Windows Azure poster November 2013 edition

Jouni Heikniemi made a nice poster showing all the Windows Azure application types. The poster focusses on the developers side of Windows Azure so virtual networks are not shown for example.

Download here.

Windows Azure adds Oracle images and new virtual machine size

Windows Azure adds new features every couple of weeks. Yesterday Microsoft added two new components to Windows Azure:

  1. A new virtual machine size. The A5 has 2 virtual cores and 14 GB internal memory. The price of consumption is $ 0.45 per hour.
  2. Oracle software preconfigured in virtual machine images. The software available includes Java, Oracle Database, Oracle Linux  and Oracle WebLogic Server.


Oracle and Microsoft entered a strategic  partnering in June 2013. Oracle will fully support running all Oracle software on Hyper-V and Windows Azure. That is quite a step as officially Oracle does not support running Oracle software on for instance VMware vSphere. Now the partnership has become visible by making Oracle software available on Azure using virtual machine images. The availability of the software comes at the same time Oracle Open World starts.

Mind the Windows Azure images containing Oracle Database are offered as a preview. Production deployments are not recommended and not supported. A general availability date for these services has not yet been set.

Oracle customers can bring it their own licenses and apply it to Azure virtual machines. The preconfigured Oracle images in Azure are “license included”.

Oracle Database clustering is not currently supported on Windows Azure. Only standalone Oracle Database instances are possible. This is because virtual disk-sharing in a read/write manner among multiple virtual machine instances in Windows Azure is not currently supported.

Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President, Windows Server & System Center writes about the above news here.

For a complete overview of how to install Oracle images in Azure and restrictions see this post

Here is a Frequently Asked Questions post  on running Oracle on Azure .

It is official: I will be writing a book on Managing the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud

One of my dreams has always been to write a book. Today this dream starts as I signed a contract with Packt Publishing.
Packt is a large publisher of IT-books (total 1714 titles )  and has 49 titles on cloud and virtualization. Some names of authors who wrote books for Packt are Leandro Carvalho, Prasenjit Sarkar, Jason Langone and Andre Leibovici.

The draft title of the book will be ‘Managing the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud’ . In this book I will explain the architecture of Windows Azure Infrastructure Services, how to connect on-premise datacenters running System Center 2012 to Windows Azure. You will learn about Disaster Recovery Orchestration, monitoring, backup of on-premise VMs to Azure, migration of VMs to Azure, cloudbursting  and much, much more.

It will be a technical guide of how Microsoft translated their Cloud OS vision into solutions.

Writing a book will take lots and lots of hours. I am very gratefull to my girlfriend and QNH, my company, for supporting me full on making this dream come true!

Also I will get support of Microsoft.

The release of the book is scheduled for Q1 2014. During the next months I will update you on my experiences.

If you want to be a reviewer of the book please let me know! (mvdb22 at gmail dot com)

Windows Azure Training Kit – August 2013 available

Microsoft released a new version of the Windows Azure Training Kit in August.

Windows Azure Training Kit includes a comprehensive set of technical content to help you learn how to use Windows Azure. It has demo’s, labs and presentations.

The Windows Azure Training Kit includes over 20 PowerPoint presentations that you can be used to learn more about Windows Azure features. These presentations can also be used to present at foundation training workshops, conferences, and user group events. Simply click on the links below to view the presentations.


August 2013 Update
The August 2013 update of the Windows Azure Training Kit includes updated versions of Introduction to Access Control Service 2.0 to the latest portal experience and MVC 4; Getting Started Windows Azure Storage with two extra exercises that go deeper on each storage abstraction security; and 4 new labs showing brand new portal functionalities. Content Updates:

  • New Lab: Going Live with Windows Azure Web Sites
  • New Lab: Automatically Scaling Web Applications on Windows Azure Web Sites
  • New Lab: Creating a Windows Azure Mobile Service with a Custom API
  • New Lab: Introduction to Windows Azure Active Directory
  • Updated Introduction to Windows Azure Access Control Service 2.0
  • New Exercises: Getting Started Windows Azure Storage


Download here.

New cloudservice SkySight enables the power of AND

Enabling hybrid cloud is one of Microsoft’s main strategies. The company strongly focusses on combining the strengths of public cloud with those of private cloud. Microsoft calls this the ‘Power of AND’.  The vision is delivered by Microsoft Cloud OS. Cloud OS is the combination of Windows Server, System Center and Windows Azure.

