Following Microsoft’s Spring 2021 Ignite event, our cloud specialist, Damian Reffin, hand-picked his favourite Azure-related infrastructure announcements and updates. Read part two here
Azure data centres: new data centre in North China and release of Azure Resource Mover
An interesting Azure update to come from the Ignite event is the general release of Azure Resource Mover.
Azure Resource Mover simplifies portability between Azure regions. It lets you create applications in existing regions and migrate them when launching the new region. Or you can move into those with availability zones (AZs) if not planned for your region.
Azure Resource Mover moves multiple resources among Azure regions. To ensure a successful move, it also performs dependency analysis for your workloads.
It’s now considerably easier to move your Azure assets in the following ways:
- From Azure East Asia to Azure South East Asia or Japan East/West, if there is a growing opportunity of doing business
- From UK South/West to Azure European Data centres, or vice versa if there are regulatory issues
- Move critical systems to regions that support improved fault-tolerant or highly available offerings
- Build during development when it’s more cost-efficient, then port to your production region when ready
Resource moves have been something of a dark art until now, so this is a welcome development.
Azure Hybrid, Azure Infra, Azure Migrate and Azure Arc
Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes is now generally available. It enables your organisation to connect, manage and govern any Kubernetes cluster across data centres, multi-cloud and edge from Azure.
Azure Arc-enabled machine learning is now in preview. This means you can innovate with Azure Machine Learning to target any Kubernetes cluster for model training, on-premises, in multi-cloud and at the edge.
You can leverage your Kubernetes infrastructure investments to reduce costs and increase operational efficiency. This is achievable by extending machine learning to run close to where your data resides and autoscale compute anywhere.
Given the number of Azure updates related to containers or Azure Kubernetes clusters, you’d be forgiven for thinking servers are a thing of the past.
With the news of a new Windows 2022 release, this is not yet the case. But there is still an enormous push to modernise applications. Through this, your organisation can super-charge your DevOps approach and drive significant levels of automation, availability and cost optimisation.
If you’re operating at a small scale, the ability to purchase or develop an app and host it in your Windows Server could change how you procure and consume a line of business application.
With the increasing popularity of containers, you can use Azure to leverage a single portal management approach for a multi-cloud or private data centre future.
New capabilities have been added to Azure Automanage to simplify Windows Server virtual machines (VMs) operationally. Azure Automanage, now available in preview mode, helps you to reduce day-to-day management tasks with automated operations across the entire lifecycle of VMs in Azure.
With Automanage, IT admins can manage your VMs with point-and-click simplicity, individually or at scale.
New capabilities in Azure Automanage for Windows Server enable re-bootless security patching for new Windows Server VMs. These enhancements allow the deployment of security patches in seconds, helping protect your servers against critical threats.
If you want to automate the management of other workloads, Azure Automanage has expanded to Linux. With this preview, Azure Automanage will now support major Linux distributions.
This is an exciting capability. The best practice approaches are beneficial to IT support teams for maturing their processes.
For smaller organisations, Azure Automanage can do much of the day-to-day governance and heavy lifting. When combined with future releases of Windows Server 2019 and 2022, re-bootless patching should hopefully offer less downtime.
Azure Backup Centre and Azure Lighthouse
Azure Backup Centre is now generally available. The Centre enables centralised backup management for Azure Virtual Machines, SQL in Azure Virtual Machines, HANA in Azure VMs and Azure Files.
Additional backup support is in preview for Azure Disks, Azure Blobs and Azure Database for PostgreSQL servers.
Using Azure Lighthouse with the Backup Centre will give you an aggregated view of your inventory across subscriptions, locations, resource groups, vaults and even tenants.
The seamless integration with Azure Policy and newly added capabilities for tag-based Azure Policies enables governance at scale and simplifies tracking for compliance.
You can monitor jobs, filter based on operation type and further leverage backup reports for richer insights. The Backup Centre also provides information on resources not yet configured for backup.
Azure Backup now also offers archive support for Azure VMs and SQL Server running on Azure VMs via PowerShell in limited preview mode.
It’s great news that a view of backups in a single pane is available. Not only this, but that it is easy to configure and use. And through the integration with Azure Lighthouse, this Azure update will realise significant benefits for many businesses using these tools.
Once the archive backup is generally available, it will be fantastic for organisations that have built a significant number of recovery points over time for regulatory reasons.
Moving older recovery points to archive tier storage easily has the potential to deliver considerable savings.
Azure Compute, Azure Virtual Machine and Azure cloud services
On-demand capacity reservations for Azure Virtual Machines is available in preview mode now. This facility will enable your organisation to access VMs in advance, with service level agreement guarantees.
The ability to access compute capacity ahead of actual VM deployments is particularly valuable for ensuring the availability of business-critical applications running on Azure.
And flexible orchestration mode for Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets is now available in preview mode. It helps you to simplify the deployment, management and scalability of your applications while increasing high availability.
