Get started guide for Azure IT operators

Get started guide for Azure IT operators
Get started guide for
Azure IT operators
Authors and Contributors
The following resources contributed to this version of this guide:
Author
Neil Peterson | Microsoft – Senior Content Developer
Contributors and Reference Content
Robin Shahan | Microsoft – Senior Content Developer
Michael Collier | Microsoft – Senior SDE
Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure, Second Edition
Summary
The purpose of this document is to provide information that will help quickly get started using Azure
services. The target audience is those in an IT operator role.
© 2016 Microsoft. All rights reserved. This document is for informational purposes only.
Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information presented
here.
Contents
Introduction to cloud computing and Microsoft Azure............................................................................. 3
Cloud computing overview .................................................................................................................. 3
Types of cloud computing .................................................................................................................... 4
SaaS: Software as a service .............................................................................................................. 4
PaaS: Platform as a service............................................................................................................... 4
IaaS: Infrastructure as a service........................................................................................................ 4
Azure services...................................................................................................................................... 5
Compute services ............................................................................................................................ 5
Data services ................................................................................................................................... 5
Application services ......................................................................................................................... 5
Network services ............................................................................................................................. 5
Azure key concepts.................................................................................................................................. 6
Datacenters and regions ...................................................................................................................... 6
Azure portal......................................................................................................................................... 6
Resources ............................................................................................................................................ 6
Resource groups .................................................................................................................................. 6
Resource Manager templates .............................................................................................................. 6
Automation ......................................................................................................................................... 7
Azure PowerShell ............................................................................................................................. 7
Azure command-line interface ......................................................................................................... 7
REST APIs ......................................................................................................................................... 7
Getting started with Azure subscriptions ................................................................................................. 8
Select and enable an Azure subscription .............................................................................................. 8
Grant administrative access to an Azure subscription .......................................................................... 9
View billing information in the Azure portal......................................................................................... 9
Get billing information from billing APIs............................................................................................... 9
Forecast cost with the pricing calculator .............................................................................................. 9
Set up billing alerts .............................................................................................................................. 9
Azure Resource Manager....................................................................................................................... 10
Tips for creating resource groups....................................................................................................... 10
Building Resource Manager templates............................................................................................... 11
Security of Azure resources (RBAC) .................................................................................................... 12
Azure Virtual Machines.......................................................................................................................... 13
Use cases........................................................................................................................................... 13
Deployment of virtual machines ........................................................................................................ 13
Portal............................................................................................................................................. 13
PowerShell..................................................................................................................................... 14
Command-line interface ................................................................................................................ 14
Access and security for virtual machines ............................................................................................ 14
Azure Storage........................................................................................................................................ 15
Use cases........................................................................................................................................... 16
Blob storage .................................................................................................................................. 16
File storage .................................................................................................................................... 16
Table storage ................................................................................................................................. 17
Queue storage ............................................................................................................................... 17
Deploying a storage account .............................................................................................................. 17
Portal............................................................................................................................................. 17
PowerShell..................................................................................................................................... 17
Command-line interface ................................................................................................................ 18
Access and security for Azure Storage................................................................................................ 19
Virtual machine disks ..................................................................................................................... 19
Storage tools ................................................................................................................................. 19
Storage API .................................................................................................................................... 19
Storage access keys........................................................................................................................ 19
Shared access signatures ............................................................................................................... 19
Azure Virtual Network ........................................................................................................................... 20
Use cases........................................................................................................................................... 20
Cloud-only virtual networks ........................................................................................................... 20
Cross-premises virtual networks .................................................................................................... 20
Deploying a virtual network ............................................................................................................... 20
Portal............................................................................................................................................. 20
PowerShell..................................................................................................................................... 20
Command-line interface ................................................................................................................ 21
Access and security for virtual networks ............................................................................................ 21
This guide introduces core concepts related to the deployment and management of a Microsoft Azure
infrastructure. If you are new to cloud computing, or Azure itself, this guide will help get you quickly
started with concepts, deployment, and management details. Many sections of this guide discuss an
operation such as deploying a virtual machine, and then provide a link for in-depth technical detail.
Introduction to cloud computing and Microsoft Azure
Cloud computing overview
Cloud computing provides a modern alternative to the traditional on-premises datacenter. Public cloud
vendors provide and manage all computing infrastructure and the underlying management software.
