What are compute services?

Natasha Ong
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4 min read

In a nutshell:

Whether you're sending an email, watching a movie on Netflix or playing a video game, compute services are the backbone of digital experiences.
They provide the power, flexibility, and efficiency needed to run applications, process data, and make your online world come to life.
Azure has three key compute service options: Virtual Machines (great for customisation), Containers (great for efficiency), Functions (great for simplicity)

What are Compute Services?

Picture this: you're watching your favourite cat videos on YouTube or sending a message to a friend on your phone.

How is it that you can load a cat video online? How does your message end up on your friend's phone? What is the magic happening in the background that makes this possible?

The answer: compute services! These services are super-smart calculators that make the internet come alive. They're responsible for performing tasks (e.g. load a video), running software (e.g. opening YouTube), and making sure that when you click, tap, or swipe, something happens on your screen.

Computing power

Something that often gets mentioned with compute services is the term "computing power". Think of computing power like a car's engine - the more powerful it is, the faster and smoother your ride. The more powerful the computer, the quicker it can perform tasks, whether it's running a video game or analysing large sets of data. Compute services give us much more computing power than what our physical computers can handle alone.

Types of Compute Services

Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform, offers a range of computing services to cater to various needs. We'll be diving into three key services in the next few modules, but here's a quick sneak peek:

Virtual Machines (VMs)

Virtual Machines are like having a computer inside your computer. With VMs, you can run different operating systems* and software applications** on a single physical machine. VMs are perfect for tasks like running software in a specific settings - for example, some software may be designed to work only on Windows computers, while others are meant for MacBooks.

*Let's pause for a second - what is an operating system? An operating system, or OS, is a computer's manager that controls everything the computer does. Every phone and computer has an OS - for example, Windows, macOS, Android, OS, Linux and more! Just like a conductor leads an orchestra, the operating system directs the computer's hardware to work together and run smoothly. When we say that VMs can only run one operating system at a time, it means that each VM runs as if it were a standalone physical computer.
**What is an application? As a quick refresher, an "application," or "app", is a bunch of code put together to do specific tasks on on your device. Apps are what make our devices useful and enable us to do various activities with the click of a button or a tap on the screen. For example, your mobile apps like Facebook and Chrome are apps. There are also complex apps out there that run quietly in the background.


Containers are like magic boxes for your software. Imagine containers as lunchboxes for your computer programs. Inside, they pack not just the software but everything it needs to work. With containers, you can easily create, share, and run your software on various computers, just like opening your lunchbox anywhere and having a nice meal. You won't need to worry about the kinds of settings your computers are running on, unlike VMs.


Azure Functions let you run code without worrying about the infrastructure. When something happens (an event), Azure Functions kick into action. You only pay for the time your code runs, making it a cost-effective and beginner-friendly option.