Tag: Azure

Windows Azure Pack available for download

Windows Azure Logo

Today Microsoft made previews of System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2 available and also the Windows Azure Pack formerly known as Windows Azure Services for Windows Server.

Windows Azure Pack for Windows Server is a collection of Windows Azure technologies, available to Microsoft customers at no additional cost for installation into your data center. It runs on top of Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 and, through the use of the Windows Azure technologies, enables you to offer a rich, self-service, multi-tenant cloud, consistent with the public Windows Azure experience.

The Microsoft Cloud OS: One Consistent Platform

The Cloud OS is Microsoft’s vision of a consistent, modern platform for the world’s apps running across multiple clouds; enterprise datacenters, hosting service provider datacenters and Windows Azure. The Windows Azure Pack helps to deliver on this vision by bringing consistent Windows Azure experiences and services to enterprise and hosting service provider datacenters with existing investments in System Center and Windows Server.

windows_azure_pack_mgmt_portalGet more information on the Windows Azure Pack homepage.


50 Percent of Fortune 500 Using Windows Azure

Windows Azure Logo

Some days ago I wrote a blog post about the definition of Cloud Computing and of course I mentioned Windows Azure several times. Two days ago Microsoft’s General Manager for Windows Azure, Steven Martin, wrote a blog post which says that now 50 percent of the Fortune 500 companies using Windows Azure. If you think about the volume and size of this company this is a huge achievement.

He also mentioned that Gartner predicted that the public cloud service market will grow 18.5% in 2013 but Microsoft’s Windows Azure seems to grown significantly faster.

He also mentioned why Windows Azure out performances Gartners prediction.

Why is Azure growing so fast? Simply put, we’re delivering what customers are asking for—choice and end-to-end support. We understand the diversity of cloud adoption and the requirements customers have for Hybrid application patterns and deployment scenarios. We also know that customers expect support for the entire stack, not just the infrastructure or the application.

So with the IaaS announcement and the other services Microsoft is adding to Windows Azure, like Online Backup and Hyper-V Recovery Manager, the value for a lot of companies will be much higher in the future, and it’s also important to see that Microsoft is the only cloud provider which provides a real end to end solution for customers, partner and hosting providers.

Just think about a world where your services (not just VMs) can be moved between different private clouds, to your favorite hosting provider or scalable around the world with Windows Azure and of course back to your datacenter. Which not also allows you to choose different services but also grow and scale with the speed you need. This is not something which will be available in the future, this is available right now with Microsoft Hyper-V, Windows Server, System Center and Windows Azure.

Checkout Steven Martins blog post: 50 Percent of Fortune 500 Using Windows Azure

The Definition of Cloud Computing

Windows Server 2012 R2

The reason for this blog post was a lecture I had at university where lecturer talked about ERP systems (enterprise resource planning) and a question came up from one of the other students about ERP in the cloud and how Cloud Computing is defined. I am not really happy with the answer he gave, because the answer was totally focused on Software as a Service hosted from a service provider and accessible over the internet. Well this is a part of cloud computing but doesn’t not really cover the real definition.

I know I will maybe get a lot of comments on this post, because there is no official definition of “Cloud Computing” and every company maybe thinks different about it, depending on their product range

As someone who has worked in the hosting business and now is working as a consultant for mostly building private or hosted private clouds the definition looks really different. One important statement first. Virtualization is not Cloud Computing, virtualization is a great enhancement for Cloud Computing and is also a important enabler of Cloud computing because without virtualization Cloud Computing could be really hard to do.

I my opinion Cloud Computing is not a technology, Cloud Computing is a concept you can use to provide access to resources. There are three different scenarios in cloud computing.

IaaS PaaS SaaS

Image Source: blogs.technet.com

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service – IaaS basically allows customers to use compute, storage and networking resources and deploy for example virtual machines with full access to the operating system. (Example: Windows Azure, Amazon,…)
  • Platform-as-a-Service – PaaS provides customers with a platform for their application, for example Windows Server with IIS where customers can deploy their application but don’t have to think about the server itself. (Example: Windows Azure, Webhosting Providers,…)
  • Software-as-a-Service – SaaS allows customer to use just a software without caring about the installation or platform itself. For example hosted mailservers or CRMs (Example: Office365, Microsoft Dynamics Online, Xbox Live, Outlook.com,…)

Well another common mistake is to think cloud is always hosted in the internet. Since Cloud Computing is a concept to deliver services, companies can do this also internally which is mostly known as Private Cloud. The Private Cloud can of course also be IaaS, PaaS or SaaS and could be accessible from the internet, but it could also only be available company internal.

