Category: Infrastructure

Infrastructure

Setup SSL / TLS on Azure CDN Custom Domain

azure-content-delivery-network-cdn_colorSince the beginning the Azure CDN has allowed for custom domains to be mapped so you can use your own domain name instead of the Azure CDN default domain name endpoint; such as that at “*.azureedge.net”. However, until recently you couldn’t enable SSL encryption support for that custom domain mapped to the Azure CDN endpoint. In a recent update to the Azure CDN service Microsoft has finally enabled the ability to enable SSL / TLS on an Azure CDN Custom Domain name. Read More

ArchitectureDevelopmentInfrastructure

Happy 7th Birthday Microsoft Azure!

February 1, 2017 marks the 7th anniversary of when Microsoft turned on billing for the new Microsoft Azure service. Happy birthday Azure! Initially the service had a fraction of the features and services it has today. There’s been a tremendous growth on the platform over the years as a result of incredible investment by Microsoft.

Here’s a little timeline information about Microsoft Azure that you may or may not know:

  • October 2008  – At the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC), Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie announces a new cloud computing platform from Microsoft called Windows Azure. The initial announcement includes the Azure services of: Cloud Services, and Blob Storage.
  • March 2009 – Azure SQL Database service was announced.
  • November 2009 – An updated Windows Azure CTP is released enabling Full Trust, PHP, Java, including a CDN CTP and more
  • January 2010 – Windows Azure become Generally Available, currently free of cost
  • February 1, 2010 – Microsoft turns on billing and includes full SLA support making Windows Azure commercially available.
  • June 2010 – Windows Azure is updated with .NET Framework 4, OS Versioning, CDN, and SQL Azure update
  • October 2010 – At PDC conference Microsoft released platform enhancements, Windows Azure Connect, and an improved Dev / IT Pro experience
  • December 2011 – New services added: Traffic Manager, SQL Azure reporting, HPC scheduler
  • June 2012 – New services added: Azure Websites, Virtual Machines for both Windows and Linux, Python SDK, Locally redundant storage, and a new portal.
  • April 2014 – Microsoft renames Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure
  • 2014 to Present – MANY, MANY features and services are released!

Something not mentioned in the above timeline is the HUGE growth of Microsoft building out the data centers and backbone infrastructure that makes up the Microsoft Azure platform. From the initial launch of Microsoft Azure back in 2010, until now, Microsoft has grown the platform out to 32 regions today. They even have announced an additional 6 regions that are currently being planned or built.

Since 2010, Microsoft Azure has grown to be available in 32 regions around the world.

The overal size of Microsoft Azure has grown to be the biggest cloud platform on the planet. Microsoft may have been late to the game as Amazon got started 4 years earlier, but Microsoft has grown the platform to include more data centers and regions around the globe than both Amazon and Google combined!

azureofficialregionmap

You can view an interactive map of the Azure Regions here: http://map.buildazure.com

The Microsoft Azure platform has more data centers and global regions than both Amazon and Google combined!

The cloud brings with it some tremendous capabilities and capacity that most enterprises or even individuals could have only dreamed of having access to only a few short years ago. Microsoft is right there at the front of the stage rapidly releasing innovation after innovation in the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Microsoft has been and still is betting the future of their enterprise business on the cloud, and Microsoft Azure is the way they are doing it.

Happy birthday Azure!

Happy birthday Azure! I can’t wait to see how you grow and advance cloud computing over the next 7 years and beyond!

ArchitectureInfrastructure

Microsoft Cloud Platform Roadmap

The Microsoft Cloud Platform roadmap provides a snapshot of what Microsoft is working on in their Cloud Platform business. You can use the roadmap to find out what they’ve recently made generally available, released into public preview, are still developing and testing, or are no longer developing.

azurecloudplatformroadmapsite

The Microsoft Cloud Platform Roadmap really gives you a nice view into the current state of many features and services within Microsoft’s overall Cloud Platform. However, it doesn’t give specific release dates as you might expect a roadmap to do, but it is organized well and easy to navigate. If you’re ever curious about the state of things or what upcoming, then the Microsoft Cloud Platform Roadmap is a nice place to go.

