Guest on “Lisa at the Edge” Podcast EP13

I recently had the honor of being a guest on the “Lisa at the Edge” Podcast. Lisa is a Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Strategist and an influencer in the hybrid cloud community based out of Scotland. She runs a blog and this year she started a popular podcast.

On Lisa’s podcast, she covers Careers in Tech and Microsoft Hybrid Cloud and a range of other topics with experts across the tech community.

This is an episode you don’t want to miss. This was one of the most entertaining podcasts I have been on. It took some interesting turns in regards to topics and very engaging. In the podcast episode Lisa and I talk about:

  • Evolving your career as technology evolves
  • Transformation of IT dept to Strategic Business Partner
  • DevOps
  • Containers 101
  • Azure Kubernetes Service
  • Diversity in tech

You can listen to the episode here:


or here
https://anchor.fm/lisaattheedge/episodes/EP13—Career-Development–Containers-101-and-Diversity-in-Tech-with-Steve-Buchanan-efnjrp

You can stay up to date with what Lisa is doing in the tech community here:

Lisa at the Edge Podcast – – https://anchor.fm/lisaattheedge
Lisa at the Edge Blog – https://lisaattheedge.com/blog/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/lisaattheedge

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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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Presenting on Azure Stack and Native Azure Management in June/July 2019

It has been a while since presenting on Azure Stack. On June 26th I will be presenting on “Azure Stack 101 in 45 minutes” at an Azure Virtual Day Camp for a D365 user group. Here is a link to the main site:

https://www.d365ug.com/participate/azure-virtual-day

Here is a direct link to my session:

https://azurevirtualdaycamp2019.sched.com/event/PTQE/azure-stack-101-in-45-minutes?iframe=no&w=100%&sidebar=yes&bg=no

In July I will be co-presenting with Kyle Weeks at the Minnesota Azure User Group on Azure Management. The session is titled “Scale Matters: Policy + Azure Management Groups”. Come check out this session if you want to go through what Azure Management Groups are, how they scale to any complexity and the best part… how to do this with policy configurations + Azure blueprints + RBAC. Here is a link to register for the meeting:

https://www.meetup.com/Minneapolis-Azure-Cloud-Computing-Meetup/events/dtbmtpyzkbgb/

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Speaking at MMS 2019

In a week I will be speaking at MMS 2019! I will be presenting 3 sessions and co-hosting 2 panels. If you are attending MMS check out my sessions and the panels. Here is the rundown:

Sessions:

Monday, May 6 • 1:00pm – 2:45pm
Deploying Infrastructure as Code with Azure and Terraform – With fellow Microsoft MVP Ned Bellavance
https://sched.co/N6cC

Tuesday, May 7 • 8:00am – 9:45am
Improving your on-prem and cloud security with Azure Security Center – With fellow Microsoft MVP Ned Bellavance
https://sched.co/N6c9

Thursday, May 9 • 1:00pm – 2:45pm
Mastering Azure with Visual Studio Code – With fellow Microsoft MVP Peter De Tender.
https://sched.co/N6d4

Panels:

Tuesday, May 7 • 3:00pm – 4:45pm
Azure Governance and Management Panel
https://sched.co/N6gD

This panel includes an all-star group from Microsoft including:

Tim Benjamin
Principal Group PM Manager, Microsoft

Michael Greene
Principal Program Manager, Microsoft

Jim Britt
Senior Program Manager, Microsoft

and

Eamon O’Reilly
Principal Program Manager, Microsoft

Thursday, May 9 • 3:00pm – 4:45pm
Azure Stack Panel Discussion – (400)
https://sched.co/N6hE

This panel consists of a bunch of Microsoft MVP rockstars and Microsoft staff including:

Ned Bellavance
Founder / Microsoft MVP, Ned in the Cloud LLC

Thomas Maurer
Senior Cloud Advocate, Microsoft

Kristopher Turner
Sr. Cloud Architect/Microsoft MVP, NTT Data Services

Bert Wolters
Principal Consultant, Class-IT

Here is the MMS website:
https://mmsmoa.com

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Azure & Azure Stack Resource Group Cleanup Script

When building things in Azure & Azure Stack I tend to create a lot of temporary resources groups. I like to remove these when I am done. I have been using a PowerShell script for a while to help make this easier. I have decided to upload this script hoping others will find it useful as well. The script is named CleanupResourceGroups.ps1 and can be downloaded here:
https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/Cleanup-Azure-Resource-d95fc34e

The script can be used two ways:

#1 the script can be run using -Like with an expression like where {$_.ResourceGroupName -like (‘*MySQL*’) in which the script would remove any resource group with MySQL in it. To use this option just un-comment the code in SECTION 1- Uses -Like, change MySQL to whatever you want, comment SECTION 2- Interactive RG selection code, and then run the script.

