Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Joy! Joy! Joy!

If you’re interested in Microsoft’s cloud offerings, then you’ve probably been aware that they have been building two Australia datacentres for their cloud services (Azure and Office365). The good news is that they went live over the weekend. You can now choose Australia East and Australia Southeast as Azure locations. Now, what this will mean for NZ based Azure clients remains to be seen. Time will tell how services hosted in these datacentres will perform, especially around provisioning and management. If you’ve spent any time with Azure you’re aware that not all datacentres are created equal, or at least they don’t appear that way. I’m hoping that response is closer to what I get when I use US/Europe locations and less like what I get when I use Asia locations.

But before all you down under cloud subscribers rush out to change the location of your storage accounts, vms, services etc., remember that not all parts of Azure get rolled out across all locations at the same time. Here’s a quick example.  Below you can see that I ran the get-azurevmimage PowerShell cmdlet to see what VM images are available to me to create virtual machines. I didn’t really care what the images are, I just wanted to see how many there were.  Then I ran the command again and added a filter to make sure that I only included images that are available in either of the two Australia locations.  There’s about a third of the VM Images that are not available in the Australia locations.

Now, what exactly does this mean for you? It depends. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. But it might be worth taking a look around the details of the resources and features before you start moving stuff over willy-nilly. Doubly so if you are script and preview feature dependent in your Azure consumption. Measure twice, cut once.

However, on the whole I think this will be a good think for Microsoft’s cloud customers in this neck of the woods. For both technical and non-technical reasons. To find out how Microsoft NZ thinks this will benefit NZ customers, click here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-nz/news/NewMicrosoftAzureGeo.aspx.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Removing shared mailboxes from an Outlook profile

I just had a student has me how to stop resource mailboxes from automatically being added to the delegate’s Outlook profile. It was a good question that I’ve never been asked before, and never thought too much about. But here’s the answer:

Removing shared mailboxes from an Outlook profile – Slipstick Systems.

Adding .Net 3.5 SP1 to an Azure VM through the Back Door.

If you’ve been working with Windows Server 2012/2012 R2 you might have noticed that you need the CD/install files handy if you want to install .NET 3.5. Which causes problems if you need that feature on an Azure VM. After a bit of digging I found this in the MSDN forums, and it has proven to be handy. I haven’t tried it enough to say that it is foolproof, but if you’re having this issue it’s worth a shot.

1. Go to Windows Update through the Control Panel.

2. Click “check for update” on the left side. It may take a while to check for the update like it did on my machine. (~5-10 min)

3. Click the “# important update is available” blue button next.

4. On the next screen you will be shown important updates that are ready to be installed. You should have an update called “Update for Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 for x64-based Systems (KB3005628)”. With that update checked, click install on the bottom. There will be other updates available to you as well. I haven’t thoroughly tested for any combinations that specifically do/don’t work, so try at your own risk!

Assuming that update successfully install, lets go back to Server Manager and try the installation.

1 Go back to your Server Manager and in the top right corner click Manage -> Add Roles and Features.

2. Click next 4 times until you get to Features. Once in features check the box for “.NET Framework 3.5 Features” and then click next on the bottom.

3. On the next page if you see the yellow warning box to specify an alternate source path, just click ‘x’ to dismiss it. On the bottom of the page then, click install. If all goes well you should eventually see that installation succeeded.

If you’d like more detail on the why’s and wherefores:

http://support2.microsoft.com/kb/3005628

UPDATE:  Here’s an blog by an Aussie friend of mine that addresses a this issue in a non-Azure environment.

http://www.windowspcguy.net/?p=306

If you’re fighting this battle, definitely worth a read.

How to get the latest OS image in your Azure deployment scripts

Get-AzureVMImage | where-object { $_.Label -like "Windows*" } | where { $_.Location.Split(";") -contains "West US"} | Sort-Object -Property PublishedDate | Format-List PublishedDate, Label, ImageName

 

via How to make sure you always have the latest OS image in your Azure deployment scripts – The Windows HPC Team Blog – Site Home – TechNet Blogs. This is a trap for new players that can have you pulling your hair out!

 

UPDATE!

