TechEd NA 2014 – Introduction To Microsoft Azure Automation

Speakers: Eamon O’Reilly (System Center automation) & Beth Cooper (same team)

What System Center has done has been extended into Azure. Both in preview. About half of the room are familiar with Orchestrator, the basis of what we will see this morning.

Pretty full room – pretty small room unfortunately.


  • Optimize and extend existing investments: Based on POSH. Integrates existing systems.
  • Deliver flexible and reliable services: quicker. Reuse.
  • Lower costs and improve predictability: reduce manual errors.


Same as SMA: runbooks, jobs, and assets.

Appears under Automation in the Azure portal.


All runbook management/authoring/testing can be done in the Azure portal. Has a HA engine. Also has suspend/resume/checkpoint features of SMA. All based on POSH workflows so if you have a cmdlet, you can do it.


Free in preview. Pricing based on 3 points:

  • Job run time: time from start to complete. 500 minutes on free plan. $20/month (standard plan) gives you 10,000 minutes
  • Number of runbooks: 20 for free in free.
  • Integration module size: 5 MB on free plan.

You can register for the preview on the Azure preview site. This week is the time to do it. Preview is limited to East USA region.


Create a new automation account. Sample runbooks to be found on script centre. Tags are present to search/filter runbooks, like in SMA. Also has draft (what you are editing) and published runbook status. So you can have a published runbook and edit a new version.

Almost everyone in the room is using PowerShell. IT pros in Ireland are 5 years behind the USA, at least, and this is not a question of scale.

You can manually start a runbook or schedule on. Example: shut down idle VMs at end of workday and power them up at start of workday – save the runtime cost of VMs in Azure.

Automation Accounts

  • Organise automation by group of individual contributor
  • Accounts live in different regions.
  • Create up to 30 accounts

Automation Dashboard

  • For analysis and troubleshooting operations
  • Access problem jobs to get up and running quickly – focus on them instead of the lots of others that are OK


  • Author: Create workflow runnbooks. Call existing runbooks in library
  • Manage & browse and insert assets in runbooks: Modules & activities, credentials, variables, connections, schedules
  • Test: Run and see results within authoring window.
  • Troubleshoot issues
  • Publish: Edit draft before publishing

Manage Runbooks & Jobs

  • Dashboard view: view jobs over time. Find jobs that need attention
  • Runbooks view: Filtering of jobs based on status and date. ID authoring state (new, in edit, published). Filter by tags to find runbooks.
  • Jobs view: Histor of jobs per runbook. Who last updated/when. Input parameters and output. Drill into each job to view streams generated to help troubleshooting. Stop/suspend/resume job.


  • Connections: Information to connect to a particular system. System specific settings.
  • Update to new versions of integration modules
  • Credentials
  • Variables
  • Schedules

Central set of resources that can be used by all runbooks, like in SMA.



Has application insights enabled. If there’s an error on his site, The runbook triggers an action when an alert is created. A response is triggered whenever an alert is detected. All done using inline runbooks. Note: the alert detection method he used was to search for an alert email in GMail via an RSS feed.

Another demo.


They’re using SharePoint to store and change control their runbook scripts. A runbook is monitoring the status of scripts in the SharePoint document library (list item), using a custom SharePoint module. This uses a connection asset. They see a script go into a “ready to test” status in SP and that triggers a child runbook. It appears that the action is that the runbook is updated in Azure and moved to “production” status in SharePoint – they don’t really explain but that’s not really the point anyway. The demo was connections to external resources.

Typical Scenarios

Azure automation is more than just about Azure resources. Posh offers huge extensibility via modules.

  • Monitoring & remediation: Alert on a VM. Monitor for new services to ensure management. Notify subscription owners of underutilized VMs that are wasting money.
  • Change control and provisioning: Deploy a VM, and enable monitoring. Deploy a new service and configure endpoints for alerts. Deploy from GIT and automate tests and swap to production if passes. Monitor SharePoint online for approval to update a service and do that once approved.
  • Patch/Update/Backup orchestration: Use traffic manager to patch IaaS VMs without downtime to services. Enable regeneration of storage account keys while avoiding downtime. SQL backup on a schedule. Backup and restore IaaS VMs.

Leave remote management of Azure VMs enabled and Azure Automation can reach into those VMs’ guest OSs.

Anything you do twice: Automate it.

Takes time to create automation, but the more you do it the quicker you do it. And the time you invest up front will save you time in the long term.

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