Designing Solutions That You Are Migrating To The Cloud

In this post, I will discuss some trends that I have noticed when people are planning the migration of a service to The Cloud.

I am going to make this post as cloud-agnostic as I can, with my limitation being that I only work in Azure. I don’t know AWS or Google Compute, but I know their offerings are similar to many found in Azure. So, I suspect that what I talk about here will apply across the Big-3 clouds.

My Observation

Let’s say that you are migrating a 2-tier application to The Cloud. You’ve been running it on-premises or in co-lo hosting until now. There’s Checkpoint firewalls, some Windows/Linux web servers, and a database cluster (let’s go with SQL Server Always On for this example). You want to move this to The Cloud.

The common thing that I see, by customers and consultants, is that they will look to take this design and redeploy it identically in their preferred cloud. They’ll want the same firewalls, virtual machines with the same OS, and a VM-based SQL Server cluster.

What has been accomplished with that migration? All they’ve done is move the problems. Nothing has really changed other than the location – OK, that’s a bit untrue because the cloud service might offer some automation, security, bandwidth solutions that the co-lo hosting company did not. But essentially, the application is identical. All the other benefits of The Cloud, such as elasticity, flexible (maybe even lower) pricing, easier disaster recovery, lower operational costs, etc … they cannot be delivered because the solution is identical.

The Objections

Why would one struggle to figure out how to build an S2D cluster with expensive VMs (for disk and network throughput) and Premium/Ultra SSD disks (for IOPS and lower latency), build up availability sets VM clusters, when you can just turn on a cloud service and get an Enterprise SKU of SQL Server with always-on availability? Adopting that cloud service WILL be cheaper, easier, near instantly available, and never quire a patch deployment or upgrade by you ever again. Sure, I’ll hear the usual BS arguments now:

  • Cost of the PaaS service: Seriously? You want to run Ultra/Premium disks with high-core count VMs with Enterprise licensing, and you think that will be cheaper?
  • App compatibility: I’m going Azure-specific here because it’s what I know … SQL Managed Instance is SQL Server that you know, but in the platform.
  • License mobility: Yup, Azure (sorry!) supports hybrid usage benefit for SQL Server in the platform too!

And as for the web servers: the easy solution is to use a platform service. It is simple and will run your IIS or Tomcat code. And depending on your cloud, it will support IP filtering, firewall or full blow Layer-7 WAF and/or DDoS protection. Time to deploy? A few minutes. Future maintenance? Near none. DevOps integrations: way more than any VM could ever offer.

Cloud, Cloud, Cloud

When you are going to The Cloud, you need to leave the year 2008 behind you. I pick that year because that’s when I first attended cloud events and most people attending were there to learn how to stop The Cloud. Those people still exist, some consciously thinking like that and some unconsciously sabotaging their customer/employer.

Traditional solutions can be done in the cloud. But you have to ask: should they?

By The Way

How would I design the above scenario in Azure?

  • Database: Azure SQL, which is an always-on (triple) cluster. I might go with Managed Instance if app-compat was a concern.
  • Web services: App Services, Linux/Tomcat container from the gallery


  • Redis Cache for database performance.
  • CDN for static web content performance – large amounts of static content could live in a storage account with CDN support too.
  • ASE instead of normal App Services if I need to bring a WAF into play.
  • If using ASE, I could enable DD0S Standard Tier protection, with L4 on the VNet and L7 in the WAF.
  • Traffic Manager to abstract the deployment from the cloud, enabling mobility of the service.

Cloud Camp 2018 – It’s A Wrap!

Yesterday, Cloud Camp 2018, run by MicroWarehouse and sponsored by Microsoft Surface and Veeam, ran in the Dublin Convention Centre here in Ireland. 4 tracks, 20 (mostly MVP) sessions, 2 keynotes, and hundreds of satisfied attendees. It was great fun – but we’re all a little tired today Smile

Photo by Gregor Reimling

The message of the day was “change” and that was what I talked about in the opening keynote. In nature, change is inevitable. In IT, you cannot accept change, you’re pushed aside. Business pressure, security & compliance needs, and the speed of cloud make change happen faster than ever. And that’s why we had 20 expert-lead breakout sessions covering Azure IaaS, Azure PaaS, productivity, security, management & governance, Windows Server 2019 and hybrid cloud solutions. The conference ended with renowned Microsoft-watchers Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott discussing what the corporation has been up to and their experiences in covering the Redmond giant.