Here’s a slightly different bit of code, especially helpful if you happen to know the OS you want.  This makes it a re-usable function, so for a complex script that needed to create multiple VMs, you could call this as needed, adjusting for what OS you needed each time. In the example below, the function is called to populate a variable, $winimage, that would be used somewhere else in the script to create an Azure VM.

function getLatestVMImage($imageFamily)
{
    $images = Get-AzureVMImage |
    where { $_.ImageFamily -eq $imageFamily } |
    Sort-Object -Descending -Property PublishedDate
    $latestImage = $images[0].ImageName
    return $latestimage
}

$winimage = getLatestVMImage(“Windows Server 2012 Datacenter”)

Very Slick! Thank you Enrique Lima for sending this around.

How to Change your Outlook.com alias

1. Log on to Outlook.com with your current alias/email address. For example nzmct@outlook.co.nz

2. In the upper right corner click on your display name, and from the resulting drop down menu, choose “Account Settings”.

3. This will open in another window, and may require you to go through a security confirmation exercise. I had to receive enter in a code that was sent to me via txt.

4. Once verified, in the menu on the left of the screen, click on “Aliases”.

5. Click on the “Add alias” link.

6. Put in the new alias you want to use, note that you can change the domain name to/from the localized domain. In my case I went from outlook.co.nz to outlook.com. (I found that some Azure management tools didn’t like me trying to log on using the localized domain.). Click on the “Add alias” button.

7. Once the alias has been committed, you can click on the appropriate links to make the new alias the primary alias if you so desire. You can also remove the old alias. According to Microsoft, you should be able to use either alias at any time, interchangeably. I haven’t tested this, so mileage may vary.

Module 1: The Marketing Module

Over the years I have become somewhat blasé about modules in MOC that are titled “Introduction to …” or “XXX Overview”. Mainly because often (but not always) they are what many of us in the training call “Marketing Modules”. Little or no substantive information or material, just a very very high level regurgitation of the sales pitch. Usually my approach to these chapters is to skim over it lightly and head straight for the meaty stuff. So in front of my wondering eyes does appear? “Module 1: Introduction to Azure”. I’m going to try to go against my habits and give this chapter my attention. Hopefully I’ll be rewarded . . . .

The first roadblock

I’ve got the courseware, but not the lab environment. So I started downloading it this afternoon. It’s only a single VM, but still nearly 8 GB. I could just spin up my own VM, but I want to test the course as it is written. So I’m downloading it. And still downloading it. Nearly 7 hours later, it’s still downloading. I’m pulling it over a 10 mbps internet pipe, so I’m pretty sure my end isn’t the bottleneck. What makes me even more sure is that in the transfer manager there is a little notice that tells me that the download speed is being throttled by the server. Grrrrrr……. But hey, I’ll just dive right in. And the very first thing in the very first module is “Prepare the environment”, which requires me to launch the VMs and run scripts from within the VMs. And it has details about the subscriptions we need. I guess I’ll just have to wait a little while longer . . .

I’m setting up an Azure trial anyway, just giving it a go. There is a good warning note in the course that students might want/need to use a new or clean MicrosoftID for this trial. It doesn’t make any mention of the Azure trials that CPLSs and MCTs can get. That might be a good way to go when running the course. I suspect that I will want to encourage students to set up their trial subscriptions a few days in advance so I remove that risk. Not to mention that Azure doesn’t like it if too many subscription requests come from the same public IP address in a short period of time. The notes in the manual said that it might take a few hours for it to be provisioned. It took all of about three minutes for me. Plus my home country got this lovely greeting:

The next roadblock

I think there is a problem here. As I go through the manual, there seems to be missing content. Like page after page of missing content. I think something went wrong in the publishing. When I go look in the instructor notes there is lots of good text, but nothing in the “Student Text” sections. I’m pretty sure this isn’t right. I’ve escalated to Microsoft LeX. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. But on I forge!

First thoughts

The first section, or lesson, is about as expected. The name of the section? “Cloud Technology Overview” Nothing I haven’t seen before. Basically the same definitions and examples that Microsoft has been putting out for months, if not years, now. There’s really no meat here to advance my understanding. Given the likely audience for this course, I don’t think this is a section that you’ll need to spend a lot of time on. However, the second lesson picks up. Within the first couple of pages, there’s some good, meaty stuff about Azure Datacenters and their datacentre architecture. While I doubt it’s going to help me much on the exam, it does fill in some gaps in my knowledge and understanding. While I’m not sure that it’s examinable stuff, it’s good to have it in there.

