In a 2017 survey, Microsoft Azure was identified as the most-used public cloud, and the one most likely to be purchased or renewed, according to 28% of survey respondents—the highest percentage for any public cloud provider. With results like this, it’s no wonder the number of businesses interested in Azure continues to climb. Continue reading
Ignite 2017 Key takeaways
This was the first year I have not attended Microsoft Ignite, due to unforeseen circumstances. But this didn’t stop me from covering Ignite 2017. So here we go…
Ignite 2017 this year has about 25k attendees. During the same time as Ignite, they are also running Microsoft Envision. This is more focused to business leaders across industries. Its main focus is to have Business Leaders understand and manage their organizations in the Digital Age.
Ignite 2017 Attendee Breakout
- 47 % ITI/IT Pros
- 34% Developers
- 19% ITDM.
Top Industries Attended
- 34% IT and Software (flat YoY)
- 20% Education
- 9% Healthcare
- 9% Manufacturing
- 9% Professional & Business Services
Ignite Keynotes Summary and Links
- Satya Nadella – CEO
- Kirk Koenigsbauer (Modern Workplace)
- Jame Phillips (Business Applications)
- Scott Guthrie (The Enterprise Cloud)
Key Takeaways – Modern Workplace
Expanding Microsoft 365
- Microsoft 365 Firstline offering and Microsoft 365 Education
- New Windows 10 S devices from HP, Lenovo, Acer and Fujitsu starting at $275 USD
Intelligent personalized search power by Microsoft Graph
- Bing for business
- LinkedIn data integrated with Office 365 profile card
- Office 365 search & discovery improvements
- Windows 10 taskbar search
Intelligent Communications vision
- Bring voice and video + new cognitive and data services into Micro Teams
Advances in Intelligent Security
- Integrated Adminced threat Protection using Intelligent Security Graph
- Better data protection and access control across Microsoft 365
- New Compliance Manager, a single GDPR dashboard
Modernizing Business Process with Cloud and AI
Key Takeaways – Business Applications
New Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI Solutions
- First solutions for customer care includes a virtual agent for customers, an intelligent assistant for support staff and conversational AI management tools, power by Microsoft AI
- HP, Macy’s, and Microsoft already using this technology to improve customer satisfaction and handle more requests, more quickly
Modular apps for Dynamics 365
- New modular apps are lightweight SaS services designed to transform one business process at a time
- Work with Dynamics 3 business apps or can be used independently
- Extend existing systems of record, integrate with Office 365 and augment with LinkedIn insights.
- First to allow talent leaders and hiring managers to address a company’s most important asset, people
- Attract: focused on recruiting | Onboard: helps you make new employees successful – Available later this year.
Deeper integration for PowerApps and Microsoft Flow + Office 365 and Dynamics 365
- Rapidly build apps, automate tasks, simplify workflows and solve unique business problems.
- Allow any business user familiar with InfoPath forms, Access databases or SharePoint list. This allows customers to build apps that help them achieve more, on a single no-code/low code platform.
Apps and Infra/Data and AI
- Every customer is an AI customer
The Enterprise Cloud
Key Takeaways – Hybrid
Delivering true hybrid consistency
- Azure Stack shipping through OEM partners including Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo
- Database Migration Service (DMS)
Empowering customer to optimize costs
- Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL server
- Azure Cost Management by CFloudyn – free to all Azure subscriptions
Key Takeaways – Intelligence
Any data, any place
- SQL Server on Linux Windows and Docker availability with SQL Server 2017 GA’
One convenient workbench for data scientists and AI developers
- Azure Machine Learning Updates
Build intelligent apps at global scale
- Azure Cosmos DB and Azure Functions integration
Performance and Scale for mission-critical analytic apps
- Azure SQL Data Warehouse preview release of new “optimized for compute” performance tier
Cloud for Good – Key takeaways
To empower nonprofits, Microsoft Philanthropies will:
- Microsoft has announced they met their 2016 commitment to donate $1 billion in cloud computing resources to nonprofits
- Continue the cloud donations program, and triple the number of nonprofits Microsoft serves over the next three years
- Launch a new Tech for Social Impact group, and the first offers, announced this week include:
- Microsoft 365 for Nonprofits
- Nonprofit Surface discounts for the first time ever
To get more detailed information about these announcements, please see links below or check out the Ignite2017 Site.
