Microsoft Azure has been offering IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and VM (Virtual Machine) provisions for a long time. The VM provision process can be performed using the Azure Portal, the Azure CLI (Command Line Interface), PowerShell, Visual Studio, and/or by using Templates.
This article will present the Azure Portal which is based on ARM (Azure Resource Manager). Launched in 2014, this is the direction that Microsoft Azure is going. Using ARM, we have several benefits: tags, resource groups, billing capabilities based on tags, defined dependencies between resources, templates, management of your solution as a group, RBAC, and so forth. Microsoft Azure still supports classic mode; however, if you are starting now, the ARM approach is the best way to go.
Creating a VM using Azure Portal
In order to create a VM, and when we say VM we are saying any Virtual Machine available which includes the latest operating systems from Microsoft and other vendors, such as RedHat. Click on +, select Compute and the VMs available will be listed, we can always click on View All to see all of them.
The provision process varies based on the platform, but the basic settings are the same on all platforms. We are going to use Windows Server 2016 for this article.
The first page will be a welcome page introducing information about the operating system chosen in the previous step. The most important thing on this page is where we decide the Deployment method and our decision should be the Resource Manager, after that click Create.
The VM creation process consists of four (4) steps: Basics, Size, Settings, and Summary. We will go in details for each one of them, and we'll add some hints and pointers along the way that will help the administrator when creating a VM.
In the Basics section, we define the most basic settings, such as VM name, disk type (HDD/SDD), username (we can’t use administrator), password, subscription, Resource Group, and location of that VM.
A few hints you should be aware of:
- Password: be consistent with your administrator username. If you have on-premises servers, make sure that you configure a GPO to rename the administrator account to match the name that you are configuring on Microsoft Azure. By doing this, you reduce complexity, where the same name will be used across the board. Also, although Batman is a cool administrator name, 99.99% of any teenager IT guy may try that, so use something more hard to guess for your administrator account.
- Resource Group: my recommendation is to create a resource group for the service and/or environment. For example, keep all your Active Directory servers on a single Resource Group. A great selling point of a Resource Group is the ability to delegate permissions (RBAC) and provide billing reports based on tags, which helps the chargeback process, something that may be a requirement for your organization. Another benefit is removing objects: when we remove a Resource Group, all objects within are removed as well, so it is easy to keep it clean.
- Save Money: That is a new item that showed up on the service. Basically, if you have a Windows Server License with Software Assurance, you can save up to 40% on your VM.
In the Size section, we will decide on the size of the VM which includes number of cores, memory, maximum disk size, and maximum of IOPS. There are many different options available based on the region that you have selected to deploy the VM. To make things easier, there is a new search feature that allows the administrator to select the disk type, minimum memory and core, which will give you a list of all VMs that match those requirements. This way, we can select a VM quickly without browsing all of the many VMs to make a decision.
A few hints to be mindful of:
- The size of the VM may change throughout its life cycle, but it does not require a rebuild. Just change your settings and restart the VM; then, you are good to go. Of course, beyond the restart, the price will change, but that’s all that's required. We can start small see if that fits, and if not, we're easily able to upgrade on the fly and enjoy the benefits of running VMs in the Cloud with unlimited capabilities!
- Microsoft Azure charges the VM component for its running time, so you can automate the shutdown of VMs to save you time and money.
In the Settings section, the administrator has the ability to change optional features. For example, they can define the disk type (HDD or SDD), define if the disks have to be named manually or automatically (Use managed disks feature), change any network components, manage extensions (additional software to be added to the VM, such as antivirus), manage high availability through availability sets, and overall, perform general monitoring.
Some hints about the features available on this section:
- If you are not strong on managing the naming conventions of your storage information, then the managed disks can be a great feature.
- If you are using Express Route/VPN, you may want to remove Public IPs of your regular servers to increase security.
- Network Security Group (NSG) is a great security feature where we can apply on either the host or network level, and since it is a firewall, we can define anything that goes in and out of that object.
- With Monitoring, it is always interesting keep the feature on, because we can search the log using analytics, OMS and/or SCOM.
After configuring all basic settings to build the VM in the previous three steps, a validation task will be performed. We'll be able to see the results on the blue bar which will say, if everything was set up properly, Validation passed, and listed below will be all of the main settings that we defined. To confirm the creation of the new VM, click on OK and wait for the dialog box to inform that the machine was provisioned on the Notifications area.
In the upcoming articles at TechGenix, we will explore the other alternatives to provision VMs in Microsoft Azure and learn more about basic management of the VM.