As I pour over this list of services that Azure offers, I’m impressed. I didn’t know about at least half of these, if not more. And with the change cadence of Azure, the list is probably out of date already. It’s going to take some commitment to stay on top of all these offerings to deliver this course.

Nice! Taking some time to look at the new Azure Management Portal Preview. I’m glad to see that in there. But I do wonder how LeX is going to be able to keep this kind of content current/accurate. It’s already a problem in courses where they talk about “New” features that have been out for months/years. How do they have a chance to keep courseware for cloud services even close to current? I already see all the pain that is caused by this exact issue in the Office365 course. Will this course suffer the same fate? I fear it will.

The explanation/walk-through of Certificate-Based Authentication is very good. Very detailed, yet still easy to follow and be used as a reference at a later point in time. It has good tips/recommendations for this whole process. Good stuff here!

On the whole, this is a good start to the course. There’s more good stuff in there than I was anticipating, and definitely some stuff I’m going to want to know for the exam. I’m glad I took the time to read through it properly.

 

 

 

Prepping for Azure Exam 70-533/Learning from 20533—Pulling My Head Out

I’ve decided I need to become better/more comfortable with Azure. Like it or not, it’s probably not going anywhere. I can either stick my head in the ground or get with the program. I’ve kind of been stalling, so I think it’s time I took the latter option. Adapt or die. So I’m going to tackle the new Azure Infrastructure exam, 70-533.

Earlier this week Microsoft released course 20533-Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, so I’m going to use that, along with the links from the blog entry from a few days ago, as my starting point. As I go through the process of learning about Azure and preparing for this exam I will share some of my thoughts on the course and eventually the exam here. I’m not sure how long this is going to take, nor how many entries I’ll make, but the hardest part is always the starting.

So away we go . . .

First Things First

Like I do for any exam that I want to pass I start out by reviewing the official exam page, which you can find here. While Microsoft has made the shift back to more closely aligning courses to exams, it still isn’t a perfect match and at the end of the day, what is on the exam details page is what matters if you’re sitting the exam. A quick look at this one shows me that the exam topics are broken into the six broad categories listed below Without doing much digging yet, I can already see that my experience with virtualization and with IIS should put me in good stead, at least at a foundational level. I’ve been using AD since before it was called AD, so I should be in decent shape there as well. I suspect that I’m going to need to spend a more time dealing with the cloud services and virtual networking sections. Time will tell, but that’s my first impression.


Exam Categories

  • Implement websites
  • Implement virtual machines
  • Implement cloud services
  • Implement storage
  • Implement an Azure Active Directory
  • Implement virtual networks

Normally at this point in time I might go and have a look to see if MeasureUp or SelfTestSoftware have any official sample exams that might be of use to me. (I know that there is quite a bit of debate over the use and value of sample exams, as well as whether or not it is “fair” to use them. A detailed discussion of that topic is probably a post for another day, but I will say this: If they are useful to you, and they are from a legitimate, authorized source (i.e. no braindumps), then I have no problem with using them as PART of your exam preparation. They don’t replace knowing the product/technology being tested, but they can help you make sure you know it in THE WAY that you need to know it to be successful in the exam environment.) Given the relative newness of this exam and exam stream I’m guessing that neither of the authorized sample exam partners will have anything yet.

Two minutes later: Nope. No sample exams. To be honest I doubt that there will ever be any from either of these partners. There are Microsoft exams that have a broader audience than the Azure exams likely will have (at least at the moment) that have been out for years that don’t have any sample exams from these providers. Little obscure products like Lync 2013, Exchange 2013 and SharePoint 2013. Perhaps you’ve heard of them . . . But I digress . . .

I’ve gotten my copy of the 20533 course materials, and now I’m ready to quickly compare the course objectives to the exam objectives. The quick onceover looks about as I expected, at least at a surface level they seem to be reasonably well-aligned. I won’t really know until I start to dig in.

Bring on the Azure!