Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Azure Cost Management

Azure Cost Management helps you plan for and control your costs, the services include- Cost analysis, budgets, recommendations, and exporting cost management data.

Cost analysis. You use cost analysis to explore and analyze your organizational costs. You can view aggregated costs by the organization to understand where costs are accrued and to identify spending trends.
Budgets. Budgets help you plan for and meet financial accountability in your organization. They help prevent cost thresholds or limits from being surpassed. Budgets can also help you inform others about their spending to proactively manage costs.
Recommendations. Recommendations show how you can optimize and improve efficiency by identifying idle and underutilized resources. Or, they can show less expensive resource options.
Exporting cost management data. If you use external systems to access or review cost management data, you can easily export the data from Azure.

You can apply tags to your Azure resources to logically organize them by categories. Each tag consists of a name and a value. For example, you can apply the name Environment and the value Production or Development to your resources. After creating your tags, you associate them with the appropriate resources.

If your organization has several subscriptions, you may need a way to efficiently manage access, policies, and compliance for those subscriptions. Azure management groups provide a level of scope above subscriptions. You organize subscriptions into containers called management groups and apply your governance conditions to the management groups.

Azure Policy is a service in Azure that you use to create, assign, and manage policies. These policies enforce different rules over your resources, so those resources stay compliant with your corporate standards and service level agreements.

Azure Virtual Machines

A virtual machine is the basic compute service provided by any cloud service provider. It falls under Infrastructure as a service, where you create a Windows or Linux Machine and manage it.

Sample AZ CLI command

az vm create \
--resource-group resource-group-for-testing \
--location westus \
--name SampleVM \
--image UbuntuLTS \
--admin-username azureuser \
--generate-ssh-keys \
--verbose

Unmanaged vs. Managed disks
The final storage choice you’ll make is whether to use unmanaged or managed disks.

With unmanaged disks, you are responsible for the storage accounts that are used to hold the VHDs corresponding to your VM disks. You pay the storage account rates for the amount of space you use.

Managed disks are the newer (and recommended) disk-storage model. They elegantly solve the complexity of unmanaged disks by putting the burden of managing the storage accounts onto Azure.

Increased reliability: Azure ensures that VHDs associated with high-reliability VMs will be placed in different parts of Azure storage to provide similar levels of resilience.
Better security: This means they can use role-based access control to restrict who can work with the VHD data.
Snapshot support: You can use snapshots to create a read-only copy of a VHD.
Backup support: You can automatically back up managed disks to different regions for disaster recovery with Azure Backup, all without affecting the service of the VM.

What is a Network Security Group?
Virtual networks (VNets) are the foundation of the Azure networking model and provide isolation and protection. Network Security Groups (NSGs) are the main tool you use to enforce and control network traffic rules at the networking level.

Security group rules
NSGs use rules to allow or deny traffic moving through the network. Each rule identifies the source and destination address (or range), protocol, port (or range), direction (inbound or outbound), a numeric priority, and whether to allow or deny the traffic that matches the rule. The following illustration shows NSG rules applied at the subnet and network-interface levels.

Keep in mind that security groups are optional at both levels. If no security group is applied, then all traffic is allowed by Azure. If the VM has a public IP, this could be a serious risk, particularly if the OS doesn’t provide some sort of firewall.

Bastion connections
The Azure Bastion service is a new fully platform-managed PaaS service that you provision inside your virtual network. It provides secure and seamless RDP/SSH connectivity to your virtual machines directly in the Azure portal over SSL. When you connect via Azure Bastion, your virtual machines do not need a public IP address.

Azure Active Directory

Azure AD (Active Directory) is a directory and identity management solution.

Concepts for AAD

  • Identity. An object that can get authenticated. An identity can be a user with a username and password. Identities also include applications or other servers that might require authentication through secret keys or certificates.
  • Account. An identity that has data associated with it. You can’t have an account without an identity.
  • Azure AD Account. An identity is created through Azure AD or another Microsoft cloud service, such as Microsoft 365. Identities are stored in Azure AD and accessible to your organization’s cloud service subscriptions. This account is also sometimes called a Work or school account.
  • Azure subscription. Used to pay for Azure cloud services. You can have many subscriptions and they’re linked to a credit card.
  • Azure tenant/directory. A dedicated and trusted instance of Azure AD, a Tenant is automatically created when your organization signs up for a Microsoft cloud service subscription.

