Tag: Cloud Computing

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Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate

Passed Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator

After the announcement of the new Microsoft Azure certifications at Microsoft Inspire in Las Vegas, I decided to take the beta exam which was available to upgrade my current Azure certifications. Since I had already passed Exam 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, I needed exam AZ-102 to do the transition. Today I got confirmation that I passed the Microsoft exam AZ-102 and earned the Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate certification.

I already took the new available beta Exam for the Microsoft Certified Azure Architect at Microsoft Ignite, however for the results I still need to wait a bit.

What is Exam AZ-102 Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

The new certifications are based on different job roles, like Azure Administrator, Azure Developer and Azure Architect. You can read more about the new Azure Certifications here on my blog.

Earning Azure Administrator Associate certification demonstrates understanding of services across the IT lifecycle, and ability to take requests for infrastructure services, applications, and environments. Candidates for this certification are typically Azure Administrators who manage cloud services spanning storage, security, networking, and compute cloud capabilities. They recommend services to use for optimal performance and scale, as well as provision, size, monitor, and adjust resources.

This is great news to start in the day while I am flying to a customer in Paris today for some more Azure work.

Exam Preparation

The skills measured in AZ-102 are a mix from AZ-100 and AZ-101 and will focus on Azure Infrastructure and deployment, Azure Integration and Azure Security.

I often get asked how I prepared for exams such as this. Obviously it makes sense to certify the knowledge you already have. I usually use Microsoft free online courses on Channel 9, Virtual Academy and now the new Microsoft Learn. However, I realized that also the Azure Documentation is a great resource to learn. I recommend you check the skills needed for the exam, in this case AZ-102 and read the specific Azure Documentation for these topics, and also try it out.



Altaro Webinar Journey to the Clouds

Webinar: Journey to the Clouds – Masterclass on Cloud Migration

Together with Altaro and my MVP colleagues Andy Syrewicze and Didier Van Hoye, I will be part of a free webinar called Journey to the Clouds- Masterclass on Cloud Migration. In this webinar we will dicsuss differnent cloud scenarios.

There are two options available depending on which time zone you are in.

  • Session 1: 2pm CEST – 5am PDT – 8am EDT
  • Session 2: 6pm CEST – 9am PDT – 12pm EDT

Join Webinar Journey to the Clouds

Want to migrate your datacenter into the cloud but unsure how to make the transition successfully? 3 Microsoft MVPs discuss your options in this upcoming panel webinar. Join Andy Syrewicze, Didier Van Hoye, and Thomas Maurer for a crash course on how you can plan your journey effectively and smoothly utilizing the exciting cloud technologies coming out of Microsoft.

Want to migrate your datacenter into the cloud but unsure how to make the transition successfully? 3 Microsoft MVPs discuss your options in this upcoming panel webinar.

Join Andy Syrewicze, Didier Van Hoye, and Thomas Maurer for a crash course on how you can plan your journey effectively and smoothly utilizing the exciting cloud technologies coming out of Microsoft including:

  • Windows Server 2019 and the Software-Defined Datacenter
  • New Management Experiences for Infrastructure with Windows Admin Center
  • Hosting an Enterprise Grade Cloud in your datacenter with Azure Stack
  • Taking your first steps into the public cloud with Azure IaaS

With cloud technologies improving exponentially migrating to a cloud-based model is a dilemma facing most organizations today. Cloud services such as Microsoft Azure, Azure Stack, and the software defined datacenter, offer numerous benefits but moving existing infrastructure into a cloud model is a challenging step.

 

Many IT Pros are justifiably wary of new platforms and cloud services are particularly worrisome involving core infrastructure elements hosted offsite. This is why some of the new technologies coming from Microsoft are so compelling as they are designed to help organizations make that transition slowly and at their own pace. This webinar covers both fully-serviced cloud offerings as well as smaller-scaled solutions that provide more accessible steps to realizing the benefits without fully committing.

 

After watching the experts discuss the details, you’ll see that the cloud doesn’t have to be an all or nothing discussion. The journey from on-prem to the cloud is different for every organization, as is the destination. This webinar will prepare you for your unique journey by revealing the available options and how to make the most out of them.