#2 the script can be run interactively allowing you to select multiple resource groups you want to remove. By default the SECTION 2- Interactive RG selection code is un-commented. If you run the script it will run interactively as shown in the following steps/screenshots.

After running the script it will prompt you to select an Azure subscription.

Next the script will give you a list of resource groups in the subscription you selected. Select the resource groups you want to remove and click Ok.

The script will loop through and remove the resource groups you selected. Note that script is using -Force so it will not prompt to ensure you intend to remove the resource groups. Make sure you want to remove the resource groups before running this script.

NOTE: When running this for Azure Stack ensure you are logged into the Azure Stack environment. For info on how to do this visit: https://bit.ly/2LkvddG

That is it. It is a simple script to make removing many resource groups easier. I hope you find this script useful as I have!

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Setup CI/CD pipeline with VSTS & Azure Stack

We all know that DevOps brings together people, processes, and technology. In the Microsoft DevOps world A large part of the technology piece is utilizing Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) for continuous deployment of workloads to Azure.

Microsoft launched their Hybrid Cloud on July 10th 2017. Azure Stack is the secret sauce of Microsoft’s the Hybrid Cloud. Microsoft’s offering is the only one true Hybrid Cloud in the market bringing Azure to on-premises data centers.

As Microsoft continues to move their Hybrid Cloud forward the DevOps integration and capabilities we have for Azure extend to Azure Stack. Again I was fortunate to participate in a preview of the VSTS integration with Azure Stack. I was happy to see Microsoft putting a priority on this functionality because DevOps on Azure Stack is a HUGE need. Cloud is often the catalyst to helping organizations adopt a DevOps culture fostering digital transformation. Some organizations not being able to put all workloads in public cloud Azure Stack is a good way for them to get the same cloud capabilities on-premises DevOps integration being one of them. The setup and integration between VSTS and Azure Stack is working nicely. The team at Microsoft has given me permission to share about this topic via my blog.

In this blog post I am going to cover setting up VSTS to work with Azure and setting up a continuous-integration and-continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline to Azure Stack. With Microsoft DevOps you can utilize the pieces of VSTS that make sense for you to use leaving the control up to you. Through VSTS you can use many other DevOps tools such as Jenkins, Octopus deploy, GitHub, Bitbucket etc into your pipeline making Azure Stack just as flexible as Azure is. Let’s Jump in!

Steps to prep Azure Stack for Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS)

#1 Ensure you have installed the Azure Stack PowerShell and Azure PowerShell modules.

Details can be found here:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/azure-stack/azure-stack-powershell-install

#2 Add the Azure Stack environment using the following syntax

# Navigate to the downloaded folder and import the **Connect** PowerShell module

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

Import-Module PATH\AzureStack.Connect.psm1

# Register an AzureRM environment that targets your Azure Stack instance

Add-AzureRMEnvironment `

-Name “AzureStackAdmin” `

-ArmEndpoint “https://adminmanagement.local.azurestack.external

# Set the GraphEndpointResourceId value

Set-AzureRmEnvironment `

-Name “AzureStackAdmin” `

-GraphAudience “https://graph.windows.net/

# Get the Active Directory tenantId that is used to deploy Azure Stack

$TenantID = Get-AzsDirectoryTenantId `

-AADTenantName “YOURDOMAIN.onmicrosoft.com” `

-EnvironmentName “AzureStackAdmin”

# Sign in to your environment

Login-AzureRmAccount `

-EnvironmentName “AzureStackAdmin” `

-TenantId $TenantID

NOTE: You will need the environment name and the tenant ID for the next script.

#3 Create SPN

Original SPN creation script can be found here:

https://github.com/Microsoft/vsts-rm-documentation/blob/master/Azure/SPNCreation.ps1

Documentation on creating an SPN can be found here:

https://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/docs/build/concepts/library/service-endpoints#sep-azure-rm

Below I will display the script I used. Note that you will need the following parameters for the script:

$subscriptionName

“Enter Azure Stack Subscription name. You need to be Subscription Admin to execute the script”)]

$password

“Provide a password for SPN application that you would create”

$environmentName

“Provide Azure Stack environment name for your subscription”

$AzureStackTenantID

“Provide tenant ID from when Azure Stack enviroment was added”

EXAMPLE:

.\CreateSPN.ps1 -subscriptionName “Default Provider Subscription” -password PASSWORDHERE -environmentName AzureStackAdmin -AzureStackTenantID ID HERE

