Two new Pluralsight Courses: Heroku & Cloud Computing Fundamentals

Over the past couple of months I have been hard at work on some more Pluralsight courses. I am excited to announce that today I released 2 new courses on Pluralsight! These are both cloud related courses. One course is more DevOps focused and the other is focused more on cloud security. One of the courses is intermediate while the other is for those beginning with cloud. It’s pretty cool to have two courses listed on Pluralsight’s new releases!

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Here are the courses:

Heroku: The Big Picture

This course will teach you the basics of Heroku from; architecture components, developer and operational tooling, along with limitations and benefits of using the platform.

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Heroku: The Big Picture 
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Heroku is a cloud PaaS service that enables companies to speed up the application lifecycle; building, delivering, monitoring, and scaling applications without the headaches of standing up infrastructure to support the application. 

Some of the major topics covered in this Cloud Computing course are:

  • Learn about the components of the Heroku platform and how it works including the architecture, idea to running app, the runtime, Dynos and the various Heroku services.
  • Gain an understanding about the benefits and limitations of the Heroku platform such as pricing, language support, and ecosystem.
  • Insight into the developer and operational experience on Heroku.
  • And you will also see demos on the Heroku Dashboard, Using the Heroku Estimators, and deployment of an application to the Heroku platform.

By the end of this course, you will gain a better understanding of the Heroku platform all up including how to build and operate an application on it.

Check out the course here: https://app.pluralsight.com/library/courses/heroku-big-picture

Cloud Computing Fundamentals: Governance, Risk, Compliance, and Security

This course will teach you the fundamental knowledge needed to understand the essentials of cloud Governance, Risk, Compliance, and Security.

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Cloud Computing F ndamentals: 
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Some of the major topics covered in this Cloud Computing course are:

  • Identifying the importance and impacts of compliance in the cloud
  • Understanding cloud policies or procedures
  • Recognizing risk management concepts related to cloud services
  • Security concerns, measures, or concepts of cloud operations

This Cloud Computing course will help you prepare for the CompTIA Cloud Essentials+ exam. This course is also useful if you don’t plan to take the CompTIA exam and just need to ramp up on cloud security.

Take this course if you want to learn cloud essentials, what it takes to successfully adopt cloud, the impact of cloud on IT service management, how security, and risks apply to cloud as well as consequences. This course is for someone with some exposure to cloud technologies and a general background in Information Technology at the minimum of a business analyst level.

Check out the course here: https://app.pluralsight.com/library/courses/cloud-computing-fundamentals-governance-risk-compliance-security

I hope you find value in each of these courses. These two courses bring me to a total of 5 courses now published on the Pluralsight platform. Be sure to follow my profile on Pluralsight so you will be notified as I release new courses! I will be releasing more courses soon!

Here is the link to my Pluralsight profile to follow mehttps://app.pluralsight.com/profile/author/steve-buchanan

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Passed – AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam

I decided it was time to branch out into other clouds. We live in a multi-cloud world and it does not hurt to at a minimum understand what other clouds offer and how they work. I decided to go after the base level AWS certification. On 7/24/2020 I took the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam and passed!

Here is my Acclaim badge for it: https://www.youracclaim.com/badges/309a8223-fd41-4e5a-876a-0066f4d32e23

I am still primarily Azure focused but you might see me working with AWS a little more. I may decide at some point to pursue some more AWS certs and potentially GCP.

Here is what I used to study:

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner course on Pluralsight:

https://app.pluralsight.com/library/courses/aws-certified-cloud-practitioner/table-of-contents

AWS to Azure services comparison:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/architecture/aws-professional/services

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Study Guide blog post by Janeice DelVecchio and Scott Selikoff (includes a PDF):

https://www.selikoff.net/2019/01/20/how-i-recommend-studying-for-the-aws-certified-cloud-practitioner-exam/

The test was not super hard. Good luck if you plan to take it!

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HashiCorp – Terraform Certified Associate exam & Study Guide

Yesterday HashiCorp announced their Terraform and Vault certification exams have gone public! This is exciting news for those that want to get certified on these technologies. Here is the blog announcing this: https://www.hashicorp.com/blog/announcing-hashicorp-cloud-engineering-certifications/ .