 

Join us for some insightful discussion, use-case examples, and tips for getting started with these new technologies. Sign up today.

 

We hope to see you there!



Speaking at Microsoft Ignite 2017

My impressions from Microsoft Ignite 2017

Okay, I know, Microsoft Ignite 2017 was already a couple of weeks ago. But still, I finally had time to write about my impressions from Microsoft Ignite, after the conference plus my visit in Seattle for the Intelligent Cloud Architect Bootcamp and spending my days in meetings and back at work in Switzerland. Since there is a lot of stuff and important changes coming, I think it is still valid to write about my impressions.

First, I have to say Orlando is great, I really loved spending my time there. This was my second Microsoft Ignite after the first one in Chicago. I have to say, it was very well organized and organizing such a huge conference is definitely not easy.

The Speaking part…

Speaking at Microsoft Ignite 2017 Theater

I had the great opportunity to speak in several Microsoft Ignite sessions and this was huge fun. It is always fun for me to stand in front of a couple of people and show them some stuff I am working on. I not only had the chance to do my Theather session about “Lessons learned from deploying Windows Server 2016”, I also spoke in two breakout sessions about our customer cases focusing on System Center and Storage Spaces Direct.

The Microsoft Ignite 2017 Networking part…

One of the most important parts of such a conference is networking with others. The point is that all the videos are going to be online available for later review, but you get time to meet with people from Microsoft, customers and partners, and talk, share and learn from them. The connections you make at such a conference will be helpful in the future, trust me…

The Learning part…

One of the main reasons for me to attend, was to learn. Not only learn about the latest and greatest technology, but also about where the industry is heading. I believe that our industry is heading to one of the biggest changes in history since the transition from Mainframes to client server topology. I think this is not new to most of us, but what is interesting and something I underestimated is, how fast that transition will be going forward. Cloud Computing, AI, Big Data, IoT and modern applications are going to be big topics in the future and technologies like containers and methods like DevOps are going to accelerate this change. My lesson learned from these events is that we all in the industry have to learn much faster and be ready to adapt to change much quicker.

With that, I hope to see you soon at other conferences and events or again at Microsoft Ignite on September 24 – 28 in Orlando, Florida.



Azure Stack Administration and Operation

Interview: Microsoft Azure Stack – An Introduction

Back at Experts Live Australia 2017 I had the chance to talk to Veeam’s Senior Technical Evangelist Clint Wyckoff about the upcoming Microsoft Azure Stack Solution.

Veeam’s Senior Technical Evangelist Clint Wyckoff and Thomas Maurer, Cloud Architect at itnetX and Microsoft Cloud & Datacenter MVP discuss the upcoming Microsoft Azure Stack Solution.

If you want to know more about Azure Stack: Check out my blog post: Microsoft Azure Stack – Azure Extension in your Datacenter



AzureStack Admin Portal

Microsoft Azure Stack – Azure Extension in your Datacenter

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to attend the Microsoft Azure Certified for Hybrid Cloud Airlift in Bellevue WA, which is close to the Microsoft campus in Redmond. I had the chance to spend the week there and talk with the Microsoft PG about different Azure Stack scenarios. Most of the discussions and presentations are under NDA, but there are a few things I can share, since they are publicly announced. I prepared this blog post already a couple of months ago, when I was talking to a lot of different customers about Azure Stack, and since then Microsoft also shared some new information about the release of Azure Stack Technical Preview 3.

The Azure Stack Announcement

Azure vs Azure Stack

Microsoft announced Azure Stack at Microsoft Ignite in May 2015. Back at this time Microsoft did only mention about the vision of Azure Stack and that it will bring cloud consistency between the Microsoft Azure Public Cloud and your Private Cloud. But Microsoft did not really announce exactly what Azure Stack will be and how it will be implemented in your Datacenter.

During the Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference (WPC 2016), Microsoft announced more information about the availability of Azure Stack. For more information, you can read the Microsoft blog posts, but I tried to summarize the most important parts.