These vendors provide a wide variety of cloud services. A cloud service in this case might be a virtual
machine, a web server, or cloud-hosted database engine. As a cloud provider customer, you lease these
cloud services on an as-needed basis. In doing so, you convert the capital expense of hardware
maintenance into an operational expense. A cloud service also provides these benefits:
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Rapid deployment of large compute environments
Rapid deallocation of systems that are no longer required
Easy deployment of traditionally complex systems like load balancers
Ability to provide flexible compute capacity or scale when needed
More cost-effective computing environments
Access from anywhere with a web-based portal or programmatic automation
Cloud-based services to meet most compute and application needs
With on-premises infrastructure, you have complete control over the hardware and software that is
deployed. Historically, this has led to hardware procurement decisions that focus on scaling up. An
example is purchasing a server with more cores to satisfy peak performance needs. Unfortunately, this
infrastructure might be underutilized outside a demand window. With Azure, you can deploy only the
infrastructure that you need, and adjust this up or down at any time. This leads to a focus on scaling out
through the deployment of additional compute nodes to satisfy a performance need. Although this has
consequences for the design of an appropriate software architecture, there is now ample proof that
scaling out the commodity of cloud services is more cost-effective than scaling up through expensive
hardware.
Microsoft has deployed many Azure datacenters around the globe, with more planned. Additionally,
Microsoft is increasing sovereign clouds in regions like China and Germany. Only the largest global
enterprises can deploy datacenters in this manner, so using Azure makes it easy for enterprises of any
size to deploy their services close to their customers.
For small businesses, Azure allows for a low-cost entry point, with the ability to scale rapidly as demand
for compute increases. This prevents a large up-front capital investment in infrastructure, and it
provides the flexibility to architect and re-architect systems as needed. The use of cloud computing fits
well with the scale-fast and fail-fast model of startup growth.
For more information on the available Azure regions, see Azure regions.
Types of cloud computing
Cloud computing is usually classified into three categories: SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS.
SaaS: Software as a service
SaaS is software that is centrally hosted and managed. It’s usually based on a multitenant architecture—
a single version of the application is used for all customers. It can be scaled out to multiple instances to
ensure the best performance in all locations. SaaS software typically is licensed through a monthly or
annual subscription.
Microsoft Office 365 is a prototypical model of a SaaS offering. Subscribers pay a monthly or annual
subscription fee, and they get Microsoft Exchange as a service (online and/or desktop Microsoft
Outlook), storage as a service (Microsoft OneDrive), and the rest of the Microsoft Office suite (online,
the desktop version, or both). Subscribers always get the most recent version. So you can have an
Exchange server without having to purchase a server and install and support Exchange—the Exchange
server is managed for you. Compared to installing and upgrading Office every year, this is much less
expensive and requires much less effort to keep updated.
PaaS: Platform as a service
With PaaS, you deploy your application into an application-hosting environment that the cloud service
vendor provides. The developer provides the application, and the PaaS vendor provides the ability to
deploy and run it. This frees developers from infrastructure management so they can focus on
development.
Azure provides several PaaS compute offerings, including the Web Apps feature of Azure App Service
and Azure Cloud Services (web and worker roles). In either case, developers have multiple ways to
deploy their application without knowing anything about the nuts and bolts that support it. Developers
don’t have to create virtual machines (VMs), use Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to sign in to each one,
or install the application. They just hit a button (or close to it), and the tools provided by Microsoft
provision the VMs and then deploy and install the application on them.
IaaS: Infrastructure as a service
An IaaS cloud vendor runs and manages all physical compute resources and the required software to
enable computer virtualization. A customer of this service deploys virtual machines in these hosted
datacenters. Although the virtual machines are located in an offsite datacenter, the IaaS consumer has
control over the configuration and management of them.
Azure includes several IaaS solutions, including Azure Virtual Machines, virtual machine scale sets, and
related networking infrastructure. Azure Virtual Machines is a popular choice for initially migrating
services to Azure because it enables a “lift and shift” migration model. You can configure a VM like the
infrastructure currently running your services in your datacenter, and then migrate your software to the
new VM. You might need to make configuration updates, such as URLs to other services or storage, but
you can migrate many applications in this way.
Virtual machine scale sets are built on top of Azure Virtual Machines and provide an easy way to deploy
clusters of identical VMs. Virtual machine scale sets also support autoscaling so that new VMs can be
deployed automatically when required. This makes virtual machine scale sets an ideal platform to host
higher-level microservice compute clusters, such as Azure Service Fabric and Azure Container Service.
Azure services
Azure offers many services in its cloud computing platform. These services include the following.
