Azure IaaS Week for IT Pros: Day 4 Speaker Lineup

I talked about this event I’ve been wrangling speakers for a while back, so I thought I’d put together a quick little post brokenhh down by DAY with all the details about speakers and their sessions in one spot. I’ve been capturing these quick intros for each speaker with details about their session and also some fun tidbits about them outside of work. This is the ONE STOP SHOP for day FOUR – a comprehensive list of topics and Speaker Bios you can review before the big event on December 1st through the 4th at http://channel9.msdn.com.

There are four 1 hour sessions per day, each wrapped around a theme. Todays theme is:

Day 4:  Optimize Windows Workload Architecture and Administration Capabilities Within Azure

Identity which of your applications and services are critical in your on-premises environment. Leverage your investment in Active Directory (and other directories) and setup a synchronization with Azure Active Directory to simplify authentication in this Cloud world. You will learn what capabilities each offering has as well as how to configure them to be used for single sign on with over 2000+ Software-As-A-Service offerings like Office365, Salesforce, DropBox enterprise and more.

As an IT Professional managing applications that are currently on premises, you understand what is involved in maintaining all the underpinnings to the IIS Application. What if you could take those applications and move them to a Platform as a Service offering like Azure Websites, where you no longer need to worry about the underlying infrastructure hosting platform, allowing you to focus on what is important to you – your applications. The first step is understanding Azure Websites. Learn how to work with your development team to target a PaaS offering like Azure Websites in order to get ease of scale, load balancing, rapid deployment, staging sites and more

Need a complementary database technology to go along with those PaaS solutions? Want to get some geo-diversified protection that isn’t going to break the bank? With the recent announcements around SQL Azure, more and more organizations are looking at how to leverage these capabilities.

Now that SharePoint is a supported workload on Azure IaaS, the next step is determining the design considerations and limitations that you need to be aware of before deploying your next SharePoint solution. This session has you covered. Learn from the team who has created the detailed spec on how to deploy SharePoint in Azure IaaS and also see how MSIT is doing it for our internal customers.

It is going to be an action packed day!

Don’t forget to register!!!!

Register Now Button

Register through Microsoft Virtual Academy to receive reminder mails for this event and to obtain details for receiving a voucher for 50 percent off the exam price if taken by January 31st. Join the conversation on Twitter using #LevelUpAzure.

Azure IaaS Week for IT Pros: Day 3 Speaker Lineup

I talked about this event I’ve been wrangling speakers for a while back, so I thought I’d put together a quick little post broken down by DAY with all the details about speakers and their sessions in one spot. I’ve been capturing these quick intros for each speaker with details about their session and also some fun tidbits about them outside of work. This is the ONE STOP SHOP for day THREE – a comprehensive list of topics and Speaker Bios you can review before the big event on December 1st through the 4th at http://channel9.msdn.com.

There are four 1 hour sessions per day, each wrapped around a theme. Todays theme is:

Day 3:  Embrace Open Source Technologies (Chef and Puppet Configurations, Containerization with Docker, and Linux) to Accelerate and Scale Solutions

Most people do not believe that Linux and OSS tools / application layers are first class citizens in our Azure services. We have come a long way in a short period of time to reverse that line of thought. Learn from experts in the Linux and OSS world how to design and deploy Linux and supporting technologies in your Azure environment. You can deploy machines from our Gallery or pull images from our VMDepot to get started quickly without having to re-invent the wheel.

If you are a SysAdmin who already supports solutions on the Linux platform at scale, you are probably familiar with Chef and Puppet. Did you know they are also available in Azure for both Linux and Windows Machines? You can take your existing instructions and configurations and configure agents on your IaaS instances to point to your servers for deployment. Learn how to implement these amazing technologies for your Linux and Windows Azure hosted solutions.

You might have heard about containerization technologies like Docker that allow you to achieve greater density and better performance than traditional full-fledged IaaS Virtual Machines. We recently announced support for Docker on Azure and all the goodness that it brings to your solutions. How should an IT Implementer / SysAdmin deploy and leverage this new technology? This session will tell you everything you need to know.