We had a lot of fun yesterday. Everything ran quite smoothly – credit to John & Glenn in MWH and Hanover Communications.

After the conference, Paul & Mary Jo hosted their Windows Weekly podcast from Dogpatch Labs in the IFSC.

And then we had a small after party in Urban Brewing next door, where one or two beverages might have been consumed until the wee hours of the morning Smile

Picture by Gerald Versluis

Thank you to:

  • MicroWarehouse for running this event – Rory for OK-ing it and the team for promoting it.
  • John and Glenn who ran the logistics and made it so smooth
  • Hanover Communications for the PR work
  • All the breakout speakers who travelled from around Ireland/Europe to share their knowledge and experience
  • Kartik who travelled from India to share what Azure Backup are up to
  • Paul & Mary Jo for travelling from the USA to spend some time with us
  • Alex at TWiT for make sure things worked well with the podcast
  • Everyone who attended and made this event possible!

A Twitter competition with the #CloudCamp18 tag was run – a winner will be selected (after the dust settles) for a shiny new Surface Go. At one point the #CloudCamp18 tag was trending #3 for tweets in Dublin. Now I wonder what will happen with #CloudCamp19?

Generation 2 Virtual Machines Make Their First Public Appearance in Microsoft Azure

Microsoft has revealed that the new preview series of confidential computing virtual machines, the DC-Series, which went into public preview overnight are based on Generation 2 (Gen 2) Hyper-V virtual machines. This is the first time that a non-Generation 1 (Gen 1) VM has been available in Azure.

Note that ASR allows you to migrate/replicate Generation 2 machines into Azure by converting them into Generation 1 at the time of failover.

These confidential compute VMs use hardware features of the Intel chipset to provide secure enclaves to isolate the processing of sensitive data.

The creation process for a DC-Series is a little different than usual – you have to look for Confidential Compute VM Deployment in the Marketplace and then you work through a (legacy blade-based) customised deployment that is not as complete as a normal virtual machine deployment. In the end a machine appears.

I’ve taken a screenshot from a normal Azure VM including a view of Device Manager from Windows Server 2016 with the OS disk.


Note that both the OS disk and the Temp Drive are IDE drives on a Virtual HD ATA controller. This is typical a Generation 1 virtual machine. Also note the IDE/ATA controller?

Now have a look at a DC-Series machine:


Note how the OS disk and the Temp Drive are listed as Microsoft Virtual Disk on SCSI controllers? Ah – definitely a Generation 2 virtual machine! Also do you see the IDE/ATA controller is missing from the device listing? If you expand System Devices you will find that the list is much smaller. For example, the Hyper-V S3 Cap PCI bus video controller (explained here by Didier Van Hoye) of Generation 1 is gone.

Did you Find This Post Useful?

If you found this information useful, then imagine what 2 days of training might mean to you. I’m delivering a 2-day course in Frankfurt on December 3-4, teaching newbies and experienced Azure admins about Azure Infrastructure. There’ll be lots of in-depth information, covering the foundations, best practices, troubleshooting, and advanced configurations. You can learn more here.

Satya Nadella & Brad Smith Speaking at Microsoft Ireland Tech Gathering

I attended today’s Microsoft Ireland Tech Gathering, a surprising event for Microsoft Ireland – they do very little in the public anymore. What’s even more surprising is that Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, is in town to speak (here, an earlier CEO breakfast, and a later education event by Dublin City University). Nadella is doing the keynote. I’m in the 7th row, and I have a heavy camera to swing/throw if he talks about Cortana – which only works in 10 countries, and Ireland is not one of the ten Open-mouthed smile (just kidding, big security dudes!).

All photos in this post are the property of Aidan Finn and may not be used without my permission – just ask, it’s easy!

Claire Dillon

The group lead of the local DX (Developer Experience) team takes the stage. She explains what DX is, a team now focused on development (technical architects) and business (account managers) in in the cloud, no longer the mix of devs and IT pros that DPE once was.

There’s a quick reminder of the last Microsoft year. And open source is highlighted.


The world is changing very rapidly. Mobile, cloud, data growth, machine learning, AI, augmented reality …me: these aren’t endpoints, they are the start of a journey. Industries are changing, and cloud/mobile has set an expectation that goods/services are delivered immediately.

There’s an opportunity for start-up small-in the cloud companies – they are flexible and can be disruptive to the larger incumbents. Microsoft Encarta killed Encyclopaedia Britannia’s 244 year old published product. But EB is more profitable than ever! They adapted and transformed to embrace the Internet for delivering their product. WIkipedia is a newer threat to EB. EB focused on a quality and fact checked product, and customers that required that: education, for example.