Azure Active Directory has free as well as premium versions

  • Free: Provides user and group management, on-premises directory synchronization, basic reports, and single sign-on across Azure, Microsoft 365, and many popular SaaS apps.
  • Premium P1: In addition to the Free features, P1 also lets your hybrid users access both on-premises and cloud resources. It also supports advanced administration, such as dynamic groups, self-service group management, Microsoft Identity Manager (an on-premises identity and access management suite), and cloud write-back capabilities, which allow self-service password reset for your on-premises users.
  • Premium P2: In addition to the Free and P1 features, P2 also offers Azure Active Directory Identity Protection to help provide risk-based Conditional Access to your apps and critical company data. Privileged Identity Management is included to help discover, restrict, and monitor administrators and their access to resources and to provide just-in-time access when needed.

Azure ARM Templates

There are times when you need to replicate a deployment environment. A very common example is that a team usually has multiple environments for development, testing, staging, and production. Also at times, you need a secondary production environment for resiliency. Manually creating environments can be a lengthy and error-prone process. A simple configuration miss can be hard to detect and cause major issues.

ARM or Azure Resource Manager templates comes to help here. ARM provides us to implement Infrastructure as Code.

ARM templates are JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) files that define the infrastructure and configuration for your deployment. The template uses a declarative syntax. The declarative syntax is a way of building the structure and elements that outline what resources will look like without describing its control flow. Declarative syntax is different than imperative syntax, which uses commands for the computer to perform. Imperative scripting focuses on specifying each step in deploying the resources.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-gb/learn/modules/create-azure-resource-manager-template-vs-code/2-explore-template-structure?tabs=azure-cli

ARM templates are idempotent, which means you can deploy the same template many times and get the same resource types in the same state.

Element Description

  • schema: A required section that defines the location of the JSON schema file that describes the structure of JSON data.
  • contentVersion: A required section that defines the version of your template (such as 1.0.0.0).
  • apiProfile: An optional section that defines a collection of API versions for resource types.
  • parameters: An optional section where you define values that are provided during deployment.
  • variables: An optional section where you define values that are used to simplify template language expressions.
  • resources: A required section that defines the actual items you want to deploy or update in a resource group or a subscription.
  • output: An optional section where you specify the values that will be returned at the end of the deployment.

Example

{
  "$schema": "https://schema.management.azure.com/schemas/2019-04-01/deploymentTemplate.json#",
  "contentVersion": "1.0.0.1",
  "apiProfile": "",
  "parameters": {},
  "variables": {},
  "functions": [],
  "resources": [
    {
      "type": "Microsoft.Storage/storageAccounts",
      "apiVersion": "2019-06-01",
      "name": "learntemplatestorage123",
      "location": "westus",
      "sku": {
        "name": "Standard_LRS"
      },
      "kind": "StorageV2",
      "properties": {
        "supportsHttpsTrafficOnly": true
      }
    }
  ],
  "outputs": {}
}

Azure Kubernetes Service

AKS or Azure Kubernetes Service is a managed Kubernetes service by Azure. It helps developers to focus on development and let Azure take care of providing Kuebernets and in turn manage containers.

Before getting into AKS, Azure also provides Azure Container Instance to create and manage containers individually.

Azure Container Instances offers the fastest and simplest way to run a container in Azure, without having to manage any virtual machines and without having to adopt a higher-level service. Azure Container Instances is a great solution for any scenario that can operate in isolated containers, including simple applications, task automation, and build jobs.

AKS Terminology

  • Pools are groups of nodes with identical configurations.
  • Nodes are individual virtual machines running containerized applications.
  • Pods are a single instance of an application. A pod can contain multiple containers.
  • Container is a lightweight and portable executable image that contains software and all of its dependencies.
  • Deployment has one or more identical pods managed by Kubernetes.
  • Manifest is the YAML file describing a deployment.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/modules/configure-azure-kubernetes-service/3-kubernetes-clusters

The kubelet is the Kubernetes agent that processes the orchestration requests from the Azure-managed node, and scheduling of running the requested containers.