Attend this session to learn how to leverage the scale and infrastructure of Azure to deploy large sets of Linux VMs in the cloud. If you are running a large Linux server farm and are wondering what steps it takes to move it to Azure, this session will provide you with guidance and best practices. You will see how to script and simplify this effort as well as learn key considerations and principles. We will also walk through best practices for configuring and deploying the data tier of your workload.

It is going to be an action packed day!

Don’t forget to register!!!!

Register Now Button

Register through Microsoft Virtual Academy to receive reminder mails for this event and to obtain details for receiving a voucher for 50 percent off the exam price if taken by January 31st. Join the conversation on Twitter using #LevelUpAzure.

Azure IaaS Week for IT Pros: Day 2 Speaker Lineup

I talked about this event I’ve been wrangling speakers for a while back, so I thought I’d put together a quick little post broken down by DAY with all the details about speakers and their sessions in one spot. I’ve been capturing these quick intros for each speaker with details about their session and also some fun tidbits about them outside of work. This is the ONE STOP SHOP for day TWO- a comprehensive list of topics and Speaker Bios you can review before the big event on December 1st through the 4th at http://channel9.msdn.com.

There are four 1 hour sessions per day, each wrapped around a theme. Todays theme is:

Day 2:  Dive Deep into Networking, Storage and Disaster Recovery Scenarios

. YushWang

Yu-Shun Wang is a Program Manager in Azure Networking team working on Hybrid Connectivity and Network Virtual Appliances in Azure. In his free time, he likes camping, skiing, and swimming.

Your infrastructure in Azure can be isolated and purpose built for public consumption. How do you design your virtual networks and access controls to ensure everything is as desired? Now that you understand the fundamentals of Virtual Networks in Azure, let’s dive deeper into hybrid connectivity options using Site to Site VPNs, allowing your datacenter to extend to your Azure environment.  Concerned about speed and latency for your applications? Don’t want your internal data being routed over the public internet? Explore what ExpressRoute can offer as the ultimate connectivity option

Unlike other cloud providers, our story on storage is consistent across all of our Azure offerings. This means as new technologies are introduced to our storage platform, they become available to all of our services in a timely manner. Learn how to get the maximum IOps for your workloads and what new technologies are coming soon.

Disaster Recovery and OffSite replicas of critical workloads used to be a very costly and complex thing to orchestrate. With System Center and Microsoft Azure, you can leverage Azure Site Recovery to coordinate a site failover from one datacenter to another. We recently announced that Microsoft datacenters could be a possible failover target, provided you are aware of the dependencies. Lean how to set up Azure Site Recovery to use your Azure environment as your replica destination to coordinate a failover before disaster strikes. If you’re not ready for a full solution, but looking to migrate specific machines from On-Premises to Azure, we have you covered in this session as well. See how InMage can migrate your workloads from VMware, AWS and Hyper-V to your Azure IaaS environment.

When transitioning your skillset from on-premises to a more hybrid cloud environment, you have to also transition your management techniques from GUI and One-Off solutions to a more reproducible Automated environment.  Learn the ins and outs of Azure Automation Services and the new Automation Script Gallery. Leverage existing scripts or publish your own for others to use in their environments. Looking to take this to the next level – bring in some new DesiredStateConfiguration skills to standardize, configure and maintain your deployments at scale in the cloud.

It is going to be an action packed day!

Don’t forget to register!!!!

Register Now Button

Register through Microsoft Virtual Academy to receive reminder mails for this event and to obtain details for receiving a voucher for 50 percent off the exam price if taken by January 31st. Join the conversation on Twitter using #LevelUpAzure.

Azure IaaS Week for IT Pros: Day 1 Speaker Lineup

I talked about this event I’ve been wrangling speakers for a while back, so I thought I’d put together a quick little post broken down by DAY with all the details about speakers and their sessions in one spot. I’ve been capturing these quick intros for each speaker with details about their session and also some fun tidbits about them outside of work. This is the ONE STOP SHOP for day ONE – a comprehensive list of topics and Speaker Bios you can review before the big event on December 1st through the 4th at http://channel9.msdn.com.

There are four 1 hour sessions per day, each wrapped around a theme. Todays theme is:

Day 1:  Establish the Foundation: Core IaaS Infrastructure Technical Fundamentals

Mark Russinovich will share his vision on what Azure is today and where Microsoft is taking it in the future. As one of the most trusted Technical Fellows at Microsoft and with his new role as CTO for Azure, Mark has a unique perspective of how Azure is architected and what individuals can do to get the most out of this platform.