Here is the script I used that you can run:

param

(

[Parameter(Mandatory=$true, HelpMessage=”Enter Azure Stack Subscription name. You need to be Subscription Admin to execute the script”)]

[string] $subscriptionName,

[Parameter(Mandatory=$true, HelpMessage=”Provide a password for SPN application that you would create”)]

[string] $password,

[Parameter(Mandatory=$false, HelpMessage=”Provide a SPN role assignment”)]

[string] $spnRole = “owner”,

[Parameter(Mandatory=$false, HelpMessage=”Provide Azure Stack environment name for your subscription”)]

[string] $environmentName,

[Parameter(Mandatory=$false, HelpMessage=”Provide tenant ID from when Azure Stack enviroment was added”)]

[string] $AzureStackTenantID

)

#Initialize

$ErrorActionPreference = “Stop”

$VerbosePreference = “SilentlyContinue”

$userName = $env:USERNAME

$newguid = [guid]::NewGuid()

$displayName = [String]::Format(“VSO.{0}.{1}”, $userName, $newguid)

$homePage = “http://” + $displayName

$identifierUri = $homePage

#Initialize subscription

$isAzureModulePresent = Get-Module -Name AzureRM* -ListAvailable

if ([String]::IsNullOrEmpty($isAzureModulePresent) -eq $true)

{

Write-Output “Script requires AzureRM modules to be present. Obtain AzureRM from https://github.com/Azure/azure-powershell/releases. Please refer https://github.com/Microsoft/vsts-tasks/blob/master/Tasks/DeployAzureResourceGroup/README.md for recommended AzureRM versions.” -Verbose

return

}

Import-Module -Name AzureRM.Profile

Write-Output “Provide your credentials to access Azure subscription $subscriptionName” -Verbose

Login-AzureRmAccount -SubscriptionName $subscriptionName -EnvironmentName $environmentName -TenantId $AzureStackTenantID

$azureSubscription = Get-AzureRmSubscription -SubscriptionName $subscriptionName

$connectionName = $azureSubscription.SubscriptionName

$tenantId = $azureSubscription.TenantId

$id = $azureSubscription.SubscriptionId

#Create a new AD Application

Write-Output “Creating a new Application in AAD (App URI – $identifierUri)” -Verbose

$azureAdApplication = New-AzureRmADApplication -DisplayName $displayName -HomePage $homePage -IdentifierUris $identifierUri -Password $password -Verbose

$appId = $azureAdApplication.ApplicationId

Write-Output “Azure AAD Application creation completed successfully (Application Id: $appId)” -Verbose

#Create new SPN

Write-Output “Creating a new SPN” -Verbose

$spn = New-AzureRmADServicePrincipal -ApplicationId $appId

$spnName = $spn.ServicePrincipalName

Write-Output “SPN creation completed successfully (SPN Name: $spnName)” -Verbose

#Assign role to SPN

Write-Output “Waiting for SPN creation to reflect in Directory before Role assignment”

Start-Sleep 20

Write-Output “Assigning role ($spnRole) to SPN App ($appId)” -Verbose

New-AzureRmRoleAssignment -RoleDefinitionName $spnRole -ServicePrincipalName $appId

Write-Output “SPN role assignment completed successfully” -Verbose

#Print the values

Write-Output “`nCopy and Paste below values for Service Connection” -Verbose

Write-Output “***************************************************************************”

Write-Output “Connection Name: $connectionName(SPN)”

Write-Output “Subscription Id: $id”

Write-Output “Subscription Name: $connectionName”

Write-Output “Service Principal Id: $appId”

Write-Output “Service Principal key: <Password that you typed in>”

Write-Output “Tenant Id: $tenantId”

Write-Output “***************************************************************************”

Output should be similar to this:

You will use information from the Service Connection output in the next step.

Steps to configure Azure Stack as a Service Endpoint in VSTS

Log into your VSTS account at visalstudio.com

Navigate to one of your projects.

Go into Settings.

Click on Services.

Click on New Service Endpoint

A window will pop up. Click on “use full version of the endpoint dialog.”

Next input the needed data. This data comes from the Service Connection info that you copied.

You can put whatever you want in the Connection name and the Subscription Name. Note do not verify the connection. It will not succeed as VSTS cannot access your private Azure Stack yet. Click OK when done.

Setup build agent on Azure Stack host

Next you need to setup the build agent on the Azure Stack host. (Note: In this post I am using the ASDK.) From within VSTS download the Windows agent. Extract the download to a local folder.

Go to Security under your profile in VSTS.

Next add a Personal access token (PAT) for Azure Stack.

Copy the token. Note it will not be shown again ever after you leave this screen.