Virtual networking is handled by the kube-proxy on each node. The proxy routes network traffic and manages IP addressing for services and pods.

The container runtime is the component that allows containerized applications to run and interact with additional resources such as the virtual network and storage.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/modules/configure-azure-kubernetes-service/3-kubernetes-clusters

Azure Compute

Azure provides a set of compute options, ranging from Virtual Machines, Container-based deployment support (includes AKS or Azure Kubernetes Services), Azure Web apps, Azure functions, etc.

Virtual Machines: Give you control over infrastructure as well as Operation systems.

When one is provisioning VMs, be aware of two types of downtimes that can occur.

Planned Maintenance: When Microsoft makes an update to the Azure platform, for example, security patches being deployed.

Unplanned Maintenance: There can be issues like power failures, which will cause the downtime

To handle these issues we have various options

Availability Sets: Availability sets allows you to manage update domain and fault domains.

An update domain is a group of virtual machines and underlying physical hardware that can be rebooted at the same time. When planned maintenance is performed on the Azure platform, only one update domain is rebooted at a time. This ensures that all VMs and associated hardware are not taken down at the same time.

A fault domain is a group of virtual machines that shares a common power source and a common network switch. When virtual machines are added to an availability set, they are distributed across up to three different fault domains in resource manager deployments, or across two fault domains in classic deployments.

Availability Zones: It is physically separate zones within an Azure region. There are usually three zones in one region. To increase the availability of your application, you should deploy it in more than one zone.

Multi-Region Deployment: Once can further deploy to multiple regions to avoid region failures.

Virtual Machine ScaleSet: Azure virtual machine scale sets let you create and manage a group of load-balanced VMs. You can set rules for scaling as CPU percent goes beyond 60%. In addition, one can set Load Balancer which helps manage traffic at layer 4, or Application Gateway which helps distribute traffic at layer 7.

Azure Functions: This helps serverless computing, one can use a consumption-based plan where you pay only for the time the function was running. But it has limitations like the function can run for a max of 10 minutes. One can upgrade to an App service plan to avoid these limitations.

Azure Logic Apps: You can create workflows, to create low code/ no code applications.

Azure Kubernetes Service: Azure implementation for managing Kubernetes and Container based deployments.

Azure Service Fabric: Another offering to manage container-based deployments, supports both synchronous and asynchronous applications.

Azure App Service: Works on the model where you get your code and directly deploy it on Azure, without worrying about deployment details. This supports deployment slots, for example, you can create stage and prod deployment slots, once you deploy and test on stage successfully, you can just swap with prod deployment.

Azure App Service

Azure App Service is a fully managed web application hosting platform. This platform as a service (PaaS) allows developers to focus on designing and building applications while Azure takes care of the infrastructure to run and scale.

Deployment slots: You can create a staging deployment slot where you can push your code to test on Azure. Once you are happy with your code, you can easily swap the staging deployment slot with the production slot.

Advantages of Azure App Service

  • Continuous integration/deployment support
  • Integrated Visual Studio publishing and FTP publishing
  • Built-in auto-scale support (automatic scale-out based on real-world load)

You use Azure Automation State Configuration to make sure that the virtual machines (VMs) in a cluster are in a consistent state, with the same software installed and the same configurations.

PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC): PowerShell DSC is a declarative management platform that Azure Automation State Configuration uses to configure, deploy, and control systems. A declarative programming language separates intent (what you want to do) from execution (how you want to do it). You specify the desired state and let DSC do the work to get there. You don’t have to know how to implement or deploy a feature when a DSC resource is available. Instead, you focus on the structure of your deployment.

Local configuration manager (LCM): LCM is a component of the Windows Management Framework (WMF) on a Windows operating system. The LCM is responsible for updating the state of a node, like a VM, to match the desired state.

Azure Backup

Azure Backup is Microsoft’s cloud-based backup solution. It requires no additional infrastructure setup. The solution allows doing a one-of backup as well as a scheduled backup through backup policies. One can backup, SQL databases, Disks, VMs, Files, and Blobs.