Who better than Corey Sanders to take us through the nuts and bolts of what Azure IaaS is and how it works for IT professionals. Corey leads the team that designed and created Azure IaaS and is very passionate about all that it can do. He will move rapidly from the fundamentals to advanced configurations and how to use and interact with your environment.

AND

Drew picks up where Corey left off, going even deeper. He’ll focus on the specifics of how to get the most from your Windows workloads with Azure IaaS.

How do you design your IaaS implementations for optimal performance, maximum redundancy and geo-diversity? How do new machine series gain you better performance and leverage new hardware capabilities in our datacenters? Learn how to design your systems to minimize reboots and downtime due to user error or planned maintenance. This session has it all the answers and more.

It is going to be an action packed day!

Don’t forget to register!!!!

Register Now Button

Register through Microsoft Virtual Academy to receive reminder mails for this event and to obtain details for receiving a voucher for 50 percent off the exam price if taken by January 31st. Join the conversation on Twitter using #LevelUpAzure.

Never worry about shadow IT again…

Kind of an ambitious title, eh? I was asked to talk about this subject recently and started to mull some things over in my head. I mean, lets start with the basics – what is “shadow IT” and why should you care.  As an IT Professional who works in the IT Space – you should definitely care. It represents an individual / project / team who has gotten fed up with the current process for procuring “IT Services” and has gone around the blocking team and set something up themselves. this could lead to a couple of assumptions:

  • “The IT department” is going to be left holding the bag when something goes wrong
  • “The IT department” has become so mired in the day to day muck that they can’t properly advise on how to “efficiently” do something that will have long term impact to the company
  • “The IT department” is viewed as a stoic and non agile department that is not perceived as being innovative and providing value to the business

In case you don’t see the trend here, these are negative assumptions. There may be others, but when the term “shadow IT” comes up, it has generally already gone down the wrong path.  This is something everyone in “IT” needs to help prevent – in a more proactive and agile way.

When I was starting out in IT a long time ago – the IT Manager I worked for enjoyed his position on the leadership team as an advisor and a partner. He did a good job of evaluating the requests and collaborating with the various groups and departments on projects that were important to the business.  As Projects got more and more complex, additional full time resources and additional skillsets were not able to be secured or got left behind, which lead to a traditional problem of resource constraints. At some point he realized that there was a disconnect with what the business wanted to do and the actual “costs” associated with it. Long story short – the IT Department evolved into a cost center that was pushed out of relevancy with the rest of the business and the old school equivalent of Shadow IT crept in.

How can you keep it from happening OR how can you “recover” from it already appearing in your work environment.  To some (on the other side) they see it as a good thing, so long as the project goes well and security / architecture was properly thought out. It’s when crap goes wrong that the chips fall and debts are repaid.

Going back to my story of working in that IT department with my Manager and looking back with 20/20 hindsight, some things could have been done to help overall.  If budget was not a factor <sarcasm> we all have unlimited budget, right? </sarcasm> we could have implemented the following:

  • Invest more time to update skills of staff with regards to new technologies they already work in AS WELL AS new emerging technologies that the business could leverage.
  • Invest in additional headcount to distribute the existing workload and allow for more self development time.
  • Commit to Moving the 80% effort for maintaining and fixing existing systems down in order to invest more than 20% effort at exploring new options and technologies.
  • Partnering with new projects as they develop and understand what sort of resources and technologies they need BEFORE they are asked for. I stress the word PARTNERSHIP here.
  • Ensuring current processes are streamlined and not in place to keep the status quo.
  • Rekindle the relevancy of the IT group so that it is viewed as a value added partner to the organization and one that understands how it’s projects affect the business.

The main problem here is that all these points are mostly systemic and require some serious reform and commitment from all those folks in charge. What can an individual IT pro do?  We are one part of the problem and also one part of the solution to change this perception.  Admit it – as IT Folks, we love to solve problems and work on systems so that they provide services to the community of end users. It’s solving these challenges that keep us going and interested in the job. When we are no longer challenged, we get bored and look for new ones.