Capgemini, a large IT company with the  HQ in France, recently launched a new cloud orchestration service named SkySight which kind of glues together enterprise’s own datacenters, Capgemini operated datacenters and Microsoft Windows Azure datacenters to a single pool of resources.  I believe this is the first solution offered by Capgemini focused on Infrastructure as a Service.

SkySight will implement hybrid cloud environments using core Microsoft cloud technologies including Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012 and Windows Azure. It will include a portfolio of cloud-based application and infrastructure services through the SkySight Enterprise Applications Store.

The orchestration service is developed by Capgemini.

This portfolio will include Microsoft SharePoint, messaging, collaboration, Microsoft Lync, testing platforms, high performance computing platforms, compute capacity, and storage capacity.

The first release of SkySight will support for running testing platform in hybrid cloud infrastructures.

I have only seen press releases and not much info revealing what is happening ‘under the hood’ . I understand Capgemini offers a self service portal named the Enterprise Application Store. End users can deploy applications and virtual machines using this portal. The Capgemini developed Orchestration Service will then kick in. Based on policies set by the customer the orchestration service will deploy the application either on-premise, in a Capgemini datacenter or in Windows Azure. Examples of such policies could be: must run in private cloud because of legislation, must have a SLA of 99,99%, must have a RTO of 1 minute, deploy to the cheapest cloud, etc

SkySight is expected to be generally available in the UK, Netherlands and France by the end of September 2013, offering public, private and hybrid cloud services. It will be launched in the US at the same time, however only public cloud services will be available initially.



Windows Azure Virtual Machines support policies & lessons learned

Microsoft made Windows Azure Virtual Machines general available end of April 2013. This new service allows to cloud consumers to  provision virtual machines from a catalog or upload your own VHD virtual disks. Supported operating systems are Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012 and various Linux distributions.

MVP Nuno Filipe Mendes Godinho posted an interesting blog about some lessons learned while running virtual machines on Windows Azure.
The post can be read here.

A summary of his findings are:
1. Place each data disk in a single storage account to improve IOPS
2. Always use Data Disks for Read/Write intensive operations, never the OS Disk
3. Use striped disks to achieve better performance
4. Configure Data Disks HostCache for ReadWrite
5. Always create VMs inside a Affinity Group or VNET to decrease latency
6. Always leverage Availability Sets to get SLA
7. Always sysprep your machines
8. Never place intensive read/write information on the Windows System Drive for improved performance
9. Never place persistent information on the Temporary Drive (D:)

Microsoft published its Microsoft server software support for Windows Azure Virtual Machines here.

The article states:
Microsoft supports Microsoft server software running in the Windows Azure Virtual Machine environments:

Microsoft BizTalk Server Microsoft BizTalk Server 2013 and later is supported.
Microsoft Dynamics GP Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 and later is supported.
Microsoft Dynamics NAV Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 and later is supported.
Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager 2010 R2 SP1 and later is supported.
Microsoft Project Server Microsoft Project Server 2013 and later is supported.
Microsoft SharePoint Server Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and later is supported on Windows Azure Virtual Machines. For more information, please see
Microsoft SQL Server 64-bit versions of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and later are supported. Please see for details.
Microsoft System Center System Center 2012 SP1 and later is supported for the following applications:

  • App Controller
  • Operations Manager
  • Orchestrator
  • Server Application Virtualization
  • Service Manager

Microsoft Team Foundation Server Microsoft Team Foundation Server 2012 and later is supported.
Windows Server Roles Windows Server 2008 R2 and later versions are supported for the following roles.  This list will be updated as new roles are confirmed:

  • Active Directory Domain Services
  • Active Directory Federation Services
  • Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services
  • Application Server
  • DNS Server
  • File Services
  • Network Policy and Access Services
  • Print and Document Services
  • Web Server (IIS)
  • Windows Server Update Services

The following roles are not supported on Windows Azure Virtual Machines:

  • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol Server
  • Hyper-V
  • Remote Access (Direct Access)
  • Windows Deployment Services

Windows Server Features Notable features that are not supported:

  • BitLocker Drive Encryption (on the OS disk – may be used on data disks)
  • Failover Clustering
  • Internet Storage Name Server
  • Multipath I/O
  • Network Load Balancing
  • Peer Name Resolution Protocol
  • SNMP Services
  • Storage Manager for SANs
  • Windows Internet Name Service
  • Wireless LAN Service

Backup to the cloud using Windows Azure Backup

One of the use cases of cloud computing Infrastructure as a Service is data recovery. IaaS service models have unlimited compute and storage capacity without upfront investments. More and more vendors are adding support for backup to the cloud. Some examples are Microsoft who acquired StorSimple. Storsimple is a hardware appliance which offers local storage and a gateway to various cloud storage providers. Veeam Backup & Replication Cloud Edition offers the same kind of functionality delivered in software.