The Microsoft Cloud Platform Roadmap is broken out into the main categories (tabs at the top) of:

  • Recently Available
  • Public Preview
  • In Development
  • Cancelled
  • Archive

Within each category is the ability to filter the list of updates by a few subcategories, as well as the ability to select a filter to narrow down the list by a specific product. The list of subcategories (tabs on the left) are:

  • Cloud infrastructure
  • Enterprise mobility
  • Data management and analytics
  • Application development
  • Internet of Things

You can view the Cloud Platform Roadmap here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud-platform/roadmap-in-development

ArchitectureInfrastructure

Azure Region Pairs Explained

Microsoft Azure is generally available in over 30 regions around the world. Each region is home to a vast array of servers hosted within 1 or more datacenters.. This is something that’s very apparent in Azure; especially since you need to choose a specific Azure region to host services in. However, something that’s not quite as apparent is the concept of Azure Region Pairs. Specific Azure regions are paired together. This article explains what Azure Region Pairs are, and the benefits that come within them.

What are Azure Region Pairs?

Microsoft operates Azure Regions all over the world. Each Azure Region is strategically placed within a specific geography, and almost all the Azure Regions are located within the same general geography as at least 1 other Region; it’s pair. The only exception to this is the Brazil South region currently, which is the only Azure Region in Brazil.

azureregionpairgeography

Read More

InfrastructureVideo

How big is the Microsoft Azure Cloud?

The Microsoft Azure Cloud is huge. Or should I say H-y-uuuuu-ge! It’s the largest cloud provider in the world with 38 Regions currently (30 online) spread across the globe, and Microsoft keeps adding more regions every few months. Microsoft has been betting the future of their Enterprise business on Azure since the initial General Availability in 2010, and they’ve increased their efforts over the last couple of years as the “Cloud Wars” have been speeding up.

Microsoft has been a little vague over the years. They publish how many Azure Regions there are, and what cities they’re located in. I’ve put together a map that plots the city location of each of the Azure Regions to help visualize things on the Region side of the equation. However, they don’t disclose the street addresses of the data centers, and until recently they haven’t exactly stated how many data centers make up the 38 Azure Regions. That is until recently, where Microsoft released a short video showcasing a few details and images of their data centers around the globe.

Here are some facts about Microsoft’s Cloud Infrastructure that powers Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Xbox Live, and many other services:

  • The Microsoft Cloud is made up of more than 100 datacenters worldwide.
  • The Microsoft Cloud serves over 140 countries.
  • The Microsoft Cloud is comprised of MILLIONS of servers, and growing!
  • The Microsoft Cloud is built with the latest hardware innovations to maximize efficiency.
  • The Microsoft Cloud is connected by enough fiber to stretch to the Moon and back 3 times!
  • Microsoft processes Millions of network requests per second backed by high availability infrastructure.
  • Everything is monitored 24x7x365
  • The Microsoft global infrastructure is 100% carbon neutral.
  • Microsoft has built one of the most connected networks in the world so you don’t have to.
  • Microsoft Azure is used by 85% of Fortune 500 companies.

Here’s the video for your viewing pleasure. The birds eye views of the data centers are really interesting to see, along with a few peeks inside some of them.

On the note of being 100% carbon neutral, Microsoft states that about 44 percent of their datacenter energy comes from Wind, Solar, and Hydropower. Microsoft is also aiming to increase that figure to 50 by 2018. If you’re interested in a little more detail on Microsoft power usage, and the deal to power the new Cheyenne, Wyoming datacenter on Wind power, I encourage you to read the “Microsoft Azure: Cloud datacenter goes fully wind powered in landmark energy deal” article over on ZDNet.

ArchitectureInfrastructurepricing

Static Website Hosting in Azure Storage

Traditional shared hosting providers generally cost anywhere between $8 – $10 USD per month. The reason is you need to reserve some CPU and Memory resources on a VM to host your website. These are very useful for hosting dynamic web sites or applications with small amounts of traffic. However, if you have a static website then you don’t need CPU and Memory on a VM, all you need is storage and bandwidth. Since hosting a static website or static front-end to an API powered web application only requires storage and bandwidth, it makes Azure Storage a perfect service to host such a website. In this article I’ll explain what’s necessary to host static website in Azure Blob Storage, then I’ll show how you can estimate the hosting cost of the site as well. (Hint: It’s really cheap!) Read More

Infrastructure

Single Instance VMs Now With 99.9% SLA

Since the initial release of the Virtual Machine (VM) hosting service within Microsoft Azure there’s been a limitation on achieving the minimum requirements for the 99.9% SLA guarantee. This limitation has been that you needed to provision at least 2 VMs to get the SLA guarantee. That is until now. Now, there is an option to provision a single instance VM and have the 99.9% SLA guarantee too!