Data Redundancy

Locally Redundant Storage or LRS: protects data from server rack or drive failures. This replicates data three times within a single data center.

Zone Redundant Storage or ZRS: Replicates backup data in availability zones, to generate data residency and resiliency in the same region.

Geo Redundant Storage or GRS: Protects data from region-wide outages by replicating data to a secondary region.

MARS Agent: MARS or Microsoft Azure Recovery Service helps backup on-prem Windows machines.

Azure Backup Center: To view and manage backups for various resources from one place.

Backup Policies: You can create policies for resources like VMs, SQL, file share, etc. Backup policies are created on the backup-vault basis. One can set rules like when to take a backup along with retention details like how long each backup should be retained.

Azure: Analyze Resource Usage

For any cloud, you need to keep a watch on your resource usage from security, health, and cost perspective. Azure provides multiple tools for this purpose.

Azure Monitor: helps facilitate logging and collection of logs.

Three types of logs in azure:

  • Activity logs provide a record of operations executed against a resource.
  • Diagnostic logs record change details against a resource. Diagnostic logs schema has the following required fields.
    • time
    • resource id
    • tenant id
    • operation name (format Microsoft.<providerName>/<ResourceType>/<Subtype>/<Write/Read/Delete/Action>)
  • Application logs are logs generated by an application

Log Analytics: this is a log search and analytics tool that collects logs from various sources and correlates the data.

Alerting: Azure monitor provides support for alerting. There are two types of alerts – Metric Alert (e.g. CPU, Memory, disk, and network usage) and Log Alerts

Alert has three parts- Target (Resource), Criteria (Logic or Condition), and Action (Action Group)

Action Group is a reusable set of notifications, such as email, voice call, message, or push to an application such as creating a ticket.

Azure Advisor: Azure has some built-in algorithms to help identify cost savings. The advisor makes recommendations on the last 14 days and targets low utilization systems.

Monitoring cost: One way to monitor cost is by resource tagging. This helps view cost based on a tag. Tags can be enforced via Azure policies.

Azure Cost Management: A reporting tool for helping to analyze and understand Azure spending. You can apply a budget and generate alerts to monitor the spend.

Azure Storage

As we know, storage is one of the important features of a cloud service provider. Azure provides various options for storage.

The following data services are provided by Azure

Blob Storage: It is a scalable data store for text and binary data.

Blob storage provides for the storage of 3 types of Blobs. Page, Block, and Append. Page blobs are a collection of 512-byte pages that are optimized for read and write operations. A common use for page blobs is for virtual hard disks used by Azure virtual machines. Block Blobs are for the efficient storage of large Blobs up to 4.57 terabytes. The blocks within a Blob can be updated or deleted as needed. Append Blobs are a form of blob storage that is optimized for appending operations. Modified append Blobs write data blocks only to the end of the blob. Existing blocks cannot be deleted or updated. 

File Storage: As the name suggests, this storage is optimized for storing files.

Queue Storage: Datastore for reliable messaging between application components.

Table Storage: This is a NoSQL Datastore by Azure. It does not enforce schema but stores data in form of name-value pairs. As it is nonrelational data, no complex joins are supported.
The hierarchy is Storage Account>> Tables >> Entities
For example, Kamal’s Account >> Customers >> {Key Values, name: Kamal, Address: }. As this is a NoSQL datastore, different entities can have a different set of properties, one customer has an address another does not.

Disk Storage: Azure Managed Disks that are associated with VMs. The following type of disks are supported-
Ultra Disks
Premium SSD
Standard SSD
Standard HDD

Type of Storage Account

  • General purpose V2 (Recommended)
  • General purpose V1 (Legacy- use V2)
  • Block Bob Storage account (premium – faster access)
  • Files (Premium- For files)
  • Blob Storage (Legacy- use V2)

Storage Sync Service is the top-level resource for Azure File Sync. It manages the relationships between Azure Files file shares and Windows Server endpoints.
A sync group is a grouping of a file share and servers that keep a set of files in sync.