Inside Microsoft Azure
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Inside Microsoft Azure



A Web architect who doesn't usually use Microsoft technologies explains Microsoft's cloud offering, Azure, in terms that hopefully other UNIX/open source people will understand.

A Web architect who doesn't usually use Microsoft technologies explains Microsoft's cloud offering, Azure, in terms that hopefully other UNIX/open source people will understand.



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    Inside Microsoft Azure Inside Microsoft Azure Presentation Transcript

    • National InstrumentsConfidential
    • Inside Microsoft Azure
      Ernest Mueller
      Web Systems Architect
    • Why Azure?
    • You’ve Sold Your Soul
    • It’s PaaS, not IaaS
    • Is That Better?
    • What Is Azure?
    • It’s Magic Fairy Dust
      You don’t have to worry about the servers!
      You just deploy your code!
      You don’t need ops!
      You don’t need provisioning or monitoring or anything, Azure “does it all for you!”
      Just right click in Visual Studio and you’re all cloudy! Update your resume!
    • Cold Iron Truth
      Of course, that’s all BS if you want to do much “real.”
      But speaking as a open source/Linux/Java sysadmin of 18 years experience who has been known to say “Microsoft is the devil” – Azure is actually pretty good.
      And it’s even easy to understand, once you dismiss the notion that it’s all “PaaS pixie dust” – it’s more like an IaaS offering with some cool additional facilities.
      Allow me to explain in sysadmin straight-talk terms. Many of you know AWS so I’ll compare to it some.
    • Azure Compute
      In your “hosted service,” you define tiers called “roles” instead of individual boxes; you then specify how many “instances” (VMs) run per role.
      There are three types of roles:
      Web Role: Win2k8 VM with IIS on it
      Worker Role: Win2k8 VM without IIS on it
      VM Role: uploaded Hyper-V VM with Win2k3-8 image of your choice – with some limitations
    • Azure Instance Sizing
      Extra Small - 1x1 GHz, 768 MB RAM, 20 GB disk, $0.05/instance-hour
      Small - 1x1.6 GHz, 1.75 GB RAM, 225 GB disk $0.12/instance-hour
      Medium – 2x1.6 GHz, 3.5 GB RAM, 490 GB disk, $0.24/instance-hour
      Large – 4x1.6 GHz, 7.0 GB RAM, 1000 GB disk, $0.48/instance-hour
      Extra Large- 8x1.6 GHz, 14 GB RAM, 2040 GB disk, $0.96/instance-hour
      Note that these match Amazon EC2 Windows instance specs and costs closely
      But what about the details, you ask?
    • Role B
      Count: 2
      Update Domains: 2
      Fault Domains: 2
      Size: Medium
      Role A
      Count: 3
      Update Domains: 2
      Fault Domains: 3
      Size: Large
      Fault Domain 2
      Fault Domain 1
      Fault Domain 3
    • The Secret Sauce
      It’s model driven automation from XML config files – see demo
      The Azure Fabric checks instance health, balances stuff, controls upgrades. You can hook it for events like “RoleChanging”.
      Managed deployment and upgrades
      Local compute and storage emulator (that’s a killer feature!) and Visual Studio integration
      And you can do everything via REST and/or command line!!!
    • Deployment
      You (or VS) runs cspack.exe which creates a .cspkg package (just a .zip file) and your .cscfgconfig file (just XML)
      It uploads it to storage and then you can do an in place update (rolling through upgrade domains) or a “VIP swap” of staging to production
    • Demo
      WARNING! I am not a .NET programmer and use Windows Server only when forced to by software requirements.
      But I can still do this!
      If you have deep Microsoft-type questions, though, “I don’t know.” Sorry!
    • Important Lessons - Compute
      Do not use local instance storage for ANYTHING important. It is ephemeral and role instances may be stopped and started at any time by Azure to move them around.
      Functional role limitations reduced (running in admin mode, installing using registry, full IIS, startup tasks now allowed)
      There is a limit of five kinds of role in a hosted service. Use multiple hosted services for complex architectures.
      Your app’s directory is READ ONLY when deployed/running.
      Fault domains and upgrade domains are largely Azure managed, you can say “how many upgrade domains.”
    • Azure Storage
      It’s all REST access, or APIs wrapping REST
      One “storage account” has a 100 TB limit
      Blobs – you know, files, like S3. Only one writer at a time but you can make read-only copies.
      Page blob – optimized for streaming, up to 1 TB
      Block blob – optimized for random access, up to 200 GB
      Queues – you can put 8 KB XML messages in them.
      Drives – a page blob mounted as a NTFS drive
    • More Storage
      Tables – noSQL style tables, arbitrary fields, partition and row keys for addressing. 1 MB entities with up to 255 properties each. Super scalable.
      SQL Azure- like SQL Server 2008 in Azure, with limitations of course. 50 GB max database size. No transaction log you can get to.
    • Important Lessons - Storage
      SQL Azure – no transaction cost, pay by size ($9.99/GB)
      Azure Tables/Blobs/etc – pay by size ($0.15/GB) and per transaction ($0.01/10k), looking funny at it is a transaction
      Azure Queues – “you probably don’t want to use them, use SQL Azure.” No guarantees against multiple readers getting the same message.
      Use a distributed caching midtier for dynamic persistence like memcachedor Velocity (Azure AppFabric cache).
      Azure Sync the new direction for replication/DR
    • Important Lessons - Networking
      Under the covers it’s F5 load balancers.
      Each role has a limit of 5 public or internal “endpoints” (VIPs) you define in the .csdef file.
      Azure Service Bus allows some pub-sub
      Azure Connect is a new agent-based VPN node connect option, can connect on premise to Azure… kinda
      You can Remote Desktop to instances now too
      You can query the Azure Fabric to get addresses of other instances for peer to peer connection
    • Important Lessons - Operations
      Azure does not “autoscale.” It will scale, when you insert the integer number of VMs you want.
      The fabric monitors the instances at a very low level and the “Azure Diagnostics API” just dumps perfmon/log data to storage – it’s up to you to monitor apps and interpret the data (there’s a SCOM plugin for Azure now)
      Cumulux = RightScale for Azure, look them up
    • Using Azure Right
      The Azure architecture is specifically optimized for doing things “its way.” “Its way” is luckily arguably the “right way.” Ideally you are writing .NET code that has
      asynchronous processes (event-driven design)
      idempotent operations (handle duplicity)
      de-normalized, partitioned data (sharding)
      shared nothing architecture
      fault-tolerance by redundancy and replication
    • Using Azure Right
      You can run tomcat, memcached, and mySQL on it – “but you may not want to”
      You can install more legacy Windows apps now with their newest release – but there are still a lot of limitations, and the cuter your app tries to be with low level stuff, the less likely it’ll work in Azure
    • Why Azure Is Cool To An Old Crusty UNIX Guy
      The XML config/definition and Azure Fabric – anyone remember PIE? We implemented these concepts for our Amazon apps because they are so necessary.
      The staging/production VIP swap thing makes for easy continuous integration.
      Almost everything can be command lined/REST APIed so you can integrate with your existing tools.
    • Azure Resources
      Make sure and get all the “Azure stuff” – it’s a long and painful list of installs.
      Windows Azure Platform Training Kit is great
      Azure boot camps -
      Ryan Dunn’s blog -
      Cerebratatools -
      Codeplex stuff like Azure Storage Explorer
    • Azure Resources
      You can get some free Azure in a number of ways – MSDN comes with a minimal entitlement 30 day pass for startups for web design firms for HS/college students
      Talk to your Microsoft rep – they offer MTC visits and “TAP/Metro” early access programs