending valuable resources applying patches, installing OS updates, and backing up instances. Leverage the pay as you go model to build prototypes and proof of concepts. Azure SQL features many of the same functions as the on-prem SQL Server designed for financial analysts, business analysts & data analysts. The pricing model is insanely affordable. I recommend reading Azure’s blog about it.
Azure Cosmos DB’s architecture helps software engineers and data engineers build in several different ways. There are so many different possibilities, especially around ETL, analytic services, and IoT (internet of things). Cassandra API and MongoDB API provide software engineers, data scientists, and data engineers with scalability for big data operations. NoSQL is slowly increasing market share against traditional relational data solutions, and the transition will increase as companies adopt big data storage. Again the pay as you go is critical. You are entitled to 5gbs and 400rs of throughput.
“By 2022, more than 75% of global organizations will be running containerized applications in production”
Kubernetes became popular at Google but has since become an open-source project. It can effectively manage many project components, such as networking, storage, secrets, and authentication. Using the pip feature, you can save time downloading preferred development packages. Building in Kubernetes provides your applications with extra resiliency.
Azure cognitive services can help businesses stay lean. The speech features have the potential to improve customer service by reducing wait time. You can also improve quality assurance with speech to text functionality to monitor conversations between agents and customers. There are also vision features. Companies are enabled to build intelligent business operations to identify theft or when inventory needs to be restocked. The recent launch of Azure Communication Services also leaves a lot of mystery about how the service will integrate with other Azure products.
The overwhelming benefits of migrating towards Azure functions was foreshadowed by a few of my earlier comments. Particularly, Kubernetes and the Azure stack (Azure SQL, Cosmos DB, Azure cognitive services). Write code that best meets the use case (see more here). It also provides software engineers, DevOps engineers, data scientists and, data engineers with a plethora of options for scheduling and orchestration of jobs. This enables you to have confidence that data pipelines are doing what they’re supposed to. Any data exchange should be reliable and performant. The Azure platform provides SaaS founders the native tools required to meet 95% of the use cases on the market.
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Reference: Gartner. “6 Best Practices for Creating a Container Platform Strategy.” April 23, 2019