Certification and Cloud: Consider These!

The changes to technology around cloud infrastructure seem to be changing and moving as quickly as the clouds in the sky.  Software companies are announcing changes and updates at an ever increasing pace.  I know I feel like I can blink and miss something important.  So how do go about proving you are still an expert in your field?

There is still a place for industry certifications.  While they will never be the end-all goal for determining skills, they still provide proof of a baseline level of knowledge and can show employers that a certificate holder has made efforts to focus on a specific topic.

The Cloud Architect role is the upcoming position in demand and a natural progression for systems administrators to move to as they can leverage their knowledge of on-prem infrastructure to design hybrid and cloud-only infrastructures. Would you make a good Architect?

Here are several certifications you might want to look at:

I’ve always been a big fan of certification exams, even just for personal benchmarking. Are any of these exams in your future?


Today on TechNet Radio – MSIT Talks about Running a Private Cloud

In this episode, I talk with Jenny Dooley from the Microsoft IT team as she shares their experience with using Windows Azure Pack for developing, deploying and supporting internal lab environments for product development at Microsoft. Listen in as we chat about how MSIT was able to provide a scalable private cloud for dev and test to enable rapid and agile product development.

  • [0:45] What do you and your team do at Microsoft?
  • [1:11] So why did your team build an internal private cloud?
  • [2:20] How big of a lab are we talking here?
  • [3:13] Wow! Implementing something this large has to have some challenges. Can you tell us about some of the road bumps you encountered?
  • [5:20] Doing charge backs at this level has to be pretty tricky to implement, right?
  • [7:00] How did you start using Windows Azure Pack? Was there anything special you had to do?
  • [8:41] How did this help your team overall?
  • [10:08] How do you see this evolving in the future?

The Microsoft Government Virtual Summit is on Sept 10th

When talking to people about using Azure or adopting a hybrid cloud solution I often hear, “But what if you are government?”  If you are looking for answers, mark your calendar for September 10th.
The Microsoft Government Virtual Summit is streaming LIVE on Wednesday, September 10th. 
Connect with government leaders, partners, and Microsoft executives for Federal as well as State and Local Government on an open discussion panel and receive first-hand insights into the Microsoft productivity and platform, services and devices approach—the Cloud on your terms designed for Government.
There are two tracks: Federal Government Track (8:30 am PST) and State and Local Government Track (10:00 am PST).  Choose the track that best fits your needs and interests, and of course, you are welcome to join both.
Ask the experts!  Attendees will have the opportunity to submit questions LIVE online to:
  • Nancy Adams, Sr. Account Executive of Catapult Systems 
  • Bob Ballard, Principle Cloud Strategist for Planet Technologies 
  • Shan McArthur, CEO/CTX at Adxstudio 
  • Cliff DuPuy, Technical Services Director with Mecklenburg County 
  • David Ulmer, CIO of the NC Department of Transportation 
  • Sandra Weightman, Network Manager with City of Fort Myers, Florida
  • Jimmy Barfield, ITS Director with City of Fort Myers, Florida

Hybrid Cloud – The Three Part Series

Looking for more ways to learn about how the “cloud” is changing the IT industry?   
Then join Microsoft Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich and Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson, for a three part Hybrid Cloud series.  Learn more about what the emergence of cloud means for your IT strategy and how Microsoft is driving innovation as we create more options for customers to extend from the datacenter to the cloud.
Episode 1 covers the basics of hybrid cloud including Microsoft’s definition of the hybrid cloud, its key benefits, and how hybrid cloud solutions will evolve with broader trends in the IT industry.  Get the background you need to understand what “hybrid” means today. Available on-demand: https://info.windowsazure.com/April2014_Hybrid_Cloud_Series_Episode_One_Register.html
Episode 2 focuses on how hybrid options are changing the way companies approach IT infrastructure. New capabilities mean new opportunities, and we’ll look at concrete examples of how you can make hybrid part of your toolkit.  Rethink the basics and learn what’s new.  Available June 23, with live Q&A from Mark and Brad: https://info.windowsazure.com/May2014HybridCloudSeries-EpisodeTwo_Registration.html

Episode 3 features an in-depth discussion of infrastructure modernization. As you upgrade from Windows Server 2003, how should you think about hybrid options?  How can cloud help you create a more agile infrastructure?  Hear from our experts about how to make this transition work for you.  Airs July 17, 2014, with live Q&A from Mark & Brad.  Registration info coming soon!

