There’s a dilemma facing anyone wanting to build a map app on a Microsoft platform: The company currently has two mapping APIs, one that uses Bing, and one that’s built on Azure. They’re very similar, and while Bing Maps has more features, Azure Maps is catching up fast. They use mapping data from different partners, and they have different pricing models. With new partnerships, an enterprise focus, and a growing number of new features, Azure Maps is starting to become a useful option for anyone wanting to add mapping capabilities to a site or service; especially after Google’s recent pricing changes.
Location-aware applications need a few key functions: to search for locations, to display maps, and to route users between locations. While those seem simple enough, those three requirements have their own dependencies that make building out a mapping service a large and complex task. All of that is required Azure Maps to duplicate much of Bing’s functionality, with geocoding, geolocation, traffic, and complex routing algorithms that go beyond basic point-to-point routing. Azure Maps’s fata comes from TomTom, an alternative to Bing Maps’s use of Here.
Azure Maps’s pricing starts with the introductory S0 free tier that offers 250,000 basic mapping and traffic transactions a month, with an additional 5,000 time-zone queries and 25,000 queries across all its other services, limited to fewer than 50 queries a second. Once you move beyond the free tier, low-volume services cost $0.50 per 1,000 transactions (with the geolocation preview costing $0.25 per 1,000 transactions). If you want more than 50 queries a second, things do get more expensive, with the S1 service adding enterprise routing features and satellite imagery, at $5 per 1,000 transactions.
It’s best to start using the service at the S0 free tier, taking advantage of lower costs if you exceed the free monthly quota. The higher-volume S1 service is really only economical for large enterprises making a lot of geolocation queries, where the business sees it worth paying 10 times more per transaction.
Building your first Azure Maps app
To build apps with Azure Maps, you first need to set up an account after creating a Maps resource in your Azure portal. Your account needs to be linked to an Azure subscription, and once assigned it can be linked to an Azure resource group ready to add code and other resources. This adds authentication keys to your account, which you need to use in your application.