In the folder with the extracted build agent you will see the following. We need to run the run.cmd file from an elevated command prompt.

Here is a screenshot of running the run.cmd. I recommend deploying the build agent as a service. You will use your personal access token (PAT) here and the azure stack admin account.

After the run.cmd finished the folder with the extracted contents should look like the following:

You can now see the agent in VSTS.

That’s it for the setup for connecting VSTS to Azure Stack. Next let’s look at setting up a continuous-integration and-continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline for VM-deployment to Azure Stack.

 

THE BUILD

What I cover here is focused on infrastructure as code (IaC) using ARM templates. If you need to set up CI/CD to Azure Stack for Web Apps, Mobile Apps, Containers, etc the process is the same as it is on Azure with the only difference being that you point to Azure Stack. Also note that in this post I am using the ASDK not multi-node.

Within VSTS create a new repository and place your ARM template in it.

Next click on Build and Release. Create a new Build Definition.

In the build definition. Point the Get sources to the repository you just created. Add 2 tasks under Phase 1. The first task will copy the ARM template to the build staging directory. The second task will publish the ARM template so that a release definition can pick it up. Both tasks are shown in the following screenshots.

Copy Files to task

Publish Artifact task

OPTIONAL: To setup continuous integration click on Triggers. Here you can set a schedule to run the builds or you can click on the repository as shown in the screenshot and then check Enable continuous integration. By checking the box next to Enable continuous integration it tells VSTS that anytime content in the repo is changed to run a build.

Click on Save & queue. This will start the build.

The build will start. As long as everything is setup properly within your build it will succeed as shown in the following Screenshot.

That’s all for our build. Next up we need to create a release definition (RD) pipeline. The RD will take the build artifacts and deploy to an environment/s you specify.

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5th Book Published! Azure Stack Book!

The latest book project I have be a part of has completed and recently published. Back in August in this blog post (http://www.buchatech.com/2017/08/azure-stack-book-coming-soon-training) I mentioned this book was on its way. It is a book about Azure Stack that was officially published on December 21, 2017 by Pearson publishing. This book release has been very exciting as it is a part of the Unleashed series and this one marks the 5th book I have published. Here is a screenshot of all 5 from my Amazon author page:

In total I have published 2 books on System Center Data Protection Manager, 2 books on System Center Service Manager, and now this book covering Microsoft’s Hybrid Cloud with Azure and Azure Stack. This book also comes at the right time as I recently made a transition to a new company (Avanade) with a new focus on Cloud (Azure/Azure Stack) and DevOps. 2018 and beyond look to be exciting times as I “Hit Refresh” on my career focus.

Books like this require a team effort. On this book I was honored to work with an expert team of authors. All of the authors are fellow Microsoft MVP’s. The other authors are: Kerrie Meyler,‎ Mark Scholman,‎ Jakob Gottlieb Svendsen,‎ Janaka Rangama. Me and the other authors are pictured below + a former Microsoft MVP Nirmal.

A part of the books team also included some members of the Azure Stack product group and Azure CAT team. We lucked out having Daniel Savage Principal PM Manager from the Azure Stack team write the foreword and Marc van Eijk Senior Program Manager from the Azure CAT team serve as our technical reviewer keeping us authors in line. 🙂

Each of us authors had so much to contribute and added much value across a variety of topics for Azure Stack. In this book I focused on bringing the readers into the cloud journey, showing the value of ITIL applied to cloud as well as the value of DevOps and then bringing ITIL and DevOps together applying them to Hybrid Cloud, took a deep dive into resource providers and management of Azure Stack through a CloudOps perspective.

Other topics covered in the book consist of preparing for Azure Stack deployments both with the development kit and integrated system, deep dive into the architecture of Azure Stack including the development kit and integrated system, data center integration with Azure Stack, configuring Azure Stack including delegation and for tenants, provisioning in Azure Stack, using OMS/DSC/VM extensions with Azure Stack, Customizing Azure Stack, automating in Azure Stack, and much more.

This book gives you the information you need around Azure Stack single and multi-node. It is a great place to start as you venture into the world of Microsoft Hybrid Cloud. The plan is to update this book as Microsoft continues to mature Azure Stack so this book will continue to be relevant.

Here is the book cover:

Here is the official description for the book:

“Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Unleashed brings together comprehensive and practical insights into hybrid cloud technologies, complete CloudOps and DevOps implementation strategies, and detailed guidance for deploying Microsoft Azure Stack in your environment.

Written by five Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management MVPs, this book is built on real-world scenarios and the authors’ extraordinary hands-on experiences as early adopters. Step by step, the authors help you integrate your optimal mix of private and public cloud, with a unified management experience that lets you move workloads at will, achieving unprecedented flexibility.