IT pros and developers are in for an exciting time. Things are changing, and resistance is futile. Some facts:

  • million active users.
  • Office on 340 million mobile devices.
  • Skype users using 3 billion minutes of calls. Sky Translator doing real time comms in 8 languages.
  • 40% of Azure income coming from small business and start ups. 1 in 3 Azure VM are Linux. The data centres consume less than 50% of the power of traditional data centres. 80% of large enterprises using MSFT cloud.

Today will be all about the digital transformation.

  • Satya Nadella, Brad Smith, and Irish MD will evangelize.
  • Then customers will talk about their journey, including some open source.


Cathriona Hallahan

MD of MS Ireland. Large breath of people here, partners, bloggers, media, small customers and large.

Microsoft has transformed under Satya Nadella.


Satya Nadella

CEO of Microsoft.

Vision: to empower every person on the planet to do more. Every product that they make is shaped by this vision. People build institutions to outlast them, including software.


It’s not about MS tech, it’s about what happens with that technology when it’s in customers hands, and how they can transform.

Mobility is not about a device, it’s about our mobility across all the devices in our life. Seamless movement is only possible in the cloud. This is why cloud first, mobile first are happening at the same time. Cloud computing is not a single destination – it’s a distributed computing service.

Digital transformation that customers will achieve through this technology is what is important. Microsoft is building this out through a hyper scale global cloud. 6 regions in Europe. The North Europe region (Dublin) is expanding – there are planning applications/decisions in the local news every now and then.

Azure is being built out as the first AI super computer (SkyNet).

Every compute node in Azure has FPGA’s now. You can distribute your AI across this fabric. N-Series NVIDIA chipsets provide great processing for AI too. But raw infrastructure is not enough. The magic is in software. Microsoft is state-of-the-art in speech and object recognition. Doing stuff with deep neural nets.

The Bot framework was launched 6 months ago. 4500 developers are building new kinds of apps on this framework. Graph gets a nod. Dynamics 365 is brought up – how can we think about business process as a continuum of productivity and comms, instead of putting it into a silo? Every company is becoming a digital company. You want to be able to empower every employee in your company with data, information, and analytics. Predictive and analysis power will be the new strength of a business – can you do it better and faster than your competitor and jump on opportunities. Can you predict service failures and proactively remediate? For example, factory can shift from focusing on the thing they make to the service they offer.

He refers to a digital feedback loop – data coming in and coming back out as intelligence.

How is all this going to diffuse through the world? In Europe, they see a broad spectrum of uses in Europe, and by European companies around the world. Access to the technology is critical. A Swiss company called Temenos has democratized access to banking s/w in Asia. They use the public cloud – there’s a video.


Some local Irish examples. He met with AIB and talked about their strategies. They are using the cloud and their data centers to transform customer banking. Office 365 is being rolled out to empower employees. Cubic Telecom is working with Automative Industry – to connect every car to a mobile phone network – s/w allows a car to move to any region and have network support without changing hardware. eHealth Ireland is connecting patients with doctors, providing information in patients’ most vulnerable moments.

In the future, this infinite cloud infrastructure and new types of devices (AR, VR, IoT) is what will transform every life and every industry. HoloLens is an infinite display – mixing realities. Another video.

When you change the way you see the world, you change the world you see.

It is incumbent on technology pros and government to ask if a tech is going to help everyone on the planet. MSFT launching a book called a cloud for global good.


Brad Smith

Chief legal man in Microsoft.

Started his career in MS France. Talks about the history of MS in Ireland – from manufacturing CDs, to eventually be involved in a global cloud issue. Their data center in Ireland lead to litigation in the USA about the FBI demanding access to a mailbox in Dublin – Microsoft won, in case you didn’t know. It was good news for Microsoft, and great news for the cloud. Microsoft touring Europe this week to talk about the globality of the cloud.

He reckons that the cloud is a new industrial revolution – a recap of what he presented at WPC earlier this year.

The cloud is powering all of the current digital transformations. How do we ensure that this cloud serves everyone and not just the lucky few. We need to act with shared responsibility. The new book as 72 recommendations to ensure a cloud for global good.


We need a new set of cyber security rules. We need personal rights for data crossing borders.

We more than just trust. We need a cloud that is responsible, and respects human rights and public safety.

