Clarifying Some Of Yesterday’s Azure Announcements

Yesterday, Microsoft marketing published a blog post where they said a lot of things about new services, features, and locations for Azure. Let’s just say that some content in the announcement was less … correct or clear than one might hope for. I’m not saying that this was deliberate, but there is a history of this in Microsoft – Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott joke that this is why they have jobs!

Microsoft announced that 3 new regions went live in India yesterday. I tried a few times to create stuff in those regions, but none of the new regions appeared in my personal subscription (MSDN) or my work one (Open VL). I guessed that “ went live today” meant at some time during the day in the PDT time zone, so I decided to wait until the next morning (Irish time) but India was still not there. So I went looking.

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So the India regions are live, but like the Australian and New Zealand regions, they are not available to me because I do not have a business presence in India (or Australia and New Zealand).

The announcement also said:

The general availability of Azure Backup of application workloads. Included as part of Microsoft Operations Management Suite, Azure Backup now supports direct backup of SQL Server, SharePoint, and Microsoft Dynamics.

There are three things that I could have read from that statement (please note that both of the following are incorrect):

  1. Azure Backup MARS agent now can backup applications without DPM and without Project Venus
  2. This service is live now
  3. Azure Backup only comes with OMS

I asked my contacts for some clarification. Project Venus is still happening and it is the only way that Azure Backup will be eventually able to directly backup applications. Project Venus is not GA yet, but will be soon – you can bet that I’ll blog about it! I’ve stung Marketing before over the hints that Azure Backup is only available in OMS – that is simply not true; yes, AB credit is included in the add-on, but the full AB service is available to anyone with an Azure subscription.

There might be more incorrect information in that announcement that I’m currently unaware of.

I wish these announcements were more clear and correct. If you’re honest and describe the plans with some sort of timeline then we’ll forgive things that aren’t perfect. But if we are lead on a wild goose chase, wasting time and money, to find contradicting facts buried elsewhere, then we think less of the company making the announcement.

News for IT Pros from AzureCon

Microsoft announced a bunch of new stuff in the Azure world today for AzureCon. Here’s a summary of the stuff relevant to IT pros. Azure is growing still:

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Azure Container Service

Microsoft describes this as:

… an open source container scheduling and orchestration service which builds on our partnerships with both Docker and Mesosphere, as well as our contributions to open source projects in this space.

This gives you Docker service delivery and Apache Mesos orchestrator. Other pieces included are Marathon for launching/scaling container-based application and Chronos, offering distribute cron job and batch workload management.

Azure Container Service will be in preview before the end of 2016.

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Note that in the above slide (presented at AzureCon by Scott Guthrie) mentions the future on-premises Azure Stack.

More Regions

Three new regions just opened in India:

  • Central Indi (Pune)
  • South India (Chennai)
  • West India (Mumbai)

That should add about 60 new jobs to the Indian economy – it doesn’t take much labour to run one of these regions! Azure is available now, O365 will be there in October, and Dynamics CRM will come in H1 2016.

Azure Security Center

This is similar to something that was launched for O365 recently. Azure Security Center is:

… an integrated security solution that gives customers end to end visibility and control of the security of their Azure resources, helping them to stay ahead of threats as they evolve.

This solution integrates with partner solutions from the likes of Barracuda, Checkpoint, Cisco, CloudFlare, F5 Networks, Imperva, Incapsula, and Trend Micro.

You’ll get the usual monitoring and policy management, but ASC will also use information about global threats and your environment to make recommendations; that’s an interesting development! ASC will be broadly available by the end of 2016.

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Guthrie said at AzureCon that there is DDOS detection built into this service.

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Easier deployment of security appliances. And there’s best practices and scanning of network security groups (Extended Port ACLs in Azure). There is security alerting, that ingests data from the various partner vendors. Hadoop is analysing this data. SQL injection and DDOS attacks will appear in the alerts, maybe even pinpointing the location of those attacks.

This is a huge achievement of integrated advanced services.

N-Series VMs

This had to come – N-Series VMs can be thought of as the NVIDIA VMs, because that’s exactly what they are, VMs with GPU capabilities. GPUs are great for graphic and compute intensive workloads. N-Series will be available in preview in the coming months, and will feature:

… NVIDIA Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform as well as NVIDIA GRID 2.0 technology, providing the highest-end graphics support available in the cloud today.

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I think I heard Guthrie say that N-Series has Infiniband networking.

DV2 D-Series Virtual Machines

DV2 is D-Series Version 2 virtual machines. These VMs use a customized 2.4 GHz Intel Zeon E5 v3. With turbo boost 2.0 the clock can run up to 3.2 GHz, making it 32% faster than current D-series VMs.

