Checking out Windows Server Technical Preview on Azure !


I’m a great fan of running the latest version of Windows Server whenever I deploy SQLServer. I always try to push the latest and greatest windows server builds along with latest SQLServer builds because of many reasons (That can be a whole different post altogether).

I was all excited when I heard that Microsoft released the Technical preview of Windows Server (They might eventually call it Windows Server 10,but not sure for now), and decided to set this up.

I just went to Azure and see if there is any template which is made available, and it was indeed available. Way to go Microsoft (Yep, I do praise good things !)

Win Server Tech

 

Gave it a name, sized it as I need and added few more details

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Got little surprised to see all these new additions

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And there you go….Started provisioning my VM

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Once it was created. I downloaded the RDP file and got connected to it. When connecting to the server you need to make sure to use the ID and Password which was used while creating the VM.

As soon as I logged in I realized that there are no major UI changes, but what Microsoft did here is re-touch everything and made sure that a proper Start Menu is back.

Win Server tech1

 

You have an option to choose Start Menu or Start Screen(I’m not a fan of Start screen ! ) and that flexibility is nice.

Win Server tech4

Windows Server Failover Clustering is one of the most important feature which I deal with Windows Server as its one of the pre-requisites for AlwaysOn Availability groups, so I decided to just add that feature(Not going to configure clustering now).

Nothing new here. Its all old story with same UI.

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Once it was installed, I went to Start menu to launch it. This is kind of neat and I like this way rather than using charm bar and searching for it.

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You can also search failover cluster manager using the search option available in the start menu. There are the small things which I care about and like. Nice !

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And well if you like Tiles, then you definitively have an option to pin it. I like to pin things like Cluster Manager etc.

So here you go

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You also have an option to add multiple desktops. That’s kind of neat as I tend to open multiple windows and I can switch between desktop.

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Conclusion :

That’s it for the UI changes for now. Nothing dramatically new and fancy,but I liked the way things look now. In the next few days I will configure clustering and will come with more updates.

Thanks for reading, and keep watching this space for more !

Building a Virtual Machine within Azure (IaSS) – Improvements !


Those Dev’s/UX designers out there at Microsoft seems to be pretty busy as they releasing back to back updates to windows azure portal over the last couple of months.

I had to create a VM in Azure to do some testing, and this time I decided to try out the new portal. Apparently, I’m not a great fan of Windows 8 styled tiles, but on Azure portal these tile like options are not that bad.

I selected virtual machine from the add button(+) and the portal gave a nice view of the available options  :

Create VM

I’m pretty impressed with the amount of flavors you have now for the VMs. Oracle Linux, Open SUSE ! Cool !

I picked SQL2014 standard, and started the create process. When you start entering the details like host name, user name etc. everything looks same as before but as you click the pricing tier, there comes some improvements.

You now have an option to check all the pricing tiers and can get an idea on the approx. monthly costs pretty easily.

Click the image for better resolution.

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Icing on the cake is the Max IOPS numbers. This is way cool and handy to know and have.

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I chose something small and started exploring more. I gave the hostname and all other required things and chose check box, “Add to Startboard”. This will just add the new VM to azure portal home page.

Portal started giving me cool visualization when the VM was getting created, and the current actions were getting displayed in the notifications area.

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As soon as the VM was created its details were made available in the startboard. There are some cool data like Disk, CPU, Network etc. which definitely will come handy for everyone.

Create VM5

The process to add an alert for a specific matric looks pretty straight forward within the portal. I tried to set an alert for disk, and here is what the portal has to offer.

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Overall, I’m really glad the way Microsoft Azure has improved over the last couple of years and now this is shaping up to be one of the trusted platforms to host critical workloads with great management capabilities.

Thanks for reading and keep watching this space for more! (Hint: Some cool SQL2014 related posts are on the way !)

Journey of an On-Premises DB to Azure VM – SQL Server 2014 makes it easier!


SQL Server 2014 is deeply integrated with Windows Microsoft Azure and moving an On-prem database to a Microsoft Azure VM is much easier and seamless now.

This post talks about the journey of a database named “MoveMeToCloud” which is hosted on SQLServer 2014 RTM on-prem instance to a SQL Instance which is hosted on an Azure VM.

Here are the steps (Can’t get easier than this)  -

1. Right click database “MoveMeToCloud” and choose tasks and then Deploy Database to Windows Azure VM (Oops, that named needs to be changed too!)

Move1

2.  As soon as we complete the first step, we will get the intro screen. Pretty straight forward information made available here.

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Once we go pass the intro screen we will get the option to connect to the local SQL Instance.  We can then choose the db which we want to move, and also a location for the backup files.

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3. Next up will be security related settings. We will need a management certificate to proceed here.

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By using the Sign in option we can get the required certificate. This is a smart wizard and it will pull the certificate details for you.

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We will proceed by clicking next.

4. Next up is the deployment settings part. This part is little tricky as we will have to do some authentication.

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As you can see in the above screen the Cloud service name, Virtual Machine name and the Storage acct is already available as we have done a sign-in in the earlier step.

We will need to access the settings button to do an authentication again. There should be a VM end point for the specific port for this to work.

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Once the authentication is done, we will get the target database details which will be automatically populated.

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5. Final step is to check the summary and initiate this by saying finish. The wizard will do rest of the job for you.

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If we check the SQL Instance on Azure we can see the database is available there, Viola !

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Conclusion

This is a very smart wizard and I’m really happy that Microsoft have made great efforts to make this simple to ensure that cloud movements are seamless.