Microsoft is constantly working to improve and add new features / services to the Microsoft Azure platform. Among the latest of these changes is to support a 99.9% SLA with SINGLE instance VMs. While this isn’t a replacement for multi-instance VM configurations, this offers enhanced reliability for workloads where a single VM instance works.

Single Instance VM SLA Requirement

There are a few requirements that need to be met in order to achieve the 99.9% SLA guarantee for a single instance VM. The storage used for the VM Operating System and Data disks must be using Premium Storage. Premium Storage offers a much higher level of availability and performance with 5,000 IOPS per disk, versus 500 IOPS per disk with Standard Storage. The way Premium storage offers this is by utilizing SSD storage drives within the data center that are located on the same server hardware where the VM is running. Premium storage also offers a much higher throughput rate per disk of 2 Gbps.

Single Instance VMs must use Premium Storage to obtain 99.9% SLA guarantee.

Benefits of Multi-Instance VM Configuration

While it may sound appealing to configure your workloads to use a single instance VM, after all you can now get the 99.9% SLA guarantee, it’s still more adventagous to configure your workloads to use a multi-instance VM configuration instead. Among these is a higher SLA guarantee for multi-instance VMs of 99.95%.

Multi-Instance VM workloads achieve a higher 99.95% SLA guarantee.

For the vast majority of workloads it’s best to use a configuration consisting of multiple VM instances for added availability, reliability, and scalability. The best way to achieve all three of these is to use the Microsoft Azure service that is VM Scale Sets.

For more information on the SLA guarantee for Virtual Machines within Microsoft Azure, you can read the official SLA for Virtual Machines details page.

ContainersDevelopmentInfrastructure

Deploy Docker Containers to Azure Web Apps on Linux

The PaaS (Platform as a Service) offerings within Microsoft Azure have been getting expanded out pretty impressively lately. The “extreme PaaS” that is the serverless computing of Azure Functions is a really interesting direction for cloud computing. However, one of the of the latest changes is the ability to host Docker Containers on Linux within Azure App Service Web Apps! It seems Microsoft is starting to add Docker support to everything.

App Service Web Apps on Linux

A few weeks ago the initial preview release of Azure App Service Web Apps for Linux was released. This offers a way to host OSS applications (Node.js, Python, PHP, etc) in Azure App Service with the use of a Linux Virtual Machine (VM). This provides a great alternative to hosting all Azure Web Apps with a Windows Server VM and IIS. While IIS works, the option of using Linux is definitely more appealing to Linux and non-Microsoft developers looking to use the Microsoft Azure cloud.

To provision a new Azure App Service Web App on Linux, you can follow these steps:

  1. Within the Azure Portal, search the Marketplace for Web App on Linux.
    azportal_webapponlinux_marketplace
  2. Enter the App nameResource Group, and select an App Service Plan to create the Web App on Linux.
  3. Next a specific Container needs to be selected in order to configure the specific Language / Platform that will be used to deploy a Web App to the Web App on Linux App Service instance.
    azportal_webapponlinux_pickbuiltincontainer
  4. Once provisioned the new Web App on Linux will be deployed out to an Ubuntu Linux VM with the specified platform container deployed and ready to go.

As you can see from the above screenshot of the available Built-in containers to choose from there are a number of Language/Platform versions to choose from. The list of language/platform versions supported by the current Preview release of Azure Web Apps on Linux are:

  • .NET Core v1.0
  • Node.js 6.6.0
  • Node.js 6.2.2
  • Node.js 4.5.0
  • Node.js 4.4.7
  • PHP 5.6.23
  • PHP 7.0.8

There’s also another thing that can be seen within the above screenshot…

Azure Web Apps + Docker

webapplinux-dockercontainerThe platform features of Azure App Service Web Apps on Linux support the deployment and configuration of the hosting environment through the use of Docker Containers. This is a huge departure and powerful feature addition to Azure Web Apps on Linux that differs from how the original Azure Web Apps hosted with Windows Server and IIS is implemented.

The use of Docker Containers to configure and host Web Apps on Linux opens up a huge amount of possibilities that help push Azure Web Apps to a more powerful service than before. The Built-In Containers that can be chosen to host Node.js, PHP, or .NET Core applications are built out as Docker Containers.