Compute services
Services for hosting and running application workload:
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Azure Virtual Machines—both Linux and Windows
App Services (Web Apps, Mobile Apps, Logic Apps, API Apps, and Function Apps)
Azure Batch (for large-scale parallel and batch compute jobs)
Azure RemoteApp
Azure Service Fabric
Azure Container Service
Data services
Services for storing and managing data:
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Azure Storage (comprises the Azure Blob, Queue, Table, and File services)
Azure SQL Database
Azure DocumentDB
Microsoft Azure StorSimple
Azure Redis Cache
Application services
Services for building and operating applications:
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Azure Active Directory (Azure AD)
Azure Service Bus for connecting distributed systems
Azure HDInsight for processing big data
Azure Scheduler
Azure Media Services
Network services
Services for networking both within Azure and between Azure and on-premises datacenters:
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Azure Virtual Network
Azure ExpressRoute
Azure-provided DNS
Azure Traffic Manager
Azure Content Delivery Network
For detailed documentation on each of these services, as well as other Azure services, see Azure service
documentation.
Azure key concepts
Datacenters and regions
Azure is a global cloud platform that is generally available in many regions around the world. When you
provision a service, application, or VM in Azure, you are asked to select a region. The selected region
represents a specific datacenter where your application runs. For more information, see Azure regions.
One of the benefits of using Azure is that you can deploy your applications into a variety of datacenters
around the globe. The region you choose can affect the performance of your application. It’s optimal to
choose a region that is closer to most your customers, to reduce latency in network requests. You might
also select a region to meet the legal requirements for distributing your app in certain countries.
Azure portal
The Azure portal is a web-based application that can be used to create, manage, and remove Azure
resources and services. The Azure portal is located at https://portal.azure.com. It includes a
customizable dashboard and tooling for managing Azure resources. It also provides billing and
subscription information. For more information, see Microsoft Azure portal overview.
Resources
Azure resources are individual compute, networking, data, or app hosting services that have been
deployed into an Azure subscription. Some common resources are a virtual machines, storage accounts,
or SQL databases. Azure services often consist of several related Azure resources. For instance, an Azure
virtual machine might include a VM, storage account, network adapter, and public IP address. All of
these are individual resources. Each resource can be created, managed, and deleted individually or as a
group. Azure resources are covered in more detail later in this guide.
Resource groups
An Azure resource group is a container that holds related resources for an Azure solution. The resource
group can include all the resources for the solution, or only resources that you want to manage as a
group. Azure resource groups are covered in more detail later in this guide.
Resource Manager templates
An Azure Resource Manager template is a JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) file that defines one or
more resources to deploy to a resource group. It also defines the dependencies between deployed
resources. Resource Manager templates are covered in more detail later in this guide.
Automation
In addition to creating, managing, and deleting resources by using the Azure portal, you can automate
these activities by using PowerShell or the Azure command-line interface (CLI).
Azure PowerShell
Azure PowerShell is a set of modules that provide cmdlets to manage Azure. You can use the cmdlets to
create, manage, and remove Azure services. In most cases, you can use the cmdlets for the same tasks
that you perform in the Azure portal. The cmdlets can help you can achieve consistent, repeatable, and
hands-off deployments. For more information, see How to install and configure Azure PowerShell.
Azure command-line interface
The Azure command-line interface is a tool that you can use to create, manage, and remove Azure
resources from the command line. The Azure CLI is available for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. For
more information and technical details, see Install the Azure CLI.
REST APIs
Azure is built on a set of REST APIs that support the Azure portal UI. Most of these REST APIs are also
supported to let you programmatically provision and manage your Azure resources and apps from any
Internet-enabled device. For more information, see the Azure REST SDK Reference.
Getting started with Azure subscriptions
A subscription is a logical grouping of Azure services that is linked to an Azure account. A singe Azure
account can contain multiple subscriptions. Billing for Azure services is done on a per-subscription basis.
Azure subscriptions have an account administrator, who has full control over the subscription, and a
service administrator, who has control over all services in the subscription. In addition to administrators,
individual accounts can be granted detailed control of Azure resources through RBAC.
Select and enable an Azure subscription
Before you can work with Azure services, you need a subscription. Several subscription types are
available.
Free accounts: The link to sign up for a free account is on the Azure website. This gives you a $200 credit
over the course of 30 days to try any combination of resources in Azure. If you exceed your credit
amount, your account will be suspended. At the end of the trial, your services will be decommissioned
and will no longer work. You can upgrade this to a pay-as-you-go subscription at any time.