The authors also guide you through all aspects of building your own secure, high-performance hybrid cloud infrastructure. You’ll discover how Azure Stack enables you to run data centers with the same scalability, redundancy, and reliability as Microsoft’s Azure data centers; how to integrate Azure infrastructure and platform services with internal operations; and how to manage crucial external dependencies. The book concludes with a deep dive into automating and customizing Azure Stack for maximum reliability, productivity, and cost savings.

Detailed information on how to

  •     Run a private/hybrid cloud on your hardware in your data center, using APIs and code identical to public Azure
  •     Apply ITIL and DevOps lifecycles to your hybrid cloud implementation
  •     Gain a deep understanding of Azure Stack architecture, components, and internals
  •     Install and configure Azure Stack and master the Azure Stack Portal
  •     Integrate and utilize infrastructure, core, and custom resource providers
  •     Effectively provision, secure, and manage tenants
  •     Manage, monitor, troubleshoot, and back up Azure Stack with CloudOps
  •     Automate resource provisioning with PowerShell, the Azure CLI, templates, and Azure Stack’s API
  •     Write your own Azure Resource Manager templates
  •     Centrally automate cloud management and complex tasks connected to external systems
  •     Develop customized, production-ready Azure Stack marketplace items”

Here is a link to the book:

https://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Hybrid-Cloud-Unleashed-Azure/dp/0672338505

Happy Azure Stacking!

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Monitoring Azure PaaS

I recently had the opportunity to present at the annual SCOM/OMS Day held by the MN System Center user group. Here is a link to the past event https://mnscug.org/meetings/499-october-2017-mnscug-meeting. Other presenters during this event included Microsoft MVP Cameron Fuller, Microsoft MVP Bob Corenelissen, and Nathan Foreman, another Minnesota local. I chose to present on Monitoring Azure PaaS. In this blog post I will cover the information from my presentation and dive deeper into the topic.

Defining PaaS

Before you can monitor something you need a full understanding of what it is that you will be monitoring. Let’s start out by clarifying what PaaS is. There are many facets to cloud and the services that are available in cloud. You also can utilize public cloud, run your own private cloud or utilize a combination of the two known as hybrid cloud. Regardless if you have public, private, or hybrid cloud you can leverage Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service, and Software as a Service.  Below is an image that has been around for a while that visually explains the main differences between running your own data centers and utilizing cloud.

After viewing the previous image lets dive a little bit deeper into what it is explaining. When you run your own data center/s you are responsible for EVERYTHING all the way down to the networking and storage including monitoring all of that. As you move to the cloud you reduce your administrative overhead releasing that to the cloud vendor.

Most organizations first foray into cloud is to utilize IaaS. With IaaS you take a lift and shift approach of essentially running your existing servers and or new servers in cloud as virtual machines. At this layer you no longer have to worry about and manage the hypervisor, servers, physical storage, and physical networking. At the IaaS layer you still need to manage and monitor what is running on the servers that power workload and applications consisting of things like the OS, middleware, data and the applications. You also manage and monitor software defined storage and networking.

As organizations move to PaaS in cloud you release even more to the cloud vendor reducing even more administrative overhead. Also with PaaS the cost of the cloud services decreases. With PaaS you are responsible for the applications and data. You no longer need to worry about maintaining the administrative tasks of the applications, middleware or the OS.

Examples of some Azure PaaS services are Web Apps, Mobile Apps, API Apps, Media Services, CDN, Search, Event Hubs, Notification Hubs, Service Bus, Batch service, Azure AD, B2B/B2C, Azure DNS, Storage, SQL/MySQL/Postgres databases, CosmosDB, Service Fabric, IoT, Azure Functions, Logic Apps, Azure Container Service, Redis Cache, HD Insight, Key Vault, Azure Bot service, and much more.

Let’s zero in on SQL as a service in the cloud. With traditional SQL you had to properly scope and size the server properly, ensure you have enough storage space, split data, logs etc. After that you would need to plan and make SQL highly available, tune a SQL server for performance, maintain it and more. With PaaS the majority of this goes away. In fact with PaaS there is no SQL server/s to manage anymore. With PaaS when developers or anyone in IT need a SQL database they simply go spin it up. IT can still put controls in place such as policy and governance standards that are essentially boundaries that the consumer of the service needs to stay within however it is all self-service.

Now even though SQL databases can be spun up by consumers on their own and the SQL servers are managed by the cloud vendor (Microsoft). Now you would think in a cloud PaaS model you no longer need to monitor as there is no SQL server/s to administer. This is simply not true and we will get more into the monitoring aspect more later on in this post.

