Getting Started With Azure Pack (Part 1)

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:


A couple of years ago I wrote a rather long article series for this site in which I explained how to use System Center to create a private cloud. Of course technology changes with time and some of the concepts that I discussed in that article series are no longer the preferred way of doing things. One of the big changes that has come about since the time that the article series was written is that Microsoft Azure Pack is now the preferred interface for private cloud environments. In this article series, I want to show you how to perform a basic Windows Azure Pack deployment and how to use Windows Azure Pack in an IaaS environment. Later on, I will be discussing the components that make up Windows Azure Pack and the prerequisites to using it. Eventually, I will show you how to deploy Windows Azure Pack in your own environment.

What is the Windows Azure Pack?

Before I get started, I want to take a moment and discuss what the Windows Azure Pack really is. There is a lot of misleading information on the Internet, so I think that it makes sense to take a moment and explain what the Windows Azure Pack is and how it can be of benefit to you.

Let me start out by saying that the Windows Azure Pack is modular and has a lot of built-in capabilities. For the purposes of this article series, I am going to treat the Windows Azure Pack as a web front end to System Center Virtual Machine Manager.

Normally administrators work with System Center Virtual Machine Manager by using the Virtual Machine Manager console. This remains a valid option even after the Windows Azure Pack is installed. The Windows Azure Pack is really nothing more than a web interface.

So what is the benefit to installing the Windows Azure Pack? If you have ever used Microsoft Azure you know that its interface is very different from that of System Center. The Windows Azure Pack is designed to make your local System Center deployment look and feel like Microsoft Azure. The idea behind this is that you can have a consistent management experience regardless of whether you are working in the local data center or in the public cloud.

Needless to say, this particular benefit might not be all that appealing to organizations that do not use Microsoft Azure. If you have gotten used to the System Center management tools, you’re probably not too anxious to stop using those tools in favor of a new management interface that might be completely unfamiliar. However, there is another benefit to deploying the Windows Azure Pack.

The secondary benefit that I’m going to be talking about throughout this article series is that the Windows Azure Pack can be used as a tenant interface. Suppose for a moment that you want to authorize certain users to be able to create virtual machines. System Center Virtual Machine Manager can be configured to act as a private cloud and to provide self-service capabilities. However, self-service users (which are commonly referred to as tenants) need a way to access the resources that are available to them. You typically would not want to give a tenant access to the Virtual Machine Manager console. The Windows Azure Pack makes a great alternative because it allows you to create a tenant environment that gives authorized users all of the tools that they need, and nothing that they shouldn’t have access to, all within a web portal.

I’m actually oversimplifying the benefits and capabilities of the Windows Azure Pack, but for the purposes of this article series I want to focus on using the Windows Azure Pack as a self-service portal and as an administrative tool in private cloud environments.

The Required Components

The first thing that you need to understand about Windows Azure Pack is that it is made up of a collection of components. Some of these components are required in order for Azure Pack to function. Other components are optional. The required components provide basic functionality, and the optional components provide specific services within Windows Azure Pack. For example, in a private cloud environment you would need to use an optional component called Virtual Machines because that is the component that provides the virtual machine template gallery, virtual networking capabilities, and other IaaS capabilities.

So let’s begin by talking about the required components. The first component that is required is the Service Management API. The Service Management API is actually a collection of APIs that can be installed collectively. One of the APIs in this collection is the Windows Azure Pack Tenant API, which is the piece that lets tenants configure and manage the cloud services that have been made available to them. Similarly, the Windows Azure Pack Tenant Public API does basically the same thing, but is intended for use by hosting companies that make resources available to the public.

Another important component within the Service Management API is the Windows Azure Pack Admin API. This API is the piece that allows administrators to perform various administrative tasks either through the web interface or through Windows PowerShell.

A second required component is the Service Management Portal. The Service Management Portal is the actual web interface that allows the administrative to staff and the tenants to interact with the Windows Azure Pack. There are actually two separate portals. There is a management portal for administrators which is essentially an administrative tool that allows administrators to configure things like resources, user accounts, and quotas.

As you have probably already guessed, the second portal is the portal for tenants. This is the portal that tenants will log into in order to create and manage virtual machines and any other services that have been made available to them.

The third required component is the authentication site. As I explained, the service management portal contains separate portals for administrators and for tenants. The authentication site is what provides authentication services for tenants and for administrators when they attempt to access the service management portal.

The Windows Azure Pack uses Windows authentication for access to the administration portal. Although this is the default behavior, the Windows Azure Pack can be configured to use the Active Directory Federation Services instead. Conversely, authentication for the tenant portal is based on an ASP.NET membership provider.


In this article, I have begun discussing some of the benefits and requirements for deploying the Windows Azure Pack. One thing that I have not yet mentioned is where you can get the Windows Azure Pack. Microsoft makes the Windows Azure Pack freely available for download, but the file that you will have to download varies depending upon whether you are going to be performing a distributed installation or an express installation. You can access the downloads and some of the corresponding documentation on TechNet.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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