MSDN subscriptions: If you have an MSDN subscription, you get a specific amount in Azure credit each
month. For example, if you have a Microsoft Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN subscription, you get
$150 per month in Azure credit.
If you exceed the credit amount, your service will be disabled until the next month starts. You can turn
off the spending limit and add a credit card to be used for the additional costs. Some of these costs are
discounted for MSDN accounts. For example, you pay the Linux price for VMs running Windows Server,
and there is no additional charge for Microsoft servers such as Microsoft SQL Server. This makes MSDN
accounts ideal for development and test scenarios.
BizSpark accounts: The Microsoft BizSpark program provides a lot of benefits to startups. One of those
benefits is access to all the Microsoft software for development and test environments for up to five
MSDN accounts. You get $150 in Azure credit for each of those five MSDN accounts, and you pay
reduced rates for several of the Azure services, such as Virtual Machines.
Pay-as-you-go: With this subscription, you pay for what you use by attaching a credit card or debit card
to the account. If you are an organization, you can also be approved for invoicing.
Enterprise agreements: With an enterprise agreement, you commit to using a certain amount of
services in Azure over the next year, and you pay that amount ahead of time. The commitment that you
make is consumed throughout the year. If you exceed the commitment amount, you can pay the
overage in arrears. Depending on the amount of the commitment, you get a discount on the services in
Azure.
For more information and to create an Azure subscription, see How to sign up, purchase, upgrade, or
activate Azure.
Grant administrative access to an Azure subscription
Multiple account administrator roles are available and can be changed at any time. Two key roles are:
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Service administrator: This role is authorized to manage Azure services. By default, it’s granted
access to the same account as the account administrator.
Co-administrator: This role has the same access as the service administrator. However, this role
cannot change the association of a subscription to Azure directories.
For more information, see How to add or change Azure administrator roles.
View billing information in the Azure portal
An important component of using Azure is the ability to view billing information. The Azure portal
provides detailed insight into Azure billing information.
For more information, see How to download your Azure billing invoice and daily usage data.
Get billing information from billing APIs
In addition to viewing the billing in the portal, you can access the billing information by using a script or
program through the Azure Billing REST APIs:
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You can use the Azure Usage API to retrieve your usage data. You can fine-tune the billing usage
information by tagging related Azure resources. For example, you can tag each of the resources
in a resource group with a department name or project name, and then track the costs
specifically for that one tag.
You can use the Azure Rate Card API to list all the available resources, along with the metadata
and pricing information about each of those resources.
For more information, see Gain insights into your Microsoft Azure resource consumption.
Forecast cost with the pricing calculator
The pricing for each service in Azure is different. Many Azure services provide Basic, Standard, and
Premium tiers. Usually, each tier has several price and performance levels. By using the online pricing
calculator, you can create pricing estimates. The calculator includes flexibility to estimate cost on a
single resource or a group of resources.
Set up billing alerts
After you have deployed your application or solution on Azure, you can create alerts that send you email
when you approach spending limits defined in the alert. For more information, see Set up billing alerts
for your Microsoft Azure subscriptions.
Azure Resource Manager
Azure Resource Manager is a deployment, management, and organization mechanism for Azure
resources. By using Resource Manager, you can put many individual resources together in a resource
group.
Resource Manager also includes deployment capabilities that allow for customizable deployment and
configuration of related resources. For instance, by using Resource Manager, you can deploy an
application that consists of multiple virtual machines, a load balancer, and a SQL database as a single
unit. You develop these deployments by using a Resource Manager template.
Resource Manager provides several benefits:
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You can deploy, manage, and monitor all the resources for your solution as a group, rather than
handling these resources individually.
You can repeatedly deploy your solution throughout the development lifecycle and have
confidence that your resources are deployed in a consistent state.
You can manage your infrastructure through declarative templates rather than scripts.
You can define the dependencies between resources so they are deployed in the correct order.
You can apply access control to all services in your resource group because RBAC is natively
integrated into the management platform.
You can apply tags on resources to logically organize all the resources in your subscription.
You can clarify your organization’s billing by viewing costs for a group of resources that share
the same tag.
Tips for creating resource groups
When you’re making decisions about your resource groups, consider these tips:
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All the resources in a resource group should have the same lifecycle.
You can assign a resource to only one group at a time.
You can add or remove a resource from a resource group at any time. Every resource must
belong to a resource group. So if you remove a resource from one group, you must add it to
another.
You can move most types of resources to a different resource group at any time.
The resources in a resource group can be in different regions.
You can use a resource group to control access for the resources in it.
