Getting Deep

Earlier this week, I wrote about how standalone VMs delivered through Windows Azure Pack enable application owners to consume on-prem solutions via a UI/experience that is consistent with what they have in Windows Azure. Today’s section of the ongoing Success with Hybrid Cloud series looks at how you can act as an enterprise service provider to improve the productivity of the application owners you support.

If you’re already familiar with the Windows Azure portal then you have probably seen options to create IaaS VMs that include software such as SharePoint Server. This saves a lot of time because the process of accessing installation media and clicking through setup is reduced to near zero. You may have also seen that you can bring database and web instances online as services and that you (as the tenant) do not have to manage the underlying operating system at all.

Windows Azure Pack (WAP) allows service providers (hosters or enterprise organizations) to provide an on-prem application platform in this same manner.

Virtual Machine Roles

In the previous post I discussed a tenant who needed an IaaS environment that delivered a VM from a self-service interface, where the contents of the machine only included the Operating System. The login process utilized their existing Active Directory credentials and the portal offered them choices about how the machine should be configured.

Another common scenario is that your tenant may require a full installation of SQL Server to work with special requirements, such as SQL Agent jobs. VMRoles addresses this need by allowing the service provider to set actions that take place after the operating system comes online. This handles tasks such as modifying the configuration of the OS or deploying applications.

Provisioning Virtual Machine Roles (VMRole)

To be clear: Running SQL Server in Windows Azure is a great option, but the application owner may have a specific requirement that can only be satisfied on-prem. In this scenario, the private cloud experience should be as simple as it is in Windows Azure.  To do this, open the Service Models WebPI feed and download the sample VMRole for SQL Server and customize it to fit your needs. Once it has been published to a Plan in WAP (and a tenant has subscribed), they will see options similar to the image below in the WAP VMRole Gallery.

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Additional information is also collected before provisioning VMRoles because WAP supports “scale-out” activities that require recycling configuration options. For example, WAP does not ask for a “Computer Name,” but instead for a “Computer Name Pattern.” When you deploy your first instance it might have a name such as SQL01. As you scale out, you will find SQL02, SQL03, SQL04, etc., without ever having to re-enter that information into a wizard.

When the provisioning process is complete, you have a VM with a fully installed instance of SQL. Just as we discussed for Standalone VMs, the tenant has the ability to make changes on their own including attaching disks, adding networks, and resizing to different hardware profiles.

WAP includes options for the Service Provider to deliver both PaaS and IaaS models, combining services to form an application platform.

Just like SQL in Azure, what the tenant provisions in a PaaS environment is a new database delegated for them to administer. The tenant is provided information about how to connect, and they enjoy reduced management overhead because things like backups and patching are provided as a value-add by the service provider.

WAP is not just a portal for self-service VM provisioning. As your application owners become more familiar with deploying and managing applications across services in Azure, it will be increasingly important for IT Pro’s to think about these capabilities as an application platform. Just like Windows Azure is a platform for deploying applications to the public cloud, WAP is the platform for deploying applications to the private cloud.

WAP is not just a portal, WAP is the platform.

I believe the time has come to stop thinking in terms of “cloud vs. datacenter” and instead focus on delivering the best applications for our business.  Because of these capabilities, I believe Microsoft is uniquely able to deliver on this vision through Windows Azure in the public cloud and Windows Azure Pack as a solution that empowers IT Pros to deliver in the private cloud. This is what makes a Hybrid environment possible today.

Consider a scenario where a tenant is an application owner for an enterprise organization that needs 3 unique database instances. This is an opportunity for the on-prem admins to demonstrate their role as Enterprise Service Providers. The service provided here is pretty impressive: Offering Database as a Service, Web Applications as a Service, and VM Infrastructure as a Service offerings – all from a single interface that aligns with the experience in Azure. In fact, even the PowerShell cmdlets for Azure work consistently with WAP, so deployment models that may seem complex when spanning public and private clouds, are now a single common language.

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