Windows Azure has a preview feature named Azure Backup  which offers an unlimited storage capacity for backup purposes. This post will give some insights in this feature and how to connect to it.


Read more of this post

Citrix CloudBridge connects private cloud with Windows Azure

Citrix released at February 15 a technical preview of a new product named Citrix CloudBridge. The product, available as a hardware or software appliance can be used to connect enterprise datacenters to cloud infrastructures like Microsoft Windows Azure.

With the help of this kind of solutions the hybrid cloud becomes reality.

This technology preview offers standard based secure connectivity to Microsoft Azure. With this enhancement, a customer can  connect their enterprise data center to the Azure VPN gateway and access the IaaS and PaaS offerings from Microsoft.Citrix-cloudbridge-for-azure

Read more of this post

Disaster Recovery of on-premise Hyper-V virtual machines using Windows Azure Recovery Services

Update April 11: This new service is not DRaaS. Customers still need two datacenters running Hyper-V and SCVMM 2012. Hyper-V Recovery Manager which runs in Azure does orchestration and testing!

Currently in limited Preview program  is a new service of Microsoft Windows Azure which enables Disaster Recovery Orchestration for Hyper-V. This post will give some details on this new service.

Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager helps you protect System Center Virtual Machine Manager private clouds in the event of service outage. You can build recovery orchestration plans using this feature and test your plans periodically to ensure high level of preparedness for unplanned downtime or a planned event like data center load balancing.

Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V has a nice feature called Hyper-V Replica. It enables  replication of virtual machine disk files to another location for disaster recovery purposes. This feature is available at no additional cost, making DR a lot more cost effective compared to using third party tools. The feature is also very simple to setup and use.

One of the services currently in Limited Preview is part of ‘Azure Recovery Services’ and is named  Hyper-V Recovery Manager Vault. It can be enabled by selection of Cloud Services in the Azure Management portal. You cannot use it immediately. There is a queue at the moment.


Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager helps you protect System Center Virtual Machine Manager private clouds in the event of service outage. You can build recovery orchestration plans using this feature and test your plans periodically to ensure high level of preparedness for unplanned downtime or a planned event like data center load balancing.

This post at titled Configure Windows Azure Recovery Services to provide a Hyper-V recovery environment explains how to setup replication.
The text below is taken from the Azure website.

Hyper-V Recovery Manager (Preview)

Orchestrate protection and recovery of private clouds

Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager can help you protect important services by coordinating the replication and recovery of System Center 2012 private clouds at a secondary location.

Automated protection

System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager private clouds can be protected through automating the replication of the virtual machines that compose them at a secondary location. The ongoing asynchronous replication of each VM is provided by Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Replica and is monitored and coordinated by Hyper-V Recovery Manager.

Orchestrated Recovery

The service helps automate the orderly recovery in the event of a site outage at the primary datacenter. VMs can be brought up in an orchestrated fashion to help restore service quickly. This process can also be used for testing recovery, or temporarily transferring services.

Note: This limited preview program is available to a small group of customers in specific geographic locations1 using Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1. However, we are always on the lookout for additional customers who will provide us with interesting and actionable feedback. If you would like to be considered for this program please complete the Microsoft survey located here. Thank you in advance for your responses! We will only be contacting those of you that have been accepted to participate.

1 Only customers located in the following countries will be considered: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, Australia, Japan, India, New Zealand. Data for this Preview feature will be stored only in the Azure datacenters located in the United States

Only customers located in the following countries will be considered: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, Australia, Japan, India, New Zealand. Data for this Preview feature will be stored only in the Azure datacenters located in the United States.

Microsoft TechDays 2012 Switserland presentations online

Microsoft Switzerland’s largest technology event took place for the 9th time this November in Lausanne and Basel. At both locations TechDays 12 Switzerland offered two full days of high quality content for software developers, architects and ITPros. The reason for two events in the same country is the language used at the event:

Lausanne: French (Primary) and English
Basel: German (Primary) and English

Some examples of  ITPro sessions are about Exchange, SQL 2012 , Lync, BizTalk and Hyper-V/SCVMM.