Building Resource Manager templates
Resource Manager templates declaratively define the resources and resource configurations that will be
deployed into a single resource group. You can use Resource Manager templates to orchestrate complex
deployments without the need for excess scripting or manual configuration. After you develop a
template, you can deploy it multiple times—each time with an identical outcome.
A Resource Manager template consists of four sections:
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Parameters: These are inputs to the deployment. Parameter values can be provided by a human
or an automated process. An example parameter might be an admin user name and password
for a Windows VM. The parameter values will be used throughout the deployment when they’re
specified.
Variables: These are used to hold values that are used throughout the deployment. Unlike
parameters, a variable value is not provided at deployment time. Instead, it’s hard coded or
dynamically generated.
Resources: This section of the template defines the resources to be deployed, such as virtual
machines, storage accounts, and virtual networks.
Output: After a deployment has finished, Resource Manager can return data such as
dynamically generated connection strings.
The following mechanisms are available for deployment automation:
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Functions: You can use several functions in Resource Manager templates. These include
operations such as converting a string to lowercase, deploying multiple instances of a defined
resource, and dynamically returning the target resource group. Resource Manager functions
help build dynamic deployments.
Resource dependencies: When you’re deploying multiple resources, some resources will have a
dependency on others. To facilitate deployment, you can use a dependency declaration so that
dependent resources are deployed before the others.
Template linking: From within one Resource Manager template, you can link to another
template. This allows deployment decomposition into a set of targeted, purpose-specific
templates.
You can build Resource Manager templates in any text editor. However, the Azure SDK for Visual Studio
includes tooling to assist in the creation process. By using Visual Studio, you can add resources to the
template through a wizard. You can then deploy and debug the template directly from the Visual Studio
IDE. For more information, see Authoring Azure Resource Manager templates.
Finally, you can convert existing resource groups into a reusable template from the Azure portal. This
can be helpful if you want to create a deployable template of an existing resource group, or you just
want to examine the underlying JSON. To export a resource group, select the Automation Script button
from the resource group’s settings.
Security of Azure resources (RBAC)
You can grant operational access to user accounts at a specified scope: subscription, resource group, or
individual resource. This means you can deploy a set of resources into a resource group, such as a virtual
machine and all related resources, and grant permissions to a specific user or group. This approach
limits access to only the resources that belong to the target resource group. You can also grant access to
a single resource, such as a virtual machine or a virtual network.
To grant access, you assign a role to the user or user group. There are many predefined roles. You can
also define your own custom roles.
Here are a few example roles built into Azure:
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Owner: A user with this role can manage everything, including access.
Reader: A user with this role can read resources of all types (except secrets) but can’t make
changes.
Virtual machine contributor: A user with this role can manage virtual machines but can’t
manage the virtual network to which they are connected or the storage account where the VHD
file resides.
SQL DB contributor: A user with this role can manage SQL databases but not their securityrelated policies.
SQL security manager: A user with this role can manage the security-related policies of SQL
servers and databases.
Storage account contributor: A user with this role can manage storage accounts but cannot
manage access to the storage accounts.
For more information, see Use role assignments to manage access to your Azure subscription resources.
Azure Virtual Machines
Azure Virtual Machines is one of the central IaaS services in Azure. Azure Virtual Machines supports the
deployment of Windows or Linux virtual machines in a Microsoft Azure datacenter. With Azure Virtual
Machines, you have total control over the VM configuration and are responsible for all software
installation, configuration, and maintenance.
When you’re deploying an Azure VM, you can select an image from the Azure Marketplace, or you can
provide you own generalized image. This image will be used to apply the operating system and initial
configuration. During the deployment, Resource Manager will handle some configuration settings, such
as assigning the computer name, administrative credentials, and network configuration. You can use
Azure virtual machine extensions to further automate configurations such as software installation,
antivirus configuration, and monitoring solutions.
You can create virtual machines in many different sizes. The size of virtual machine dictates resource
allocation such as processing, memory, and storage capacity. In some cases, specific features such as
RDMA-enabled network adapters and SSD disks are available only with certain VM sizes. For a complete
list of VM sizes and capabilities, see “Sizes for virtual machines in Azure” for Windows and Linux.
Use cases
Because Azure virtual machines offer complete control over configuration, they are ideal for a wide
range of server workloads that do not fit into a PaaS model. Server workloads such as database servers
(SQL Server, Oracle, or MongoDB), Windows Server Active Directory, Microsoft SharePoint, and many
more become possible to run on the Microsoft Azure platform. If desired, you can move such workloads
from an on-premises datacenter to one or more Azure regions, without a large amount of
reconfiguration.
