Microsoft Azure

Introduction

Microsoft Azure is a global, highly-available cloud platform from Microsoft that enable businesses and individuals to rapidly deploy, scale, and monitor applications and infrastructure services. With no startup or shutdown costs, and a flexible “pay per use” cost model, Azure provides significant business value to its customers.

Training

Here are some recommended training courses for Microsoft Azure topics.

NameCategoryDescription
Microsoft Azure Automation Concepts & Practical UsageAutomationThis Cloud Academy training course, developed by Trevor Sullivan, a Microsoft MVP for Windows PowerShell, describes the services provided by Microsoft Azure Automation, and guides you through their configuration.
Getting Started with Azure Cross-Platform (xPlat) CLI ToolAutomationThis Cloud Academy training course, developed by Trevor Sullivan, a Microsoft MVP for Windows PowerShell, discusses the installation and usage of the Microsoft Azure Cross-Platform (xPlat) CLI tool. The xPlat CLI can be used from both Windows and non-Windows systems to perform common automation tasks in your Microsoft Azure subscription.
Microsoft Azure Virtual NetworkNetworkingThis 2.5 hour training course, created by Trevor Sullivan, a Microsoft MVP, describes the purpose and provisioning behind various features of the Microsoft Azure Virtual Network service. The course talks about provisioning Virtual Networks and related features: custom Route Tables, Network Security Groups (NSG), Load Balancers, and VPN Gateways. The course also includes demonstrations using Azure xPlat CLI and Azure Resource Manager (ARM) PowerShell!

Subscriptions

You can sign up for a Microsoft Azure subscription easily using a credit card. The subscription, represented by a friendly name as well as a GUID, serves as a boundary for billing purposes. Limited access can be granted to other users, to aid in administration, without giving the user full control over the cloud resources contained within the subscription.

Regions

The Microsoft Azure platform is global in nature, and is divided into a number of “regions” (aka. “locations”) around the world. When you discuss Microsoft Azure, you refer to locations as “regions” rather than physical data centers. The reality is that most people do not know where the actual Azure data centers are located, and even if they did, the list would change dramatically over time.

Portals

Microsoft Azure cloud resources are manageable visually, through a couple of different web interfaces (portals). Certain functionality is only available in one portal or the other, so you may find yourself switching between them on a regular basis.

Current Portal

Microsoft Azure :: Current Portal

Microsoft Azure :: Current Portal

The “current” Microsoft Azure Portal is available at https://manage.windowsazure.com. You can log into the portal using an Azure Active Directory (AAD) user account, or a Microsoft Account that is associated to your Azure subscription(s).

Ibiza Portal

Microsoft has been developing a “new” Azure Portal, codenamed “Ibiza.” This new portal is used alongside the declarative, JSON-based Azure Resource Manager (ARM) REST API. The Ibiza Portal home page provides a user-customizable “Start Board” where “tiles” can be added, removed, or repositioned according to the user’s needs. Azure cloud resources are managed through a blade-centric experience. A “breadcrumbs” feature was added to enables users to go backwards to where they came from.

Automation

The Microsoft Azure cloud platform supports automation using Azure PowerShell and the cross-platform (x-plat) command line interface (CLI) tool. Each of these automation interfaces works against both the Azure Service Management (ASM) and Azure Resource Manager (ARM) APIs.

Infrastructure

Microsoft Azure provides a number of infrastructure services that enable businesses to reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO) for IT solutions. This can be achieved by reducing the need to purchase physical hardware, real estate, cooling systems, fire suppression systems, backup generators, and other related equipment. Instead, businesses can rapidly deploy infrastructure services on Microsoft Azure, without purchasing hardware, and only paying for as much capacity as they need at any given time. The ability to scale up and scale down services on-demand is called “elasticity.”

Virtual Network

A Microsoft Azure Virtual Network is a top-level node in a Microsoft Azure subscription, and is made up for one or more private IPv4 address spaces. There are no dependencies in order to create a virtual network. Each Virtual Network is subdivided into subnets, where virtual machines can be deployed to, and optionally enables VPN users to connect to the virtual network (Gateway Subnet).

Subnet

A Virtual Network Subnet is a subset of address space in a virtual network. A special Gateway Subnet must be created in order to support the creation of an Azure Virtual Network Gateway.

Gateway

Once a Virtual Network has been created, and it contains a Gateway Subnet, a VPN Gateway can be created to support Site-to-Site (S2S) and Point-to-Site (P2S) VPN tunnels, enabling users to connect to cloud-hosted Virtual Machines.

Storage

The Microsoft Azure Storage service is at the heart of PaaS-supported applications and cloud-based infrastructure services (IaaS).

Blob Storage

Blob Storage is the service that hold arbitrary data, and serves as the backing store for Azure Virtual Machines. When a VM is provisioned, an operating system disk (OSDisk) is created for the VM to boot from.

Azure Files (SMB)

The Azure Files service enables you to provision a cloud-based Server Message Block (SMB) share, and attach it to Virtual Machines that are running inside Azure. Azure Files SMB shares are not accessible by systems that are not running within Azure.

Table Storage

Microsoft Azure’s Table Storage service is a schemaless, partition-oriented NOSQL storage service, designed with performance in mind.

Queue Storage

Virtual Machine

Virtual Machines are essential building blocks in the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) scenario. Microsoft Azure enables the rapid deployment of Virtual Machines, running Linux and Windows operating systems, to host applications and services that are critical to the business.

Virtual Machine Sizing

When building a Virtual Machine in Microsoft Azure, the user can select from a series of pre-configured virtual machine sizes. While specifying the exact number of CPU cores or memory isn’t possible, there are a wide variety of VM sizes to choose from, to satisfy most needs. VM sizes are broken down into categories, or “series” of VMs, starting with the “A” sizes, “D” sizes, and “G” sizes. Certain VM sizes are only available in specific Azure regions, due to the availability of hardware to support the capacity in those regions.

Image Gallery

Microsoft Azure provides an image gallery that can be used to provision new virtual machines from, avoiding the requirement to “bring your own image.” When you run a Windows Server operating system in Microsoft Azure, the licensing cost for Windows Server is included with the cost of running the VM.

Networking

Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines in Azure Resource Manager (ARM), sometimes called IaaSv2, must be deployed into an Azure Virtual Network Subnet, by way of a Network Interface resource.

Automation

Runbooks

The Microsoft Azure Automation service enables the deployment of PowerShell scripts and workflows (aka. “runbooks”) into the cloud, which can then be executed on-demand or on a periodic schedule. Runbooks can be stored in a revision control service, such as GitHub, and then synchronized into an Azure Automation Account. Runbooks are synchronized both directions, so if you edit a Runbook inside the Microsoft Azure Portal, then Azure Automation will automatically commit the change back to your GitHub repository!

Desired State Configuration (DSC)

The Microsoft Azure Automation feature integrates with PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) to offer the ability to declare “infrastructure as code.” What the Automation service provides is a cloud-based DSC Pull Server, which is a web-based endpoint that client systems can download their configurations from. Any time that a configuration change is required, a PowerShell DSC Configuration Document will get updated, and then deployed to the cloud-based Pull Server.