Continuing on with the series "Introduction to Windows Azure" after my initial blog summarising the full set of new capabilities and the subsequent blog on Virtual Machines, I thought this week I would discuss Virtual Networks. For those that missed the initial blog it can be found here
Virtual Networks was one of the new features Microsoft announced on June 6. In this blog I want to take a deeper look at this brand new feature and explain it further in the context of other cross-premises networking features that already exist in Windows Azure.
Prior to the release of Windows Azure Virtual Network, you had a range of options to connect your on-premises IT environment with the public cloud. You were able to use SQL Data Sync for synchronizing databases, ServiceBus for application-level connectivity, and Windows Azure Connect for securely connecting machines at an IP level. Now, with Windows Azure Virtual Network, Microsoft enhanced the cross-premises connectivity stack further by allowing you to set up site-to-site connectivity, much like you’d set up a branch office network and connect your corporate network to it using VPN gateways.
With this new capability, you can now create a logically isolated private environment in Windows Azure, and connect it to your corporate datacenter using a secure VPN tunnel. Once set up, your isolated Windows Azure environment can function as a logical extension of your corporate network.
Create a Virtual Private Network in Windows Azure
You can create a private network (called a Virtual Network, or VNET for short) in the Windows Azure environment within which you’re able to define private IP address ranges. Within a VNET, you also have the choice of creating logical subnets and specifying a DNS that virtual machines will use. When virtual machines or role instances are launched inside a VNET or a subnet, they’re automatically assigned the IP address from the range you specify. A thing to note here is that VNETs are logically isolated from each other, so your private IP addresses do not collide with another customer’s private IP addresses even though they might be the same.
Creating a tunnel to your Virtual Network
Once you’ve created a VNET, you have the option to connect it securely to your on-premises network through a standard IPSEC VPN tunnel. If you choose to do this, a VPN gateway will automatically be provisioned for you in Windows Azure. Then, all you have to do is to configure your on-premises VPN gateway to finish setting up the tunnel. With the functionality that Windows Azure Virtual Network provides, you’ll be able to address a variety of hybrid cloud scenarios like building ‘virtual’ extensions to your datacenter, or running some parts of your application in the Cloud and others in your local datacenter. For example, you can now domain join virtual machines running in Windows Azure to an on-premises AD, and you can run intranet-facing Sharepoint in Windows Azure.
Setting up and Managing a Virtual Network
You can create a VNET in Windows Azure through the management portal in a fairly simple manner. Click this link for a video explaining how to setup a VNET, assign IP address ranges and then create a connection with your on-premises network.
Click here for more information and tutorials on creating and managing virtual networks in Windows Azure.
Get started today to experience these new capabilities by visiting Azure and clicking on the Free Trial link
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