For greater operational agility, you may now also change VM sizes without redeploying their scale set. You can also optimise costs by mixing Azure Spot Virtual Machines and pay-as-you-go VMs within the same scale set.
For memory-intensive workloads, new Mv2 Azure Virtual Machines are now available in preview, offering a 20% increase in CPU performance, plus access to more VM sizes. And you can deploy the same VMs to Azure Dedicated Hosts.
Azure Cloud Services extended support is also now available in preview mode. This is a new Azure Resource Manager based deployment model for Azure Cloud Services. It provides regional resiliency and feature parity with Azure Cloud Services deployed using Azure Service Manager.
Many organisations using scale sets will be pleased with the new orchestration mode feature. This elastic compute area has proved restrictive for many, so improvements in agility will be welcome.
It’s worth noting that while new compute classes arrive in Azure all the time, there does seem to be an emphasis on compute that supports more security-conscious operating models. In some respects, this is returning to the SoftLayer days of renting your tin inside ‘the cloud’, which AWS also began putting in place several years ago.
So, it appears that there is enough demand for physical isolation for Azure to follow suit. If you’d been able to predict the pandemic, you might have wanted on-demand capacity reservations to avoid the queue when everyone wanted more cloud compute.
Azure Disk Storage
In the event of a zone failure, zone-redundant storage (ZRS), available for Azure Premium SSD and Standard SSD, protects your data.
ZRS is vital for organisations with high availability for mission-critical workloads. Disks with ZRS also provide a recovery point objective of zero, minimising data loss and ensuring successful data recovery.
Performance tiers on Azure Premium SSD provide sustained higher performance for a planned event, such as a seasonal sales promotion. The tiers give you the flexibility to scale performance without increasing the disk size by selecting a higher-performance tier.
You can now upgrade performance tiers on Premium SSDs without any downtime and avoid disruption to your workloads.
Auto-key rotation of customer-managed keys gives you the option to automatically update your disks, snapshots and images using the same encryption key when generating a new version of a key.
It’s no longer necessary to manually update all of your Azure resources. You can ensure that your data is always secure with the latest key versions and meet your organisation’s security and compliance requirements.
Many businesses have been awaiting premium storage on ZRS. It helps hugely with highly available architectures. Auto-key rotation will likely save considerable admin time and reduce maladministration in many scenarios.
Bursting your input/output operations per second cap with storage performance tiers for those ‘Davina effect’ days on your infrastructure adds another great elastic feature.
The Azure Migration Programme (AMP), which provides expert assistance for simplifying cloud migration, will offer expanded support for application modernisation scenarios in the coming weeks.
AMP will support the modernisation of popular web apps, including .NET, Java, and LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python) apps.
Modernise your apps from a compute choice (e.g., Azure Kubernetes Service or Azure App Service) and database (e.g., Azure SQL or MySQL or PostgreSQL).
This expansion builds on existing support for migrating data centre infrastructure, databases, and virtual desktop infrastructure. It will enable coverage for a rich set of migration and modernisation scenarios spanning applications, infrastructure and data.
To support AMP expansion, FastTrack for Azure is also available for:
- Accelerating production deployments for cloud-native applications for Kubernetes, OpenShift, serverless and event-driven workloads
- Support for Hybrid/Azure Arc deployments starting with servers
And the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF) has new best practice guidance on hybrid and multi-cloud adoptions. This guidance helps you take advantage of hybrid and multi-cloud adoption benefits while ensuring consistent security, governance and compliance across the board.
Azure Migrate, the central hub of Azure cloud migration services and tools, has three new capabilities, now in preview. These capabilities allow your organisation to discover and assess your SQL servers and databases within the Azure Migrate portal for migration to Azure.
The hub also includes an app containerisation tool, with support for ASP.NET and Java web applications, to help migrate your applications to containers running on Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS).
Lastly, the new Azure PowerShell module supports the Server Migration tool’s agentless method of migrating VMware virtual machines (VMs) to Azure.
Agentless migration, Database Migration Assessment and App Modernisation directly from Azure Migrate is demonstrating how serious Microsoft is in getting organisations moved swiftly into more than just compute.
By offering modernisation and migration assistance into platform as a service solution like Azure SQL and Application Service Plans, Microsoft increasingly enables organisations to accelerate their time to value.
A rich set of enterprise-ready capabilities has been released for Azure Monitor. These give you complete observability of your hybrid environment while maximising availability, reliability and performance.
For Azure Monitor application insights, organisations writing Node.js apps on Linux App Services can now onboard to Application Insights for application monitoring using auto-instrumentation and without any code changes.
An increasingly rich native monitoring environment with great cross-platform reach; the time to brush up those KQL skills or leverage the growing community Monitor Workbooks has arrived.
Azure is providing powerful insights into your cloud investments at pace.