Deployment of virtual machines
You can deploy Azure virtual machines by using the Azure portal, by using automation with the Azure
PowerShell module, or by using automation with the cross-platform CLI.
Portal
Deploying a virtual machine by using the Azure portal requires only an active Azure subscription and
access to a web browser. You can select many different operating system images with varying
configurations. All storage and networking requirements are configured during the deployment. For
more information, see “Create your first Windows virtual machine in the Azure portal” for Windows and
Linux.
In addition to deploying a virtual machine from the Azure portal, you can deploy an Azure Resource
Manager template from the portal. This will deploy and configure all resources as defined in the
template. For more information, see Deploy resources with Resource Manager templates and Azure
portal.
PowerShell
Deploying an Azure virtual machine by using PowerShell allows for complete deployment automation of
all related virtual machine resources, including storage and networking. For more information, see
Create a Windows VM using Resource Manager and PowerShell.
In addition to deploying Azure compute resources individually, you can use the Azure PowerShell
module to deploy an Azure Resource Manager template. This provides automation to start the
deployment action while retaining all benefits of modeling a deployment by using Resource Manager
templates. For more information, see Deploy resources with Resource Manager templates and Azure
PowerShell.
Command-line interface
As with the PowerShell module, the Azure command-line interface provides deployment automation
and can be used on Windows, OS X, or Linux systems. When you’re using the Azure CLI vm quick-create
command, all related virtual machine resources (including storage and networking) and the virtual
machine itself are deployed. For more information, see Create a Linux VM in Azure by using the CLI.
Likewise, you can use the Azure CLI to deploy an Azure Resource Manager template. This provides
automation to start the deployment action while retaining all benefits of modeling a deployment by
using Resource Manager templates. For more information, see Deploy resources with Resource
Manager templates and Azure CLI.
Access and security for virtual machines
Accessing a virtual machine from the Internet requires the associated network interface, or load
balancer if applicable, to be configured with a public IP address. The public IP address includes a DNS
name that will resolve to the virtual machine or load balancer. For more information, see IP addresses in
Azure.
You manage access to the virtual machine over the public IP address by using a network security group
(NSG) resource. An NSG acts like a firewall and allows or denies traffic across the network interface or
subnet on a set of defined ports. For instance, to create a Remote Desktop session with an Azure VM,
you need to configure the NSG to allow inbound traffic on port 3389. For more information, see Opening
ports to a VM in Azure using the Azure portal.
Finally, as with the management of any computer system, you should provide security for an Azure
virtual machine at the operating system by using security credentials and software firewalls.
Azure Storage
Azure Storage is a Microsoft-managed service that provides durable, scalable, and redundant storage.
You can add an Azure storage account as a resource to any resource group by using any resource
deployment method. Azure includes four storage types: Blob storage, File Storage, Table storage, and
Queue storage. When deploying a storage account, two account types are available, General-purpose
and Blob storage. A General purpose storage account gives you access to all four storage types. Blob
storage accounts are similar to general-purpose accounts, but contain specialized blobs that include hot
and cold access tiers. For more information on Blob storage, see Azure Blob storage.
Azure storage accounts can be configured with different levels of redundancy:
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Locally redundant storage provides high availability by ensuring that three copies of all data are
made synchronously before a write is deemed successful. These copies are stored in a single
facility in a single region. The replicas reside in separate fault domains and upgrade domains.
This means the data is available even if a storage node that’s holding your data fails or is taken
offline to be updated.
Geo-redundant storage makes three synchronous copies of the data in the primary region for
high availability, and then asynchronously makes three replicas in a paired region for disaster
recovery.
Read-access geo-redundant storage is geo-redundant storage plus the ability to read the data in
the secondary region. This ability makes it suitable for partial disaster recovery. If there’s a
problem with the primary region, you can change your application to have read-only access to
the paired region.
Use cases
Each storage type has a different use case.
Blob storage
The word blob is an acronym for binary large object. Blobs are unstructured files like those that you
store on your computer. Blob storage can store any type of text or binary data, such as a document,
media file, or application installer. Blob storage is also referred to as object storage. Azure Blob storage
also holds Azure Virtual Machines data disks.
Azure Storage supports three kinds of blobs:
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Block blobs are used to hold ordinary files up to 195 GB in size (4 MB × 50,000 blocks). The
primary use case for block blobs is the storage of files that are read from beginning to end, such
as media files or image files for websites. They are named block blobs because files larger than
64 MB must be uploaded as small blocks. These blocks are then consolidated (or committed)
into the final blob.
