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

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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 !

Deleting a Storage Account from Windows Azure – The right way !


I like to clean up things after I’m done with my testing and this morning I decided to clean up my VM’s, Databases which were created under Windows Azure.

Everything went smooth till I tried to delete my storage account. As soon as I tried a delete there was an exception.

Azure Storage Delete1

The ‘Details’ section gave me more details on why this action cant be completed.

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The error message is quite self explanatory. This was telling me that the storage account which I was trying to delete was having a container which was holding an active image.

This was indeed true. I decided to go ahead and explore the container for the account. I had created multiple files under this container before.Azure Storage Delete3

Then I decided to go ahead and check the blobs under the container, and there was indeed a blob available. As a matter of fact even the container itself is a blob.

Azure Storage Delete4

I decided to delete this blob, and then successfully deleted the storage account from the portal.

To sum up, the right way to delete a storage account from windows azure is to check if you have any active blobs under the container and remove that blob well before you try and remove the storage account.

Conclusion

Hope this short explanation helps you understand how storage is handled within Azure and how things are categorized with respect to Accounts, Container Blobs and Blobs within the containers.

Checkout SQL Server 2014 CTP1 and Windows 2012 R2 preview up in the cloud


You must be really busy spinning up VMs to test SQL Server 2014 CTP1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 preview.

If your on-premise desktop computer/laptop is running low on resources and if you don’t want to take the pain of handling multiple VMs locally,then you have an option to test them out right up in the cloud.

Yes, You can always spin up a Windows Azure VM and do all your testing and shut that down once you are done with your work to save some money.

Sounds like a deal right? Yes, its pretty easy and fast. It takes less than 10 minutes to provision a Windows Azure VM.

Lets look at the options we have in Azure for the test VMs –

1. SQL Server 2014 CTP1 Evaluation Edition on Windows Server 2012

This image will setup SQL2014 CTP1 for you on Windows Server 2012. Once the VM is provisioned and is in running state, you can connect it via RDP to see that SQL Server is ready to test.

VMs

2. Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview

This image will provision a VM for you with Windows Server 2012 R2 preview. You can spin up multiple VMs to do your hardcore testing with Windows.

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Conclusion

This is indeed a great way to test the latest builds with minimum efforts and you always have the option to shutdown the VMs after use to avoid a heavy bill.

Thanks for reading and keep watching this space for more.

Moving a database from on-premise to the cloud – Step by Step Walkthrough


Cloud is the future and moving there is now as easy as few mouse clicks.

Today we will see how an On-premise database can be moved to a SQL Server instance running up on a Windows Azure Virtual Machine.There are multiple ways to accomplish this and in this post we will see how this can be achieved using SSMS wizards.

Step 1

I have a database named “MoveMeToCloud”,and this is one who is ready to take the flight and move to the cloud. This is a database which is deployed on my on-premises SQL Server Instance.

The first process is to export this database. For that purpose we will choose Tasks —

Export Data-tier Application

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As always an introduction wizard is opened up, and you can proceed by choosing next.(Also can say do not show this again !)

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Step 2

In this step we will connect Windows Azure Storage Account and we will export the BACPAC directly to the cloud storage.

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When we connect the Azure storage account we will need to provide the account name and the key. Manage Access Keys under the Azure portal(Storage section) will get this info for us.

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Step 3

Once the storage account connection is established we can proceed and finish this export activity.

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The wizard will do multiple checks, and the process will complete eventually(Provided all the conditions are met).

I will talk about the conditions in a different post.

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Step 4

Once the export is completed successfully we can check and verify that the BACPAC is indeed available under Windows Azure Storage Account

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Step 5

As the BACPAC is now local to the cloud we can now proceed and do an Import of that file.

We will connect to a Windows Azure Virtual Machine which is running SQL Server 2012 up in Azure to do the import.

We will choose Import Data Tier Application to initiate the import.

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We will need to provide the storage account details under the import settings

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Once the connection is established correctly we can proceed and choose the database settings

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Database settings will allow us to place the data file and log file according to our requirements.

We can proceed and finish the wizard to complete the import activity.

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Step 6

Once the import is completed we are good to access the database up in the cloud.

SSMS Cloud

Thanks for reading and keep watching this space for more.

Windows Azure pay per minute – Time is money !


One of the most exciting news which got announced yesterday was related to Windows Azure. When Scott Guthrie mentioned that billing model for Windows Azure is going to be per minute basis from now on, then there was a great cheer from the crowd.

Time is money

This is indeed a game changing announcement. I definitely foresee great amount of Windows Azure usage in the future, and this announcement is a great deal for the cloud adopters.

Earlier if I had used my cloud service for 20 minutes,and then turned that off I was charged still for the full hour. Lot many cloud providers still operate with this policy.

Going forward I will be charged for what I useI will be charged for just 20 minutes, no questions asked.

Another super news which was really exciting for me was related to no charge for stopped VMs.

Think about a situation –

Your Dev/Test folks works from 9 AM – 5 PM window. On premise Dev/Test boxes sits idle after 5PM utilizing all the power and other compute resources in your data center. This is sheer waste of money and resources, and in 2013 you should definitely think about moving these to the cloud.

Dev/Test environments can be easily moved to Windows Azure VMs and you can just stop them after 5PM and just don’t have to pay for anything. This is a big deal isn’t? I have no second thoughts about it.

Cloud is the future and these great announcements are making it more affordable to the public.

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 !)