Azure News 2016 – Week 24

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This weeks Azure updates & news. This time around I think the most popular item is the fact that Azure keeps evolving by offering a brand new family of virtual machines available globally, this time aimed at the lower end of the market with lower pricing.

Don’t forget, Azure news can also be heard on the ‘Need to Know‘ podcast with Robert Crane and myself.

Here is the audio only version of this news:


Password length for Azure Virtual Machines

Something that has snuck in quietly in the background when using the Azure Portal, they have changed the password policy on Azure virtual machines at the time of creation. I can’t find this change documented anywhere on the internet, however I know it’s changed because the password I normally use (under 12 characters) is no longer accepted. The new Azure VM password policy is 12-123 characters.

I’d like to meet anyone who is using a 123 character password.

Azure Password Restriction

StorSimple supports Azure Cool Blob storage

Cool Storage got released April 28, 2016 and offers lower than half the cost of storage compared to the current ‘hot’ tier Azure blob storage. Cool storage can be accessed at any time, however it costs roughly twice as much to access. Microsoft acquired StorSimple back in October 2012. StorSimple is an on-prem SAN storage solution which automatically moves less frequently accessed data up to the cloud – to Azure blob storage. In conjunction with the very recent release of Azure Cool storage, it makes sence that the StorSimple device now supports it. This would make the StorSimple device much more attractive to businesses for long term storage due to regulations and compliance.

With a StorSimple appliance, you can mix different types of Azure storage accounts either cold tier or hot tier. Each volume container is configured with one Azure storage account. Volumes that are more frequently accessed should use hot storage and then cool storage for volumes with less frequently accessed data.

Migration of StorSimple data from a general purpose storage account to a cool storage account is not supported at this time.

More information here: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/storsimple-supports-cool-blob-storage

Microsoft Azure Hybrid Use Benefit

Azure Hybrid Use Benefit is aimed at people who have got Windows Server and have taken out Software Assurance with their licensing. The fact that Software Assurance has been taken out means that these customers can more easily make use of a true hybrid by easing the cost burden of Azure licensing. It means that these people with Software Assurance can run Windows Azure VMs (virtual machines) at the cost of a Linux VM. Running Linux VMs in Azure are approx. half the cost of running a Windows VM, so there’s awesome cost savings here.

Each Windows Server 2x processor licence with Software Assurance will allow you to run two VM instances up to 8 cores each or 1 VM instance up to 16 cores in Azure. You can’t exceed the number of licenses you purchased.

Deployment of Azure virtual machines to take up this offer are a little bit restrictive. You can’t deploy just any VM from the Azure Gallery like you would normally. The only way to take up this offer is to upload a custom image to Azure and deploy this custom image while setting the new licenseType property for each virtual machine. The licenseType property can be set using both JSON and PowerShell for ARM (Azure Resource Manager).

For more information: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/hybrid-use-benefit by looking at the FAQs.

Windows PowerShell – Writing Windows Services in PowerShell

We all love PowerShell, it’s literally powerful and fairly easy to use and is highly addictive. Historically you could write Windows Services using  C, C++, C# or other Microsoft .NET Framework-based languages only. However for the IT Pro’s and DevOps people of this world who aren’t developers, good news, you can do this now with PowerShell. There’s now a PowerShell script online that does exactly that and creates a sample service. It’s written by Jean-François Larvoire.

More information and access to the script: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/mt703436.aspx

New F-Series VM Sizes

New Azure virtual machines are available to choose from. Brand new F-Series of VMs. They are based on the 2.4 GHz Intel Xeon® E5-2673 v3 (Haswell) processor, which can achieve clock speeds as high as 3.1 GHz with the Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0.

This is the exact same CPU as the Dv2-Series of VMs but at a lower price. As far as CPUs goes, the F-Series is much cheaper than the DV2 Series however offer slightly lower RAM options and priced acordingly.

Some scenarios for F-Series VM usage: gaming servers, web servers, batch processing or any workload which does not need as much memory. The F-Series range from 1x CPU core to 16x CPU cores with options for both standard and premium storage.

The F-Series also brings a new standard in VM size naming for Azure. For this series and all VM sizes released in the future, the numeric value after the family name letter will match the number of CPU cores making it much easier to deploy the correct VM based on need.

There are 5 VMs in the family that have been released, both in Standard and Premium storage options.

  • Standard_F1
  • Standard_F2
  • Standard_F4
  • Standard_F8
  • Standard_F16

Azure F-Series of VMs

More information here: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/f-series-vm-size/

SQL Server 2016 Developer Edition in the Azure Gallery

Moving on from the recent news of the GA release of SQL Server 2016. The developer edition of SQL Server 2016 is a free full featured version for development purposes only – strictly non-production. As of now, you can deploy SQL Server 2016 developer edition in Azure straight from the Azure Gallery. This means that you can deploy a full featured edition of SQL Server 2016 in minutes without needing to go through the motions of installing SQL. There is no resource CPU/RAM limit on the VM running in Azure, you can use any family of virtual machine and you only pay for the running (hosting costs) of the Windows VM only. Please note, this relates to IaaS (Virtual Machines), not to be confused with SQL Azure which runs on PaaS.

More information here: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/announcing-sql-server-2016-developer-image-in-the-azure-gallery

Microsoft Azure Storage Explorer

Those that don’t know, this is a free tool which you can use to connect to all of Azure Storage (Blob, Queue, Table). It’s written by Microsoft and is a cut down version of Visual Studio whereas you simply add in your Azure credentials and it lists all storage accounts in your Azure subscription. This is different to other storage products on the market which do require you to use the Storage account name and massively long storage key to add in individual Azure storage accounts. So it is handy to have this option with Azure Storage Explorer gaining access to all storage accounts at once.

This tool itself is not new, however the most recent release that came out June 9, 2016 added the support for SMB3 Azure Files. You can now access Azure Files from the tool itself, its very handy for transfering data from Blob storage containers to Azure Files ‘shares’ vice versa.

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