Official Microsoft Blog
Hybrid Cloud Blog
Data Platform Blogs
Until next time, Rob.
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 😉
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
- 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 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.
A Resource Group is a Unit of Management providing:
- Application Life-Cycle 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?
Answer: 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 life-cycle 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
- Life-cycle is distinct and managed by different people
- There is no hard and fast rule
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
Tools typically used with ARM
- PowerShell – Blog 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…
In today’s IT, there are lot of discussions about different terms like PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS. So what do all of these cloud acronyms mean?
I’m going to give you the simplest explanation I can, to help you understand the difference between SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS. First, let’s expand those acronyms! Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, and Platform as a Service are all just different types of clouds.
New Choices for Delivering IT
The cloud provides options for approach, sourcing, and control. It delivers a well-defined set of services, which are perceived by the customers to have infinite capacity, continuous availability, increased agility, and improved cost efficiency. To achieve these attributes in their customers’ minds, IT must shift its traditional server-centric approach to a service-centric approach. This implies that IT must go from deploying applications in silos with minimal leverage across environments to delivering applications on pre-determined standardized platforms with mutually agreed upon service levels. A hybrid strategy that uses several cloud options at the same time will become the norm as organizations choose a mix of various cloud models to meet their specific needs.
Typical Service Models
Software as a Service
Software as a Service (SaaS) delivers business processes and applications, such as CRM, collaboration, and email, as standardized capabilities for a usage-based cost at an agreed, business-relevant service level. SaaS provides significant efficiencies in cost and delivery in exchange for minimal customization and represents a shift of operational risks from the consumer to the provider. All infrastructure and IT operational functions are abstracted away from the consumer.
Platform as a Service
Platform as a Service (PaaS) delivers application execution services, such as application runtime, storage, and integration for applications written for a pre-specified development framework. PaaS provides an efficient and agile approach to operate scale-out applications in a predictable and cost-effective manner. Service levels and operational risks are shared because the consumer must take responsibility for the stability, architectural compliance, and overall operations of the application while the provider delivers the platform capability (including the infrastructure and operational functions) at a predictable service level and cost.
Infrastructure as a Service
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) abstracts hardware (server, storage, and network infrastructure) into a pool of computing, storage, and connectivity capabilities that are delivered as services for a usage-based (metered) cost. Its goal is to provide a flexible, standard, and virtualized operating environment that can become a foundation for PaaS and SaaS.
IaaS is usually seen to provide a standardized virtual server. The consumer takes responsibility for configuration and operations of the guest Operating System (OS), software, and Database (DB). Compute capabilities (such as performance, bandwidth, and storage access) are also standardized.
Service levels cover the performance and availability of the virtualized infrastructure. The consumer takes on the operational risk that exists above the infrastructure.
Infrastructure as a Service with Azure Virtual Machines
In short, IaaS gives you a server in the cloud (virtual machine) that you have complete control over. With an Azure VM, you are responsible for managing everything from the Operating System on up to the application you are running.
On-demand data centers, also known as IaaS, provide compute power, memory, and storage, typically priced per hour, based on resource consumption. You pay only for what you use, and the service provides all the capacity you need, but you are responsible for monitoring, managing, and patching your on-demand infrastructure.
The biggest advantage of IaaS is that it offers a cloud-based data center without requiring you to install new equipment or to wait for the hardware procurement process. This means you can get IT resources that otherwise might not be available.
This mode of operation will feel most like a typical on premises virtual machine where you remote desktop into the server to manage it instead of sitting down in front of a physical keyboard and mouse.
Platform as a Service – Azure Cloud Services
An Azure Cloud Service consists of two components: your application files (source code, DLLs, etc.) and a configuration file. Together, these two elements will spin up a combination of Web Roles and Worker Roles to execute your application. With Cloud Services, Azure handles all of the tedious Operating System details for you, so you can focus on what matters – building a quality application for your users.
