Tag Archives: Azure

End User Enrollment Guide for Microsoft Intune

Update 6/25/2015:  URL to the enrollment guide has changed.

Microsoft just released the Microsoft Intune End User Enrollment Guide to help IT show the value of protecting data to end users.

This two-page document is for IT to provide to users to explain the importance of protecting corporate data, as well as their own, by letting their IT department manage their devices.

The document explains what may happen on their devices (installation of apps, security policies applied, etc.) and what will NOT happen on their devices (collecting personal information like phone and browsing records, tracking location, etc.).

This guide is completely customizable by you, so you can change the text as well as the branding, and add your own IT information to it.

The End User Enrollment Guide comes in Word .DOCX, Adobe PDF, and Adobe InDesign file formats for convenience, and can be downloaded here.

Datacenter Extension Reference Architecture for Microsoft Azure

Getting started with Microsoft Azure is a simple process.  By signing up for a trial account, using your MSDN benefits, or adding Azure to your existing enterprise agreement, you can quickly get started building out solutions.

Signing up and creating a few resources is a simple process, but really using Azure to benefit your organization may take a bit more planning.  To help with this planning Microsoft has released a reference architecture that can be used to help organizations understand how to extend their existing datacenter capabilities with Microsoft Azure.

This interactive diagram illustrates how an organization can extend its on-premises datacenter to Microsoft Azure. Hovering your mouse over most objects in the diagram will provide additional details about the object. Clicking many of them will open a relevant detailed article.

A companion video is also available to help you better understand how to utilize the reference architecture diagram.

The Datacenter Extension Reference Architecture can be found here:  http://aka.ms/derad

 

395 State and Local Government Agencies use Microsoft Azure

Frequently when speaking with customers about Microsoft Azure I am asked what other U.S. government agencies are using Azure, Office 365, or Dynamics.

To help answer this question, Microsoft has created an interactive map that provides statistics and general information about solutions that have been deployed by government agencies in the Microsoft cloud.   Check out the map here.

A few interesting stats:

  • 150 U.S. federal agencies and 395 state and local government agencies use Microsoft Azure
  • 629 U.S. federal agencies and 3,866 state and local government agencies use Microsoft Office 365
  • 175 U.S. federal agencies and 82 state and local government agencies use Dynamics CRM Online

Free Azure Webcasts for Government

The Microsoft State and Local Government team has been putting on live webcasts every two weeks for the past few months.  These webcasts have covered topics such as Enterprise Mobility Suite,  Disaster Recovery, and Azure Site Recovery.

On April 9th at 2:30PM Central time the next webcast titled Single Sign-On with Microsoft Azure will be delivered by Mark Ghazai and Julian Soh.

Join Mark and Julian for a one hour webcast where they will tackle the topic of Single Sign-On with Microsoft Azure. During this webcast Mark and Julian will discuss how organizations can utilize Azure Active Directory, Active Directory Federation Services and other solutions to enable great sign-on experiences to a wide range of applications for your users.   A combination of discussion, whiteboards, and live demos will cover topics such as:

  • What is Azure Active Directory and Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS)
  • Benefits of running AD FS in Microsoft Azure
  • Example AD FS architectures
  • Overview of Microsoft Identity Manager
  • Demonstration of Microsoft Azure Active Directory Connector
  • How to estimate costs for implementing a single sign-on solution

 Register soon.    Limited spots are available.

If you are not a government employee or if you cannot make this event, you can view our on-demand recordings of past events:

Azure Site Recovery Technical Deep Dive
Presented on: 3/25/2015
Watch On-Demand
Download Presentation

Hybrid Cloud Storage (StorSimple)
Presented on: 3/10/2015
Watch On-Demand
Download Presentation

Microsoft Azure Government Overview
Presented on: 2/27/2015
Watch On-Demand
Download Presentation

Azure Disaster Recovery Solutions
Presented on: 1/27/2015
Watch On-Demand
Download Presentation

Enterprise Mobility Suite
Presented on: 12/3/2014
Watch On-Demand
Download Presentation

 

Microsoft Azure Government is now CJIS-compliant for California

Microsoft Azure Government is now CJIS-compliant for all California state, county, and city law enforcement agencies. This development builds on the 2013 agreement that established Office 365 as CJIS-compliant. California is one of 11 states that has signed a CJIS agreement with Microsoft, signifying the company’s commitment and leadership in helping governments transition to the cloud.