Building a true Hybrid Cloud and Consistency with Microsoft Azure

Azure Stack

This is probably the most important part about Azure Stack today. Microsoft Azure Stack will bring Azure consistency between the Microsoft Azure Public Cloud and your Private Cloud or your Hosters Service Provider Cloud using the Azure Resource Manager. So you will be able to not only operate an Azure-like environment, like you could with Windows Azure Pack and System Center, you now get real consistency between Azure and Azure Stack. You not only get the exact look and feel from the Microsoft Azure Public Cloud, you also can use the same Azure Resource Templates and deployment methods as you can in the Public Cloud. This allows customers to really operate in a Hybrid Cloud environment, between the Microsoft Public Cloud, their own Private Cloud and also local Service Provider Clouds.

Bring the agility and fast-paced innovation of cloud computing to your on-premises environment with Azure Stack. This extension of Azure allows you to modernize your applications across hybrid cloud environments, balancing flexibility and control. Plus, developers can build applications using a consistent set of Azure services and DevOps processes and tools, then collaborate with operations to deploy to the location that best meets your business, technical, and regulatory requirements. Pre-built solutions from the Azure Marketplace, including open source tools and technologies, allow developers to speed up new cloud application development.

The Integrated System Approach

Azure Stack Integrated System

(picture by Microsoft)

Microsoft announced that Azure Stack will be available as an appliance from different hardware vendors in Mid 2017. The confirmed hardware providers delivering Azure Stack Appliance at this point in time will be: Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo and later in 2017 we will also see an appliance from Cisco, Huawei and Avanade.

The big difference here is that Microsoft delivers the Azure Stack platform first in an appliance way, which is really different from the way they delivered Windows Azure Pack. Windows Azure Pack was based on System Center and Windows Server and every customer could design his own environment based on their needs.

This was great, but also had some huge challenges for customers. Clouds needed different designs, this ended up in very complex design workshops where we basically discussed the customer solutions. The installation and configuration of a Windows Azure Pack platform was also very complex and a lot of work which needed a lot of resources, knowledge and of course a lot of project costs. Before customers could start saving money, they had to invest money to get things up and running. Of course, system integrators like itnetX and others, built automation to spin up clouds based on Windows Azure Pack, but still the investment needed to be done.

The use of an appliance approach not only helps to spin up clouds faster, but also build environments on tested hardware, firmware and drivers. Another point here which makes a great case for an appliance solution, are management and operations. Management and operation of a cloud-like environment is not easy, doesn’t matter what software you are using. Keeping the platform stable, maintained and operational will end up in a lot of work, especially if every cloud looks different. The last thing I want to mention here is upgrading, if you want real Azure consistency, you need to keep up with the ultra-fast pace of the Azure Public Cloud, which is basically impossible or extremely expensive. An integrated system scenario can really help you keep things up-to-date, since updates and upgrades can be pre-tested before they are released for you to deploy. This will help you save a huge amount of testing since every environment looks the same.

Operating Azure Stack

Azure Stack Administration and Operation

As already mentioned, Azure Stack will be delivered as an integrated system. OEMs, will help you to setup and install your Azure Stack appliance in your datacenter, but they will not fully manage the Azure Stack environment. You will need to have some Cloud Operator managing and operating your Azure Stack. With this all the host will be sealed and administrators do not have access to the hosts or Hyper-V Manager or Failover Cluster Manager to mange the systems. Instead, Administrators or Cloud Operators will manage the system for a management portal.

Azure Stack Platform

Since this is an integrated system, you don’t even need to care what it is running in the background. But still for a lot of us it is still very interesting to see how Azure Stack is built. In the back Azure Stack runs on “common” rack mount servers from HPE, Dell, Lenovo and Cisco, for HPE this is the DL380 Gen9. From the software stack it is running Windows Server 2016, and the Software Define Datacenter features such as Storage Spaces Direct, the new Windows Server 2016 Software-Defined Networking Stack an Hyper-V. In the release version of Azure Stack we will see a Hyper-Converged Storage Spaces Direct architecture starting from 4 nodes. On top of this Microsoft used code from Azure to bring the Azure Resource Manager, Azure Resource Providers and the Azure Portal to the Azure Stack.

