08/07/23

Azure Resource Manager: A Comprehensive Guide for 2023

A look at Azure Resource Manager and other alternatives

5 Min Read

It's 2023, and Azure Resource Manager (ARM) is an interestic service for users within Microsoft's Azure ecosystem, providing a streamlined approach to managing and deploying Azure resources.

What is Azure Resource Manager?

Azure Resource Manager is Microsoft's infrastructure as code (IaC) service, allowing users to deploy, manage, and monitor resources within Microsoft Azure. It acts as the management layer that enables you to create, update, and delete resources in your Azure subscription.

ARM utilizes JSON-based templates to define the resources required for applications. By executing these templates, users can provision and configure resources in a predictable, repeatable manner.

Key features of ARM include:

  • Resource Grouping: Organizes resources related to an application into resource groups for easy management.
  • Template-Based Configuration: Promotes reusability and consistency across deployments.
  • Role-Based Access Control: Enables precise control over who can do what within defined resources.
  • Integrated with Azure Services: Designed to work smoothly with various Azure offerings.

In essence, ARM facilitates the automated deployment of infrastructure within the Azure environment, offering consistency, repeatability, and control.

Azure Resource Manager: Benefits & Drawbacks

Benefits & Key Features

  • Deep Integration with Azure Services: Provides close connectivity with the broad array of Azure services.
  • Visual Tools: Offers visualizations and GUI-based tools for simpler management and oversight.
  • Access Control and Security Compliance: Facilitates precise control over user access and aligns with various security standards.

Drawbacks

  • Learning Curve: It may be challenging for newcomers, especially those unfamiliar with JSON.
  • Vendor Lock-in: Confined exclusively to Azure, hindering a potential multi-cloud strategy.
  • Debugging Challenges: Some users might find the error handling and debugging to be less intuitive.

Alternatives to Azure Rresource Manager

1. Encore

Encore Interface

Encore is an alternative that caters to those looking for a more developer-centric and flexible approach to Infrastructure as Code.

Benefits & Key Features

  • Cross-cloud Support: A standout feature, enabling the movement between different cloud providers without vendor lock-in. Encore lets you deploy your application to both AWS and GCP without any code changes.
  • Developer-friendly Interface: Focuses on simplifying development by abstracting some of the underlying complexities, Encore's Infrastructure SDK lets developers declare infrastructure directly in application code using the same programming language they are used to.
  • Automatic Preview Environments: Encore provides temporary Preview Environments for each Pull Request, making it simpler to validate changes with faster feedback loops.
  • Built-in Distributed Tracing: Encore applications are automatically instrumented with distributed tracing and key performance metrics, aiding in debugging and performance monitoring.

Limitations

  • Language specific: With Encore your application code and infrastructure declarations are all in the same programming language, which means not all programming languages are supported. Currently Encore supports Go, with NodeJS and Python support coming soon. See the docs for the latest information.

Suitable For

Teams that want to concentrate on developing their application and prefer not to spend a lot of time or money on complex DevOps processes and manual setup of their infrastructure.

2. Terraform

Terraform is an open-source infrastructure as code (IaC) software tool created by HashiCorp. Unlike platform-specific tools like AWS CloudFormation, Azure Resource Manager, or Google Cloud Deployment Manager, Terraform provides a multi-cloud solution, enabling you to manage a diverse range of resources across different cloud providers.

Benefits & Key Features

  • Multi-cloud Capability: Supports not only AWS but also Azure, GCP, and others.
  • Strong Community Support: Extensive community contributions mean more modules and support.

Limitations

  • Steep Learning Curve: It can be complex and daunting for newcomers as it requires learning a domain specific language to write Terraform configuration files.
  • State Management Challenges: Managing state files, especially in large environments, can be tricky.
  • Large overhead: Managing multiple environments for testing and staging can be very time-consuming as it requires creating Terraform configuration for each environment.

Suitable For

Teams with considerable DevOps expertise looking to control the details of their infrastructure configuration setup, with capacity to invest a significant amount of effort for maintenance.

3. Google Cloud Deployment Manager (CDM)

Google Cloud Deployment Manager is an IaC tool specifically for Google Cloud Platform, using YAML-based configuration.

Benefits

  • Google Cloud Specific: Tailored for GCP, ensuring seamless integration.
  • YAML-Based Configuration: Offers consistency and structure.

Limitations

  • Limited to GCP: Does not support other cloud platforms.
  • Cloud Lock-in: Google CDM only works with GCP and often leads to significant cloud lock-in effects which can lead to increased costs and reduced flexibility over time.
  • Less Community Support: May not have as extensive community support as Terraform.

Suitable For

Organizations using Google Cloud Platform exclusively, looking for an integrated solution to manage their resources.

4. AWS CloudFormation

AWS CloudFormation is an Infrastructure as Code service specifically for Amazon Web Services (AWS). It uses JSON or YAML templates to manage AWS resources.

Benefits & Key Features

  • Integration with AWS Ecosystem: Deeply intertwined with AWS services.
  • Template-Based Configuration: Allows reusable code components.

Limitations

  • Cloud Lock-in to AWS: Tied specifically to AWS.
  • Complexity with Large Templates: Managing large and complex templates can be challenging.

Suitable For

Organizations that are heavily invested in AWS and require an integrated solution to manage their resources.

Expanding on Azure Resource Manager's Value

Azure Resource Manager's deep integration with Azure services and its visual tools offer distinct advantages for businesses operating within the Microsoft Azure ecosystem. Its focus on reusability, consistency, and security alignment is noteworthy. However, vendor lock-in and potential complexities in debugging are concerns that organizations should consider.

Choosing between ARM and its alternatives depends on individual needs and the overall ecosystem where a team functions. With a variety of tools like Encore, which prioritizes cross-cloud support, the domain of cloud infrastructure management is rich with possibilities.

Whether firmly on Azure with Azure Resource Manager or exploring the features of Encore, Terraform, Google Cloud Deployment Manager, or AWS CloudFormation, a clear understanding of each tool's benefits and limitations will guide you in making the right decision for your team in 2023 and beyond.

Ready to escape the hamster wheel?

Encore is the Backend Development Platform that automates infrastructure to give you a simpler workflow — from developing locally to scaling on AWS/GCP.