  • Public Cloud – The Public Cloud is maybe the Cloud people think of mostly when they are talking about Cloud Computing. This is mostly shared services hosted from a services provider which is accessible from the internet.
  • Private Cloud – The Private Cloud is a Cloud made for a just one customer or company for example this could be an on premise Cloud hosted in my own datacenter. In some cases the Private Cloud could also be hosted from a services provider.
  • Hybrid Cloud – The Hybrid Cloud model will be the model a lot of companies will go for, or already did even without knowing about it. The Hybrid Cloud is a scenario where I have a Private Cloud hosted on premise in my datacenter but I also extend my Cloud to the Public Cloud by connecting cloud services such as Windows Azure or Office 365 to my Private Cloud.

I already wrote about 500 words, but I still didn’t not really answers the question what Cloud Computing is, so we going to have a look at Wikipedia:

Cloud computing – correctly: a Computing Cloud – is a colloquial expression used to describe a variety of different computing concepts that involve a large number of computers that are connected through a real-time communication network (typically the Internet). Cloud Computing is a jargon term without a commonly accepted non-ambiguous scientific or technical definition. In science Cloud computing is a synonym for distributed computing over a network and means the ability to run a program on many connected computers at the same time. The popularity of the term Cloud computing can be attributed to its use in marketing to sell hosted services in the sense of Application Service Provisioning that run Client server software on a remote location.

So with this definition there are five common properties every Cloud has, doesn’t matter if it’s IaaS, PaaS or SaaS based or hosted in the Private or Public Cloud.

  • Elastic and Scalable – I think this is one of the overall parts of a cloud. It’s important to be very flexible to get new resources if your business grows over time or has some special peaks where you need more resources. Resources could be more compute power, more virtual machines, more users, or more mailboxes.
  • Pooled Compute Resources – From a cloud provider perspective I want to pool my compute, storage and network resources and share them for different customers or services.
  • Provides Self-Service Provisioning – To request new resources (virtual machines, Mailboxes or whatever) over a self-service portal which automatically kicks of the specific tasks.
  • Highly Automated Management – Because we want to use Self-Services provisioning and doing this in large scales, it’s important that the environment is highly automated. If you think about a simple example: A new employee starts at your company and you want to create a new mailbox for him, you can create a it over a self-services portal. The creation of the mailbox has to me automated in the background because you don’t want to wait for someone to create the mailbox manually maybe two days later.
  • Usage-Based Chargeback – Trough the pooled resource you want to be able to do chargeback based on consumed resources. Even if you do another billing system you still want to know how much resources customers have used. This could be how many mailboxes did I use last month, how many minutes my virtual machines was running this month, or much disk space did I use.

I think this 5 things do cover the properties of Cloud Computing in basically all the common scenarios. This there are a lot of things I did not cover in my blog post but it should help people which are new to cloud computing help to understand the different scenarios.

Windows Server 2012 R2

What’s new in Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V

Today Microsoft announced the new features which are coming in Windows Server 2012 R2 which will be the next version of Windows Server at Microsoft TechEd North America. By the way just to show you how great Windows Server 2012 was and how great it scaled, Windows Azure uses the same Hyper-V virtualization service built-into Windows Server 2012 and this means complete virtual machine compatibility between on premise Hyper-V and Windows Azure IaaS. This blog post shows what’s new in Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V.

Here the next version names:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • System Center 2012 R2
  • Windows 8.1

Now Microsoft announced a lot of new features especially for Hyper-V, and here are some of them:

  • Shared VHDX – a VHDX can now be shared between two Virtual Machine by using the virtual SCSI controller. This is created if you need shared storage for guest clustering inside virtual machines instead of using iSCSI or virtual fiber channel.
  • Live Migration Compression – Live Migration traffic will be compressed by the Hyper-V host before it’s sent over the wire. Which does reduce Live Migration time dramatically, up to 50% faster.
  • Live Migration over SMB Direct (RDMA) – Live Migration can use leverage SMB 3.0 and this means it can also make use of SMB Direct or RDMA which allows you to do live migration even faster.
  • Storage Quality of Service (QoS) – Limit storage IOPS per virtual machine
  • Live Virtual Machine Cloning / Exporting – You can now live clone a virtual machines without downtime and also export a running virtual machine.
  • Linux Guest OS support enhancements – Support for live backups of linux virtual machines and dynamic memory support for Linux guests.
  • Hyper-V Replica 2.0 – Hyper-V replica can now replicate not just two one other host, this replica can also replicate to a third Hyper-V host and the replication time was changed to three different settings (every 30 secs, every 5 minutes or every 15 minutes). Hyper-V Replica also got some background scalability and performance improvements.
  • Windows Azure Compatibility – As I already mentioned Windows Azure is running Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V which means that Hyper-V virtual machines on-premise are also capable to run in Windows Azure
  • Online resizing of VHDX – You can expand and shrink VHDX files during the virtual machine is running.
  • Automatic Guest Activation – zero touch activation of virtual machines. Virtual machines automaticly get activated if the Hyper-V hosts is an activated Datacenter edition.
  • VM Connect using RDP or enhanced VM interaction – This uses Remote Desktop over the VMBus, which allows you to use full remote desktop capabilities (Shared clipboard, audio redirection, folder redirection, smartcards, USB pass-through enhanced login and more…)
  • Generation 2 virtual machines – Gen2 VMs are legacy free and based on UEFI. So this means no more emulated devices, boot from virtual SCSI controllers or synthetic network adapters (PXE boot >100MBit) and enables UEFI secure boot as a standard. Supported guest operating systems: 64-bit versions of Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2.
  • Zero-downtime upgrade (Cross version live Migration) – Live migrate virtual machines from Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2012 R2 (this also includes shared-nothing live migration).
  • Hyper-V Recovery Manager – I already mentioned the new service called Hyper-V Recovery Manager in Windows Azure which allows you to run a orchestrator failover of your virtual machines using Hyper-V Replica.
  • Deduplication – Deduplication of VDI Virtual Machines

