Kevin Remde's IT Pro Weblog

Manage Your Windows Azure Cloud (“Cloudy April” - Part 25)

Manage Your Windows Azure Cloud (“Cloudy April” - Part 25)

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CloudsLet me ask you something… Are you like many IT Pros I talk to Windows Azure about, who think, “Oh.. that’s cool.  But it’s for developers.  How am I going to manage it?”

“Yeah.. that’s what I’m thinking!  It’s like you can read my mind!”

Exactly.  And I’ve heard it a lot from the IT Pros I’ve talked to, and quite honestly I thought it myself when Windows Azure was first introduced.  And also, for a while there I was frustrated that Microsoft didn’t have a better answer when it came to automating or otherwise controlling and monitoring your Windows Azure workloads; though I knew that more and better solutions than just watching some stream of logging information were “in the works”.  Fortunately, now we’ve got some good solutions for you; and even more on the way.  So I thought I’d take a minute to list some of the tools and options that are available, and some that are still-to-come, regarding the management of Windows Azure and SQL Azure.

The first thing you’ll want to do is walk through some of the free training guides.

“But Kevin.. that’s for developers.”

No.. not entirely.  Yes, sure you will want to install the platform and the training kit samples, but you won’t have to do any coding.  The training kit comes with the fully-completed example applications that you can quickly compile and package up for putting up into your trail or Windows Azure Pass (Promo code: TNAZURE) account.  And once you have that, the training walks you through the important steps of configuring storage, loading your application using the Windows Azure Management Portal, and working with the web-based management.  Once you’ve got that down, further exercises show you how to use Windows Windows PowerShell to securely manage and control you Windows Azure applications. 

Manage this!

Also on the subject of PowerShell for Windows Azure, you really should watch Max Adams’ “How Do I” video on TechNet: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/ee957677.aspx

Second, you might take a look at the MMC.

“Really?  There’s a snap-in for the MMC?”

Yes – The Windows Azure Management Tool.  It’s a non-MS-Supported tool, but it does a lot for you, such as managing your hosted services, monitoring diagnostics on performance and events, managing certificates, configuring storage, etc.  It is even extensible, and drives PowerShell to do its work. 

Ryan Dunn has also put together a nice 15-minute introductory video on the tool.

And finally, we have a release candidate of a Windows Azure Application Monitoring Management Pack that you can use with System Center Operations Manager.  Here is the description from the download page:

Overview
The Windows Azure Monitoring Management Pack enables you to monitor the availability and performance of applications that are running on Windows Azure.
Feature Summary
After configuration, the Windows Azure Monitoring Management Pack offers the following functionality:
  • Discovers Windows Azure applications.
  • Provides status of each role instance.
  • Collects and monitors performance information.
  • Collects and monitors Windows events.
  • Collects and monitors the .NET Framework trace messages from each role instance.
  • Grooms performance, event, and the .NET Framework trace data from Windows Azure storage account.
  • Changes the number of role instances via a task.

To summarize: Here are the tools mentioned above, plus a few extras, that will help you get started in learning how to manage and monitor Windows Azure and Windows Azure applications:

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Microsoft recently announced the beta (CTP) availability of something called the Windows Azure Traffic Manager:

"The Windows Azure Traffic Manager CTP is a new feature that allows you to load balance traffic to multiple hosted services. You can choose from three load balancing methods: Performance, Failover, or Round Robin. Traffic Manager will monitor your hosted service on any http or https port you choose. If it detects your service is offline it will send traffic to the next best available service."

So that's a great way to automate some additional management functionality based on monitored aspects of traffic and performance.  Very nice!

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What are you using or hoping to use to manage your Windows Azure platform and your applications or storage?  Are you using any other methods you’d like to share with us?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

In part 26 of the series I’m going to introduce to you and discuss a Windows Azure-based IaaS that is not really IaaS.  (Huh?)

  • Kevin, I invite you and your readers to check out AzureWatch, a monitoring and autoscaling service for apps running in Windows Azure. Link: http://www.paraleap.com <a href="http://www.paraleap.com">http://www.paraleap.com</a>

  • Thanks for sharing that, Igor.  Yes indeed, there are good non-microsoft products out there that definitely can add value to Windows Azure, as in that monitoring and autoscaling tool.  

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