I am proud to say that I helped contribute to the Terraform Certified Associate exam. Check out my badge here: https://www.youracclaim.com/badges/077f51e4-74cd-478a-af4b-ec338dae8559 . I plan to contribute more in the future.

I am also happy to announce that I was a tech reviewer on the first study guide for this cert titled “HashiCorp Terraform Certified Associate Preparation Guide“. You can find it here: https://leanpub.com/terraform-certified/. This guide was authored by fellow Microsoft MVP Ned Bellavance and Microsoft CSA Adin Ermie. Huge thanks guys for letting me be a part of this project!

If you work with Terraform I hope you get certified and be sure to use the study guide!

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Cloud Governance, Bringing Order To Your Cloud Chaos – Podcast

Recently I was a guest on the “Day Two Cloud” podcast hosted by fellow Microsoft MVP/Pluralsight author Ned Bellavance.

We talked about how native Azure governance & management tools Azure Policy, Tagging, and Blueprints can be used to bring order to your cloud environments. Listen now here:

Check it out here:

https://packetpushers.net/podcast/day-two-cloud-033-cloud-governance-bringing-order-to-your-cloud-chaos

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Master Azure with VS Code

At Experts Live Europe 2019 I presented a session titled “Master Azure with VS Code”. This was a fun session with an engaging audience that took to twitter after the session. There was some chatter asking this session was recorded. It was not. I did note that I planned to write a blog post on this topic.

Here is that blog post and it is the first one of 2020 for me! In this post, we are going to dive into how VS code is helpful when working with Azure and many extensions I find useful when working with Azure. This post is not set to be an end-all to using VS Code with Azure but from my experience. Use this post as a starting point or a reference for expanding your use of VS Code with Azure. Also, check out the many other community experts and Microsoft MVPs for their additional knowledge plus tips and tricks on this topic.

VS Code Overview

First off if you are not using VS Code stop reading this right now, go download it and install it then come back to finish reading. 🙂 VS Code is a must-have in your toolbox and it is free! For those that are new to VS Code, it is an open-source – code editor developed by Microsoft that runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS. Here is a shortlist of the many benefits of VS Code:

  • Has support for hundreds of languages.
  • Has Integrated Terminal.
  • Also powerful developer tool with functionality, like IntelliSense code completion and debugging.
  • Includes syntax highlighting, bracket-matching, auto-indentation, box-selection, snippets, and more.
  • Integrates with build and scripting tools to perform common tasks making everyday workflows faster.
  • Has support for Git to work with source control.
  • Large Extension Marketplace of third-party extensions.

Note that yes, VS Code is for the “IT Pro”. Not just developers.

Azure Extensions in VS Code

VS Code has a ton of extensions in general. There are a number of Azure specific extensions and you can work with Azure directly from VS Code.

If you go to the VS Code Marketplace here: https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/vscode and search on Azure you will see results for many published by Microsoft and many community based extensions for Azure. As of the time of writing this blog post, there are 93. Here is a screenshot showing some of the results:

You can also go directly to the Azure Tools extension from Microsoft here: 

https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/itemdetails?itemName=ms-vscode.vscode-node-azure-pack

Or the

Azure Extensions from Microsoft here:

https://code.visualstudio.com/docs/azure/extensions

In the rest of this post, I am going to share some key extensions I use with Azure. I will post the marketplace links at the end of each extension I talk about and if it is maintained by community or Microsoft.

Deploy to Azure using VS Code

It is important to note that not all of the Azure extensions available in VS Code can be used to deploy to Azure. Some can but most can’t here is a list of the services that you can deploy to from extensions in VS Code.

Azure Service Description
Azure Functions Build and manage Azure Functions serverless apps directly in VS Code with the Azure Functions extension.
App Service Manage Azure resources directly in VS Code with the Azure App Service extension.
Docker Deploy your website using a Docker container.
Azure CLI Create, deploy, and update a website using a terminal and the Azure CLI.
Static website Create, deploy, and update a static website on Azure Storage.

NOTE: This list is current at the time of writing this blog post. This will change over time.