The slides of the sessions are available online. Most of the slides are in English language.

Recordings of the sessions should be made available soon at Channel9.

To download the slides, click here.

TechDays Microsoft 2012 Switserland ITPro

Some examples for sessions on Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and SCVMM.

Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V – The next chapter
System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager
Verwandlung einer VMware vSphere Infrastruktur in eine Private Cloud mit System Center 2012
Windows Server 2012 Storage

Windows Azure integration with Microsoft System Center and private cloud

Microsoft has a strong focus on cloud computing. Lots of innovation on Microsoft’s public cloud platform Azure is developed. For private cloud Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V combined with System Center 2012 offers lots of capabilities.

One of Microsoft strategies on cloud computing is a strong believe that initially a hybrid cloud will be used by organizations. Hybrid cloud computing means some services are consumed on a private cloud (or hosted platform) and some services are running in a public cloud.

With System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SC2o12 SP1) a lot of integration between private (Windows Server 2012) and public cloud (Azure) will be possible.

Microsoft names this Cloud OS, an integration between Azure and Windows Server 2012 and adding System Center 2012 for its automation, orchestration and management capabilities. The cloud OS would end up integrated across a company’s datacenter (on-premises), a service provider’s datacenter and the Windows Azure public cloud.

To connect private and public clouds Microsoft has several solutions available, either in beta or general available. This posting will give an overview of solutions.

  • System Center App Controller
    This software component of System Center 2012 enables management of virtual machines running in your Microsoft private cloud and Azure from a single console. Added in System Center 2012 SP1 is the ability to  integrate and manage VMs running on a wide range of  cloud service providers. VHD files can be uploaded to Azure. It is not yet possible to Live Migrate a VM from on-premises to Azure.
  • Windows Azure Services for Windows Server
    This software which is currently in preview allows Service Providers to deliver Azure services on a Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V platform. Windows Azure Services for Windows Servers brings the Azure Management Portal interface to Windows Server 2012. Providers will be able to provide initially two Azure capabilities: high density Web Sites as well as Virtual Machine provisioning and management, also known as “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS).
    Read more here . Instructions on how to setup the software at
  • Global Service Monitor
  • Configuration Manager 2012 SP1 – Cloud Distribution Point
  • High Performance Compute Pack for Windows
  • Orchestrator Windows Azure Integration Pack
  • System Center Monitoring Pack for Windows Azure Application
  • Data Protection Manager cloud-based backup

Continue below for a more detailed description of the mentioned solutions.


Orchestrator Windows Azure Integration Pack
This software enables System Center Orchestrator to perform certain action on Azure like creating virtual machines, perform tasks on Azure storage.

The Integration Pack includes the following activities:

  • Azure Certificates– the Azure Certificates activity is used in a runbook to add, delete, and list management and service certificates
  • Azure Deployments– the Azure Deployments activity is used in a runbook to create, delete, get, and swap deployments, change deployment configurations, update deployment statuses, rollback an update or upgrade, get and change deployment operating systems, upgrade deployments, walk upgrade domains, and reboot and reimage role instances
  • Azure Cloud Services– the Azure Cloud Services activity is used in a runbook to create, delete, and get cloud services, check cloud service name availability, and create affinity groups
  • Azure Storage– The Azure Storage activity is used in a runbook to create, delete, update, and list storage accounts, get storage account properties, get and regenerate storage account keys, create, list, and delete containers, and put, copy, delete, list, snapshot, and download blobs
  • Azure Virtual Machine Disks– the Azure Virtual Machine Disks activity is used in a runbook to add, delete, update, and list virtual machine disks and virtual machine data disks
  • Azure Virtual Machine Images– the Azure Virtual Machine Images activity is used in a runbook to add, delete, update, and list virtual machine operating system images
  • Azure Virtual Machines– the Azure Virtual Machines activity is used in a runbook to create virtual machine deployments, download virtual machine remote desktop files, as well as get, delete, start, restart, shutdown, capture, and update virtual machine roles

The integration pack is currently in Beta. More information here.

