"The Cloud" is here to stay.
Businesses continue asking questions to their IT departments and wondering out loud:
"Are we 'Cloud-ready' and if not, when will we be?"
"What apps can we port to The Cloud right now? Next 6-12 months?"
"How will we use The Cloud to reduce costs or improve service levels – or both?"
Like all the technology we work with, The Cloud is always evolving and improving. Windows Server 2012 is Microsoft's first cloud-focused Operating System and has many features to integrate with, leverage and blur the line between Cloud-based resources, local resources and those in between.
As an IT Pro, I wasn't sure what to make of The Cloud at first. To be honest, I was more than a bit worried about the future of the IT Pro career if everyone was going to move IT to The Cloud.
Not being one to just 'wait and see,' I decided to find out for myself and I began to research The Cloud.
Lately, I've been learning more about Microsoft's Windows Azure Cloud platform. One of the more interesting factoids I learned is that Windows Azure uses more server compute capacity than was used on the planet in 1999.
Windows Azure has numerous services such as SQL, Active Directory, a rich development platform, VPN connectivity, etc.
The most exciting Azure feature to me – and the focus of this post – is the Windows Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) service.
This is something you can use today – this afternoon.
With Windows Azure and the addition of the Virtual Machines offering, there are tools, features and functions that enable you as an IT Pro, to have a readily-available lab without shelling out a lot of (or any) money for enterprise-class software and hardware. Of course there are other ways this functionality can be used but this post covers the idea of a simple lab.
Some of the great features I've discovered in working with Azure VMs:
Let's get started … I urge you to follow along
VM Size reference table (courtesy of Keith Mayer – a link to his excellent blog is at the bottom of this post):
# Data Disks
Click VIRTUAL MACHINES and then click the circled arrow. A web frame opens and you can perform a 'Quick Create' VM:
Click 'CREATE VIRTUAL MACHINE' and you're off and running. Your new VM bakes for about 10 minutes.
Here is a screen-shot displaying the details of the VM I just created:
A few comments about the above screen-shot:
Here we are logged into the VM:
Yes folks, it is REALLY just that easy.
The VM you created will be isolated for the moment and that's ok if you just want to check something out in a single-instance of the OS.
You can also change the size of the VM via the CONFIGURE option:
What if we want to build out an Active Directory with multiple DCs and member servers all networked together to really 'build out' a lab?
That's when we choose the option "FROM GALLERY" which opens a different set of forms with more options:
Again, you choose from a variety of OS instances/patch levels
Give the VM OS a hostname, give the Administrator account a password and select the VM "size"
IMPORTANT NOTES FOR THE SCREEN BELOW:
If you've setup an Availability Set, you can add this VM to that Set, if desired
Click the checkmark to begin provisioning the VM
The bottom of the Portal UI has real-time feedback and status messages:
Now we need to chat a bit more about what Azure calls a "Cloud Service."
This is basically a unit of service in Azure. If we create ANYTHING in Azure, there has to be somewhere to host it – and this is called a Cloud Service. For this demo, I conceptualize the Cloud Service as "my VM Host" – it's where my VMs live.
Since the two VMs are in the same Cloud Service, they can "see" each other.
The next step is to enable the VMs to communicate. This is similar to setting up to any other servers (physical or virtual) to communicate with each other:
Here's a high level diagram of how the Azure environment, my Cloud Service, the two VMs in that Cloud Service and remote access to the VMs all interact.
That, my friends, is how you can create a two-DC domain, for free, which is accessible from nearly anywhere.
Hopefully, this demo will get you thinking about possibilities with Windows Azure and The Cloud.
Check out these links for some more good info:
So to all you IT Pros out there …. Go for a walk in the Windows Azure Cloud.
Until next time…take care!