Azure free offerings

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As a professional developer, I often face a dilemma when hosting personal projects: striking a balance between affordability and the robust features I’m accustomed to at work. Many free or basic hosting solutions feel outdated or lack the functionalities I rely on. Fortunately, Azure offers a compelling solution with its “Always Free” tier, providing access to powerful services without incurring any costs. This article focuses specifically on these perpetually free offerings, as 12-month free trials don’t align with my preference for projects without set deadlines.

Instead of comprehensively listing all Azure’s free services, I’ll delve into the ones I find most intriguing and applicable for personal projects, offering insights a high-level overview. By leveraging these free services, you can build your personal projects with the same professional-grade technology used in leading organizations. For information on all Azure Free Services Click here

The Article is broken into the following Sections

Core Hosting Services

These are services that can be used to host the core of your projects, they are PaaS (Platform as a Service) level hosting options that require minimal management whilst also being enterprise grade hosting solutions.

Azure Static Web App Static Web Apps

Included 100 GB bandwidth per subscription, 2 custom domains and .5 GB storage per app

Description An excellent option for hosting SPA (single page applications)

  • Takes care of TLS (Transport Layer Security)
  • Built in Azure Functions for serverless compute
  • Built in staging slots allow you to preview versions of your application before a production release
  • Globally hosted for speedy delivery to all clients

For more information on Azure Static Web Apps Click here

App Services App Services

Included 10 web, mobile, or API apps with 1 GB storage 1 hour per day

Description Azure App Services is one of the older PaaS offerings on the Azure platform

  • No need for Containerisation (although available)
  • Built-in support for CI/CD (Continuous Intergration / Continuous Deployment)
  • Battle Tested
  • Wide Variety of platform support (.Net Framework / .Net Core / Node.Js / Java / Python/ PHP)

For more information on App Services Click here

Container Apps Azure Container Apps

Included 180,000 vCPU seconds, 360,000 GiB seconds, and 2 million requests

Description A recent addition (has been generally available for around a year) this is a nice abstraction around Kubernetes

  • Feature constantly being released
  • Blue / Green Deployments (using Envoy)
  • Scalable (including Scale to Zero and KEDA scaling)
  • Support for Sidecar deployments

For more information on Container Apps Click here

Functions Apps Azure Functions Apps

Included 1 million requests

Description Azure’s Serverless compute platform, this is a form of App Service (See above)

  • Good framework around orchestration challenges (Durable Functions)
  • Good support for multiple development platforms
  • Good support for bindings (queue / timer / Http / etc.)

For more information on Functions Apps Click here

Data Storage

These are DaaS (Database as a Service) offerings from Azure, they require minimal management and are enterprise grade.

Azure Cosmos DB Azure Cosmos DB

Included 1,000 request units per-second provisioned throughput with 25 GB storage

Description Cosmos DB is Microsoft’s NoSQL (Non-relational) Database platform, 1000 RUs (Request Units) is a generous amount to offer for free, I have run small production systems on far less.

For more information on Azure Cosmos DB Click here

SQL Database Azure SQL Database

Included 100,000 vCore seconds of SQL database serverless usage per month with 32 GB of storage

Description Azure SQL Database is a DaaS (Database as a Service) offering that is Microsoft’s Enterprise grade relation database. I did not expect to see this in the free offering let alone the amount of free compute included. Cosmos also supports Multiple APIs (such as SQL, Mongo, Postgres) that allow it to be used in-place of those services.

For more information on Azure SQL Database Click here

Messaging and Notification Services

These are services aimed and moving data inside of applications in an event-based manner.

Azure SignalR Service Azure SignalR Service

Included 20 concurrent connections per unit and 20,000 messages

Description SignalR is a useful tool for adding real-time communication to web Applications

For more information on SignalR Service Click here

Event Grid Event Grid

Included 100,000 operations per month

Description Event grid is a pub-sub message broker, great for event streaming or EDA (Event Driven Architecture) in your application.

For more information on Event Grid Click here

Notification Hubs Notification Hubs

Included 1 million push notifications with free namespace

Description Notification Hubs is a service that enabled Push notifications to all major Platforms (Android, iOs, Windows, Kindle, etc.) very useful when there is a requirement to notify end users.

For more information on Notification hubs Click here

Web PubSub Web PubSub

Included 20,000 messages per unit per day and 20 concurrent connections per unit (1 unit max)

Description Similar to SiginalR but built to be cloud native, this is the tool I would be reaching for if there was a requirement to push real time messages to front end.

For more information on Web PubSub Click here

Internet of Things

These services are used for management of IoT (Internet of Things) devices.

Azure Maps Azure Maps

Included 1,000 to 5,000 transactions for specific mapping and location insights features

Description Azure Maps is a Geospatial mapping services, this is used to tack the location of your IoT Devices (assuming they have the required hardware)

For more information on Azure Maps Click here

IoT Hub IoT Hub

Included 8,000 messages per day and .5 KB message meter size of Free edition

Description Azure IoT Hubs enables highly secure and reliable communication between your IoT (Internet of Things) devices as well as over-the-air deployments of updates and integrates with other services such as Event Grid.

For more information on IoT Hub Click here

Management and Organisation

These services are used to help manage development and general authorisation across solutions.

Azure DevOps Azure DevOps

Included 5 users with unlimited private Git repos

Description Azure DevOps is a full featured platform for managing Application Lifecycle from code, to test, and release; there is a much overlap between Azure DevOps and GitHub. In my experience Azure DevOps has a much richer “Project Management” side (Azure Boards) where as Github Actions has more configurability. One big benefit of Azure DevOps over GitHub is that it Supports Entra ID SSO from the Free tier whereas GitHub requires the Enterprise offering for SSO.

For more information on Azure DevOps Click here

Microsoft Entra ID Microsoft Entra ID (formerly Azure AD)

Included 50,000 stored objects with single sign-on (SSO) to all cloud apps

Description Microsoft Entra is the latest iteration of Active Directory, as such it has a rich history of Identity Management. It offers excellent solutions for SSO (Single Sign on), user and Device Management, and many others. If you plan to integrate a hosting solution with any of the other services on this page, I recommend not using Basic authentication and using a Managed Identity instead.

For more information on Microsoft Entra Click here

AI Services

These services can be integrated into solutions to provide a richer and more human feeling.

Azure AI Immersive Reader Azure AI Immersive Reader

Included 3 million characters

Description AI Immersive Reader allows the integration of text reading and comprehension capabilities, its aim is to assist users of all ages with reading. With the provided learning models allows features such as:

  • Reading Aloud
  • Translating Languages
  • Highlighting to focus attention

For more information on AI Immersive Reader Click here

Speaker Recognition Speaker Recognition

Included 10,000 transactions each of speaker verification, speaker identification, and voice storage

Description Azure Speaker Recognition is effectively Voice Identification. Simply put, if there is a requirement to identify users by voice, look no further.

For more information on Speaker Recognition Click here

Speech to Text Speech to Text

Included 5 audio hours each of Standard, Custom, and Conversation Transcription Multichannel Audio, 1 Custom endpoint hosting model

Description Azure Speech to Text is a Service that is designed to convert spoken language into text, at this time is supports more than 100 languages and variants.

For more information on Speech to Text Click here

Speech Translation Speech Translation

Included 5 audio hours Standard

Description Azure Speech Translation is a real time language translator, simply put this enables the ability to listen in one language and output in a secondary.

For more information on Speech Translation Click here

Text to Speech Text to Speech

Included 5 million characters Standard, 500,000 characters Neural, and hosting model

Description Azure Text to Speech is a service that converts text into natural spoken language.

For more information on Text to Speech Click here