Other News

Some bullets:

  • The general availability of ExpressRoute for O365 and Skype for Business, as well as the ability to connect to Microsoft Azure’s Government Cloud via ExpressRoute.
  • New pricing plans for ExpressRoute. Effective Oct 1st 2015, customers will have two different data plans for their ExpressRoute connections.
  • A8-A11 VM instances will be reduced in price by as much as 60%, starting Oct 1st. They needed this – it’s been much cheaper to run big workloads in traditional hosting or on-premises.
  • Azure File Storage is GA. Whoah – it’s based on SMB 3.0!
  • The general availability of Azure Backup of application workloads … Hmm, I’m reading this in-between the lines as the start of Project Venus, and “direct” might not be “direct”.  [EDIT] It was confirmed to me that this is Project Venus, and it is not live yet.
  • Upcoming availability of Azure Resource Health, a new service that exposes the health of each of Azure resources such as Virtual Machines, websites and SQL Databases to help customers quickly identify the root cause of a problem.

Lots of stuff there to keep the Azure bigwigs busy in their AzureCon keynotes.

Microsoft News – 28 September 2015

Wow, the year is flying by fast. There’s a bunch of stuff to read here. Microsoft has stepped up the amount of information being released on WS2016 Hyper-V (and related) features. EMS is growing in terms of features and functionality. And Azure IaaS continues to release lots of new features.

Hyper-V

Windows Client

Azure

System Center

Office 365

EMS

Security

Miscellaneous

AzureCon – A Free Online Azure Conference

Microsoft is hosting a free online conference featuring Azure called AzureCon, starting tomorrow (Tuesday 29th) at 5pm UK/IE time, 9am PDT.

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There is a mixture of level 200 and 300 content that is aimed at IT Pros, including:

  • Azure for IT implementors (Mark Russinovich): By now you will have heard of Azure and probably have been lost in a plethora of terminology: virtual networks, web apps, worker roles, virtual machines, Azure Active Directory, compute, REST APIs, blobs—the list goes on and on. Doesn’t it just make your head hurt? Come to this session and understand what Azure is, what can be done with it, and what role you can take as an IT pro. Gain a thorough understanding of the components of Azure. Learn how you can integrate on-premises and cloud services, creating solutions for the future. The session is packed with demos.
  • Azure IaaS: proper sizing and cost (Robert Davis): Two of the most frequently asked questions about moving to Azure IaaS are “How do I size it?” and “What will it cost me?” These questions aren’t easy to answer. Many tools will tell you how to move an on-premises computer to an Azure virtual machine assuming that what you have now is exactly what you need in Azure. In this session, you’ll learn that it is possible to accurately determine what size Azure virtual machines you need and how to calculate the most cost-effective way to move to Azure. You’re moving to better, faster hardware, so why would you need the exact same number of virtual machines with the exact same memory and CPUs? Servers can be consolidated and sized appropriately when the recommendations are based on analysis of the actual performance of the existing servers with a mind for consolidation using very precise calculations of the performance capabilities of the Azure environment. In addition to performance, you can accurately determine your best options based on costs for Azure in terms of storage, storage transactions, networking, and Microsoft SQL Server licensing. Would you be better off moving 5 on-premises servers on a standard A7 virtual machine or would 3 servers on a standard A5 and the other 2 on a basic A3 be more cost effective? This can be calculated.
  • Deciding between different virtual machine sizes (Kenaz Kwa): Azure provides a wide range of virtual machine sizes for any workload that you might want to run. Trying to decide which size is right for your workload can seem challenging. Join this session to find out about some of the considerations for selecting virtual machine sizes and learn the differences between different virtual machine size families and their regional availability.
  • Bring Azure to your datacenter with Azure Stack (Anant Sundaram): Modernization of on-premises infrastructure, hybrid approaches, and new models for application delivery all make it possible for IT to help drive business value and transformation. Learn how, with the recently announced Azure Stack, to bring the innovation from our hyper-scale datacenters into yours, enabling agility and productivity for application owners, with flexibility and control for IT.
  • Increase productivity and enhance security with enterprise mobility (Adam Bresson): The rapid growth of mobile devices combined with ubiquitous access to cloud services is changing the way people use devices to get work done. In this session, learn how to deliver enterprise mobility with consistent experiences that enable users to work on the devices they choose, while providing a unified infrastructure for managing applications and protecting corporate data.

This event is starting late for us Europeans. I wish MSFT would repeat this at Euro time zones. Note that the upcoming cloud road show has an audience reach that is too limited.

Register & tune into this event and catch what you can – it should prove to be a learning experience.

How to Reserve The VIP Of An Azure Cloud Service

Microsoft announced earlier this year that we would have the ability to reserve the public IP address (virtual IP or VIP) of a cloud service in Azure. I’d love that:

  • VIPs are non-reserved by default, so if your cloud service is suspended (maybe all VMs are shutdown) then you get a different VIP afterwards. That causes mayhem with traditional DNS.
  • I’ve been using CNAMEs to resolve my domain name to the cloud service’s domain name to abstract the dynamic nature of VIPs. Unfortunately, compliant implementations of CNAME do not support machine names, e.g. www.aidanfinn.com.

What I needed was a reserved VIP. Every now and then I looked for the way to implement this new feature, but I only just found it now.