With the support for Docker Containers bring along the ability to deploy any Docker container image from Docker Hub (http://hub.docker.com) as the basis for hosting an Azure Web App on Linux. Not just Node.js, PHP, or .NET Core images can be deployed. It actually supports the deployment of any Docker Container Image from Docker Hub. It also supports both Public and Private images in Docker Hub.

azportal_webapponlinux_dockerhubcontainer

In addition to supporting any Docker Container Image from Docker Hub, Web Apps on Linux also supports deploying container images from any Private registry as well. To deploy an image form a private registry, you simply provide a couple additional properties: Server URL, Login username, and Password.

azportal_webapponlinuxprivateregistrycontainer

The Docker Container Images used to deploy out the language / platform to host an app can be used to simply host a Web App as normally with Azure Web Apps. However, the Docker Container Image can also contain the entire application to host within Azure Web Apps on Linux; including the language / platform and the full custom application as well.

Deploy “Hello World” Container to Web App on Linux

As an example of a Docker Container Image that can be deployed to Azure App Service Web App on Linux that contains the language / platform as well as a sample, “hello world” style application, the following Docker Images can be used:

This is just a sample of a couple Docker images that can easily be used, and any Docker Image can be deployed out to an Azure Web App on Linux.

Here’s what the dimkk/ng2-admin Docker Image from Docker Hub looks like once it’s deployed out and hosted within a Web App on Linux instance:

webapponlinux_ng2-admin-running

To deploy out a Docker Image from the Docker Hub, you can use the following steps when provisioning a new Web App on Linux, or when modifying an existing Web App on Linux:

  1. For the Image source property, select Docker Hub.
  2. Specify Public or Private accordingly for the Repository Access field.
  3. Enter the Docker Image Name into the Image and optional tag field.

To use the ng2-admin image you can specify the Docker Image of dimkk/ng2-admin”.

webapponlinux_ng2-admin_container

In this example, once the Web App on Linux initializes the deployment of the Docker Container image “ng2-admin” or another that implements a full application, the app will be running.

There is also the Startup Command field when configuring a Docker Container Image for a Web App on Linux to specify a specific startup command to execute once the Docker Container is deployed.

ArchitectureCertificationDevelopmentInfrastructure

Microsoft Azure Certification Exams Get Major ARM Refresh

Over the last 2 years, since the 3 core Microsoft Azure certification exams were originally published there have been a tremendous amount of changes to the Microsoft Azure platform and ecosystem. These 3 core exams targeted towards Architecture, Infrastructure, and Developer roles were originally published before Azure Resource Manager (ARM) existed and fully covered Azure Service Manager (ASM). Not only has ARM been released since then, but also a very large number of new Microsoft Azure services have been released too! Newer services like Azure Functions, Logic Apps, DocumentDB, and others weren’t covered on these original exams.

However, these core Azure certification exams have been updated a couple times over the last 2 years. This has kept them relevant over the years, but the most recent previous update was published in March 2016, and it didn’t even full cover Azure Resource Manager (ARM) as well as a few other features and services. Since that latest update was about 8 months ago, it really is time for another refresh, and hopefully one that add much more than the last.

Luck is in our favor, as Microsoft will be publishing another new update / refresh to these 3 core Microsoft Azure certification exams on November 22, 2016. This update will include major ARM updates, including the removal of the old Azure Service Management (ASM) APIs, as well as the inclusion of Azure Functions, Logic Apps, DocumentDB, and other newer Azure services.

Microsoft will be publishing another new update / refresh to these 3 core Microsoft Azure certification exams on November 22, 2016.

For a full listing of the new exam objectives on these exams, see these links:

In addition to these 3 core Microsoft Azure exams, there have been 2 additional Big Data focused exams released. These 2 exams have been out for about a year now, and are not getting updated right now. I would expect these to be updated sometime in the next few months, perhaps. Here’s links to further information on these 2 Big Data focused exams:

Also, Microsoft recently announced some major changes to the Microsoft Certification program that greatly embeds the Azure exams into the various certification tracks. Along with these announcements was the release of the brand new Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification,and a few Microsoft Certified Solution Associates (MCSA) certifications it builds on top of.

There’s been lots changing technology-wise, as well as many major certification changes lately!

Happy studying!

CertificationInfrastructure

Azure Infrastructure Exam (70-533) Gets ARM Refresh

MS_Azure_Infrastructure_SolutionsIt’s been about 2 years since the 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions certification exam was first release. Over that time there’s been a couple updates to keep it relevant with the ever changing landscape of the Microsoft Azure platform. The previous update was released in March 2016, which is a very long time when it comes to the cloud. The good news is that another update is on it’s way, and this time it will be including a full update of adding Azure Resource Manager (ARM) to the exam, in addition to many other new features and services. This update looks to be bringing the 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions exam back to relevancy and not so outdated as it’s been for nearly an entire year now. Read More