We need to advance sustainability. MS data centers already consuming the same power as a small US state. This is escalating. MS committed to get better every year on use of renewable energy and to be transparent. By 2018, it’s to hit 50% or better, and 60% in the next decade … but they need help with supply.

We need laws to enable AI, but laws to control ethics.

The cloud needs to be more inclusive for people around the world. Form access to digital literacy, developing skills for the next generations.

To build a digital economy, you need to build a learning economy. We need to connect rural communities – the cloud can reduce distances. We need to think about people with disabilities – 300 million are visually impaired. Over 1 billion those with some kind of disability. They have potential to do great, but face obstacles to adopt and achieve.

Podcast – Talking Azure Backup with MVP Carsten Rachfahl

I had the pleasure of recording a podcast with my CDM (Hyper-V) MVP colleague and friend, Carsten Rachfahl, a few weeks ago. We talked about a few things, but the focus of the talk was cloud or hybrid backups using Azure Backup. You can watch the recording here.


Webinar: Defending Today’s Threats With Tomorrow’s Security By Microsoft

I am presenting another webinar on July 21st at 2PM Irish/UK time, 3PM CET, 9AM Eastern, hosted by my employer, MicroWarehouse. The focus of this webinar will be security solutions … and I’m not talking old style stuff like AV scanning or proxy/firewalls. No, I’m talking about modern security solutions that are designed to deal with the sorts of threats that your yellow box scanners and Cisco/SonicWall firewalls are letting right through to trash your business.


You can register here.

Cloud & Datacenter Management 2016 Videos

I recently spoke at the excellent Cloud and Datacenter Management conference in Dusseldorf, Germany. There was 5 tracks full of expert speakers from around Europe, and a few Microsoft US people, talking Windows Server 2016, Azure, System Center, Office 365 and more. Most of the sessions were in German, but many of the speakers (like me, Ben Armstrong, Matt McSpirit, Damian Flynn, Didier Van Hoye and more) were international and presented in English.


You can find my session, Azure Backup – Microsoft’s Best Kept Secret, and all of the other videos on Channel 9.

Note: Azure Backup Server does have a cost for local backup that is not sent to Azure. You are charged for the instance being protected, but there is no storage charge if you don’t send anything to Azure.

Azure Global Bootcamp Dublin – When Disaster Strikes

I spent Saturday afternoon in the offices of Microsoft Ireland at the very successful Azure Global Bootcamp event in Dublin. Other speakers covered a variety of topics for the 160 (approx) attendees and I wrapped up the day with a session on using Azure Site Recovery as a virtual DR site in the cloud for Hyper-V, VMware, and physical servers.

I was pretty exhausted going into the session, but it was good fun for me to do it. The crowd was engaged, and they even laughed at one or two of my attempts at humour. There was loads of engagement afterwards which was as much fun, even if maybe 95% of the audience were developers Winking smile

You can find my PowerPoint deck on SlideShare:

Here are a few photos that some folks took:

Media preview

Starting off [Image credit: Niall Moran, Microsoft]

One of the two rooms used on the day [Image credit: Ryan Mesches, Microsoft]


I stood between the audience and food – so I had some fun [Image credit: Rob Allen, Unity]

Media preview

Vikas Sahni (organiser & speaker), Bob Duffy (SQL MVP and speaker), and me.

About 95% of the audience identified themselves as developers to one of the previous speakers. Around 40% of the room claimed to already have DR services in place. So I’m curious why so many stuck around for an IT pro topic on DR. Maybe they wanted a cheaper, cloud-based alternative?

Global Azure BootCamp 2016 – Dublin

Microsoft and “the community” are partnering once again to run The Azure Global BootCamp. ICYMI, the boot camp is a one-day event in locations around the world, where Azure veterans share their knowledge with attendees at this free event.

This event is running in Dublin at 09:30 on Saturday April 16th at Microsoft Atrium Building B, at Carmanhall Road, in Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin 18.

The agenda is:

  • What’s new in Azure – Niall Moran (Microsoft)
  • Building and Deploying Azure App Services – Aidan Casey (MVP)
  • Migrating SQL to Azure, an Architectural Perspective – Bob Duffy (MVP)
  • Building Real World applications – Vikas Sahni
  • When disaster strikes – Aidan Finn (MVP)

My session will be focusing on the hybrid cloud solution where Azure acts as a DR site for your on-premises servers (physical, VMware, or Hyper-V).

The event page, with agenda and registration can be found here.