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

WindowsAzureDash1

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

WindowsAzureDash2

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.

WindowsAzureDash3

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 !

Advertisements

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 !

Backup your Windows Azure SQL Databases – Yes,you should !


Care about RPO’s and RTO’s?  Then you should be backing up your Windows Azure SQL Databases(Formerly SQLAzure).

clock

Windows Azure SQL Database is highly available and data is redundant(3 copies of your database is stored elsewhere),however that doesn’t help you to recover from the below situation  –

“Hey DBA, I deleted few records from the database accidently !!! Can you please recover the database for me ? “

You definitely need a backup of the database to recover from this situation.

One of the assumptions which I normally hear while talking about Windows Azure SQL Database is that you don’t need to backup your databases and Microsoft takes care of it under the hood ! This is wrong, and you should do it in-case you have a need to tackle situations like what was mentioned above.

You can either do a manual export of your database to the storage account or you can schedule the exports(New Update, Scroll down for details).This exported copy can be used to do the restores(Imports).

The import options are really limited. You cannot do operations like overwriting(Replace) a database etc. I’m really confident that Azure will reach that point pretty soon.

In this post we will see how the manual export process works and will also see how we can import an exported database back.

When doing this manually its always a good idea to get a transactionally consistent backup copies. For this purpose we will need to copy the database to the same server or to a different server. In this post we will do a copy to the same server.

So, we have a database called WASDRocks with a table named ChildTable. The table as 2 records as shown below

Azure backup1

We will now do a database copy to the same server using command

CREATE DATABASE WASDROCKS_Copy AS COPY OF [WASDROCKS]

There you go, we have the new database ready now which is a transactionally consistent copy.

Azure backup2

We will now export the WASDROCKS_Copy and keep it safe under our storage account. Export option is available right below the database selection.

Azure backup3

Storage account needs to be selected along with container details and once the credentials are entered correctly(Real time check of passwords !!!) the .BACPAC will be available.

Azure backup4

Azure backup5

Great, so now we have a transactionally consistent database backup. We can drop this database to avoid additional costs(Yes,its billed)

Now, lets’ do some deletes !!! We will delete a record from the ChildTable

Azure backup6

We can recover this data using the backup which we had taken earlier. All we need to do is an Import

Azure backup7

Note – In a real world situation be very careful about your RPO values. You might have to increase  or decrease the number of exported copies to achieve your SLA. More number of exported copies means, more cost overheads for the storage.

If you try to overwrite the database by giving the same database,ie WASDROCKS is our case,then there will be an error.

Azure backup8

This clearly states the limitations of import which we talked about earlier. You cannot overwrite an existing database.

We will import the backup copy as a different database named WASDROCKS_Recovery.

Azure backup9

There you go, the recovered database is ready for use now.

Azure backup10

If we connect to the recovered database and check for the table, then we can find the details of the deleted row.

Azure backup11

Yes, this is not something which is really flexible to do point -in-time restores,but it works just fine. What really matters is your RPO/RTO numbers and you can plan your exports according to that need.

Is there a way to schedule exports, so that manual intervention is limited ?

Yes,this is what I really love about Windows Azure Team. They are really aggressive and they keep adding features at a great pace.

Automated Database Exports was related last month and please refer this blog post by Scott Guthrie for more details.

Keeping backing up your databases and do random restores to ensure that they are good.

Thanks for reading and keep watching this space for more !

SQL Server 2014 – A new and exciting journey !!! “Into the cloud”


Today Microsoft announced their next major version of SQLServer, SQL Server 2014 at Tech-Ed NA 2013.

This version of SQLServer is indeed a reflection of Microsoft’s vision towards the future computing. A bright and colorful “In to the Cloud” future !

The journey of SQLServer from SQL2000 – SQL2014 is just amazing. On a related note,Its worth reading this post by Quentin Clark which explains this journey with the help of a neat diagram.

So when can I start exploring the new features? Where can I download the same to evaluate it ?

Thinking boy

Here is the answer for you  –

Go to http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/sqlserver/sql-server-2014.aspx  and choose option Get-Notified >

You will be asked to enter few details and you can sit and wait for that “email” which will eventually allow you to download the bits and do some testing.

What’s new in SQL2014 that I am excited about ? Lets do a quick walk through of my favorite features –

Note- This is not an extensive list of features which SQL2014 will provide you.I will write about that altogether in a different post.These are some of the features which I really like about.
  • In Memory OLTP(Code named Hekaton) – 

This is one of my favorite features that I’m really looking forward to work with. This feature will be called as SQLServer In-Memory OLTP Engine for SQL2014.

SQLServer In-Memory OLTP Engine will boost  OLTP workloads to perform remarkably better. The beauty of this feature is you can now pick tables and define it as memory optimized and these tables are fully transactional.

Anytime I will suggest you to download and read the white paper ‘SQL Server In-Memory OLTP Project “Hekaton” Internals Overview for CTP1’ by Kalen Delaney(B/T) to understand this feature really well.

  • 8 Readable Secondaries –

With SQL2014 we will have the ability to add up-to 8 readable secondaries for our read-only workload(Mainly reporting queries).

  • Always on to Windows Azure Virtual machine – 

This is one feature which I’m really looking forward. This will enable us to add a secondary replica directly in Windows Azure Virtual Machine. This is one feature which the CIOs would love, as you pay per use for Windows Azure VMs.

  • Buffer pool extension using SSDs – 

This can improve query performance by allowing the use of non-volatile solid-state drives to reduce SQLServer memory pressure with no risk of data loss.

Brent Ozar(B/T) has a great post explaining this and you can read it here.  He also have provided a great deal of information about other SQL2014 features too. Always a great read.

  • Performance Data Collector – 

I’m also looking forward for the enhancements which Performance Data Collector module will come with. The details are not yet out on what is new, but I definitely hope that there will be some good changes here and there will be deep integration with SSMS for this module.

Conclusion

With SQL2014 I’m pretty sure that your move towards the cloud will be more easy and a nice experience and I’m really looking forward for it.

Thanks for reading and keep watching this space for more(Lot of SQL2014 for sure !)