Are you ready to begin your Quest of the Cloudwalker?

Hark beleaguered IT Professionals! We know of the evils which plague you daily—mountains of help desk tickets, crashing computers, ridiculous requests from management, and far, far worse. But fear not, for we have felt your misery and despair, and created a fantastical world where you can use your hard-earned knowledge to crush demonic personifications of your IT woes.
So begin thy quest, choose from one of three heroic avatars, and arm yourself with up to four of the righteous weapons of IT. For each mystical weapon you arm yourself with, you’ll receive a code to enter in the game for a chance to win a fabled Xbox One.
Then carry onward into battle, where eight of your greatest foes await. There is Tickakomus, the God of forgotten passwords and missing power cords; Messglore, master of server closet chaos; and of course, the most feared monster of all, Chronos, Devourer of Time and Destroyer of Reality!
The task before you is mighty, but if you are true of heart and steeped in knowledge, your victory is assured. Become the savior all besieged IT Pros have been waiting for, in Quest of the Cloudwalker!

TechNet Radio: Building Your Hybrid Cloud – Managing Cloud Foundations with Windows Server 2012 R2

In this TechNet Radio podcast, I join my friend and colleague, Keith Mayer, for the fourth part in his “Building Your Hybrid Cloud” Series. We walk through managing cloud foundations with Windows Server 2012 R2. Tune in as we drill down into what management tools are available as well as introduce the new features found in PowerShell 4.0.

  • [1:33] Series Review
  • [4:53] Review What’s New in Windows Server 2012 R2
  • [5:10] Overview of Management Capabilities in 2012 R2
  • [8:05] DEMO: Server Manager 20-12 R2
  • [16:13] Using PowerShell to manage the Data Abstraction Layer (DAL)
  • [19:08] DEMO: DAL PowerShell cmdlets for managing remote servers via BMC’s
  • [24:04] Desired State Configuration (DSC)
  • [27:50] DEMO: Walk-through DSC Configuration
  • [36:58] Other PowerShell 4.0 Enhancements

Don’t forget to check out the podcasts from earlier in the series, too.

Build a Hyper-V Lab for a Chance to Win a Surface Pro!

This is for US residents only, but here’s a chance to get in on the “IT Pro Cloud OS Challenge” and will some nice prizes while learning about Hyper-V Server. The content runs through the month of November and you can find all the details below!

Build your very own Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 for FREE and Enter for a chance to win* one of the following fantastic prizes:

  • Three Grand Prizes: One of three Microsoft Surface Pro 64GB devices with Type Cover keyboard cover ($828.99 USD Retail Value)
  • Twenty-Five First Prizes: One of twenty-five Microsoft Certification Exam Vouchers ($150.00 USD Retail Value)

You could win a Surface Pro or Certification Exam Voucher!

You could win a Microsoft Surface Pro or Certification Exam Voucher!

But Wait! There’s More!In addition to a chance to win one of the prizes above, EVERY ENTRANT will receive our Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 enterprise-grade bare-metal hypervisor software completely free.  This is a fully functional virtualization hypervisor that supports scalability up to 320 logical processors, 4TB physical RAM, live migration and highly-available clustering. Hyper-V serves as the virtualization foundation for Private Clouds leveraging Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2.

You can enter the IT Pro“Cloud OS Challenge” Sweepstakes by completing all of the THREE EASY TASKS below to download and build your Private Cloud foundation with Hyper-V Server 2012 R2.  Be sure to complete the last task to submit your proof-of-completion for entry into this sweepstakes.