Azure Stack POC – Microsoft Azure Stack Development Kit

Azure Stack Development Kit

Very early in the development process of Azure Stack, Microsoft releases Technical Previews to customers, so they could test Azure Stack on one node deployments. This is called the Azure Stack POC and you can download it today on a single physical server, and it was only designed for non-productive, non-HA environments. Microsoft officially announced that they will rename the Azure Stack POC to Azure Stack Development Kit after the General Availability of Azure Stack Mid 2017. This is really a great solution to quickly spin up a test environment of Azure Stack without having to invest in hardware.

Azure Marketplace Syndication

Azure Stack Marketplace Syndication

You will be able to create your own Marketplace items in Azure Stack, building your own templates and images and offer them to your customers. One of the greatest editions Microsoft made in the Azure Stack Technical Preview 3 is the Azure Marketplace Syndication. This allows you to get Marketplace items from Azure and offer them in your Azure Stack offering to your customers. With that you don’t need to build all Marketplace items by yourself.

Azure Stack Identity Management

Azure Stack has to be integrated into your datacenter. In terms of Identity, Microsoft allows you to use two ways to integrate. First, and from my site the preferred option, is Azure AD (AAD) which allows you to integrate with an existing Azure Active Directory. Azure AD can be synced and connected with your on-premise Active Directory and this will allow you to login to Azure as well as Azure Stack. The other option Microsoft is offering is using ADFS to bring identities to your Azure Stack.

The Azure Stack Business Cases

Since Azure Stack is consistent with Microsoft Azure, the question comes up, why are we not just using Azure. There are many good reasons to use Azure, but there are also some challenges with that. Azure Stack can make sense in a couple of scenarios.

  • Data Sovereignty – In some cases data cannot be stored outside of a specific country. With Azure Stack, customers have the option to deploy in even their own datacenter or on a service provider within the same country.
  • Latency – Even Microsoft offers a solution to reduce network latency to Azure, with using Azure Express Route, in some scenarios latency is still a big issue. With Azure Stack can customers place Azure very close to the location where resources are accessed from.
  • Disconnected Scenarios – In some scenarios you really want to benefit form the consistent deployment model, and for example use Azure Resource Manager (ARM), but not everywhere on earth do you have access to Azure or sometimes you have a very bad connection. Think about cruise ships or other scenarios where you need to run IT infrastructure but you are not able to connect to Azure.
  • Private Instance of Azure – For some companies shared infrastructures can be challenging, even security standards in Azure are extremely high, it is not always an option. With Azure Stack, companies can basically spin up their completely own instance of Azure.
  • Differentiation – Service Providers or even Enterprise companies cannot only use the Azure Marketplace, but they can also build their own solutions for the Azure Stack and make them available to their customers.

Pricing and Licensing

As mentioned Microsoft will offer Azure Stack from 5 different OEMs. HPE, Dell and Lenovo will deliver a solution at GA in mid-CY17, Cisco and Huawei will be available later. The hardware needs to be bought directly from the OEM or Partner. Some of the also offer a flexible investment model like the HPE Flexible Capacity. For the pricing model, Microsoft decided to deliver the licensing of Azure Stack on a pay-per-use base. This meets of course the cloud economics and there will be no upfront licensing costs for customers. Services will be typically metered on the same units as Azure, but prices will be lower, since customers operate their own hardware and facilities. For scenarios where customers are unable to have their metering information sent to Azure, Microsoft will also offer a fixed-price “capacity model” based on the number of cores in the system.

Azure Stack will be offered in two different models, Pay-as-you-use model and Capacity model. The pay-as-you-use model is licensed by Microsoft via the Enterprise Agreement (EA) or Cloud Service Provider (CSP) programs. The capacity model is available via EA only. It is purchased as an Azure Plan SKU via normal volume licensing channels. For typical use cases, Microsoft expects the pay-as-you-use model to be the “most economical” option.

The Azure Stack pricing models

Azure Stack will be offered in two different models, Pay-as-you-use model and Capacity model. The pay-as-you-use model is licensed by Microsoft via the Enterprise Agreement (EA) or Cloud Service Provider (CSP) programs. The capacity model is available via EA only. It is purchased as an Azure Plan SKU via normal volume licensing channels. For typical use cases, Microsoft expects the pay-as-you-use model to be the “most economical” option.

