Quick update this week as I was working to wrap up a bunch of different tasks ahead of taking some vacation for the holidays. I had to finish out scoping a couple of customer projects, mostly Azure foundation work. Three of the projects I was working on over the past couple of weeks are kicking off in January so I was helping with staffing and other engagement kickoff related items. The training course my team has been working on was also a focus as we had to start approving people into the course. The course requires balanced teams of infra, dev, architect focused members so we have to evaluate each person and build out the teams so it takes quite some time to get the roster squared away.
I started vacation this past Friday and, fingers crossed, it looks like I got most of my work wrapped up so I’m hoping to not have anything intrude on vacation time (other than the large RFP I’ve been working on, I do expect some work on that as the customer is releasing more RFP requirements just before Christmas… of course…). For vacation we had hoped to take my son to a Christmas event in a town nearby but we got 18 inches of snow (I live in the mountains east of Seattle)! So instead I’ve spent about 6 hours of the last 30 doing snow removal (our plow guy’s machine broke). Fortunately I have a monster snowblower (link) otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get out.
Neither wind, rain, nor snow slows down the Azure train though, here’s what’s interesting this week.
Announcing the StorSimple Virtual Array Preview
Today, I am pleased to announce the preview of the on-premises StorSimple Virtual Array, for all customers with an Enterprise Agreement for Microsoft Azure. The StorSimple Virtual Array is a version of the StorSimple solution in a virtual machine form installed on your existing hypervisors. The virtual array is built on the success of previous StorSimple technology using a hybrid cloud storage approach for on-demand capacity scaling in the cloud and cloud-based data protection and disaster recovery.
The virtual array can be run as a virtual machine on your Hyper-V or VMware ESXi hypervisors and can be configured as a File Server (NAS) or as an iSCSI server. The hybrid approach is to store the most used data (hottest) local on the virtual array and (optionally) tiering older stale data to Azure. The virtual array also provides the ability to back up the data to Azure in addition to having a quick disaster recovery (DR) capability.
Each virtual array can manage up to 64 TB of data in the cloud. Virtual arrays, in different branch and remote offices across geographies, can be managed from a central StorSimple management portal in Azure. Announcing the StorSimple Virtual Array Preview | Microsoft Azure Blog
Announcing the StorSimple Cloud Appliance 8020
We are excited to announce the next generation of the StorSimple Cloud Appliance (previously referred to as the StorSimple Virtual Appliance). The StorSimple Cloud Appliance is a software version of the StorSimple solution in Virtual Machine form, running in Azure.
The new StorSimple Cloud Appliance, the 8020, provides more than double the capacity and better performance on most benchmarks than the 8010 model (previously referred to as the 1100). The 8020 provides an increased maximum provisioned capacity of 64 TB, and better performance by using Azure Premium Storage as the local tier. Azure Premium Storage allows users to provision low latency and high performance SSD drives for their VMs in Azure. This model will allow the customers to enable scenarios that require larger volume sizes and higher throughputs in Azure. Announcing the StorSimple Cloud Appliance 8020 | Microsoft Azure Blog
It was StorSimple week apparently Three different but related announcements all involving the virtual appliance based version of StorSimple. If you are not familiar with StorSimple I definitely suggest you check it out. There are some really interesting capabilities there and you can architect some pretty powerful hybrid storage solutions. The big announcement here is the ability to run the StorSimple virtual appliance on-premises on Hyper-V or VMware. Previously, for the on-premises side you had to use a physical appliance. Now you can run it in one or more VMs and have a virtualized NAS or iSCSI storage target that has built in tiering and Azure connectivity. Along with this announcement is also the “local pinning” capability which means that for some storage you can configure it NOT to tier off to Azure. Imagine a case where you want to store both file data and a SQL database on this appliance. You could pin the volume with the SQL database to be local only. Finally, the second announcement was a doubling of the capacity and performance of the Azure-hosted StorSimple virtuaql appliance. This comes with the ability to now use premium storage with the appliance. One thing on my list is to create a detailed article on all the current and near future storage solutions from Microsoft. Most customers I talk to have no idea how much capability we have in our storage solutions right now.
September update for Web Apps and App Service environments in the Azure Preview Portal
This blog post is a bit overdue, but we are making up with shipped features and improvements.
You can now configure your apps to use .Net framework 4.6
Process explorer got some reliability fixes as well as a facelift to also include icons for the processes. This makes it easier to differentiate between the website process, site extensions, webjobs and kudu processes.
We did some improvements to better handle large directories this will make the UI a lot more responsive in this scenarios.
You can now setup a OneDrive folder for continuous deployments. September update for Web Apps and App Service environments in the Azure Preview Portal | Microsoft Azure Blog
I don’t deal much with App Service since I’m not a developer but as the lines between infra and dev blur this is something to try to keep up with. I continue to believe infrastructure people need to become deeply familiar with app dev processes, tooling, and workflow. That is the “infrastructure” of the future.
Azure Security Center: Visibility in the Cloud
Once upon a time, Microsoft was (rightfully) criticized for making software that was feature-focused but not security-conscious. That was then; this is now. Over a decade ago, Microsoft set out to remedy this and created the Trustworthy Computing Security Development Lifecycle based on the principle of SD3: Secure by Design, Secure by Default and Secure in Deployment. Security from the ground up, rather than as a tacked-on afterthought, became the goal.
The Redmond company has, however, come a very long way, with one respected security expert recently opining that “They’ve changed themselves from worst in class to the best in class.” The company has been investing a billion dollars a year in securing its products, according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, especially Windows 10, Windows Server and the Azure cloud platform. In November of this year, they launched the Cyber Defense Operations Center, a new group called Microsoft Enterprise Cybersecurity Group, and a new cloud service called Azure Security Center. Azure Security Center: Visibility in the Cloud
Nice overview of the Azure Security Center. On my list of things to get deeper on over my holiday break.
Building Azure Resource Manager Templates Putting it all together
In this series so far, we looked at building ARM templates by example. The focus was not really on the resource types or how to use resource definitions. Instead, our focus was on learning the basics of template language. To that extent, we have a scenario that we want to deploy and we are incrementally building the template for it.
While building an ARM template for this, we looked at how to use parameters and variables. We looked at using copy object to create multiple instances of a resource type without really writing the resource definition multiple times. We went on to find out how we can define dependencies between different resource types so they are orchestrated in the right order. We looked at how we can decompose the template into purpose-specific external templates and how to link them together. While learning these concepts, we created a template that almost built the scenario we started with.
We will now add the remaining VMs based on the environmentType selected by the user. So, based on the VM instance count we need, we have to create network interfaces and virtual machines. We have already provisioned the inbound NAT rules needed for the RDP access to these virtual machine consoles post deployment. Building Azure Resource Manager Templates Putting it all together | Ravikanth Chaganti
If you haven’t been following this series from Ravikanth Chaganti then you are missing out. It’s a fantastic series on building Azure Resource Manager templates with a fully worked through example. Great stuff!
That’s it for this week, let me know in comments if you found any other interesting articles this week!