There are a lot of other cool features in Windows Server 2012 R2 which add other great value to Hyper-V and your Private cloud. I will cover them in some other blog posts in the next days.

Using Windows Azure Backup Vault (Preview)

Windows Azure Logo

Microsoft just announced the preview of Windows Azure Recovery Services which at the moment include Windows Azure Backup and Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager.

To use Windows Azure Backup you first have to enable the preview in your Azure Portal. After that you can create a new Backup Vault where you can store your data.

Windows Azure Recovery Services Backup Vault

After that you have to add a certificate to the Backup Vault. You can do this using this guy here: Upload certificates to the vault

The easiest way to do this for testing with the preview version is to create a self-signed certificate on the host you will register for the Windows Azure Online Backup.

  1. Download  Certificate Creation Tool (makecert.exe) from the TechNet Gallery or MakeCert is available as part of the Windows SDK,  which you can download  from http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?linkid=84091.
  2. Open an elevated command prompt (with Administrator privileges) and navigate to the location where makecert.exe is stored. Then type:
    makecert.exe -r -pe -n CN=<certName> -ss my -sr localmachine -eku  -e 12/12/2015  -len 2048 <CertificateName>.cer
    The certificate will be created and stored in the same location.
  3. In the vault, click Manage Certificate to upload the .cer file, that contains the public key.

Windows Azure Online Backup Vault Certificate

After that you can upload the certificate to Windows Azure by using the Windows Azure Portal.

Windows Azure Online Backup Vault Management

After you have successfully uploaded the certificate you can now download the Windows Azure Online Backup agent. Make sure you pick the right one, you can download one for Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1 – Data Protection Manager or an agent for Windows Server 2012 Essentials. The Agent for Windows Server 2012 is around 18MB.

Windows Azure Online Backup Agent Download Install the agent on the server you want to use for Windows Azure Backup. After the agent is installed on your system you can open the Windows Azure Backup Console and register your server. Here you have to select the created certificate and the Backup Vault you have created in the Windows Azure Portal.

Windows Azure Online Backup Register Server

After you finally registered your server you can now schedule a backup. At the moment you can do the following configuration settings in the preview.

  • Select folders and exclude file types
  • You can define backup times (at the moment maximum 3 times per day)
  • Choose the retention rate from 7, 15 or 30 days.

Windows Azure Backup Console

In the Windows Azure Portal you can see the Azure Backup Dashboard with more information about your servers and files.

Windows Azure Online Backup Dashboard


The State of Cloud Storage in 2013

Mark Russinovich just posted a tweeted with the Infographic for The State of Cloud Storage in 2013 which compares, Microsoft Windows Azure, Google, Amazon, Rackspace and HP.

State of Cloud Storage in 2013


Windows Azure Services on Windows Server for Hosting Service Providers now available

Windows Azure Services

Today Microsoft announced that Windows Azure Services on Windows Server are now available.

Microsoft is committed to delivering customers a consistent platform regardless of deployment location and calls this vision the Cloud OS. As part of this strategy, Microsoft is now enabling Hosting Service Providers to use Windows Server and System Center to deliver the same great experiences already found in Windows Azure. The first two of these finished services are high density website hosting and virtual machine provisioning and management. Hosting Service Providers enable these modules through the new Service Management API and optional portal, which will continue to add more services from Microsoft and 3rd party providers over time.

Get more information about the Windows Azure Services on Windows Server on the Microsoft Hosting homepage.

System Center 2012 App Controller connecting to Windows Azure

System Center Logo

Windows Azure Logo

Recently I have worked with the latest release of Windows Azure and the second Community Technical Preview of System Center 2012 SP1 App Controller. App Controller provides a common self-service experience that can help you easily configure, deploy, and manage virtual machines and services across private and public clouds. And you can get more information about System Center App Controller on Microsoft TechNet.

