Category: Cloud

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Download Azure Stack Update

How to install and manage Azure Stack Updates

At itnetX, we help customers to implement as well as to operate  Azure Stack. One part of operating Azure Stack is keeping it up-to-date. This means installing Microsoft Azure Stack Updates, hotfixes as well as OEM update packages like drivers and firmware. In this blog post I will cover all the information you need to keep your Azure Stack up-to-date.

Why should you update your Azure Stack

Azure Stack Update

This may sound like a simple question, but a lot of people ask for it. First of all, Microsoft and the hardware vendors are obviously delivering quality fixes and security updates to keep Azure Stack stable and secure. But Microsoft also adds new functionality with their updates packages to keep up with the rapid cloud development on Azure. This is important if you want that your Azure Stack stays consistent with Azure in terms of functionality.

Another important reason to stay current is to stay supported. You are allowed to be behind two major versions of Azure Stack, which means 2-3 months. You basically should update monthly, to make sure that you are secure and stable, however there are reasons why you might have to defer an update. For example, this can happen for some companies, when they are in a freeze period where they are not allowed to do changes in their systems. If you are more than 3 major versions behind, your Azure Stack is considered out of support and will not be supported from Microsoft, until you have the at least required version installed.

You can read more about the Azure Stack servicing policy on the Azure Stack documentation site.

Updates for the Azure Stack Integrated System

Azure Stack Operations

As mentioned before, there are basically three types of updates to Azure Stack. The monthly Azure Stack Update Packages from Microsoft, Hotfixes and OEM updates.

  • Microsoft software updates – Microsoft is responsible for the end-to-end servicing lifecycle for the Microsoft software update packages. These packages can include the latest Windows Server security updates, non-security updates, and Azure Stack feature updates. These update packages are non-cumulative updates and need to be installed one after the other. These updates are fully automated and will update the complete Azure Stack infrastructure.
  • OEM hardware vendor-provided updates – Azure Stack hardware partners are responsible for the end-to-end servicing lifecycle (including guidance) for the hardware-related firmware and driver update packages. In addition, Azure Stack hardware partners own and maintain guidance for all software and hardware on the hardware lifecycle host.
  • Microsoft hotfixes – Microsoft provides hotfixes for Azure Stack that address a specific issue that is often preventative or time-sensitive. Each hotfix is released with a corresponding Microsoft Knowledge Base article that details the issue, cause, and resolution. Hotfixes are downloaded and installed just like the regular full update packages for Azure Stack. Other the the major updates, Azure Stack hotfixes are cumulative per iteration.
 ReleaseCumulativeWhere to find
Microsoft Software UpdatesMonthly (4th Tuesday of very month)NoRelease Notes
OEM Hardware Vendor UpdatesDepending on OEMDependsOEM Website
Microsoft HotfixesWhen neededYesKnowledge Base article

By the way, you can only update Azure Stack multi-node systems, the Azure Stack Development Kit needs to be redeployed.



You can now watch Microsoft’s underwater Datacenter and fish on Live Webcams

A couple of months back Microsoft provided a look at Project Natick, which is basically Microsoft’s project to host datacenter in underwater. This brings obviously some challenges but also some advantages like cooling etc. Today Microsoft also added some public webcam streams to Project Natick, which allows you to watch the Underwater Datacenter and some fish.

Microsoft Project Natick Webcam

About Microsoft Project Natick

Project Natick seeks to understand the benefits and difficulties in deploying subsea datacenters worldwide. Phase two extends the research we accomplished in phase one by deploying a full-scale datacenter module in the North Sea, powered by renewable energy.

 

  • Project Natick is a research project to build an underwater datacenter. Microsoft is investigating the numerous potential benefits that a standard, manufacturable, deployable undersea datacenter could provide to cloud users all over the world.
  • The Natick Phase 1 vessel was operated on the seafloor approximately one kilometer off the Pacific coast of the United States from August to November of 2015.
  • Phase 2 of Natick aims to demonstrate that we can economically manufacture full scale undersea datacenter modules and deploy them in under 90 days from decision to power on. The Phase 2 vessel was deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre located in the Orkney Islands, UK in June of 2018.
  • Project Natick reflects Microsoft’s ongoing quest for cloud datacenter solutions that offer less resource intensive options, rapid provisioning, lower costs, and high agility in meeting customer needs.

If you want to know more about Microsoft Project Natick, check out the website:

Microsoft Project Natick Website

 



Microsoft Whiteboard

IT Pros – Check out the Microsoft Whiteboard App

A couple of days ago Microsoft announced that the Microsoft Whiteboard App is now generally available (GA). Obviously this is not just an IT Pro app, it can be used by anyone running Windows 10. The Microsoft Whiteboard App is designed to help you collaborate with others in real time using inking and replace physical whiteboards. Microsoft Whiteboard allows you to share and invite others to collaborate on a whiteboard over the web. It is not only available as an app on Windows 10, it is also available on the Surface Hub.