Applications running in Azure are typically made up of multiple PaaS services and sometimes a PaaS service itself will have dependencies on other PaaS services. An example of this can be seen in the following Application Map.  This shows that PaaS services have many moving parts across multiple parts and can be complex.

With PaaS components that make up applications it is important not to just monitor the components but also the application itself.

Why Monitor PaaS?

Most folks automatically think that they don’t need monitoring of PaaS because they assume without servers and high availability they don’t need to. This simply is not true. Below is a list of reasons of why it is important to monitor PaaS.

Overall when it comes to PaaS best practice is to move away from the old ways of thinking and methods for monitoring servers and on-premises infrastructure and move to a focus of monitoring the business applications.

Understanding the monitoring framework in Azure

Next up let’s take a look at the framework of monitoring in Azure. This will help you to better understand what is possible and how the monitoring tools plug into this framework. There are three main areas of data that is generated by Azure services that can be leveraged in monitoring. These sit across IaaS and PaaS services. These areas are:

  • Diagnostic
  • Logs emitted by an Azure resource that provide rich, frequent data about the operation of that resource.
  • Resource-level diagnostic logs require no agent and capture resource-specific data from the Azure platform itself.
  • Can send these to OMS Log Analytics, Event Hubs, or an Azure Storage account.

_______________________________

  • Metrics
  • Gain near real-time visibility into the performance and health of Azure workloads.
  • Performance counters are emitted by most Azure resources.

_______________________________

  • Activity Log
  • Insight into subscription-level events that have occurred in Azure.
  • Determine the ‘what, who, and when’ for any write operations (PUT, POST, DELETE) taken on an Azure resource in a subscription.
  • Categories of data: Administrative, Service Health, Alert, Autoscale, and Recommendation. (Policy, Security, and Resource Health coming…)

The types of monitoring data sit at different layers on IaaS and PaaS. On IaaS the application logs and metrics come directly out of the application. Diagnostic logging sits across the application and OS layer while metrics sit across the OS layer and VM layer. The activity logging sits at the Azure infrastructure layer.

On PaaS both the diagnostic logging and metrics come from the Azure resources directly. The activity logs again are at the Azure infrastructure layer.

With the diagnostic logs and metrics you can access and configure these via the Azure portal, PowerShell, Azure CLI and many have API.

Diagnostic logs can be sent to OMS log analytics, Event Hubs or Azure storage for other consumption. Metrics can also be sent to OMS log analytics, Event Hubs, Azure storage, and Application Insights. With Metrics you can also fire off alerts and autoscale a service. Alerts can kick off emails, webhooks, and Azure Automation runbooks. The following diagrams visually breakdown what can be done with metric and diagnostic log data.

Options for monitoring Azure PaaS

When it comes to monitoring PaaS Microsoft has many options available. There also are options available from a ton of 3rd party vendors. In this blog post I will only talk about the Microsoft options. Majority of the monitoring tools from Microsoft that can monitor PaaS are cloud based but you also can do some PaaS monitoring via System Center Operations Manager. The cloud options are much faster, easier to onboard and have been built from the ground up with cloud in mind. With Azure you also have out of the box monitoring capabilities on most of the Azure services. For example with a web app in Azure on the overview blade you can see things like data in and out and the Azure Response Time as shown in the following screenshot.

It is great that we get some monitoring out of the box for PaaS services, however this does not help when you are running hundreds+ of services. To handle enterprise scale monitoring of PaaS services you need to centralize the monitoring and that is where the monitoring solutions come in. Microsoft has 4 cloud based monitoring tools to help centralize your Azure monitoring. These tools are able to scale as needed without any hard limits. SCOM is a 5th monitoring tool that can monitor Azure. SCOM is on-premises only though. Here is a screenshot of the various tools minus SCOM:

Here is an example custom PaaS monitoring dashboard in Azure combining widgets from the various monitoring tools:

Now let’s dive into what each tool is and an example of when and how you would use them to help monitor Azure PaaS services.

Application Insights is a Application Performance Monitoring (APM) solution used to monitor applications all the way down to the code. Application Insights is typically used for web apps and other Azure PaaS services to detect, triage, and diagnose the root cause of issues. Application Insights gives you the ability to monitor many things about your applications such as availability, metrics like data coming in and out, dependency mappings through application map, performance data, and even live streams of data points. The following screenshot is an example of a web app in Application Insights.

The following screenshot is an example of an availability test summary chart in Application Insights. It is a ping test pointed to a URL. It gives you the % of the apps availability, the successful tests and failures.

With the availability ping test you have control over a bunch of options such as the frequency, success criteria, any needed alerts upon failures, and the ability to select the locations the test runs from.