Here is what I have done to keep me happy and mostly SANE working in IT and help influence change within organizations I work in.

  • Commit to a lifelong learning approach to IT.  I take time in the job and after work to learn about new things – ALL THE TIME. You have to, or you get left behind.
  • Don’t just focus on your core areas of existing expertise. Explore additional areas that are of interest and that you think will be usefull going forward.
  • Share your learnings with others.  Give brownbag lunches to your colleagues. discuss new technologies over beer. Attend conferences and “report back” with good trip reports that include your opinions and insights. Having to explain and teach people what you have learned helps solidify your knowledge and sets you up as a go to person for new technologies.
  • Volunteer for projects that are outside of your comfort zone. your strengths from your existing toolbox will come in handy or at least your approach and alternate viewpoint will bring new light into the project.
  • Provide constructive criticism on how things can be done better. In other words – look to find ways to solve issues and share them in such a way that it’s not assigning blame and its providing a solution instead of just complaining about something that is broken.

Do these things by themselves make your IT department more agile? Would it prevent a Shadow IT department from forming or fix up one that already has? I don’t think it is a silver bullet.  As I mentioned before – it’s a bigger issue than one person to fix, but a bunch of people with a similar mindset AND a supportive management chain that is willing to try to be more responsive and agile will go a LONG WAY to fixing the issues and changing perceptions.

This whole being more agile and having more “dev ops” approach to projects and IT really comes down to some basics that are NOT rooted in various online services, 3rd party tools or solutions sold by different vendors. It’s about the PEOPLE you have in place, their ability to WORK TOGETHER towards a goal and their ability to keep COMMUNICATING without bias. I’m not going to go into a long discussion around DevOps here – my friends Volker Will and David Tesar have been doing a GREAT job talking about DevOps on their blog (http://blogs.technet.com/b/devops/) with more of a People/Process focus.  They from an OPS background (which is rather refreshing in the DevOps world) with DEV experiences.  Go check them out.

This was very much a commentary piece. I don’t profess to have all the answers – I can only talk from my experiences. We all have war stories about how things have gone wrong in various IT organizations we worked in.  Hopefully we also have good stories of when things are going RIGHT as well. Do you have any ideas or stories to share? Comment below!

Azure IaaS for IT Pros and SysAdmins

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This has been a long time coming, but it is finally here.  I am pleased to announce the event I have been wrangling for months has now finally come to fruition. It’s a 4 day LiveStream activity (December 1st to December 4th) with over a DOZEN engineers from a number of teams – all focusing on various aspects of Azure specifically targeting IT Pros and SysAdmins.  Yup – a soup to nuts interactive event covering everything from windows workloads to hybrid connectivity, Linux and OSS to PaaS and SharePoint solutions.

I’ll be acting as Host and will be joined by some very cool folks! Here is just a sample of some of the heavy hitters who will be involved in the delivery of this event.

  • Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure will kick the event off with a session on what’s important for IT Pros and SysAdmins
  • Corey Sanders, Partner Group Program Manager for Azure IaaS team diving deeper into all things IaaS and changes to the IaaS platform
  • Drew McDaniel, Principal PM Manager on Corey’s team will guide us though the Windows Server workload best practices and architecture
  • Madhan Arumugam, Principal PM Manager on Corey’s team will cover off the Linux and OSS workloads running on Azure

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s lined up. Stay tuned for more details and full agenda for this event.

Go to http://aka.ms/levelupazure to register and reserve your spot for this free LiveStreamed event

Hybrid Cloud: you know you can set it up, but how much is right for you?

When I talk with Customers about Microsoft Azure, I can usually gauge pretty quickly if they are ready to dive or not quite ready yet. Lets face it, if you are a die hard IT Pro who has been working On-Premises for the bulk of your career, starting to use “The Cloud” can be a little unnerving. That’s one of the reasons I always try to get something across from the start: Using public cloud resources should be an AND conversation, not a mutually exclusive OR conversation.

No one is trying to get you to drop and migrate all your resources out to “The Cloud”.

