Azure Communication Services (now available in GA), is a fully managed communication platform that enables developers and organizations to securely build communications features and connected user experiences across applications running on any device. Azure Communication Services is ideal for any developer or organization seeking to build new ways to connect with users across different channels (mobile, web, desktop). Our set of SDKs and APIs enable developers and organizations to create and control the calling connections they need with interactive, collaborate audio and video calling over the internet. Or they can enable end-to-end communication scenarios with telephony and SMS capabilities that complement traditional engagement modalities with more personal, direct communication.
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Microsoft Teams’ growth has exploded as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced more and more companies to shift to home working and virtual meetings. With more than 5 billion daily meeting minutes, Teams relies heavily on Azure’s global network of fiber-connected hyperscale data centers and its growing number of metroscale edge sites. It’s a powerful set of technologies, with support for text, voice, and video communications, all wrapped up in apps that run on the Web, on PCs, and on mobile devices.
What if you could take advantage of those same services in your own code, using them to add global, stress-tested, reliable communications features without spending time learning how to construct calls in WebRTC? With the launch of a public preview of Azure Communication Services (ACS), now you can. Microsoft is unbundling many of Teams’ foundational services, turning them into APIs that can be quickly integrated into new and existing apps.
As Scott Van Vliet, CVP, Intelligent Communications at Azure noted, “The service that my team runs that powers Teams has been built on Azure since day one, so we were kind of born in the cloud with Teams. And thinking about the value we get from being on the Azure platform, we started thinking about what are ways in which we think people can leverage this platform?” The pandemic may have accelerated Microsoft’s plans to release ACS to help companies improve their remote working, but it’s an expansion that’s clearly been in the works for some time. The mature APIs used by Teams are ready to launch a fully fledged service that’s able to support as wide a set of scenarios as possible.
Building on the internal APIs used in Teams, ACS is designed to support many different communication scenarios: one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many, browser, apps, bots, and even the public switched telephony network. You can also mix different options in the same app, much like Teams where you can change your communications mode as your interactions deepen or become more focused. It’s easy to image an ACS-based customer service application starting as text chat in a bot and then moving to a human agent when more complex answers are required, or even to a video call if problem diagnosis calls for images.
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The new Microsoft offering on Azure leverages the same network that powers Microsoft Teams. Developers can add voice and video calling, chat, and SMS text message capabilities to mobile apps, desktop applications, and websites through developer-friendly APIs and SDKs. Furthermore, it also allows developers to tap into other Azure services, such as Azure Cognitive Services for translation, sentiment analysis and more. Note that all communications between ACS, apps and websites are being encrypted to meet privacy and compliance needs, such as HIPAA and GDPR.
Other cloud vendors Google and AWS offer similar features as ACS. AWS, for example, offers several services like Amazon Connect, Contact Lens, Notification Services and PinPoint, while Google continues to expand Contact Center AI. Furthermore, SaaS companies like Twilio and MessageBird offer a similar set of core features.
Scott Van Vliet, corporate vice president, Intelligent Communications, stated in an Azure blog post announcing ACS:
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In the last article, we had a look at how to start with Azure DevOps: Getting Started With Audit Streaming With Event Grid
In the article, we will go to the next step to create a subscription and use webhook event handlers to view those logs in our Azure web application.
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Develop, Build, Deploy applications using .NET 5, CI/CD, Azure App Service, Azure SQL Database, Azure Storage Account.
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This article is a part of the series – Learn NoSQL in Azure where we explore Azure Cosmos DB as a part of the non-relational database system used widely for a variety of applications. Azure Cosmos DB is a part of Microsoft’s serverless databases on Azure which is highly scalable and distributed across all locations that run on Azure. It is offered as a platform as a service (PAAS) from Azure and you can develop databases that have a very high throughput and very low latency. Using Azure Cosmos DB, customers can replicate their data across multiple locations across the globe and also across multiple locations within the same region. This makes Cosmos DB a highly available database service with almost 99.999% availability for reads and writes for multi-region modes and almost 99.99% availability for single-region modes.
In this article, we will focus more on how Azure Cosmos DB works behind the scenes and how can you get started with it using the Azure Portal. We will also explore how Cosmos DB is priced and understand the pricing model in detail.
As already mentioned, Azure Cosmos DB is a multi-modal NoSQL database service that is geographically distributed across multiple Azure locations. This helps customers to deploy the databases across multiple locations around the globe. This is beneficial as it helps to reduce the read latency when the users use the application.
As you can see in the figure above, Azure Cosmos DB is distributed across the globe. Let’s suppose you have a web application that is hosted in India. In that case, the NoSQL database in India will be considered as the master database for writes and all the other databases can be considered as a read replicas. Whenever new data is generated, it is written to the database in India first and then it is synchronized with the other databases.
While maintaining data over multiple regions, the most common challenge is the latency as when the data is made available to the other databases. For example, when data is written to the database in India, users from India will be able to see that data sooner than users from the US. This is due to the latency in synchronization between the two regions. In order to overcome this, there are a few modes that customers can choose from and define how often or how soon they want their data to be made available in the other regions. Azure Cosmos DB offers five levels of consistency which are as follows:
In most common NoSQL databases, there are only two levels – Strong and Eventual. Strong being the most consistent level while Eventual is the least. However, as we move from Strong to Eventual, consistency decreases but availability and throughput increase. This is a trade-off that customers need to decide based on the criticality of their applications. If you want to read in more detail about the consistency levels, the official guide from Microsoft is the easiest to understand. You can refer to it here.
Now that we have some idea about working with the NoSQL database – Azure Cosmos DB on Azure, let us try to understand how the database is priced. In order to work with any cloud-based services, it is essential that you have a sound knowledge of how the services are charged, otherwise, you might end up paying something much higher than your expectations.
If you browse to the pricing page of Azure Cosmos DB, you can see that there are two modes in which the database services are billed.
Let’s learn about this in more detail.
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