Azure Cloud Shell in VS Code

Cloud Shell is something you should be using with Azure to make your life easier. It is an interactive command-line shell. You are authenticated to your Azure account when you launch it, It typically runs in the browser and is used for managing Azure resources. When you launch it you can choose the shell experience that best for you, either Bash or PowerShell. With VS Code you can launch Cloud Shell directly in VS Code!

Cloud Shell is a part of the Azure Account extension. Here are some key points on using Cloud Shell with VS Code:

  • Free (storage consumed has costs.)
  • Launch Azure Cloud Shell directly in VS Code.
  • Launch Bash, PowerShell, or Upload.
  • Works in the Integrated Terminal.

Azure and open-source Tooling in Cloud Shell:

Azure Tools:
blobxfer Azure CLI and Azure classic CLI Azure Functions CLI AzCopy Service Fabric CLI Batch Shipyard  
Open-Source:
Bash Terraform Packer Ansible Chef InSpec Puppet Bolt Docker Kubectl Helm DC/OS CLI iPython Client Cloud Foundry CLI

PowerShell Modules in Cloud Shell

You get the following PowerShell modules in Cloud Shell:
Azure Modules (Az.Accounts, Az.Compute, Az.Network, Az.Resources, Az.Storage)
Azure AD Management (Preview)
Exchange Online (In development)
MicrosoftPowerBIMgmt
SqlServer

Marketplace Link:

Azure Account: https://marketplace

Maintained By Microsoft

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Speaking at Experts Live Europe 2019

Next week I will travel across the pond again to speak at Experts Live Europe 2019. I am excited to reunite with many friends and fellow Microsoft MVPs in the Microsoft community. I am honored to be a part of this conference again. I will be speaking about Azure, participating in Ask the Experts as a cloud expert, and will sit on an Azure Stack Hub panel.

Here are the details for the sessions I will be a part of:

Master Azure with VS Code

22nd of November, 3:30pm – 4:20pm

Description

There are many ways to work with Azure and its services including the: Azure portal, CloudShell, Azure CLI, and Azure REST APIs. And there are even more tools to choose when it comes to working with other services on Azure such as Docker, Kubernetes and more. It can be overwhelming to decipher what Azure tool to use for your day-to-day Azure administration and deployment.

VS Code to the rescue!!!! You can deploy and administer Azure and supporting services direct from VS Code through the plethora of extensions built for Azure. These extensions can be used to work with ARM Templates, Storage, App Service, Docker, Azure Kubernetes Service, Functions, Logic Apps, Event Hub, Cosmos DB, and more. Also, VS Code brings CloudShell directly in so you can work from a single tool!

Azure Stack Experts Panel

21st of November, 5:00pm – 5:50pm

Description

Join this global list of Azure Stack Experts for an open question and answer session as we discuss real-world scenarios.

Fellow panelists include: Kristopher Turner Global Azure Stack Hub CSA, Dino Bordonaro Microsoft Azure MVP, and Thomas Maurer Cloud Advocate at Microsoft. 

Check out the sessions here: https://www.expertslive.eu/agenda

Shout out to Marcel and Isidora the folks behind the conference!

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New Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) book coming soon

These days the growth of Kubernetes is on fire! Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) Microsoft’s managed Kubernetes offering is one of the fastest-growing products in the Azure portfolio of cloud services with no signs of slowing down. For some time me and two fellow Microsoft MVPs Janaka Rangama (@JanakaRangama) and Ned Bellavance (@Ned1313) have been working hard on an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) book. We are excited that the book has been finished and is currently in production. The publisher Apress plans to publish it on December 28th, 2019.

Besides my co-authors, we had additional rock stars to help with this project. For the Tech Review, we had the honor to work with Mike Pfeiffer (@mike_pfeiffer) Microsoft MVP, Author, Speaker, CloudSkills.fm podcast and Keiko Harada (@keikomsft) Senior Program Manager – Azure Compute – Containers. Shout out to them and huge thanks for being a part of this!

We also had the honor of the foreword being written by Brendan Burns (@brendandburns) Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft and co-founder of Kubernetes. A shout out to him and a world of thanks for taking the time to help with this project!

