API’s and their business value…

API

In the past few months, I have been focusing a lot of my time around the development of our Nutanix Ready Integrated Program which deals with partner solutions leveraging\cosuming our API (application programming interfaces).  After a lot of research on API programs and consumption patterns, I thought I would share my thoughts and some conclusions on the business side. Not sure if this is considered a blog post or just ramblings, but here we go.

API and DATA

Data is, in many ways, is one of the most valuable assets a business has. A growing number of consumers and businesses are incorporating web and mobile apps into their daily routines, and companies are using data to provide more personalized, tailored experiences to their customers. In addition, companies are analyzing customer and operational behavior to make better decisions. These are some of the valuable new uses for previously isolated data sources.

APIs have emerged as the most accessible way for consumers within the business to extract value out of that data; developers can use them to create new business opportunities; improve existing products, systems, and operations; and develop innovative business models. Analysts can grab new data sources more quickly and pull the data into their analytics platforms. As the keys to unlocking precious enterprise data, APIs need to be combined with enterprise connectivity to actually free the data from systems. The APIs is the piece that makes the data consumable and reusable, thus they become ever more valuable to business.

API Evolution

As more and more APIs come into use, the architecture underpinning them needs to evolve as well – organizations cannot simply attempt to deploy APIs on top of existing monolithic systems and processes and expect an overnight transformation. Rather, the transformation begins with initiatives targeted at new innovative directions for the organization, such as the embrace of microservices, mobile apps, and laying the groundwork for a world of connected sensors. Also, product companies should consider making API framework a key part of their design strategy which would enable end users to adopt their product more rapidly and aggressively.  And above all, embracing APIs will help ensure that these connections are made intelligently and efficiently.  With all of this, I’ve seen there’s a direct connection to business value as well – generating revenue is considered the most important value that APIs provide to the business.

While revenue generation is an important part of the story, the impact of APIs goes much further into organizations, enabling transformation and agility at many levels. APIs enable enterprises to deploy apps quickly, in a repeatable way, which leads to a faster pace of delivery, and the ability to create new and innovative experiences quickly. In addition, APIs can greatly reduce the cost of change, enabling IT and application owners to change apps with minimal impact – especially when there are numerous back-end integrations involved. This is critical to agility since for the most part, the pace of change of the front end applications is much faster than in the back-end applications. APIs also help enterprises achieve operational efficiency, enabling greater visibility and expanded capabilities since every API call from the mobile app to the backend system is tracked and traced through an API key.

What are some examples?

For those who are not familiar with API, some examples are API are like SOAP or  REST. Nutanix uses REST (representational state transfer) based API, and we allow partners and customers to build leverage our API to do some very cool things.  From VM monitoring to solution orchestration, the possibilities are endless.

API

For example, Comtrade, a Nutanix Partner has developed a System Center Operations Manager Management Pack for Nutanix.  It leverages our API to pull metrics into SCOM to correlate with application workloads into a single pane of glass.  In this scenario, an IT Pro can really understand where his bottlenecks are and take action or automate that action.  Now that is the power of API with some DevOPs mixed in!!

To summarize….businesses from every industry are using APIs to add additional value, from increased revenue to increased agility to improved customer experience. Extraordinary changes are taking place in the enterprise which necessitates a new organization and philosophy for utilizing technology.

In a future blog post, I plan to go into the technical aspects of API and use cases.

Until next time, Rob… 🙂

Microsoft Azure Cloud Series – Azure Resource Manager – Part 3

Hello everybody, time to get in-depth with Azure Resource Manager.  But, before I dive into the Azure Resource Manager, I would like to quickly review some of the basics in Azure.  I will start with a rundown of the Azure Global Footprint.  Then, I will go into how Azure charges are incurred.  And finally, I will dive into the Azure Resource Manager V2 and comparing it to the older Azure Service Manager V1.  Sit tight and let’s go for an Azure Ride 😉

Azure Global Footprint
Azure Resource Manager

Microsoft Azure itself is deployed around the world and involves the concept of regions, which is where you select to place and run your code.  Each region has a Microsoft Azure data center.  These data centers are massive facilities that host tens of thousands or, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of servers.  Currently, Microsoft has:

  • Four regions in North America
  • Two regions in Europe
  • Two regions in Asia
  • One region in Japan

As shown above, Microsoft also has a number of Content Delivery Network (CDN) edge points.  They can be used to cache your content and deliver it even faster to end users.

Once you build an application, you can choose any location in the world where you want to run it and you can move your workloads from region to region.  You can also run your application in multiple regions simultaneously or just direct traffic and end users to whichever version of the app is closest to them

How are Azure Charges Incurred?

This may be different for many of you who are familiar with hosting providers and on-premises systems

Simply, with Microsoft Azure, you pay only for what you use:

  • There are no upfront costs
  • There is no need to buy any upfront server licenses; this is included in the price
  • VMs (IaaS and web/worker role) usage is by the minute
  • VMs (IaaS only) that are stopped in Microsoft Azure, only storage charges apply
  • Likewise, if you use a SQL database, through the SQL Database feature in Microsoft Azure, you do not have to buy a SQL Server license—this is also included in the price
  • For compute services, such as VMs and websites you only pay by the hour

This gives you the flexibility to run your applications very cost effectively
You can scale up and scale down your solutions or even turn them on and off as necessary. This also opens up a wide range of possibilities in terms of the new types of apps you can build.

Managing Azure Deployments

Microsoft Azure currently have two management models:

  • Azure Service Manager (ASM) has been around since 2009 and has been due for an upgrade..
  • Azure Resource Manager (ARM), released last summer, supports modern deployment practices. It is designed to be extensible to all current and future services.