Page blobs are used to hold random-access files up to 1 TB in size. Page blobs are used primarily
as the backing storage for the VHDs that provide durable disks for Azure Virtual Machines, the
IaaS compute service in Azure. They are named page blobs because they provide random
read/write access to 512-byte pages.
Append blobs consist of blocks like block blobs, but they are optimized for append operations.
These are frequently used for logging information from one or more sources to the same blob.
For example, you might write all of your trace logging to the same append blob for an
application that’s running on multiple VMs. A single append blob can be up to 195 GB.
For more information, see Get started with Azure Blob storage.
File storage
Azure File storage is a service that offers file shares in the cloud by using the standard Server Message
Block (SMB) protocol. The service supports both SMB 2.1 and SMB 3.0. With Azure File storage, you can
migrate applications that rely on file shares to Azure quickly and without costly rewrites. Applications
running on Azure virtual machines, in cloud services, or from on-premises clients can mount a file share
in the cloud. This is similar to how a desktop application mounts a typical SMB share. Any number of
application components can then mount and access the File storage share simultaneously.
Because a File storage share is a standard SMB file share, applications running in Azure can access data
in the share via file system I/O APIs. Developers can therefore use their existing code and skills to
migrate existing applications. IT pros can use PowerShell cmdlets to create, mount, and manage File
storage shares as part of the administration of Azure applications.
For more information, see Get started with Azure File storage.
Table storage
Azure Table storage is a service that stores structured NoSQL data in the cloud. Table storage is a
key/attribute store with a schema-less design. Because Table storage is schema-less, it's easy to adapt
your data as the needs of your application evolve. Access to data is fast and cost-effective for all kinds of
applications. Table storage is typically significantly lower in cost than traditional SQL for similar volumes
of data.
You can use Table storage to store flexible datasets, such as user data for web applications, address
books, device information, and any other type of metadata that your service requires. You can store any
number of entities in a table. A storage account can contain any number of tables, up to the capacity
limit of the storage account.
For more information, see Get started with Azure Table storage.
Queue storage
Azure Queue storage provides cloud messaging between application components. In designing
applications for scale, application components are often decoupled so that they can scale
independently. Queue storage delivers asynchronous messaging for communication between
application components, whether they are running in the cloud, on the desktop, on an on-premises
server, or on a mobile device. Queue storage also supports managing asynchronous tasks and building
process workflows.
For more information, see Get started with Azure Queue storage.
Deploying a storage account
Portal
Deploying a storage account by using the Azure portal requires only an active Azure subscription and
access to a web browser. You can deploy a new storage account into a new or existing resource group.
After you’ve created the storage account, you can create a blob container or file share by using the
portal. You can create Table and Queue storage entities programmatically.
In addition to deploying a storage account from the Azure portal, you can deploy an Azure Resource
Manager template from the portal. This will deploy and configure all resources as defined in the
template, including any storage accounts. For more information, see Deploy resources with Resource
Manager templates and Azure portal.
PowerShell
Deploying an Azure storage account by using PowerShell allows for complete deployment automation of
the storage account. For more information, see Using Azure PowerShell with Azure Storage.
In addition to deploying Azure resources individually, you can use the Azure PowerShell module to
deploy an Azure Resource Manager template. This provides automation to start the deployment action
while retaining all benefits of modeling a deployment by using Resource Manager templates. For more
information, see Deploy resources with Resource Manager templates and Azure PowerShell.
Command-line interface
As with the PowerShell module, the Azure command-line Interface provides deployment automation
and can be used on Windows, OS X, or Linux systems. You can use the Azure CLI storage account create
command to create a storage account. For more information, see Using the Azure CLI with Azure
Storage.
Likewise, you can use the Azure CLI to deploy an Azure Resource Manager template. This provides
automation to start the deployment action while retaining all benefits of modeling a deployment by
using Resource Manager templates. For more information, see Deploy resources with Resource
Manager templates and Azure CLI.
Access and security for Azure Storage
Azure Storage is accessed in a variety of ways, including though the Azure portal, during VM creation
and operation, and from Storage client libraries. This section will detail a few of these.
Virtual machine disks
When you’re deploying a virtual machine, you also need to create a storage account to hold the virtual
machine operating system disk and any additional data disks. You can select an existing storage account
or create a new one. Because the maximum size of a blob is 1,024 GB, a single VM disk has a maximum
size of 1,023 GB. To configure a larger data disk, you can present multiple data disks to the virtual
machine and pool them together as a single logical disk. For more information, see “Storage
infrastructure guidelines” for Windows and Linux.
