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

 

If you need managed services to maintain peak IT network operations, consider us here at Applied Information Sciences. We’ll manage all your IT services for a predictable cost so you can focus on more strategic investments. AIS’ Managed Services Practice provides ongoing responsibility for monitoring, patching and problem resolution for specific IT systems on your company’s behalf.

Capabilities

  • Patching
  • Monitoring
  • Alerting
  • Backup and Restore
  • Incident Response

AIS’ Managed Service Practice has up to 24×7 coverage for initial responses to incidents through a combination of dedicated, part- and full-time staff, both onshore and offshore. AIS prides itself in being on the leading edge of managed services support. Our collaborative, disciplined approach is committed to quality, value, time and budget. Read More…

22106868_sYou’re an enterprise. You’ve done your research. You’ve read the whitepapers. You’ve heard all the success stories (along with a few cautionary tales). Perhaps you’ve already taken your first steps into the cloud, but want to embark on a larger-scale public cloud adoption strategy.

But what does that look like for your enterprise? The journey is different for you – for everyone, really. And you certainly don’t want to make it up as you go along.

Here are five important things you need to map out before you start your public cloud journey. We’re confident in this roadmap because we’ve been along for the ride before. We’ve helped many large enterprises and agencies successfully adopt and implement their own unique cloud strategies. Read More…

Welcome to part five of our blog series based on my latest PluralSight course: Applied Azure. Previously, we’ve discussed Azure Web Sites, Azure Worker RolesIdentity and Access with Azure Active Directory and Azure Service Bus and MongoDB.

Motivation

Let’s face it, security, privacy and compliance are the key concerns when it comes to adopting any public cloud platform. To alleviate such concerns, Windows Azure team has setup a Windows Azure Trust Center website to provide the latest updates on these topics. Windows Azure complies with several international, country and industry-specific compliance requirements including ISO 27001, FedRAMP, PCI-DSS and HIPAA. In this blog post we are going to focus on building HIPAA compliant applications on the Windows Azure platform.  Read More…

In our next Azure ‘n’ Action session, we will explore how many companies are leveraging Software as a Service (SaaS) and Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to lower their operational costs.

Did you know that by extending your on-premises Active Directory into Windows Azure Active Directory (WAAD), your users can authenticate to Exchange, Lync and SharePoint SaaS by using Windows Azure Active Directory managed accounts, and stop requiring federation back to your on-premises data center by leveraging DirSync with password sync? This allows you to take advantage of Microsoft’s facilities, which provide the redundancy and high availably that you desire, for not only your applications but the underlying authentication infrastructure as well.

Did you know that Windows Azure Active Directory (WAAD) is FREE?  It provides you and your organization secure authentication via Azure for your all your devices, and services for a globally mobile workforce.

Do you want to learn how to securely integrate your Office 365 SaaS environment by extending your information architecture into SharePoint 2013 IaaS? You can quickly and securely leverage Windows Azure AD as your Identity Provider to enhance authentication globally.

Are you ready to see  this in action? Please join us at the next Azure Café we will walk you through the scenario of an Office 365 SharePoint website integrated with an Office 365 Site Collection, and an IaaS-hosted SharePoint 2013 environment — all using Microsoft to provide authentication.

March 19, 2014
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (EST)

Click here to register!

Since PaaS and Windows Azure have both been in the news recently, thanks to a favorable report from Gartner, I thought it might be good timing to revisit a whitepaper I wrote on PaaS. 

There’s been a lot of talk about the different cloud-based services available today, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). While each of these services is unique, PaaS stands out from the mix. This is not to suggest that PaaS is somehow better than IaaS; that would be an improper comparison. In fact, as shown in the diagram below, PaaS simply builds on the capabilities offered by IaaS.

But if you are a developer, IT shop or an ISV responsible for building, deploying and maintaining solutions, leveraging PaaS is where you reap the maximum cloud-computing benefits. Read More…

If you have found yourself thinking…

“We want the cloud to be a seamless extension of our data center, not a walled garden. We want to use our existing IT setup and tools to manage on-premises and cloud-based applications.”

“We want to seamlessly move virtual machines from on-premises to the cloud and back.”

“We want to move existing applications to the cloud without the need to change the applications in any way.”

…then our upcoming Introduction to Windows Azure IaaS session is for you.