Thanks for reading and keep watching this space for more !

Folks,Know your Outbound Data Transfer Costs – Windows Azure


The cost associated with Outbound Data Transfer is very important when you consider bridging your On-premise network with Windows Azure.

Yes, when I said cost I indeed meant the $ amount which is involved. The good news however is that all the Inbound Data sent to Azure is free. The outbound data is all what really matters.

As per Microsoft

Outbound data is charged based on the total amount of data moving out of the Windows Azure datacenters via the Internet in a given billing cycle. Data transfers between Windows Azure services located within the same datacenter are not subject to any charge. The first 5 GB of outbound data transfers per billing month are also free.

Lets talk about this simple scenario – You have deployed SQLServer on a Windows Azure Virtual Machine. Data out of the SQLServer database will be accessed by clients which are located in your On-premise data center. Below diagram will explain the scenario.

Note – This is a high level diagram and doesn’t explain the actual network intricacies which are involved while bridging your network with Azure.

Outbound Azure

All the outbound data which is flowing out of the Azure data center is a cost ($) factor for you and inbound data sent is free.

How much should I pay?  Well,that really depends on your usage.

First 5 GB a month is free and beyond that cost is like(As of today) -

Outbound Azure2

Ref – http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/details/data-transfers/

Note – Always ref http://www.windowsazure.com for any pricing estimates as these numbers($) tend to change.

Conclusion

Analyzing and understanding various cost factors which are involved with Windows Azure is one of the key areas an Architect should focus on and comparing this costs with ongoing on premise operational costs will help management get a clear picture.

Thanks for reading and keep watching this space for more !

Microsoft + Oracle = New opportunity…Windows Azure is a happening place !


Couple of months back(To be specific in June) Microsoft and Oracle announced their partnership to help enterprise customers embrace the cloud.

It was almost clear that Oracle was going to be available in Windows Azure under the IaSS platform(Virtual Machines’),and today during one of the Oracle Open World keynotes this was officially announced to be available.

I guess Brad Anderson(Corporate Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise Engineering, Microsoft) will be the first Non Oracle person to deliver a keynote during an Oracle Conference(Read Cloud is changing the game).

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As of today our Oracle friends can configure and deploy their databases on Windows Azure. Here is what the Azure VM gallery looks like -

MSORA

 

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Note  – Some of them are on preview though.

This is really an exciting news. Giants like Microsoft and Oracle teaming up is definitely going to benefit enterprise business, and I’m really positive about that.

Are you excited about this ? Please share your thoughts on the comments section.

Thanks for reading and keep watching this space for more !

Windows Azure Service Dashboard – Checkout the health of Azure Services


Windows Azure Service Dashboard is an excellent way to know the health/availability of your Windows Azure Services.

Azure Doctor

You might always want to know if any of the service is down or having some performance degradation, and with windows azure service dashboard this information is just few clicks away.

All you need to do is access http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/support/service-dashboard/

This portal is available to all, irrespective of your account availability.

To me this is a great initiative by Microsoft to report service availability details as this is super useful from user perspective.

The portal is really impressive with the amount of information it provides. It will help you understand if

1. The service availability is normal

2. There is a performance degradation

3. There is a service interruption

4.There is any specific information(FYI type) regarding a service

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You can drill down each of the service and see what’s the status for each region

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Incase there is a problem, then drilling down the problem description will help you understand what is the current status of the fix, and how the support team is acting on the problem.

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I’m really impressed with this level of details. This will come handy when you have production deployments in azure and you need to keep your business users informed when there is a problem.

Now comes the icing of the cake -

Historical data ! Yes, you have the flexibility to see historical data and understand if there was a problem

WindowsAzureDash4

Conclusion

These are cool facilities made available to you by the Azure team and this will definitely prove helpful to you.

Thanks for reading and keep watching this space for more !

High Availability within Windows Azure VMs – An exciting opportunity !


Windows Azure Virtual Machines is a real game changer as it gives us ability to spin up VMs in no time to setup a full blown SQL Server.

The topic of High Availability(HA) will come to your mind in case you are planning to deploy a mission critical SQLServer on Windows Azure VMs and you cannot afford any downtime.

Do Microsoft take the VMs in Azure down for maintenance ? Yes, they do that. There are scheduled windows when MSFT will do maintenance for their data centers, host machines and they will restart the VMs which are part of the host.

What does this mean to your mission critical application which utilizes SQLServer deployed on this VM ?

“Outage”

Though Microsoft is really careful planning and scheduling these maintenance to occur during non business hours,it might still impact your SLAs(How much time your server will be up and running).

Is there a way to override this ?

Yes,there are ways to avoid this and there comes the concept of Availability Sets.

In a nut shell, you will have to have 2 or more VMs for the application to be highly available and you configure them on the same Availability Set.

When you configure 2 VMs in an availability set, Microsoft will never take them down at the same time during maintenance windows(Related to update domains), and also it can overcome single point of failures within the racks(Fault domains).

The below picture should help to understand the concept well.

AzureVMHA

VM2 and VM8 are part of an availability set and with these VMs your application can be highly available.  During a maintenance window these 2 VMs wont go down at the same time.

You can create an availability set when configuring your 1st VM.

AlwaysONHA1

When creating the 2nd VM,you have the option to add it to the availability set.

Azure VM Availability Set

Always ON Availability Groups can be configured to ensure that outages are reduced or avoided.

Conclusion

Windows Azure is gaining traction and with the inclusion of HA features, your move up to the cloud is more reliable now.

Thanks for reading and keep watching this space for more !