Books like this are only possible with a great team of people contributing to them. The book is titled “Introducing Azure Kubernetes Service: A Practical Guide to Container Orchestration” and can be pre-ordered here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1484255186 or here: https://www.apress.com/gp/book/9781484255186. Here is the cover:

In this book, we take a journey inside Docker containers, container registries, Kubernetes architecture, Kubernetes components, and core Kubectl commands. We then dive into topics around Azure Container Registry, Rancher for Kubernetes management, deep dive into AKS, package management with HELM, and using AKS in CI/CD with Azure DevOps. The goal of this book is to give the reader just enough theory and lots of practical straightforward knowledge needed to start running your own AKS cluster.

For anyone looking to work with Azure Kubernetes Service or already working with it, this book is for you! We hope you get a copy and it becomes a great tool you can use on your Kubernetes journey.

Again you can get the book here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1484255186

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Featured on Cloudskills.fm and New Azure course

FEATURED ON CLOUDSKILLS.FM ~

CloudSkills.fm is a podcast by fellow Microsoft MVP Mike Pfeiffer and veteran in the tech space with 5 books under his belt and numerous courses on Pluralsight. The podcast can be found here: cloudskills.fm. Mike is an all around good guy and I was honored to be a featured guest on one of his podcast episodes. The podcast is weekly with technical tips and career advice for people working in the cloud computing industry. The podcast is geared for developers, IT pros, those making move into cloud.

On this episode Mike and I talked about managing both the technical and non-technical aspects of your career in the cloud computing industry. We also discuss DevOps stuff around Docker, Azure Kubernetes Service, Terraform and cloud stuff around Azure management including my 5 points to success with cloud. You can listen to the podcast here:

https://cloudskills.fm/015

Also on you can listen here: iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/cloudskills-fm/id1448194100 and PlayerFM: https://player.fm/series/cloudskillsfm/ep-015-managing-your-cloud-career .

NEW AZURE COURSE ~

I’m very excited Opsgility recently published a new Azure course by me titled: “Deploy and Configure Infrastructure”. This course is part of the AZ 300 certification learning path for Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies. More about the AZ 300 certification can be found here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/exam-az-300.aspx. The course is over 4 hours of Azure content!

Description of the course:

In the course learn how to analyze resource utilization and consumption, create and configure storage accounts, create and configure a VM for Windows and Linux, create connectivity between virtual networks, implement and manage virtual networking, manage Azure Active Directory, and implement and manage hybrid identities.

Objectives of the course:

  • Configure diagnostic settings on resources
  • Create baseline for resources
  • Utilize Log Search query functions
  • Configure network access to the storage account
  • Implement Azure storage replication
  • Configure high availability
  • Deploy and configure scale sets
  • Modify ARM Templates
  • Configure Azure Disk Encryption for VMs
  • Create and configure VNET peering
  • Install and configure Azure AD Connect

It can be watched here:

https://skillmeup.com/courses/player/deploy-and-configure-infrastructure

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Where to host Docker Containers on Azure (AKS, ASE, or ASF)?

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) service Azure App Service Environment (ASE) Azure Service Fabric (ASF) Comparison

Scenario:

So, your team recently has been tasked with developing a new application and running it. The team made the decision to take a microservices based approach to the application. Your team also has decided to utilize Docker containers and Azure as a cloud platform. Great, now it’s time to move forward right? Not so fast. There is no question that Docker containers will be used, but what is in question is where you will run the containers. In Azure containers can run on Azure’s managed Kubernetes (AKS) service, an App Service Plan on Azure App Service Environment (ASE), or Azure Service Fabric (ASF). Let’s look at each one of these Azure services including an overview, pro’s, cons, and pricing.

This Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) Pros and Cons chart is clickable.
This Azure App Service Environment (ASE) Pros and Cons chart is clickable.
This Azure Service Fabric (ASF) Pros and Cons chart is clickable.

Conclusion:

Choose Azure Kubernetes Service if you need more control, want to avoid vendor lock-in (can run on Azure, AWS, GCP, on-prem), need features of a full orchestration system, flexibility of auto scale configurations, need deeper monitoring, flexibility with networking, public IP’s, DNS, SSL, need a rich ecosystem of addons, will have many multi-container deployments, and plan to run a large number of containers. Also, this is a low cost.