This free half-day session is for anyone who wants to better understand the Windows Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering. After a brief overview of the Azure Platform as a Service (PaaS) model, we will focus on key IaaS concepts. Additionally, we will walk you through a number of scenarios enabled by Azure IaaS and several demonstrations. Learn about the new generally available features including virtual machines (with more size options), virtual networks, new image types (including SQL Server and BizTalk), lower pricing and much more. Read More…

I’ve been reading a lot about the sweeping organizational changes at Microsoft. It’s always interesting to analyze and attempt to interpret their strategy and internal politics. (For example, why is the Dynamics business still separate? Is it being positioned to be sold? Probably not, but fun to consider.)

However, I am more drawn to the larger changes the re-org is enabling. The external press always seems to be negative about the actions of Microsoft’s executive leadership ever since Bill Gates left.  While I may not agree with every choice Steve Ballmer has made, when you really stop and think about how they have transformed themselves over the past six years, it’s pretty amazing — especially when set in juxtaposition to the lack of change at other lumbering IT giants. Microsoft is well on their way to transforming from a worldwide monopoly of “Windows and Office” to a “devices and services” business. Read More…

Introduction by Vishwas Lele:

Amazon Web Services (AWS) CTO Werner Vogels offers this great piece of cloud advice: “Treat everything as a programmable resource, including data centers, networks, compute, storage and load balancers.” In other words, automate every aspect of your (cloud-based) infrastructure. There are significant benefits in following Werner Vogels’ advice:

  1. You can build systems that are cost aware by only keeping the parts of the system that are needed and turning off everything else .
  2. Capacity planning is hard. It is much better to dynamically build capacity based on the need.
  3. Failures are not an exception but a rule. Rather than building complex logic to handle exceptions, make your systems fault resilient by provisioning failover resources as needed.
  4. Make your systems more agile – systems that can scale in the direction of business vs. a design time scaling criterion.

Given AIS’ years of experience with SharePoint, we are always looking for ways to make the underlying infrastructure more cost effective, scalable and robust. Fortunately, the aforementioned benefits of automation apply equally to a SharePoint 2013 farm hosted in the cloud — whether it is the ability to dynamically provision a SharePoint 2013 farm on the fly, or the ability to scale up and down based on load, or the ability to make the SharePoint 2013 farm more fault resilient.

But it all begins with developing robust automation scripts to provision and manage a SharePoint 2013 farm. This brings us back to the purpose of this blog post by Abhijit Kumar. Abhijit discusses an automated approach for provisioning a SharePoint 2013 farm using Amazon Web Services. It is noteworthy that the automation approach we describe below is based solely on PowerShell. This might come as a surprise given that AWS offers services like CloudFormation, which enables creation of AWS resources, combined with open source tools such as Opcode Chef and AWS Puppet, which enable the installation and configuration of applications. We chose to rely solely on PowerShell for the following reasons:

  1. PowerShell is Microsoft’s canonical task automation framework, consisting of a command-line shell and a scripting language that has full access to COM and WMI, giving Windows administrators control over every aspect of Windows OS-based machines.
  2. PowerShell scripting language is based on the .NET framework. This means a PowerShell script can take advantage of .NET framework enhancements such as Workflow Foundation (WF). We use WF extensively to manage long-running automation scripts.
  3. AWS Cloud Formation is not available on AWS Gov Cloud. AWS Gov Cloud is an isolated AWS region designed to allow U.S. government agencies and customers with sensitive workloads to address their specific regulatory and compliance requirements. Given that AIS services a large number of customers with stringent regulatory and compliance requirements, we needed an automation approach that worked on AWS Gov Cloud.
  4. If you read our earlier blog post about SharePoint 2013 automation on Windows Azure, you will notice that we have been able to achieve a high level of reuse between Windows Azure and AWS scripts for SharePoint 2013 scripts. While the WF-based provisioning logic is largely the same, Azure Service Management SDK calls are replaced with AWS Tools for Windows PowerShell. This reuse allows us the flexibility to offer our customers a choice between the industry leading IaaS platforms – AWS and Windows Azure.

Abhijth’s post below walks you through the script to deploy SharePoint 2013 Farm on AWS in an automated manner. I am confident that you will it useful. Please give the scripts a try and let us know.