  • Entries must be received between November 1, 2013 and November 30, 2013 to be eligible. One entry per individual.
  • This Sweepstakes is open to all IT Professionals Age 18 and over that are legal residents of the United States.
  • Estimated Completion Time: 20 minutes

TASK 1 – Download Hyper-V Server 2012 R2

Download the Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 installation bits using the link below.
Download Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 for FREE!

TASK 2 – Install Hyper-V Server 2012 R2

Install Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 in your lab environment using the installation steps linked below.

TASK 3 – Submit Proof-of-Completion

Complete the steps in this task to submit your proof-of-completion entry into the IT Pro “Cloud OS Challenge” Sweepstakes for a chance to win one of the exciting prizes listed above.

  1. At the console command prompt of your new Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 server, run the following command to collect your server’s configuration:

    systeminfo >CloudOSConfig.txt

  2. Copy the CloudOSConfig.txt file created in Step 1 above to a USB storage device or other location that is accessible for sending an email.
  3. Send a new email message to CloudChallenge@microsoft.com
  4. IMPORTANT: In the body of the email, include this exact text:
    “I’ve completed the Microsoft IT Pro Cloud OS Challenge for Hyper-V Server 2012 R2.”
  5. IMORTANT: Attach the file created in Step 1 into the body of the new email message created above.
  6. Click the Send button in your email client to submit the email message as your proof-of-completion and sweepstakes entry.

Upon submitting your entry, you will receive a confirmation email within 24-hours.

COMPLETED! But … Want more?
Now that you’ve installed Hyper-V Server 2012 R2, continue your learning and evaluation with these additional resources.

  • Want to learn more about Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 and Microsoft Private Cloud?
    • COMPLETE this Step-by-Step Guide for Hyper-V Server 2012 R2.
    • MANAGE Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 with local console tools.
    • CLUSTER Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 for highly available virtual machines.
    • MIGRATE Virtual Machine workloads to Hyper-V Server 2012 R2.
    • BUILD Your Private Cloud with System Center 2012 R2.

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open only to IT Professionals who are legal residents of the 50 U.S. states or D.C., 18+. Sweepstakes ends November 30, 2013.  For Official Rules, see http://aka.ms/CloudChallenge201311Rules.

The Not So Black Box: Azure Cloud Service

You’ve probably been virtualizing things on-premise for a while now and it’s pretty straightforward.  You spin up a VM, connect it to a network much like a physical machine, configure it as you need it and go on your way.  Depending on it’s role you might configure  your perimeter firewall so that it has some ports open on an Internet routable IP address.

And that pretty much sums it up. In Azure, a lot of that is same.  Except for the whole “Cloud Service” thing. A Cloud Service is a key part of the Azure fabric and if you’ve been working with PaaS for a while, it’s likely very familiar.  But if you are coming from the data center, it’s a new idea. Or at least, it was for me.

If you’ve taken one of the free Azure IT Camps or gotten a similar presentation on Azure IaaS you’ve likely seen this graphic:

What this shows is that a cloud service is a container that holds your VM.  This container is the “steward” of several key components that make your server room in the cloud work. A cloud service holds an external IP address and unique DNS name, is tied to a physical location in the Azure global fabric and acts as a firewall boundary.

You can create a cloud service first and add a VM to it, or you can create a VM and a matching cloud service will be made for it.  I prefer making the cloud service first (and I’ll explain why) but first, let’s break those things down:

  • Physical Location – When you create a cloud service, it’s tied to one of Microsoft’s eight worldwide data centers.  They are grouped in pairs (US – West Coast, US – East Coast, Europe and Asia).  At minimum, you must select the region your cloud service lives in.
  • DNS Name – Each cloud service has an external DNS name in the cloudapp.net name space. By default, creating a VM will automatically create a cloud service with a matching external DNS name, if the DNS name is available.  (If not, you’ll be prompted to name it differently.) The DNS name does not have to be the same as the server name.