Fire up Azure PowerShell (make sure it’s up to date) and then log into your subscription using Add-AzureAccount.

Find your service name using Get-AzureService.

Then run the following cmdlet, substituting your choice of label for the VIP, region, and service name:

New-AzureReservedIP -ReservedIPName "MyVIP01" -Location "North Europe" -ServiceName “MyCloudService”

This cmdlet won’t change the VIP of the cloud service; instead it reserves the existing VIP on your cloud service, which is a non-disruptive action. You can query the results in the GUI or by running Get-AzureReservedIP:

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To test, I shutdown all the VMs in the cloud service; this puts the cloud service into a suspended state. Normally the VIP is released when a cloud service is suspended. But when I started up the cloud service (starting 1 VM) the same VIP returned. Yay!

Keep in mind that there is a price plan for reserved VIP addresses. You get the first 5 reserved VIPs for free (subject to change). There is a charge for additional VIPs. And if you don’t use a reserved VIP (you reserve it and leave the cloud service suspended) then there’s a charge for the VIP.

Which leads us to the obvious follow-up question: how do I remove a reserved VIP? It’s not quite a logical undo. First you need to undo the association of the VIP reservation with the cloud service. Note that the following is not Remove-AzureReservedIP (that cost me 10 minutes):

Remove-AzureReservedIPAssociation -ReservedIPName "MyVIP01" -ServiceName “MyCloudService”

Note: I’ve noticed that this cmdlet takes a couple of minutes to run.

If you have the Azure portal open you might see it refresh and change the VIP of your cloud service – what you’ve done is remove the association of the VIP with that cloud service; the VIP is still reserved.

That opens up an interesting scenario. Let’s say I have an application called App1 running in CloudService1, and I’d like to build a new version of the application in CloudService2 and switch users over without them noticing.

  1. Reserve the VIP on CloudService1
  2. Set up DNS records for App1 to the reserved VIP
  3. Time passes by … until we want to migrate users …
  4. Remove the VIP association from CloudServcie1; the VIP is still reserved, but now unused
  5. Set the VIP association with CloudService2

And all of a sudden, people start using App1 on CloudService2 without changing DNS records … nice!

When you want to completely remove a VIP reservation, first make sure that you remove any cloud association with Remove-AzureReservedIPAssociation, and then run:

Remove-AzureReservedIP -ReservedIPName "MyVIP01"

Event: Taking The “Disaster” Out of “Disaster Recovery”

I’m going to be presenting another webcast for Petri.com, sponsored by Infrascale. In this event we’ll be talking about disaster recovery, how you can do it yourself, and how you can leverage cloud services, i.e. Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS).

The live webcast runs for an hour, starting at 13:00 EDT (18:00 UK/Ireland time).

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Microsoft News – 7 September 2015

Here’s the recent news from the last few weeks in the Microsoft IT Pro world:

Hyper-V

Windows Server

Windows

System Center

Azure

Office 365

Intune

Events

  • Meet AzureCon: A virtual event on Azure on September 29th, starting at 9am Pacific time, 5pm UK/Irish time.

Old School Thinking Wrecks A Company (@iDMobileIreland) Launch

You’d think that a start-up mobile telecoms company would understand the cloud, right? Today in Ireland, a new virtual mobile telecoms company, iD Ireland, launched their business, promising to give 4G as standard and to offer cheaper and more tailored plans to customers with generous data allocations. That sounds like the sort of thing that I’d want to check out, and it got coverage in every news outlet in Ireland.

So I, like many others, tried to browse their site. And 5 minutes later, the page actually loaded. I bet that most people thought “That’s sh1te” long before the page loaded, closed the browser tab and forgot about iD, thus ruining the potential of their launch. What a waste of great publicity and PR!

So what went wrong there? Old schoolers, that’s what. “Let’s put up 2 web servers and sure that’ll be grand. If we need more then we can build more servers”. You know the sort – you might even be that kind of person.

You know how I would have built such a web presence? I’d have deployed a set of load balanced web sites in Azure. And then I would have enabled auto-scaling. I’d have a minimum number of sites to keep the regular load operating nicely, and enough peak potential to meet the demand one would get after launching a mobile company and successfully getting coverage in every news outlet in the country. And the beauty is – I’d pay for just what is active.

But no; the IT old schoolers won out and the shareholders lost out. Isn’t that how it often happens?

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Microsoft News–13 July 2015

I don’t have all that much for you, but the big news is the Azure Site Recovery (ASR, Microsoft’s DR site in the cloud) now supports VMware virtual machines and physical servers, without using System Center. You do need to run some stuff on-prem and in the cloud to make it work though, so there will be a tipping point where the solution becomes affordable.

Azure

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System Center

Office 365

Microsoft News – 29 June 2015

As you might expect, there’s lots of Azure news. Surprisingly, there is still not much substantial content on Windows 10.

Hyper-V

Windows Server

Windows Client

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Azure

Office 365

EMS

Misc