Read more here

Free Azure Webcasts for US Government Customers

Over the past few months I have been hosting a free 1 hour Azure webcast to help educate U.S. government employees on the features and functionality available in the Microsoft Azure cloud.   Past events included an overview of the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility suite and Azure Disaster Recovery Solutions.   Going forward I am working with Azure specialists across the U.S. to provide more great webcast events.  Below are two of the upcoming events currently scheduled:

Microsoft Azure Government Overview
Presented by Steve Read
‎2‎/‎27‎/‎2015 ‎3‎:‎00‎:‎00‎ ‎PM Eastern Standard Time
Duration: 60 minutes
Download Calendar Reminder (ICS)
Download the Event Invite

Microsoft StorSimple
Presented by Asif Khan
‎3‎/‎10‎/‎2015 ‎2‎:‎00‎:‎00‎ ‎PM Eastern Daylight Time
Duration: 60 minutes
Download Calendar Reminder (ICS)
Download the Event Invite

If you are an employee from a Federal, State, Local or Tribal government organization in the United States you are welcome to register for these free webcasts at http://slgevents.azurewebsites.net.  We do have a cap of about 200 registrants per webcast so make sure you register early to ensure your spot!   I also recommend that you keep an eye on this website as we plan to keep adding great webcasts in the future.

If you are not a U.S. government employee you can view prior webcasts which are posted on the website listed above.  I have also linked the last two webcast recordings below.

Enterprise Mobility Suite
Disaster Recovery Solutions

I am currently in the planning stages for future webcasts.  Below are a few ideas I have, however, if you have any additional thoughts for content, please reach out to me using the contact link located on the SLG Events website.

  • Azure Media Services
  • Azure Site Recovery deep dive
  • Hybrid Datacenter

Using Storage Spaces in Microsoft Azure for Increased Storage Performance

With the release of Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8.0 a new storage technology was made available called Storage Spaces.  This technology enables a virtualized storage platform that can group standard disks into storage pools.  By using the capacity in the pool, one or more virtual drives called storage spaces can be created. Storage Spaces can provide many features such as resiliency, storage tiers, write-back cache and continuous availability. 

By utilizing Storage Spaces in a Windows Server 2012 (or higher) VM hosted in Azure you can overcome some of the perceived limitations of Azure storage.   Virtual hard drives (VHD) are stored in Microsoft Azure storage as page blobs which have a maximum size of 1TB.   For basic tier virtual machines you can expect storage performance of 300 IOPS per VHD.  For standard tier virtual machines the storage performance increases to 500 IOPS per VHD.   If you take these limitations at face value it would appear that there may be some workloads that could not be deployed in an Azure virtual machine.  One such example would be a SQL data warehouse.

I mentioned that these are perceived limitations and this is because there are ways to combine VHDs with Storage Spaces to provide higher IOPS and more capacity.    The total number of VHDs that a single Windows Azure virtual machine can attach is determined by the size of the virtual machine.  For example, a standard tier A3 (large) virtual machine can have up to 8 persistent 1TB data VHDs.   All virtual machines have a 127GB disk configured for the operating system.  

With Storage Spaces we can combine all of the virtual machine data disks into a single virtual drive where data is striped across all disks.  This configuration does take a little bit of storage overhead, so although in our A3 example we could have up to 8TB of storage, the actual usable amount will be slightly less.  This striping process can also increase our IOPS from 500 for a single disk to a maximum of (8*500) or 4,000 IOPS for the A3 virtual machine.   Actual performance will vary depending on the Storage Space configuration and workloads running on the virtual drive.

For maximum performance it is recommended:

  • Ensure that resiliency is not configured for the Storage Space virtual drive
  • Configure the number of columns for Storage Space equal to the number of drives (VHDs) in the pool
  • Configure the interleave value at least as large as the I/Os of your workload.  I/Os that exceed the interleave are split into multiple stripes, which require multiple writes.   For details on this I recommend reading the Block Size and Interleave section of this article on designing Storage Spaces for performance.