Configuration Manager 2012 SP1 – Cloud Distribution Point
Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) 2012 SP1 offers the ability to deploy and use Distribution Points in a Public Cloud environment; I am talking about Windows Azure. If you owned an Azure subscription or if you get one, then thanks to the SP1 upgrade,
ConfigMgr is able to utilize a standard Distribution Point provisioned inside the Microsoft Windows Azure Cloud Computing space. ConfigMgr clients can use the Cloud Distribution Point (CDP) just as if they were using a standard Distribution Point.

The CDP adds a new way to rapidly provision DPs, especially in situation you do not have the ability to scale out the current environment or can’t provide new server workloads. CDPs also allow you to service internet-clients without having to set up an internet facing ConfigMgr server role.
Read more here.

High Performance Compute Pack
The Microsoft HPC Pack 2012 (a free download that will be available from the Microsoft Download Center later this year) makes it very easy to manage compute resources and schedule your jobs in Windows Azure. You take the proven cluster management tool from Windows Server, connect it to Windows Azure, and then let it do the work. All you need to get started is a Windows Azure account. A set-up wizard takes care of the preparation, and the job scheduler runs your computations.
More information here.

System Center Monitoring Pack for Windows Azure Application
The Windows Azure Monitoring Management Pack enables you to monitor the availability and performance of applications that are running on Windows Azure. Download here. The software is targeting SCOM 2007 but it works with the 2012 release. Information on installing the software here. and here

Global Service Monitor
Global Service Monitor is an Azure-based service that extends SCOM 2012 capabilities into the cloud. It allows you to schedule synthetic transactions from geo-distributed locations to monitor availability, performance and reliability
of your externally facing web applications.

You can think of Global Service Monitor as providing “agents in the cloud” (managed by Microsoft) that you can use to test your applications. These agents return the same kind of data to your Management Group as your on-premise agents, i.e. alerts, performance data and state data, and you can use this data in the same way in notifications, reports, views etc.

GSM extends the application monitoring capabilities in System Center 2012 SP1 using Windows Azure points of presence around the globe, giving a true reflection of end-user experience of your application. Synthetic transactions are defined and scheduled using your on-premises System Center 2012 SP1 Operations Manager console; the GSM service executes the transactions against your web-facing application and GSM reports back the results (availability, performance, functionality) to your on-premises System Center dashboard. You can integrate this perspective with other monitoring data from the same application, taking action as soon as any issues are detected in order to achieve your SLA. To evaluate System Center 2012 SP1 with GSM, sign up for a customer preview of GSM.
More information here.

Data Protection Manager cloud-based backup
With the System Center 2012 SP1 release, the Data Protection Manager (DPM) component enables cloud-based backup of datacenter server data to Windows Azure storage.  System Center 2012 SP1 administrators use the downloadable Windows Azure Online Backup agent to leverage their existing protection, recovery and monitoring workflows to seamlessly integrate cloud-based backups alongside their disk/tape based backups. DPM’s short term, local backup continues to offer quicker disk–based point recoveries when business demands it, while the Windows Azure backup provides the peace of mind & reduction in TCO that comes with offsite backups. In addition to files and folders, DPM also enables Virtual Machine backups to be stored in the cloud.

Future integration:
DPM with Azure using Storesimple devices. Microsoft took over StoreSimple. This device can integrate local storage with cloud storage provide by services like Azure but also other cloud storage vendors.
Read more on Windows Azure online backup here.

Overview of Microsoft Windows Azure Virtual Machines

Microsoft has put the development of new services running on Windows Azure in a fast pace. Time to give some high level information on the latest Windows Azure feature  named Virtual Machines.

Windows Azure is run in Microsoft owned and operated datacenters located in several regions worldwide. At the time of writing there are no other Cloud Service Providers running this Azure service unlike the VMware vCloud Datacenter Provider program.

When using Azure features the cloud consumer will have a contract with Microsoft. Being an USA company this means data stored in Azure is subject to the Patriot Act.

China might be the first country in which Windows Azure is licensed to another provider. In this post at is written that China provider 21Vianet will be offering Azure in China located datacenters. 21Vianet bills itself as the largest carrier-neutral Internet data center services provider in China. Microsoft Office365 will also be offered by 21Vianet.

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My first Windows Azure virtual machine

Microsoft recently launched a preview version of a new Azure cloud service named Windows Azure Virtual Machine (WAVM). This is an Infrastructure as a Service delivery model in which consumers can either provision a virtual machine from a catalogus or upload their own image in VHD format.

As Microsoft has a free trial for Azure I decided to start using Windows Azure Virtual Machines. This posting will report on my findings.

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