Choose Azure App Service Environment if don’t need as much control, want a dedicated SLA, don’t need deep monitoring or control of the underlying server infrastructure, want to leverage features such as deployment slots, green/blue deployments, will have simple and a low number of multi-container deployments via Docker compose, and plan to run a smaller number of containers. Regarding cost, running a containerized application in an App Service Plan in ASE tends to be more expensive compared to running in AKS or Service Fabric. The higher cost of running containers on ASE is because with an App Service Plan on ASE, you are paying costs for a combination of resources and the managed service. With AKS and ASF you are only paying for the resources used.

Choose Service Fabric if you want a full micros services platform, need flexibility now or in the future to run in cloud and or on-premises, will run native code in addition to containers, want automatic load balancing, low cost.

A huge thanks to my colleague Sunny Singh (@sunnys101) for giving his input and reviewing this post. Thanks for reading and check back for more Azure and container contents soon.

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Azure Management Groups

If your company is like most organizations that are using the cloud, then you have many subscriptions floating around. This is often due to “shadow IT”. However, sometimes organizations simply use many subscriptions as a way to put boundaries around cloud services for departments, teams or other reasons.

Microsoft has built a new service in Azure to help with the governance of your cloud. This new service is called Management Groups. Management Groups is still in preview but it is something I highly recommend you start trying out or using now as it is going to be as big for cloud as group policy was for on-premises AD based environments.

Management Groups sit above subscriptions. This allows Management Groups to be at the highest level in the chain so they can be used to effectively manage access, policies, and compliance for any subscriptions that belong to your organization. Within Management Groups you can set access controls (RBAC) and Azure policy to be applied to subscriptions. Subscriptions are organized in logical containers and the containers are the “management groups”. Your governance conditions are then applied to the management groups. This is the much-needed enterprise level type of management that has been needed in Azure for a while.

Management Groups will eventually become the starting point of governance when organizations embark on the cloud. Management Groups also can be used for organizations that are already in the cloud. I am going to dive into Management Groups giving you a high-level tour but first I need to give some more background on the components of Management Groups.

Each directory has a “root management group”. This root management group is at the top level of the management group hierarchy. All other management groups and subscriptions fold up to the root management group. Access and policies can be applied at the directory level via this root management group.

A couple of other things to note about management groups are that you can only have up to 10,000 management groups in a single directory, a management group tree can go six levels deep not including the root management group, and each management group can have multiple children management groups but only one parent management group.

Now let’s explore how I have structured my management groups to give some examples of how this works. Note that all the examples I show in this blog post are for my Azure environments but yours will be different based on many factors such as your organizational structure of departments, teams, etc.

You can find management groups under All Services>>Management Groups.

When you first access Management Groups you will need to create a root MG. Note that the root MG cant deleted or moved. You can rename the root MG. In the following screenshot, I am showing the creation of a sub MG in my root MG. Also, notice on the left-hand side you can set Access controls (RBAC) on this MG.

In order to configure Azure Policies and apply it to a management group, you do that within the Azure Policy itself. You can see in the following screenshot that I have an Azure policy and I am scoping it to the Prod01 MG. Whatever subscription/s and resources in those subscriptions will inherit the policy unless an exclusion is set in the policy or I am breaking inheritance at the resource group level.

In the following screenshot, I am showing the addition of an existing resource. The resources you can add are other MG’s or subscriptions.

In the following screenshot, you can see that I am going to add one of my subscriptions to my Dev01 management group. After doing this I can configure development related access and development related policies to this subscription. I also can do the same thing with my production environments/subscriptions.

Here is what my Management Groups hierarchy looks like:

In my hierarchy I have 3 subscriptions I split into two for production and 1 for development. I have created a root management group and placed all other management groups in it. I created a parent management group for my prod subscriptions and 1 for my development subscriptions in case I add more in the future. I then created a prod01 and prod02 pulling a subscription into each one. Doing this allows me to have separate access and policies per subscription. One thing you could do is pull multiple subscriptions into a single management group.

Note that I also could apply access and policies at the root level or at one of my environment management groups i.e. Prod_Env/Dev_Env and the sub-management groups would inherit the access and policies that are set at the environment management group level.

Also if you need to you can move management groups to a new parent management groups.

Thanks for reading this post. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post Azure Management Groups are currently in preview but they are worth checking out and potentially using now as these are going to become a critical part of the Azure governance story.

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