Category Archives: Microsoft Azure

Enterprise Mobility Suite Overview

Earlier this month I did a one hour webcast for the Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite which you can now view using the link below.  The suite is a collection of three products offered at a very affordable price: Microsoft Intune, Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium, and Microsoft Azure Rights Management service.  The Enterprise Mobility Suite enables organizations to manage devices, protect data, and empower users through self service identity features.

Click here to view the presentation

Azure Backup for Windows Client Operating Systems

Microsoft Azure Backup provides a simple and reliable cloud based folder and file backup solution.  The initial releases of Azure Backup supported Windows Server operating systems but with the newest update the Windows client operating systems are now supported.  Users of  Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 PCs can now use the simple Azure Backup agent to protect their important files.  

Microsoft Azure Backup provides the first 5GB of backup for free and each additional GB is only $0.20 per month (retail pricing).    Microsoft Azure Backup includes all of the features you would expect from a file backup solution, including:

  • 99.9% availability guaranteed
  • Efficient incremental backups
  • Secure, encrypted data at rest
  • Data encryption in-transit
  • Geo-replicated backup store

To get started with Microsoft Azure Backup you need an Azure Subscription.  To get a free trial or to learn more, visit http://azure.microsoft.com

Additional details on the recent changes to Microsoft Azure Backup can be found here.

Free Event: Azure IaaS for IT Pros

Join Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Chief Technology Officer, Azure, as he kicks off a week of Azure training for IT Professionals.  Over the course of four days, members of Azure Engineering deep dive into the technologies critical for IT Pro Implementers, like you, to help better understand and build your foundational cloud skills.  Experts will share their deep technical insights on these topics which will also prepare you to  take Exam 70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions for Microsoft Azure Specialist Certification. 

Topics include:

  • Day 1:  Establish the Foundation: Core IaaS Infrastructure Technical Fundamentals
  • Day 2:  Dive Deep into Networking, Storage and Disaster Recovery Scenarios
  • Day 3:  Embrace Open Source Technologies (Chef and Puppet Configurations, Containerization with Docker, and Linux) to Accelerate and Scale Solutions.
  • Day 4:  Optimize Windows Workload Architecture and Administration Capabilities Within Azure

Register through Microsoft Virtual Academy to receive reminder mails for this event and to obtain details for receiving a voucher for 50 percent off the exam price if taken by January 31st.

Live Event Details
December 1–4, 2014
9am–1pm PST

What: Fast-paced live virtual session
Cost: Free
Audience: IT Pros, generalists, implementers, and others working with virtualization technologies
Prerequisites: None

Register Now!

 

Try Azure Machine Learning for Free

On November 5th at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Summit an announcement was made that anyone can try out Microsoft Azure Machine Learning for free.

Microsoft Azure Machine Learning is a fully managed cloud service for building predictive analytic solutions.   Azure Machine Learning brings a series of best in class algorithms which have been proven through Microsoft properties such as Xbox and Bing.   A simple drag and drop interface along with quick deployment makes getting started with Azure Machine learning very easy.

To get started you only need a Microsoft Account.  No credit card or Azure subscription is required.   Try it out today!

Microsoft has built a few examples using Microsoft Azure Machine Learning:

Free Azure Conference

On October 21st, 2014, Microsoft will be hosting AzureConf, another free event for the Azure community. This event will feature a keynote presentation by Scott Guthrie, along with numerous sessions executed by Azure community members. Streamed live for an online audience on Channel 9, the event will allow you to see how developers just like you are using Azure to develop robust, scalable applications on Azure. Community members from all over the world will join known speakers such as Michael Collier, Mike Martin, Rick Garibay, and Chris Auld in the Channel 9 studios to present their own inventions and experiences. Whether you’re just learning Microsoft Azure or you’ve already achieved success on the platform, you won’t want to miss this special event.

The live event is over.  To view recordings of the event, visit: https://www.azureconf.net/

Government Solutions on Azure

Microsoft Azure provides platform as a service, infrastructure as a service, and packaged service solutions.  Below are a few examples of government solutions that can be built or utilized on Microsoft Azure.

Server Backups
A key function of any IT department is ensuring that all important systems are backed up in case of a system failure, accidental file deletion, file corruption, or a virus outbreak.  The concept of backups is very simple, however, putting a good solution in place can be challenging.  Many organizations will backup their systems to tape and then ship those tapes offsite for storage.  Unfortunately tape backup solutions are expensive and sometimes unreliable.  Recovering from tape is a very slow and time consuming process.  Worse yet, you never known for certain if you can recover files from the tape until an emergency arises.

Microsoft Azure provides an online backup solution that easily integrates into Windows Server or Microsoft Data Protection Manager.  With Microsoft Azure Backup you can be confident that your data can be quickly and easily accessed when you need it.  Microsoft Azure Backup ensures that your data is stored with 3 copies across fault zones inside of a Microsoft datacenter.  An organization can also choose geographically redundant storage where and additional 3 copies of the data is stored in a Microsoft datacenter hundreds of miles away.

Built directly into Microsoft SQL Server 2012 and higher is the ability to backup SQL databases directly to Microsoft Azure.   In the case of a major datacenter failure, the SQL databases can be mounted to a SQL database server running as a virtual machine in Azure.

The benefit of moving to Microsoft Azure for backup services is that your files and data are always available online for immediate recovery.  No longer will an organization need to wait for off-site tapes to be shipped back before recovery.  Unlike tapes, you can recover an individual file or database  without having to restore a complete backup set.  Also Microsoft Azure Backup encrypts your data prior to sending it to the Microsoft datacenter for storage.  With up to 6 copies of your data in geographically redundant datacenters you can be confident that your data will be available when you need it.