I started to use the Microsoft Whiteboard app heavily. Instead of using OneNote to draw during presentations and workshops, I now use the Whiteboard App. It helps me quickly to draw some technical drawings and do my interactive workshops.

The Microsoft Whiteboard

Microsoft New Whiteboard

The Microsoft Whiteboard provides you an unlimited whiteboard canvas. You can use a pen, like the Surface Pen, or you can just use your fingers to draw and edit stuff. You have different digital pens and drawing tools available. Form here you just can get started with what every you want to draw, note or plan.

Insert things into the Whiteboard

Microsoft Whiteboard Insert Pictures

You can not only draw and write on the canvas, you can also add different type of files like Images from your PC, Bing or take a picture directly from the whiteboard. You can also add text notes, which you easily can move around.

Microsoft Whiteboard Ink to Shape

Microsoft Whiteboard Ink to Shape

If you want to have some extended features, you can open up the settings and you have some other cool options for inking. Ink to shape basically recognizes what type of shape you want to draw and does automatically convert to the right shape. Even cooler is the Ink to table feature, which lets you quickly draw a table. This makes it easy to draw and quickly get to where you want to go.

Whiteboard Sharing

Microsoft Whiteboard Sharing

I already mentioned that you use the whiteboard to collaborate. You have two ways of sharing it, you can invite people from your Office 365 or Microsoft Account, or you can just simply share a web sharing link, to allow others to join your whiteboard over the web. You will be able to see in real time what the others are drawing.

I hope this gives you a quick overview about the Microsoft Whiteboard app, let me know what you think. You can get the Microsoft Whiteboard from the Microsoft Store for free.



Windows Server 2019 USB Drive

Create a USB Drive for Windows Server 2019 Installation

This blog post covers how you can create a bootable USB media drive to install Windows Server 2019 on a physical server. This blog post will not use any third party tools, it only uses build in tools which you can find on Windows 10 or Windows Server. Depending on your system you will need it to install it on a BIOS system or a UEFI based system, which is slightly different since UEFI will use GPT disks and BIOS will use a MBR disk.

Getting ready to create a USB Drive for a Windows Server 2019 Installation

First you will need to have all prerequisites in place.

  • Download the Windows Server 2019 ISO File
  • A USB Drive with at least 8GB size



AzsReadinessChecker

Azure Stack Readiness Checker – AzsReadinessChecker

Since I am dealing with a lot of Azure Stack installations I also want to share some interesting tools you can leverage like the Azure Stack Capacity Calculator and others. One of the latest I want to share with you is the Azure Stack Readiness Checker PowerShell module called AzsReadinessChecker. This PowerShell module helps you to run validations of your environment and resources before you deploy Azure Stack. The AzsReadinessChecker module for example validates things like:

  • Certificates
  • Azure Active Directory
  • Azure Accounts
  • Azure Subscriptions

The Start-AzsREadinessChecker cmdlet also helps to generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) which you can summit to your CA or your CA provider to get the specific certificates.



Azure Firewall Setup

This is the Microsoft Azure Firewall

Last week Microsoft announced some cool new and long awaited Azure Network functionalities, which are now in public preview. One of them is the Azure Firewall, which is a fully stateful firewall as a service with built-in high availability and unrestricted cloud scalability. The Azure Firewall is centrally created, enforced, and allows you to log application and network connectivity policies across subscriptions and virtual networks.

This is especially helpful in scenarios where you simply want to block internet traffic or you need centralized management and logging. Obviously, there is still space for third-party firewall appliances with even more functionality, but if you need something easy to configure, without any additional licensing, which you can automatically configure using the existing tooling and has unrestricted scaling capabilities, the Azure Firewall is a great option.

It is also important to notice that the service is still in preview and additional functionality might be added as well as existing functionality might change.

Azure Firewall Spoke and Hub Network

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The Azure Firewall provides you with the following features:



VSCode in Azure Cloud Shell

You can now run a Visual Studio Code based editor in Azure Cloud Shell

Azure Cloud Shell, a browser-accessible shell for managing Azure resources, just got even more powerful. Today Microsoft added a new Visual Studio Code editor to Azure Cloud Shell. Okay, it is not the real Visual Studio Code, it is an editor based on the Visual Studio Code open-source project Monaco. Monaco is the same web-standards based editor that powers Visual Studio Code, and the editor is now integrated directly into Cloud Shell.

Now you not only have editors like vim, emacs or nano, you also able to run code, directly with in the Azure Cloud Shell. This is pretty handy when it comes to quickly edit some files like scripts or ARM templates.

This is not the first time the Azure Cloud Shell team and the Visual Studio Code team collaborated: Azure Cloud Shell in Visual Studio Code