Azure Stack Pay-as-you-use model

For the pay-as-you-use model you will you can take advantage of the cloud economics and only pay for resources which are actually consumed, plus additional costs for the Azure Stack hardware and the operations.

Service prices:

  • Base virtual machine $0.008/vCPU/hour ($6/vCPU/month)
  • Windows Server virtual machine $0.046/vCPU/hour ($34/vCPU/month)
  • Azure Blob Storage $0.006/GB/month (no transaction fee)
  • Azure Table and Queue Storage $0.018/GB/month (no transaction fee)
  • Azure App Service (Web Apps, Mobile Apps, API Apps, Functions) $0.056/vCPU/hour ($42/vCPU/month)

Azure Stack Capacity model

For the capacity model, two packages are available which makes you license the physical cores of your Azure Stack system via an annual subscription. The packages are only available via Enterprise Agreement (EA).

  • App Service package ($400/core/year)
    Includes App Service, base virtual machines and Azure Storage
  • IaaS package ($144/core/year)
    Includes base virtual machines and Azure Storage

You will also need additional licenses if you deploy Windows Server and SQL Server virtual machines, like you would do if you are using your traditional Hyper-V servers.

What else will you need

  • Integrated System (hardware) – you will need to purchase the Azure Stack hardware from one of the OEM vendors
  • Support – you will need to purchase support from Microsoft for software support and a support package for the hardware from the hardware provider. If you already have Premier, Azure, or Partner support with Microsoft, your software support is included.
  • Service Providers – Service Provider can also license Azure Stack to others using the CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) channel.

Azure Stack Roadmap

At the Azure Stack GA release this summer, Microsoft will deliver hardware with provides from HPE, Dell and Lenovo. Later in 2017 Microsoft will also deliver Azure Stack with Cisco, Huawei and Avanade hardware. Azure Stack at GA will support 4-12 nodes, 1 single scale-unit and a single region.

Microsoft will also deliver some of the services at General Availability on Azure Stack, and will add more and more services over time. At GA we will see:

  • Virtual Machines
  • Storage (Blob, Table and Queue)
  • Networking (Virtual Networks, S2S VPN, …)
  • App Service (in Preview)
  • SQL (in Preview)
  • MySQL (in Preview)

After GA, Microsoft  will continuously deliver additional capabilities through frequent updates. The first round of updates after GA are focused on two areas: 1) enhanced application modernization scenarios and 2) enhanced system management and scale. These updates will continue to expand customer choice of IaaS and PaaS technologies when developing applications, as well as improve manageability and grow the footprint of Azure Stack to accommodate growing portfolios of applications. Please be reminded that this will not just be a product you purchase, think about it as a service which will add features and functionality over time.

The choice for your datacenter

Windows Azure Pack

Obviously, Microsoft is pushing Azure Stack since it will bring consistency to the Azure public cloud, which means your companies and people need to understand the advantages of using methods like DevOps and Infrastructure in code. This will help you to make the most out of Azure Stack and the Azure Resource Manager. If you already have Microsoft Azure know-how, this is great, because it will also apply to Azure Stack.

No worries, if you are not there yet, or for some reason this doesn’t make sense to you, Microsoft still has a great solution to build traditional Virtualization platforms together with automation using System Center, Windows Server and if needed Windows Azure Pack. Both solutions, System Center and Windows Azure Pack, will be supported in the future and will get updates.



MCSD Azure Solution Architect

MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect

Today I just passed the last Microsoft Azure exam for the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect. Since I focus on Microsoft technology I always try to be certified in the specific areas where I am focused. With Public and Hybrid Cloud scenarios becoming more and more important, I started to work with Microsoft Azure and other Microsoft Cloud Services such as Office 365, so it made sense to learn more about the solutions and earn the certifications. For the Azure part, Microsoft has a certification called MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect which includes three different exam:

  • 70-532 (Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions)
  • 70-533 (Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions)
  • 70-534 (Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions)