Here is an Example use case for Application Insights:

  • Debug a multi-tier Azure .NET web application for errors and performance issues.
  • Utilize Application Map in Application Insights to discover visually which parts of the application are unhealthy. For the parts that are not healthy drill down using Application Insights to pinpoint the root cause of the errors.

OMS stands for Operations Management Suite. OMS is goes beyond just a tool that can be used for monitoring. It is a suite that also provides, backup, DR, automation and security. It extends to on-premises and it can monitor both IaaS and PaaS. OMS is a platform and has something called solutions. Solutions are used to extend the functionality of OMS. The solutions are packaged management scenarios. I am not going to list out or dive into all of the solutions available for OMS here. Solutions can be found directly in OMS or from the Azure Marketplace. There are a bunch of OMS solutions that can be used to help monitor and gain insight into your Azure PaaS services. The following screenshot has some of the PaaS related solutions that are available for OMS.

In the previous screenshot the OMS solutions with the white background can be found in the Azure Marketplace while the other OMS solutions will be found directly in OMS. More and more solutions are being added to OMS and the Azure Marketplace all the time.

Below is a screenshot of the Azure Web Apps Analytics OMS solution used to gain insight into an Azure web app/s.

Below is a screenshot of Azure Storage Analytics OMS solution from the Azure Marketplace used to monitor and gain insight into Azure storage.

OMS example use case for monitoring Azure PaaS:

  • Front end application can sometimes connect to a SQL database; and sometimes it cannot. Suspected cause is SQL timeout.
  • Utilize the Azure SQL Analytics to drill-down into SQL timeouts that have occurred on databases.

Azure Monitor provides a consolidated place for monitoring data from Azure services and base-level infrastructure metrics/logs from Azure services. It is typically used to track performance, security, and identify trends on Azure services. Azure Monitor brings (OMS) log analytics, application insights, and even network watcher into one place. Azure Monitor is still a relatively new service in Azure and it is still taking shape. Azure Monitor does offer some data that (Application Insights and OMS do not). The data you cannot get in OMS and Application Insights includes the history of Azure service issues, planned maintenance, health advisories, health history, and Azure activity logs.

An example use case for using Azure Monitor to help monitor Azure PaaS is:

  • Need a report of all services issues for a specific region for the past 3 months.
  • Utilize health history in Azure Monitor to pull a list of all service issues for a specific region from the past 3 months. This example can be seen in the following screenshot.

The following screenshot shows the following areas in Azure Monitor that have important Azure monitoring data.

Azure Monitor also has the ability to integrate with many 3rd party solutions that are used by DevOps folks today. The following screenshot is a group of 3rd party integrations that are available for Azure Monitor.

SCOM can be utilized if you want to monitor Azure resources from on-premises you can utilize SCOM for this. There is a management for Azure. There also is a SCOM management pack for Azure Stack. The SCOM management pack for Azure Stack is used to monitor Azure Stack’s fabric. In order to monitor Azure Stack’s IaaS and PaaS you would use the Azure management pack pointing it to your Azure Stack enviroment. The Azure management pack can monitor the availability and performance of Azure resources that are running on Microsoft Azure via Azure REST APIs.

Azure services that can be discovered and monitored with the Azure SCOM management pack.

Below is a diagram of how the health rolls up in the Azure SCOM management pack.

Where to get the Azure Management Packs

Azure Management Pack:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=50013

Azure Stack Management Pack:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=55184

But what about security?

This is where Azure Security Center comes into play. Security Center is a unified security management and advanced threat protection for workloads running in Azure, on-premises, and in other clouds.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more blogs on Azure and Azure Stack.

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Azure Stack book (coming soon) & training

It has been a long time coming but I recently have wrapped up a couple projects around Azure Stack. The first is a course on Azure Stack for Opsgility the second is a book on Azure Stack in the Unleashed Series.

For the first project I was fortunate enough to help build some Azure Stack training for the folks at Opsgility. It was great working with Azure MVP’s Michael Washam (@mwashamtx)  and  Dan Patrick (@deltadan) on this.

Here is an overview of the course:

This course is designed for cloud architects, cloud administrators, DevOps engineers, and IT professionals that have experience with Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Services (IaaS) and Platform Services (PaaS). This course focuses on architecting, deploying, and managing Microsoft’s enterprise hybrid cloud solution Azure Stack. This course covers scenarios such as Azure Stack Architecture, deploying and configuring Azure Stack to be enterprise ready, configuring Azure Stack for tenants, region management, monitoring, backup and disaster recovery.