I started dabbling in Microsoft Azure a while back, when IaaS first came out.  Things have changed a lot since then, lots of new functionality has been added and it’s getting easier and easier to use. I’ve started to think about it as simply “another” location I could use when I decide to deploy new virtual machines. What are your options for connectivity to these machines? You can abstract it out to 4 levels of connectivity:

  1. Remote Management only: When you spin up new systems in Azure – You control remote connectivity to the machine by modifying things called EndPoints. There are only 2 EndPoints that are open for remote management – an RPD session on a custom port and remote management port is open.   End result, you can get into your machine and if there are multiple machines in your setup, they could have connectivity to each other.
  2. Point to Site VPN: I typically see this one as a quick and dirty connection method for a single machine that resides on premises to have unfettered access to the machines up in Azure. Think of this as either a development box or maybe a database server that you want to keep on-premises for whatever reason, but you want the machines in Azure to have two way communication back to it. Simple to setup, easy to manage.  You configure this from the Azure portal and download the VPN client to run on the box.
  3. Site to Site VPN: Similar to the Point to Site, but it requires some additional setup.  You have to define all the subnets you want connectivity to on premises and in Azure and then download a Gateway configuration script. It could either be a hardware router that need to setup on premises or it could be a configuration file that you can load into a Windows Server 2012 R2 RRAS server. The nice thing about this option is that connectivity is not limited to only one system.  Any system that is within the network ranges you defined will be able to route it’s packets out to Azure and Back.
  4. ExpressRoute: This is the ultimate connectivity option if you plan on going full on Hybrid after trying out one of the other three options.  This is a subscription service which can be enabled on your account that leverages an existing connection you have with one of our partner network providers.  Our partner providers have direct connections to various Azure Regions, allowing for a direct connection from your network over their private lines into the Azure Datacenter.  Your packets are never transmitted over the public internet – it all stays within the network of the provider or Azure Datacenter at a very high speed with minimal latency.  This option comes in very handy when you have a large number of resources on premises that need connectivity without latency up to the Azure world.

I have had very good success using both the Point to Site and Site to Site VPN in smaller production rollouts or pilots / proof of concepts. When it comes to a more robust connectivity options, ExpressRoute is definitely the top tier solution.

Breaking news: We made some announcements at TechEd Europe this week – two additional European partners have been added to the ExpressRoute family (Orange and BT).

Everything you need to know about What’s New in Microsoft Azure

…or maybe “How the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks do you keep up with What’s New in Azure?” would be better. ;-)

 It’s just about an impossible feat to accomplish – based on the number of teams working on this massive thing called “Microsoft Azure”, all with a cadence of what seems like 1-2 weeks…

Welcome to the world of “The Cloud”. As Mark Russinovich said to me during an interview at TechEd:

“In order to go fast in a cloud world, you actually have to go fast”

He wasn’t joking.

Part of what I do for my Job at Microsoft is talk about technologies in a specific area in context of the bigger picture of the IT Industry. I work with various Engineering / product teams to understand their technologies and how it would apply to solve issues in “the real world”. I used to focus exclusively on the core infrastructure of Windows Server. Over the last couple of years I decided to expand that focus to include Microsoft Azure. But wait, Azure is a big place – lots of innovation in all sorts of areas. How do I narrow it down? I focus my effort on technologies and solutions using Azure that would be beneficial for IT Professionals and SysAdmins to  bring into their organizations to be more successful.

Besides talking and meeting with the Teams here on Campus – one of the best places to find out what is new is via the official Azure Blog.  I find I tend to focus just on Virtual Machines and supporting technologies categories (View all posts in Virtual Machines).  From there, I dug up my “top 3” things from the past year that I thought I’d share with you here:

#3) D Series Machines – with SSD

As we roll out new hardware in our datacenters around the world, we are able to offer up new capabilities to our services. Virtual Machines is no exception to that. As a result – we get a new series of machines that have faster processing power, better memory to core ratio and faster disk options. Introducing The D-Series Machines.