A Web Role is an Azure VM that is pre-configured as a web server (running IIS) and will automatically have your application loaded on it by the time the server fully spins up. This will create the public endpoint for your application – usually a website, but it could also be an API or something similar.
Worker Roles run alongside your Web Roles and are responsible for performing computing functions to support your application. Typically, the Web Role will accept some sort of user input and queue up an action for the Worker Role to process at a later time. This allows the Web Roles to be more responsive and to fire-and-forget tasks to be processed later.
Software as a Service – Basecamp, Salesforce, Office 365, Azure Websites
Finally, Software as a Service applications are built and hosted through 3rd party vendors who typically charge for a certain level of service – $30/month for X projects and Y users.
Azure Websites can serve as a SaaS offering as well. You can configure a WordPress, Drupal, OpenX, or even phpBB site with a single click. No code, no deployment hassles, and minimal configuration. Azure Websites lets you stand up the service you need in minutes, not hours or days.
Most SaaS applications today are built on a cloud platform due to the low cost of entry – with prices continually falling – and the ability to scale up as your customer base grows. If Dropcam, SmugMug, or Netflix got one million new customers tomorrow, their infrastructure (Amazon Web Services) would be able to accommodate them.
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) means you’re renting the app or software
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) means that you’re renting everything but the app or software
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) means you’re renting only the hardware as well as the tools used to manage the hardware
While each Azure Compute (IaaS) offering has their pros and cons, I personally prefer to build my projects around PaaS. With PaaS, you get the maximum possible amount of flexibility before you have to start worrying about the tedious world of OS maintenance, versions, security, patches, etc.
Until next time, Rob.
Happy New Year Everyone!!! I know Azure Stack is just around the corner, but I still get lots of questions around configuring WAP and portals. So to follow-up my Windows Azure Pack (WAP) series, I am going to talk about reconfiguring server names and ports as well as assigning trusted certificates to my WAP Portals.
If you missed other parts of the series, check links below:
Part 1 – Understanding Windows Azure Pack
Part 2 – Understanding Windows Azure Pack – Deployment Scenarios
Part 3 – Understanding Windows Azure Pack – How to guide with Express Edition on Nutanix – Environment Prep
Part 4 – Deploying Service Provider Framework on Nutanix
Part 5 – Understanding Windows Azure Pack – How to guide with Express Edition on Nutanix – Windows Azure Pack Install
To give credit, this content was taken from my buddy Mike McGhem’s blog and I added some more color to it, but his content is right on.
In General, modern versions Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL) supports several High Availability (HA) options at both the host and storage level. For the purposes of this post I will only be addressing the HA options which leverage native Windows Server Failover Clustering (WSFC) in some form. SQL Server also provides transactional replication through the use of a publisher and subscriber model, which some consider an HA option, but that’s a topic (and debate) for another post with Mike McGhem.
Starting with MSSQL 2012, Microsoft introduced AlwaysOn which is a combination of some existing and new functionality. Under the AlwaysOn umbrella falls two main options, Failover Cluster Instances (FCI) and Availability Groups (AAG).
Nutanix has long supported and recommended the use of AlwaysOn Availability Groups. AAG leverages a combination of WSFC and native database level replication to create either an HA or disaster recovery solution between instances of MSSQL. The instances of MSSQL leveraged to support the AAG can be either standalone or clustered (in the case of Nutanix these would be standalone instances today).
The following figure provides a logical overview of an AlwaysOn Availability Group.
An AAG performs replication at the database level creating “primary” and one or more “secondary” database copies. The secondary copies are replicated using either synchronous or asynchronous commit mode, as specified by an administrator. Asynchronous commit is intended more as a disaster recovery or reporting solution as it implies the potential for data loss. So for HA scenarios as we’re discussing them here, we should assume synchronous commit. Because database replication is used, shared storage is not required and each MSSQL instance within the AAG can use its own local devices. Additional details on AlwaysOn Availability Groups can be found here: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh510230.aspx
AAGs can take advantage of the secondary databases for the purpose of read-only transactions or for backup operations. In the context of a scale-out architecture like Nutanix, leveraging multiple copies across hypervisor hosts for distributing these kinds of operations creates an excellent solution.