In the Script Gallery hosted by Microsoft there is a demonstration PowerShell script that shows how to build out a Microsoft Azure virtual machine using Storage Spaces.  This script will build out a new virtual machine with the maximum number of data disks based on a select virtual machine size.  Once the virtual machine is built, a remote PowerShell script is started that configures Storage Spaces to provide the highest storage performance currently available for that VM size.

I recommend reviewing the script and performing your own performance tests.  By properly configuring Storage Spaces on the right sized VM you can achieve very high IOPS while also providing up to approximately 64TB of storage (based on standard G5 VM).

 

References

Storage spaces overview
Virtual Machine and Cloud Service Sizes for Azure
Azure Subscription Storage Limits
Script Center – Azure
Automate the creation of an Azure VM preconfigured for max storage performance

Getting Started with PowerShell for Azure Government

Recently Microsoft announced two new datacenters that are dedicated to U.S. government customers only.  This includes Federal, State, Local, and Tribal governments and their solution providers.  Benefits of this Government Community Cloud are:

  • Physically isolated datacenter and network
  • Data, applications, and hardware reside in the continental United States
  • Provides true geographic redundancy with datacenters located more than 500 miles apart
  • Operated by screen U.S. persons
  • Committed to meeting rigorous compliance requirements and government policies

To learn more about the Microsoft Azure Government cloud check out the latest information on the Microsoft Azure Government website.

Since the Azure Government cloud is physically isolated, there are a few additional steps that must be completed in order to connect with Microsoft Azure PowerShell:

  • add-AzureEnvironment -name “AzureGovernment” -PublishSettingsFileUrl “https://manage.windowsazure.us/publishsettings/index?client=xplat” -serviceendpoint “https://management.core.usgovcloudapi.net” -managementportalurl “http://manage.windowsazure.us” -StorageEndpoint “core.usgovcloudapi.net”
  • Set-AzureEnvironment “AzureGovernment”

Once the PowerShell environment has been setup the next step is to use the Import-AzurePublishSettingsFile cmdlet to import the settings file you saved in the first step.   After the PublishSettings file has been imported you can use the standard Azure PowerShell cmdlets to manage your Microsoft Azure Government subscription.

If you need to revert back to the Microsoft Azure public cloud you can use the command Remove-AzureEnvironment “AzureGovernment” in Microsoft Azure PowerShell.

Fixing RDP Connectivity Issue with a Windows VM in Azure

When making system changes to a Windows virtual machine running in Azure it is possible to accidentally block RDP access.  This could happen in a number of ways:

  • Making changes to Windows Firewall
  • Changes made to the registry
  • Turning off Remote Desktop

To regain RDP connectivity to your virtual machine you can use the PowerShell Set-AzureVMAccessExtension cmdlet.   Below is a sample script that shows how to use the cmdlet.  Replace the VM name and the cloud service name with the appropriate values for your environment.

Add-AzureAccount
Get-AzureVM –Name MyVM –ServiceName MyVMService |Set-AzureVMAccessExtension | Update-AzureVM

Once you have run the script, use the Azure Management portal to reboot the virtual machine.  Once it has restarted you should be able to use Remote Desktop to connect.

To learn more about the VM extensions check out the blog post VM Agent and Extensions – Part 1

Disaster Recovery Solutions

It is never a question of if an outage or disaster will strike your datacenter, but instead when will it occur and will you be prepared. In 2014 the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council released their annual report on their Disaster Recovery Preparedness Benchmark Survey.  This reported provided a very scary statistic that nearly 3 out of every 4 organizations that participated in the survey are at risk of failing to recover from a disaster or an outage.    The study also indicated that “More than 60% of those who took the survey do not have a fully documented DR plan and another 40% admitted that the DR plan they current have did not prove very useful when it was called on to respond to their worst disaster recovery event or scenario.”

To address some of these concerns I have created a webcast video that outlines some of the possible solutions to enable organizations to meet their disaster recovery objectives.   You can view this webcast on YouTube using the link below:

Disaster Recovery Solutions

This webcast provides a general overview of cloud based Disaster Recovery solutions including:

  • Microsoft Azure Backup
  • Microsoft Azure Site Recovery
  • Microsoft StorSimple

Microsoft also has a great series of videos related to Microsoft Business Continuity solutions available on the Microsoft Virtual Academy website.