Name vCores Memory (GB) Local SSD (GB)
Standard_D1 1 3.5 50
Standard_D2 2 7 100
Standard_D3 4 14 200
Standard_D4 8 28 400
Standard_D11 2 14 100
Standard_D12 4 28 200
Standard_D13 8 56 400
Standard_D14 16 112 800

Get more information about them, what they can do and how to use them (as well as pricing links) from the Azure Blog. http://azure.microsoft.com/blog/2014/09/22/new-d-series-virtual-machine-sizes

#2) ExpressRoute and other VPN solutions

When I talk about “The Cloud” and Microsoft Azure with anyone, I always make sure to do it as an AND conversation, not an OR conversation.  I see the Public Cloud as an extra tool you can use in your toolbox when designing architecture for new or existing projects.  It’s an AND, mainly because of our connectivity options AND existing skillsets. 

HybridOptions

VPN Connectivity could mean a point-to-site discussion for a specific box that is located on-prem or it could be a Site-to-Site connectivity option to truly act as an extension of your on-premises environment.  We announced in May 2014 the addition of what we’re calling ExpressRoute connectivity to select datacenters. Think of this as your internet provider with whom you already have WAN connectivity or Internet connectivity with now having the option to route traffic directly into an Azure Datacenter instead of going across the public internet. 

ExpressRoute1

Want to know more? Check out these posts from Ganesh:

#1) – Azure Site Recovery in General Availability

Think of this scenario for a minute.  You are working with SystemCenter on-premises to define your “clouds” of VMs managed by System Center Virtual Machine Manager.  You want to enable a level of disaster recovery that you currently can’t have, because you only have one Datacenter.  You can now use Azure as your second site and replicate them (provided they are Generation 1VMs) up to Microsoft Azure – using Azure Site Recovery.

DRtoAzureGA

Not only is this useful for Disaster Recovery – it could also be used to spin off isolated development environments or as a method of migration from on premises to Azure IaaS… I’ll be honest – it’s a bit tricky to setup and has some hefty requirements on the on-premises side (SystemCenter), but it’s a very attractive option for some DR goodness.

My friend Abhishek has a good starting point for you to research how to enable this… http://azure.microsoft.com/blog/2014/10/02/disaster-recovery-to-azure-using-azure-site-recovery-is-now-ga/ It’s something I also plan on documenting in a simpler format here on the blog.

There you have it – my “Top 3” things that I’ve found interesting from the past year. What about you – got anything that you find particularly useful to share in the Azure space? Any cool sources – share theme here in the comments!

How To: Delete Windows.Old from an upgraded Windows 10 / Threshold system

Yup – I was wondering why I had disk space issues – turns out I had the same problem I documented in this post, once I upgraded my system from Windows 8.1 Update to Windows 10 Technical Preview (a.k.a. Windows 10).

I had Space Issues and Permissions Issues!

windows.old1

Let’s revisit that post for the quick steps on getting back your space:

Here’s how you do it.

  • Download Junction.EXE from Sysinternals. I extracted and saved it to c:\source. You will use this tool to generate a list of all the junctions that have to be removed.
  • create a reference file that lists all the junction points and symbolic links in use by opening up a command prompt, changing into C:\source and running

junction.exe –s –q c:\windows.old >junctions.txt

  • open up PowerShell ISE administrator rights and RUN the following script to remove all symbolic links and junction points in c:\windows.old.

foreach ($line in [System.IO.File]::ReadLines(“c:\source\junctions.txt”))
{
if ($line -match “^\\\\”)
{
$file = $line -replace “(: JUNCTION)|(: SYMBOLIC LINK)”,””
& c:\source\junction.exe -d “$file”
}
}

Now it’s some simple taking of ownership, granting rights and deleting windows.old to get your space back.

  • to take ownership use

takeown /F C:\windows.old /R /D Y

  • delete c:\windows.old – you now have permissions and ownership.

How much space you get back will change based on your particular situation.  I got back my 6 ish GB…

Edge Show 122: Azure Automation Runbook Gallery with Beth Cooper

In this episode of The Edge Show – I catch up with some of my Azure RSS feeds and discover this little announcement and blog post by Beth Cooper, Program Manager on the Azure Automation team. After a quick exchange of emails – I managed to get her to come down and give us a tour of this cool option and tell us how anyone in the community can contribute their own Runbooks!

News:

Partner Corner:

  • Silect Software Inc gives you a tool to help design and develop new Management Packs (MPs) for Operations Manager 2012 or customize existing MPs through an easy-to-use wizard-driven interface, without knowledge of the underlying MP structure or XML development.  Check out http://www.mpauthor.com for details.

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