Up to 50 VMs can live inside a single cloud service, so if you are using a cloud service to host some servers for a website, you might want your external DNS name to be something meaningful for the service those servers provide.

For example, only one cloud service is needed for “mywebsite.cloudapp.net”, but inside it contains four servers that are all available to service requests to the same site.

  • External IP Address – Once your cloud service is populated with at least one running VM, it will be assigned an external IP address.  This address has a lifetime lease, however I recommend using the DNS name as the best way to reference the service from other systems.
  • Firewall Boundary – The cloud service is used as the boundary where all the input endpoints are opened so you can access the VMs within it using the protocols of your choosing.  By default, RDP and Powershell is open for Windows operating systems, but this is all configurable by either using the Azure portal or via Powershell. Depending on what service you’ll be providing, you’ll need to open other ports.

Now, why do I like making an empty cloud service first?

Because it allows me to create the *.cloudapp.net DNS name separate from the machine creation process and think about how I want my VMs and applications to be grouped and accessible BEFORE I get started spinning up machines. Whenever I’m creating a cloud service in conjunction with VM creation, I nearly always end up with a DNS name I don’t like. 

Creating VMs in Azure is an almost trivial task, but the placement of them isn’t, so taking the time to understand cloud services, endpoints and other factors before getting down the business of creating VMs is something I consider a personal best practice. 

Azure doesn’t allow for name and location changes once a cloud service or VM is created, so correcting that requires deleted your work and starting over.  I’m crossing my fingers that some basic edits are built into Azure in the future, but for the moment, I like to “plan twice, create once!”

Pieces of Azure

Once upon a time, a very short time ago, I had a data center of my very own. If you’ve read this blog often enough, you know that before I joined Microsoft I was part of a NetOps team that had it’s own little server room.  We had some applications and servers that were still stand-alone on physical hardware, lots more servers virtualized on VMware.  Cables and VLANs and a phone system… all the usual stuff.

Also once up a time, several years before, Microsoft started talking about Azure.  And I looked at it with curiosity and saw that it was all platform-as-a-service geared toward mostly Developers.
And then my brain tuned out.

Click! Back to the things that mattered to my data center.

And then, not so long ago, Microsoft started talking about IaaS in Azure. It started to seem more relevant to me, so I started to look closer. And now I’m working for Microsoft and I’ve been learning a lot more about Azure IaaS. And I realize that if I was still sitting outside my server room door, Azure would probably be one of the things topping my list of projects.  It’s THAT relevant.

But coming from a “classic” data center mindset, there are bits of Azure that take a moment to get your head around.  A little shift of thinking.  Because there are some things I was really comfortable with in my data center that Azure just doesn’t do the same way.

Check back tomorrow when I touch on Cloud Services, the first thing in my list of high level Azure concepts that I’m learning to love.

Mid-June: Upcoming Live and Virtual Events

If you are looking for some economical training around “the cloud” here are few upcoming events you might like to consider.

These two are online via the Microsoft Virtual Academy:

  • Building Private Cloud with Windows Server 2012 & System Center 2012 SP1 Jump Start (with Symon Perriman & Pete Zerger)
    • Tuesday June 18th, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm PDT
    • http://aka.ms/MVA-WsSc
    • Topics include: Planning Your Cloud Implementation, Building the Cloud Fabric, Preparing for Self-Service, Building Your Service Catalog
  • Moving from Private to Hybrid Cloud with System Center 2012 and Windows Azure IaaS (with Matt McSpirit & Pete Zerger)
    • Thursday June 20th  9:00 am – 5:00 pm PDT
    • http://aka.ms/MVA-Sc-IaaS
    • Topics include: Monitoring, Management and Operations, Connecting System Center to the Public Cloud, Service Delivery and Automation in the Hybrid Cloud, Reaching the Summit: ITIL-integrated Self-Service in the Hybrid Cloud

If you are in the San Diego area and looking an event to attend in-person, check out the California Technology Summit, also being held on June 19th.