Now in this blog post I will show you how you can connect your System Center App Controller to Windows Azure. For this I used Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012 SP1 CTP2 of App Controller and Virtual Machine Manager and I also used the latest preview version of Windows Azure. This post also works for the RTM products of System Center 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2, but the screenshots look maybe a little different.

I used:

  • System Center 2012 SP1 CTP2 – App Controller
  • System Center 2012 SP1 CTP2 – Virtual Machine Manager
  • Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Windows Azure Preview

It also works for:

  • System Center 2012 – App Controller
  • System Center 2012 – Virtual Machine Manager
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1
  • Windows Azure

Now here is how you do it:

  1. Setup a Server for System Center App Controller
  2. Create a Windows Azure subscription if you don’t have one already
  3. Install System Center App Controller
  4. Export the certificate from your App Controller Server
  5. Import the certificate on your Azure account
  6. Connect Windows Azure in System Center App Controller

First you have to install System Center App Controller on a machine. If you install the 2012 RTM of App Controller this is just wizard and the installer will configure all IIS requirements for you. If you install System Center 2012 SP1 CTP2 version of App Controller you have to install the IIS requirements by yourself.

This are the features you have to install in the IIS Role.

Name (for use with the Add-WindowsFeature command in PowerShell) Display Name (displayed in the wizard in Server Manager)
NET-Framework-Features .NET Framework 3.5 Features
NET-Framework-Core .NET Framework 3.5 (includes .NET 2.0 and 3.0)
Web-Mgmt-Console IIS Management Console (under Web Server (IIS), Management Tools)
Web-Static-Content Static Content (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Common HTTP Features)
Web-Default-Doc Default Document (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Common HTTP Features)
Web-Http-Errors HTTP Errors (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Common HTTP Features)
Web-Http-Logging HTTP Logging (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Health and Diagnostics)
Web-Request-Monitor Request Monitor (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Health and Diagnostics)
Web-Http-Tracing Tracing (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Health and Diagnostics)
Web-Stat-Compression Static Content Compression (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Performance)
Web-Filtering Request Filtering (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Security)
Web-Basic-Auth Basic Authentication (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Security)
Web-Windows-Auth Windows Authentication (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Security)
Web-ISAPI-Filter ISAPI Filters (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Application Development)
Web-ISAPI-Ext ISAPI Extensions (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Application Development)
Web-Net-Ext .NET Extensibility 3.5 (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Application Development)
Web-Asp-Net45 ASP.NET 4.5 (under Web Server (IIS), Web Server, Application Development)


You can use the following PowerShell commands to install all the requirements:

Add-WindowsFeature NET-Framework-Features
Add-WindowsFeature NET-Framework-Core
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Mgmt-Console
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Static-Content
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Default-Doc
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Http-Errors
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Http-Logging
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Request-Monitor
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Http-Tracing
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Stat-Compression
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Filtering
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Basic-Auth
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Windows-Auth
Add-WindowsFeature Web-ISAPI-Filter
Add-WindowsFeature Web-ISAPI-Ext
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Net-Ext
Add-WindowsFeature Web-Asp-Net45

After you have installed you need to export the certificate on the App Controller server to add it to your Windows Azure Management Certificates. You have to export the certificate twice, first as DER encrypted binary (.cer ) which you have to import into Windows Azure and once as Personal Information Exchange (.pfx) which you will need in App Controller to connected to Windows Azure.

Windows Azure Logo

Create a Virtual Machine on Windows Azure

I had some time left and checked out the new features of Windows Azure. Some days ago, Microsoft showed some new preview features for Windows Azure like Virtual Machine Hosting and Website Hosting.

Now, this post should show you how easy it is to create a new Virtual Machine on demand.

First, open the Windows Azure portal, and in the Virtual Machine tab you can create a new Virtual Machine

You can now choose the Operating System, and wow besides Windows Server 2008 R2 with SP1 and the Release Candidate of Windows Server 2012 you can choose between different Linux systems or you can add your own images



Type the name of your Virtual Machine, set the local Administrator password and select the Hardware profile of your VM.

Now choose a DNS name for your VM and do some other administrative tasks.

Now you can create your new Virtual Machine.

This will take some time 3-5 minutes in my case.


After the Virtual Machine is deployed, you can check out the Virtual Machine dashboard where you can check out som stats and do configuration changes.

After the Virtual Machine is deployed, you can connect to it via RDP and configure your system.


I am sure this will be interesting to see how the Private Cloud merges with the Public Cloud. And I am also looking forward to seeing some really cool implementations of other Hosting Providers to bring the same functionality as Windows Azure.