Why Microsoft Azure should be on top of your learning list

Today was the opening keynote of TechEd in Houston. Regardless of what’s earlier been said about Houston there wasn’t any problems detected today. Instead Microsoft launched a number of new features in and around Azure.

So what’s been said today? And what does it mean for the IT-pro?

Bigger VM’s

A8 and A9. More CPU, more ram, faster interconnects. This allows those companies running HPC workloads or data mining to finish faster.

Azure Files

Your own SMB share in Azure. Accessible from multiple Virtual Machines simultaneously.

Microsoft SCEP and Symantec/Trend Micro partnership

Protecting your VM’s and cloud services. And not only with our products but with Symantec or Trends products. You can choose.

Network improvements

Internal Load balancing – load balancing with private IP’s

Multiple site-to-site VPN, and VNET-to-VNet connectivity.

Reserved IP’s and public IP’s for VM’s

Azure Site Recovery

Replicate your virtual machines to Azure and failover if you need to. A secondary site for EVERYONE…

Azure RemoteApp

Remote applications from Azure to your devices and computers.

And that’s not even the complete list. You can sign up for the preview features here!

So what does this mean for the IT-pro?

The landscape for the IT-pros is rapidly changing. A few years ago virtualization in-house was the frontline of IT, but those days are quickly vanishing. To stay relevant now, and in the future, a knowledge of hybrid cloud, PowerShell and people centric IT (as it’s called) will be needed. The business side of many companies are buying cloud services today, it might be projektplace or salesforce but the step to getting their own VM isn’t that big. If you can’t deliver services from IT as cheap and rapidly as cloud services can do it it’s time to start thinking about how to solve that problem.

If someone had told me 10 years ago, or 20 years ago when I started in this industry that I’d deploy servers on the internet through a web page I would’ve laughed.

Today I can deploy 50 servers in less than 15 minutes with 5 lines of PowerShell.

How are you going to stay ahead of the game?

Azure Automation – Using the assets

After yesterdays post about getting started I’ve gotten some questions about the assets library. Thought I’d explain how to use some of the assets (or at least how I’ve figured it out I’d say, might be totally off but at least it works)…

Looking at the assets library we have a “Connection”-object containing our subscription ID. This could be an ID to another subscription, might be useful for IT to deploy services to a developers subscription or something like that.

We also have a “Certificate”-object where we also uploaded the corresponding certificate to our collection of management certificates in Azure, this needs to be done on the right subscription then if you’re managing multiple ones, keep that in mind…

Automation assets






<# .DESCRIPTION .NOTES Author: Joachim Nässlander, TSP Datacenter, Microsoft #>

workflow Start_Azure_Demo_VM

$MyConnection = “Internal Subscription Connection” # <— The name of your Connection object in assets
$MyCert = “InternalSubscriptionCertificate” # <— The name of your Certificate object in assets

# Get the Azure Automation Connection
$Con = Get-AutomationConnection -Name $MyConnection # <— Connect to your subscription
$SubscriptionID = $Con.SubscriptionID
$ManagementCertificate = $Con.AutomationCertificateName
$Cert = Get-AutomationCertificate -Name $Con.AutomationCertificateName # <— Get the certificate from assets

write-output “Subscription ID: $SubscriptionID”

write-output “Certificate Name: $Con.AutomationCertificateName”



And since this is the internet. How are you using Azure Automation and the assets library, feel free to comment!

Have a nice weekend, and don’t miss The Fratellis to keep you company over a beer!

Getting started with Azure Automation

Azure automation is currently in preview so you might not see it in your portal if you haven’t enrolled already. You can enroll for Azure Automation at http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/preview/and also find all other services currently in preview. It’s a good place to frequently check out, fun things emerge here!

So what is Azure Automation? Well, it’s the ability to run PowerShell workflow scripts from Azure, targeted at your Azure resources.

Once you’re enrolled into the preview program you can create your first automation account. An account can be seen as a container that you can fill with runbooks and assets needed by the runbooks. An asset can be for example a certificate allowing you to connect to your (or another) Azure subscription.


Automation dashboardThe overview over your runbooks looks like this. It’ll show you the number of runbooks, number of activites,  number of minutes you’ve ran your scripts and a whole lot more.








Now that you’re enrolled you might want to quickly just test it out, personally I love just getting a feel for things before diving into documenation. You can find example scripts and a how-to at http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/automation-create-runbook-from-samples/. One thing to note when creating your runbook is that your scripts name in the portal need to correspond to your workflow name. Ie if your workflow is named “Join-Servers-Domain” your runbook must be named the same.


Automation runbooks overviewLooking more at the portal, if you click “runbooks” up top, you can see your runbooks listed with their latest run time and status. This gives you a quick overview without having to look at each runbook individually.




Detailed view of runbook

Selecting one specific runbook gives you a chart over how it has ran over the some periods of time. Here you can also drill down into each script run and view script output and any input parameters.






Published runbookClicking on “author” while in detailed view takes you to the published version of the script. Here you can view your script and start it manually if you want to.






Runbook draftIf you opt for “draft” instead you’ll be able to edit your script and insert things from your assets library or other runbooks, allowing for runbooks to interact with each other. Here you can also test your runbook before publishing it.






Automation assetsThe assets library contains building blocks needed for your scripts to function properly. And it’ll make it easier for you to develop scripts for multiple subscriptions too.

In my example we have:

  • Connection to a subscription
  • A certificate which allows us to connect to this subscription (find a guide for that here)
  • PowerShell credentials so we don’t have to enter username/password each time
  • A module containing PowerShell cmdlets



You can read more about getting started with PowerShell workflows at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj134242.aspx.