To learn more about Microsoft Azure Backup visit: http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/backup/

To learn more about SQL Server backup to Azure visit: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj919148.aspx

Disaster Recovery
Always a hot topic with organizations is disaster recovery.  They key is to identify what types of situations are considered a disaster for your organization.  A disaster could be a natural disaster, a datacenter disaster, a virus outbreak, or simply a deleted file. Each of these disasters would have a different plan of action based upon the needs of the organization.

As discussed in the previous section, Microsoft Azure Backup can help protect important files.  Taking this concept one step further we need to not only protect files, but also complete systems.  Microsoft Azure Site Recovery (ASR) enables organizations to protect important applications by coordinating replication and recovery of private clouds.  ASR enables you to define orchestrated recovery plans so you can be confident your systems will properly failover to your DR site.   Currently in preview, ASR also allows you to replicate your systems directly to Azure and then failover to the Microsoft datacenter when a disaster strikes.   ASR also enables quick and simple site recovery testing to ensure your DR plans will function as expected during a real disaster scenario.

During a natural disaster a government organization may need to communicate with the public quickly and reliably.   These situations can causes a significant increase in traffic to a governments website which could easily overwhelm the servers and Internet connection.  Worse yet, if the organizations datacenter is impacted by the natural disaster any communication web sites could be knocked offline.  

Microsoft Azure Websites can enable a government organization to host a disaster preparedness and communication website very economically.  During a natural disaster the website can easily scale up to meet any demand. 

To learn more about Microsoft Azure Site Recovery visit: http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/site-recovery/

To learn more about Microsoft Azure Websites visit: http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/websites/ 

Cloud Identity
The proliferation of software as a service applications (SaaS) within an organization can introduce challenges for the IT department.  In some cases the IT department may not even be aware of some of the SaaS applications that have been purchases and are being used by other departments with the organization.  This is sometimes called shadow IT.

To help IT better identify and manage SaaS applications, Microsoft Azure provides a solution called Cloud App Discovery.  This solution enables the IT department to discover all of the cloud apps that are being used within their organization and how frequently they are being used.   Once the IT department understands the collected information they can begin to create plans to support the services and to protect organizational data.

Organizations that are using SaaS applications face a challenge of managing identity.   This might include creating accounts in the SaaS application or managing password resets.  With Microsoft Azure Active Directory an organization has a comprehensive identity and access management cloud solution that provides a robust set of capabilities to manage users and groups and help secure access to applications.   Enabling single sign-on to a SaaS application can simplify user access to thousands of cloud applications supported by Microsoft Azure.

Included with Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium is Azure Multi-Factor Authentication.  This solution prevents unauthorized access to both on-premises and cloud applications by providing an additional layer of authentication via a mobile app or phone.

To learn more about Cloud App Discovery visit: http://appdiscovery.azure.com/

To learn more about Azure Active Directory visit: http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/active-directory/ 

Information Protection
Information protection becomes more important as organizations start to utilize SaaS applications.  As cloud services usage increases there is an ever greater chance that sensitive data could be accidentally or maliciously disclosed to unintended recipients.  Using access control lists on SaaS solutions is not enough to protect sensitive content.  

Microsoft Azure Rights Management (RMS) solution included with the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite enables organizations to protect sensitive emails and files from being inappropriately shared.  If a file that is protected with RMS is leaked, an organization can be confident that the information cannot be accessed by unauthorized people.

To learn more about Microsoft Azure Rights Management and the Enterprise Mobility Suite visit: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/products/enterprise-mobility-suite/ 

File Servers and Archive Storage
One constant in the world of IT is that storage requirements always increase.  A study by IDC shows that year over year organizations are seeing data growth in the range of 50%-60%.

storage

As seen in the graph above, only a small subset of the overall stored data is considered the working set.  This is the set of files that are used on a frequent basis.  Everything else above the green line to the blue line is data that is being kept for compliance or archiving purposes only.

Not only are organizations storing more and more data locally, they are being challenged with backup and disaster recovery solutions.  The cost of tape backups and offsite storage continues to increase while budgets are being tightened. This is why organizations are looking at cloud based storage solutions to address their growing data problem. A study by Forrester shows that local SAN storage costs 4x that of cloud storage. 

Microsoft Azure provides multiple storage options to meet an organizations needs such as:

  • Azure Backup for Windows Server or SQL Server
  • Blob storage for custom applications
  • StorSimple – A hardware appliance for storage, archiving and disaster recovery

Earlier in this post I discussed how Azure Backup can be utilized for disaster recovery scenarios.  Blob storage is a platform as a service feature accessed via REST APIs that developers can use for storing files for their custom applications.   The solution I find most interesting for file storage and archiving is StorSimple.

StorSimple is a hardware device that combines the data management functions of primary storage, backup, archive and disaster recovery with seamless Microsoft Azure integration.  The StorSimple appliance uses Microsoft Azure as an automated storage tier, offloading capacity management burdens and ongoing capital costs, while providing enterprise-grade local performance for the working data set.  Using local and cloud snapshots, application-consistent backups complete in a fraction of the time needed by traditional backup systems while reducing the amount of data transferred and stored in the cloud.   Cloud and location independent disaster recovery allows organizations to recover their data from virtually any location with an internet connection, and test their DR plans without impacting production systems and applications.  Thin restore from data in the cloud enables users to resume operations after a disaster much faster than possible with physical tape, or cloud-base tape methods used with other cloud providers.

To learn more about StorSimple visit: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/products/storsimple/explore.aspx

Get the free eBook Rethinking Enterprise Storage: A Hybrid Cloud Model from here: http://blog.mikehacker.net/free-e-books/