Storage tools
Azure storage accounts can be accessed through many different storage explorers, such as Visual Studio
Cloud Explorer. These tools provide the ability to browse through storage accounts and data. For more
information and a list of available storage explorers, see Azure Storage client tools.
Storage API
Storage resources can be accessed by any language that can make HTTP/HTTPS requests. Additionally,
Azure Storage offers programming libraries for several popular languages. These libraries simplify many
aspects of working with Azure Storage by handling details such as synchronous and asynchronous
invocation, batching of operations, exception management, automatic retries, and operational behavior.
For more information, see Azure Storage service REST API reference.
Storage access keys
Each storage account has two authentication keys, a primary and a secondary. Either of these can be
used for storage access operations. These storage keys are used to help secure a storage account and
are required for programmatically accessing data. There are two keys to allow occasional rollover of the
keys to enhance security. It is critical to keep these secure because their possession, along with the
account name, allows unlimited access to any data in the storage account.
Shared access signatures
If you need to allow users to have controlled access to your storage resources, you can create a shared
access signature. A shared access signature is a token that can be appended to a URL that enables
delegated access to a storage resource. Anyone who possesses the token can access the resource that it
points to with the permissions that it specifies, for the period of time that it’s valid. For more
information, see Using shared access signatures.
Azure Virtual Network
Virtual networks are necessary to support communications between virtual machines. You can define
subnets, custom IP address, DNS settings, security filtering, and load balancing. By using a VPN gateway
or an ExpressRoute circuit, you can connect Azure virtual networks to your on-premises networks.
Use cases
Cloud-only virtual networks
An Azure virtual network, by default, is accessible only to resources stored in Azure. Resources
connected to the same virtual network can communicate with each other. You can associate virtual
machine network interfaces and load balancers with a public IP address to make the virtual machine
accessible over the Internet. You can help secure access to the publicly exposed resources by using a
network security group.
Cross-premises virtual networks
You can connect an on-premises network to an Azure virtual network by using ExpressRoute or a site-tosite VPN connection. In this configuration, the Azure virtual network is essentially a cloud-based
extension of your on-premises network.
Because the Azure virtual network is connected to your on-premises network, cross-premises virtual
networks must use a unique portion of the address space that your organization uses. In the same way
that different corporate locations are assigned a specific IP subnet, Azure becomes another location as
you extend your network.
Deploying a virtual network
Portal
Deploying an Azure virtual network by using the Azure portal requires only an active Azure subscription
and access to a web browser. You can deploy a new virtual network into a new or existing resource
group. When you’re creating a new virtual machine from the portal, you can select an existing virtual
network or a create a new one. For more information, see Create a virtual network using the Azure
portal.
In addition to deploying an Azure virtual network from the Azure portal, you can deploy an Azure
Resource Manager template from the portal. This will deploy and configure all resources as defined in
the template, including any virtual network resources. For more information, see Deploy resources with
Resource Manager templates and Azure portal.
PowerShell
Deploying an Azure virtual network by using PowerShell allows for complete deployment automation of
the storage account. For more information, see Create a virtual network by using PowerShell.
In addition to deploying Azure resources individually, you can use the Azure PowerShell module to
deploy an Azure Resource Manager template. This provides automation to start the deployment action
while retaining all benefits of modeling a deployment by using Resource Manager templates. For more
information, see Deploy resources with Resource Manager templates and Azure PowerShell.
Command-line interface
As with the PowerShell module, the Azure command-line interface provides deployment automation
and can be used on Windows, OS X, or Linux systems. You can use the Azure CLI network vnet create
command to create a virtual network. For more information, see Create a virtual network by using the
Azure CLI.
Likewise, you can use the Azure CLI to deploy an Azure Resource Manager template. This provides
automation to start the deployment action while retaining all benefits of modeling a deployment by
using Resource Manager templates. For more information, see Deploy resources with Resource
Manager templates and Azure CLI.
Access and security for virtual networks
You can help secure Azure virtual networks by using a network security group. NSGs contain a list of
access control list (ACL) rules that allow or deny network traffic to your VM instances in a virtual
network. You can associate NSGs with either subnets or individual VM instances within that subnet.
When you associate an NSG with a subnet, the ACL rules apply to all the VM instances in that subnet. In
addition, you can further restrict traffic to an individual VM by associating an NSG directly with that VM.
For more information, see What is a Network Security Group?.
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