While AAGs are a great solution and fit nicely with the Nutanix architecture, they may not be a good fit or even possible for certain environments. Some of the limiting factors for adopting AAGs can include:
- Space utilization: Because a secondary database copy is created additional storage space will be consumed. Some administrators may prefer a single database copy where server HA is the primary use case.
- Synchronous commit performance: The synchronous replication of transactions (Insert/Update/Delete…) needed for AAG replication (in the context of an HA solution) do have a performance overhead. Administrators of latency sensitive applications may prefer not to have the additional response time of waiting for transactions to be committed to multiple SQL instances.
- Distributed Transactions: Some applications perform distributed transactions across databases and MSSQL instances. Microsoft does not support the use of distributed transactions with AAGs, and by extension application vendors will not support their software which utilize distributed transactions where AAGs are present.
- SQL Server versions: Some environments can simply not yet upgrade to SQL 2012 or higher. Whether it be due to current business requirements or application requirements based on qualification, many administrators have to stick with SQL 2008 (and I hope not, but maybe even earlier versions) for the time being.
In the above cases MSSQL Failover Cluster Instances are likely the better solution. FCI have long been used as the primary means for HA with MSSQL. FCI can be leveraged with all current versions of MSSQL and relies on shared storage to support the MSSQL instances. The following figure provides a logical overview of Failover Cluster Instances.
The shared storage used can be block (LUN) based or, starting with MSSQL 2012, SMB (file) based. In the case of LUN based shared storage, SCSI-3 persistent reservations are used to arbitrate ownership of the shared disk resources between nodes. The MSSQL instance utilizing specific LUNs is made dependent against those disk resources. Additional details on AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instances can be found here: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms189134.aspx
Until very recently Nutanix has not supported MSSQL FCI within virtual machines, whether they reside on ESXi, Hyper-V or the Nutanix Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV). But starting with the Nutanix 4.5 release (with technical preview support in posted 4.1.5 release), MSSQL FCI will be supported across all three of the aforementioned hypervisors. Nutanix will support this form of clustering using iSCSI from within the virtual machines. In essence Nutanix virtual disks (vdisks) which support SCSI-3 persistent reservations are created within a Nutanix container. These vdisks will be presented directly to virtual machines as LUNs, leveraging the Nutanix Controller Virtual Machines (CVM) as iSCSI targets. The virtual machines will utilize the Microsoft iSCSI initiator service and the Multipath I/O (MPIO) capabilities native to the Windows Operating System for connectivity and path failover. An overview of this configuration can be seen in the following diagram.
The association between virtual machine iSCSI initiators and the vdisks is managed via the concept of a Volume Group. A volume group acts as a mapping to determine the virtual disks which can be accessed by one or multiple (in the case of clustering) iSCSI initiators. Additional information on volume groups can be found under the Volumes API section of the Nutanix Bible: http://stevenpoitras.com/the-nutanix-bible/
Like AAG’s, MSSQL FCI may not be best suited for all environments. Some of its drawback can include:
- Shared storage complexity: The configuration and maintenance of shared storage is often more complex to manage than standalone environments
- Planned or unplanned downtime: FCI can generally take more time to transition operation between cluster nodes than a similar AAG configuration. Part of this downtime is to commit transactions which may have been in-flight prior to failover. This can be somewhat mitigated with the recovery interval setting or using indirect checkpoints (https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms189573.aspx).
- Separation of workloads: AAG configurations can create multiple database copies across SQL instances for the purposes of distributed reporting or for backup offload. An FCI cannot offer this functionality natively, although such configurations are possible via intelligent cloning methodologies that the Nutanix platform can offer.
As mentioned earlier it’s possible to configure both FCI and AAG as a part of the same solution. So for example, if the HA capabilities of FCI are preferred, but the replication capabilities of AAG are desired for the purposes of reporting, backup offload or disaster recovery, a blended configuration can be deployed.
With the support of shared storage clustering in 4.5, Nutanix can provide the full range of options necessary to support the broad number of use cases SQL Server can require. Mike McGhem will have follow-on posts on his blog to detail how to configure volume group based clustering for Microsoft SQL Server.
Until next time, Rob.