Azure Service Manager V1

  • Traditional way to deploy and manage applications hosted in Azure
  • Azure Portal https://manage.windowsazure.com
  • PowerShell / CLI (default mode)
  • REST API

Azure Resource Manager V2

  • Modern way to deploy and manage applications hosted in Azure
  • Azure Portal https://portal.azure.com
  • PowerShell / CLI (ARM mode)
  • REST API
  • Azure Resource Management Library for .NET

Why and what is Azure Resource Manager?

Today’s challenge with Azure Service Manager V1– it’s difficult to…

  • Set and manage permissions – only co-admin and service admin
  • Monitor and have alerting rules – limited to Management Services and basic KPI in portal
  • Billing – through the billing portal
  • Deployment – complex PowerShell to gather all components for an application
  • Visualize a group of resources in a logical view, including monitoring/billing

ASM V1 Portal – Resource Centric Views

Azure Resource Manager

After working with the current ASM V1 for a number of years now, here’s the breakdown:

  • Resources are provisioned in isolation
  • Finding resources is not so easy
  • Deployment is more complex than on-premise
  • Management of app is challenging
  • Proper use of resources becomes more abstract
  • Isolation makes communications a challenge

Ok, Rob, then why does Microsoft still keep ASM V1 in production?  

Answer:  As of the writing of this blog post, not all features have been ported over to Azure Resource Manager V2.  Once all features and services have been ported over, I expect Microsoft to end of life Azure Service Manager V1.

Azure Resource Manager Overview

Azure Resource Manager

Azure Resource Manager enables you to work with the resources in your solution as a group.  You can deploy, update or delete all of the resources for your solution in a single, coordinated operation.  You use a template for deployment and that template can work for different environments such as testing, staging and production.  Resource Manager provides security, auditing, and tagging features to help you manage your resources after deployment.

Benefits of ARM

  • Desired-state deployment
    • ARM does desired-state deployment of resources. It does not do desired-state configuration inside these resources (e.g., VMs), although it can initiate the process of desired-state configuration.
  • Faster deployments
    • ARM can deploy in true parallel as compared to semi-sequential in ASM
  • Role-based access control (RBAC)
    • RBAC is fully integrated with Azure Active Directory
  • Resource-provider model
    • Resource-provider model is intended to be fully extensible.
  • Common interface for Azure and Azure Stack
    • When Azure Stack is released, same API model for on-premises and Cloud

ARM Definitions and what they mean?

  • Resource – Atomic unit of deployment
  • Resource group – Collection of resources
  • Resource provider – Manages specific kinds of resources
  • Resource type – Specifies the type of resource

Ok, let’s dive into the details of each now.

Resource Group (RG)
Azure Resource Manager

A Resource Group is a Unit of Management providing:

  • Application Lifecycle Containment – Deployment, update, delete and status
    • You can deploy everything included in a resource group together, thereby maintaining versions of an application along with it’s resources
  • Declarative solution for Deployment – “Config as Code”
    • Resource Group’s are .json, declarative/configuration code
  • Grouping – Metering, billing, quote: applied and rolled up to the group
    • Resource groups provide a logical grouping of resources
  • Consistent Management Layer
    • In the V2 portal, everything is controlled in a RG. RGs can be accessed via REST APIs and resource providers
  • Access Control – Scope for RBAC permissions
    • You can only use RBAC in the new portal and the highest level generally used for RBAC is the resource group level.

But, Rob, that sounds great, but should these resources (VM’s, DB’s, Storage, etc) be in the same Resource Group or in a different one?

Hint:  Do they have common life cycle and management?
Azure Resource ManagerAnswer: It’s up to you

Resource Groups Best Practices

  • Tightly coupled containers of multiple resources of similar or different types
    • When resources are in the container, they have a common life cycle. You can deploy these things together, put RBAC on them together with one request and they can know about each other
  • Every resource *must* exist in one and only one resource group
    • Every resource must be in ONE resource group, important for RBAC
  • Resource groups can span regions
    • Don’t have to live in same location, can deploy to multiple regions

A few final thoughts on Resource Groups and their deployment scenarios before we move on.

  • Most significant question is of lifecycle and what to place in a resource group
  • Can apply RBAC, but is this right for a particular resource group?
  • Sometimes resources are shared across multiple applications, in other words a VM could be stored in a storage account in a different resource group
  • Lifecycle is distinct and managed by different people
  • There is no hard and fast rule

Resource Providers

A Resource Provider is used by the Azure Resource Manager to manage distinct types of resources – in your JSON template, you will have code that shows what the resource provider expects to see in order for the resource provider (sitting out in Azure) to build the resource that you want…for example a SQL Server or SQL DB or VM.

Resource providers are an extensibility point allowing new resource providers to be added in a consistent manner as new services are added to Azure – anyone can write their own provider

Resource Provider Types Examples
Azure Resource Manager

Ok, Rob, how do I know what resources providers are available?

Using PowerShell, log in to your Azure account and then run
Get-AzureRmResourceProvider
Azure Resource Manager

Tools typically used with ARM

  • PowerShellBlog Post coming soon
    • PowerShell is used to deploy the ARM templates and can be used to download log files from the Resource Group to analyze issues
  • Troubleshooting in the portal – Blog Post coming soon
  • Visual Studio
    • Although not required, will more than likely be the tool of choice for creating the ARM templates – Blog Post coming soon

Well, that wraps up my blog post on Azure Resource Manager.  We covered a lot and have much more to go.  Stay tuned…..Until next time, Rob.