Here are a couple of screenshots from the online training:


Be sure to check out the course here:

https://www.opsgility.com/courses/player/implementing-azure-stack


The second project is a book on Azure Stack in the Pearson Unleashed Series. It is not published yet but all the chapters are in and the book will be published in the near future! This book has a solid team of authors who are all Microsoft MVP’s. I was honored to work with them. The authors are: Kerrie Meyler (@kerriemeyler), Jakob Svendsen (@JakobGSvendsen), Mark Scholman (@markscholman), and Janaka Rangama (@JanakaRangama). Here is a picture of the Azure Stack book author team:

Also thanks to Marc van Eijk (@_marcvaneijk) of the Azure CAT team for doing the technical review and Daniel Savage (@dsavageatms) PM on the Azure Stack team for writting the foreword.

Here is the cover for the book:

Here is the book description:  “Microsoft Hybrid Cloud with Azure Stack and Azure Unleashed cuts through the hype to explain exactly what hybrid cloud is, presents complete CloudOps- & DevOps-based implementation strategies, guides you through deploying the brand-new Microsoft Azure Stack, and helps you maximize the value of your hybrid cloud investment.

Written by an expert team of Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter MVPs, it covers all-new material included in no othe book, and thoroughly illuminates Microsoft Azure Stack, one of Microsoft’s most eagerly awaited cloud technologies.

This book is built on real-world scenarios and the authors’ extraordinary early adopter, hands-on experience. Leading System Center expert Kerrie Meyler and her colleagues guide you through every step and technique you’ll need to build your own secure, high-performance hybrid cloud infrastructure.

You’ll discover how Azure Stack enables you to run your datacenters with the same scalability, redundancy, and reliability for computer, network, and storage as Microsoft’s own Azure datacenters; how to integrate Azure infrastructure and platform services for use in your internal operations; how to manage virtualized instances of Microsoft software; and how to manage key dependencies with other products and technologies that Microsoft’s hybrid cloud solution depends upon.”

Here is the link to the books page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Hybrid-Unleashed-Kerrie-Meyler/dp/0672338505  This is the link you want to watch for the publish date.

Happy Azure Stacking!

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Azure Stack Development Kit (ASDK) Deployment Step by Step

At Microsoft Inspire Microsoft announced the Azure Stack Development Kit (ASDK) as a replacement to the POC and the general availability of the production Azure Stack named Azure Stack Integrated Systems. The Azure Stack Development Kit is here to stay. This will remain single node and should be used for trying out Azure Stack. You can develop your ARM templates and or applications on it and they will work on a production Azure Stack. The Azure Stack Integrated Systems are the ones that you buy from the OEM partners HP, Lenovo, Dell and soon to be Cisco, Avanade, and Huawei.

The ASDK install has improved 1,000 times over the previous TP’s of Azure Stack. I am going to detail the steps in this blog post. The steps start after you have downloaded the Azure Stack cloudBuilder.vhdx. Here we go:

PREPARE AZURE STACK HOST SERVER:

First off download the Azure Stack tools onto your Azure Stack host server. Just download all the tools as you will need all of them at some point. They can be found here: https://github.com/Azure/AzureStack-Tools

I put these in a folder on the C: drive named ASTools. I extract them and place them in the root.

Open up an elevated PowerShell window, navigate to your Astools folder and run the asdk-installer.ps1 script. Next a GUI wizard will pop-up.

Click on Prepare Environment.

Point it to your cloudBuilder.vhdx and click Next.

Put in the host servers local admin password. Make sure this matches the Azure account you plan to use.

Select the other options as you see fit.

It will run for a while creating the unattended file for Windows Server 2016.

Once it is done click Reboot now.

DEPLOY AZURE STACK DEVELOPMENT KIT:

Next lets deploy Azure Stack. After the server has rebooted log onto your AS server. Use the localhost\administrator account and the password you set.

Once again from PowerShell run asdk-installer.ps1. A GUI wizard will come up. Click on Install.

Select Azure Cloud (Azure Active Directory) or ADFS. Put in your directory and password.

Verify and select the correct NIC.

Select DHCP or put in your static IP settings.

It will verify the network settings.

You will see the PowerShell deployment script that will be run. Click on Deploy!

The PowerShell deployment will kick off in a PowerShell window.

After a little bit (1-2 minutes) an Azure login window will ask for your Azure account creds. This is the account ASDK will be deployed under.

NOTE: We still have the log folder and files under CloudDeployment on the C drive.

A few hours later and there it is successfully!

Having been involved with Azure Stack since TP1 and losing about a week to deploying Azure Stack TP1 this is a much….much better deployment experience. Nice work Microsoft Azure Stack team!!!

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