Earlier this week, my colleagues and I attended the 2017 Microsoft Government Cloud Forum at the Ronald Reagan building in D.C. This invitation-only event discussed topics such as IT modernization, cybersecurity, mobility, shared services, citizen engagement, and workforce management, all of which are top-of-mind these days for government employees.

AIS spent the day with Microsoft, government leaders and other partners, as we collaborated on how to both innovate and deliver more efficiently and effectively.

Lots of exciting news came out of the event, and we wanted to take a quick second to go over some of the bigger announcements: Read More…

For government, cybersecurity isn’t just a challenge—it can also be a roadblock that stands in the path of a long-awaited digital transformation.

Agencies are tasked with balancing the highest security measures with innovation, as today’s employees and citizens alike insist that their data be conveniently available anytime, anywhere. Where do you even start?

Last night’s AzureGov Meetup had a BIG audience hoping to get an answer to that question!

Read More…

At our second session for Microsoft Ignite, Jason McNutt and I discussed Azure Resource Manager (ARM) and Compliance. We showed attendees how to develop ARM templates that are compliant out of the box, with security standards such as FISMA and FedRAMP. Additionally, we went over how to automatically generate security control documentation based on ARM tags and open-source libraries like OpenControl.

Below is a short 15-minute video summarizing our Secure DevOps with ARM presentation:

Steve Michelotti and I presented a session on AzureGov last week at Microsoft Ignite 2017 in Orlando. It focused on demonstrating the innovative capabilities in AzureGov that are specifically designed to help government agencies with their mission. We dedicated about 80% of the session to live demos.

Steve started out with a brief description of AzureGov and how to get started…along with some recent news announcements, including API Management and Key Vault. Steve then quickly transitioned into demos related to Cognitive Services, Azure IOT and Power BI. I conducted two demos related to Cosmos DB Graph database and the CNTK deep learning algorithm on an N Series GPU machine.

Please watch the video below and let us know if you have any questions.

Government agencies across the spectrum are sitting on invaluable datasets that are locked up, usually because of lack of resources, tools and compliance regimes.

Fortunately, cloud-based analytics capabilities are allowing these datasets to be turned into knowledge. Whether it’s data about the agency mission, citizen services or simply data from running large data centers, analytics can help these agencies visualize, analyze and optimize. Last night’s AzureGovMeetup showed attendees exactly how.

Read More…

With cloud adoption continuing to grow and many enterprises making use of multi-cloud infrastructures, today’s IT organizations need to quickly adapt their IT infrastructure to manage and monitor both public cloud infrastructure and existing on-premises resources. Traditionally, this leads to the implementation of multiple tools in separate environments, managed by separate teams for a wide range of functionalities, such as:

  • Server monitoring
  • Network monitoring
  • Configuration management
  • Log analytics
  • Backup
  • Recovery
  • Network Threat Detection

It can quickly become a challenge to gain a holistic view of your enterprise health; to troubleshoot fast and remediate quickly in a unified manner.  But now some good news: These capabilities (and more!) have all been integrated as part of the Azure Operations Management Suite (OMS).

What’s the advantage of Azure Operations Management Suite? Aside from the above mentioned items, it was designed in the cloud and all components are entirely hosted in Azure. So not only does it excel at native cloud capabilities such as PaaS, it also provides full functionality for on-premises resources, offering a single pane of glass for managing and monitoring diverse infrastructures and resources. There is no setup and configuration is minimal, which gives you the ability to manage and monitor your entire enterprise in a matter of minutes rather than hours. Read on for even more benefits to using Azure OMS. Read More…

As part of AIS Managed Services, we provide proactive management and reactive support of infrastructure and applications at a predictable monthly cost. Recently, during a routine infrastructure health check, we noticed that Azure was failing to take backups for a particular virtual machine. Why?

The Environment

The client is a medium-sized outdoor equipment vendor. For this enterprise customer, we have configured Azure Recovery Services to take a daily backup of all the virtual machines in the production environment. The environment is set up with four domain controllers. Two of them are hosted in Azure while the other two are hosted on-premises. All domain controllers are running Windows Server 2008 R2. Both domain controllers hosted in Azure have 120GB System Drives attached to them, with only Active Directory Domain Services and DNS Server roles present on the server. Read More…

Citizens today are more connected that ever before; increasingly expecting anytime, anywhere access to government services and information – via online, mobile and social media. To continue to best serve and engage ever-connected citizens, government and industry must deliver innovative apps and mobile services that are highly secure and provide a user-friendly experience.

Last week’s #AzureGov Meetup was jam-packed with industry experts ready to tell attendees exactly HOW to achieve those goals and go above and beyond with their connected citizen services. Read More…

I had the opportunity to attend the first Azure Government HackFest & Training on June 7 and June 8, 2017 with several of my AIS colleagues (Jonathan Eckman, Nicolas Mark, and Brian Rudolph) and it did not disappoint. This event was a great opportunity for me personally to learn more about Azure and spend some time applying that new information to work on an interesting problem.  I know that many of you might be considering attending another HackFest, so I wanted to take some time to tell you about the event and what I learned.  I also wanted to give you a few tips if you attend one of these in the future.

Day One started off with a number of training/knowledge-sharing sessions with the Microsoft Azure Government Engineering Team, providing an overview of Azure Gov, Security, Lift and Shift, Azure HDInsight, and Cognitive Services. The information provided was detailed enough that it wasn’t marketing material, but not so deep to be too difficult for general IT pros to grasp. Kudos to those that presented from the Microsoft Azure Engineering Team! Read More…

An open-source initiative needed a solution to add Azure IaaS support for their existing cross-cloud library to support bioinformatic research.

Genomics Virtual Laboratory provides cloud-based analysis tools that help in genomics research. As a part of this tool suite, they created an open-source Python library called CloudBridge that provides a uniform and extensible API layer for supporting multiple clouds. The library supported only AWS and Open Stack. AIS was approached to provide Microsoft Azure support to the library with limited changes to their existing interfaces.

Challenges: With all the cloud providers having their own proprietary vendor APIs/approach (and not having common standards remains an issue in this modern era of cloud usage), it is becoming more common nowadays to utilize multiple cloud providers to support application deployments, and it is left to developers to author (ex: conditional code) the different infrastructure deployments and testing to support each of the providers.

In order mitigate the mentioned issues, CloudBridge came with a simple consistent interface depicted below.

Solution: Azure Python SDK was used to interface with Azure, and the necessary to and fro mapping to the CloudBridge and Azure models was done in the resource layer. The high-level architecture is depicted in the image below.

The API revolves around three concepts: (1) providers; (2) services; and (3) resources. The providers encapsulate connection properties for a given cloud provider and manages the required connection. Services expose the IaaS provider functionality, offering the ability to create, query and manipulate resources (e.g., images, instance types, key pairs, etc.). Resources represent a remote cloud resource, such as an individual machine instance (Instance) or a security group (Security Group). (Read more here.)

Technologies/Tools

  • Jet brains Pycharm community version
  • Azure Python SDK
  • Python 3.6 and 2.7