I already go 70-533 at the beginning of this year, since this was the topic I was working with for quite some time. With Developer and DevOps scenarios becoming more and more important, I decided to prepare also for 70-532, which is focused on the Developer site of Azure, and the 70-534, which is an overall architecture exam. Bringing IT Pro and Developer skills together in this Cloud focused world, makes totally sense. IT Pros will have to learn some basic developer skills to make sure they can keep up with the fast moving cloud world. I am proud the be the second certified MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect within itnetX, after Marcel Zehner. This shows our strong focus, knowledge and commitment to the Microsoft Cloud Strategy. If you want to do the exams as well, here are some recommendations:

  • Get a Microsoft Azure Subscription and start playing and testing. Btw, this is something you should have done a while ago.
  • Learn PowerShell, well I have been saying this for years now, learn PowerShell and get some knowledge on that topic, even if it’s not Azure related.
  • Install Visual Studio. Yes you will need this in the future, not just for the exams.
  • Check out the Microsoft Certification page and learn about the exams and which skills are measured. Login to Azure and start working with these topics. To be honest, it doesn’t take a lot of time to build some demos.
  • Check out the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) courses. Microsoft offers some great exam preparations and courses with several hours of video content, examples and preparation questions.
  • Check out the current Azure Portal and the new Preview Azure Portal.
  • Look out for some great blog posts with study guides for example from Keith Mayer, Anders Eide and Marius Sandbu.

With that you will not only pass the exams, you will also learn a lot about how things are going to work in the future.



Microsoft Azure Update at Build 2014

At the Build Conference 2014 Microsoft already announced a lot of new stuff for the whole Microsoft or IT ecosystem. There is absolutely no time to cover all the changes and announcements Microsoft has made in the past 2 days. So I will just focus on the things I care about.

  • Prior to the Build Conference Microsoft announced that Windows Azure will be renamed to Microsoft Azure. This will show how Microsoft is not only building on top of the Windows platform, they also have opened up for other platforms an solutions a long time ago. One example for that maybe was the announcement of supporting Oracle Software in Microsoft Azure around a year ago.
  • Mark Russinovich announced some great new changes to Microsoft Azure IaaS. You can now capture and deploy images, you can Puppet and Chef as well as PowerShell DSC support, to configure you server environment. An this is great for developers, some of the features will show up directly in Visual Studio. Microsoft also did some work on the Networking site which was really important, for example you can now change the subnet for Virtual Machines.
    Microsoft Azure Announcements
  • Microsoft also launched a lot of new preview features like Azure Cache and a lot more. What I love the most is the new Microsoft Azure feature called Azure Automation. Azure Automation allows you to automate the creation, monitoring, deployment, and maintenance of resources in your Azure environment using a highly-available workflow execution engine. Orchestrate time-consuming, error-prone, and frequently repeated tasks against Azure and third party systems to decrease time to value for your cloud operations. This is basically Service Management Automation (SMA), which was released with System Center 2012 R2 as a on premise version, now running up in Microsoft Azure. For those how haven’t heard about SMA, SMA is a new automation engine and Runbooks in Service Management Automation and Microsoft Azure Automation are Windows PowerShell workflows.
    Microsoft Azure Automation
  • Microsoft also release a new preview of the Microsoft Azure portal. Since Microsoft released a huge number of new features in Azure, the “old” management portal didn’t really fit the requirements anymore. The new Azure management portal helps you to be much more organized and is using a lot of new concept like “blades” to help you navigate through your Azure environment. The new dashboard also gives you a quick overview about the Microsoft Azure datacenters and there service status, and the new touch friendly dashboard also allows you to customize it for your need. You can check it out on portal.azure.com
    New Microsoft Azure Portal
  • I am not a developer but I was really impressed what Microsoft did for developers. They are just generating a huge numbers of new opportunities with their new platforms not only in Microsoft Azure using IaaS, mobile Services or PaaS, Microsoft also announced a new concept of Universal Apps which allows developers to write apps which run on Windows Phone, Windows and Xbox One. Some days ago Microsoft also showed the new Kinect v2 hardware which I hope developers will use to write some really cool stuff. If we have a lot back at Microsoft Azure, what I really liked about the new Portal is the  integration of Team Foundation Server or “team projects”.
    Microsoft Azure Team Projects

This are just a few of the cool new things Microsoft announced at Build 2014, there is a lot more which is definitely worth to talk about.