Friday, December 24, 2010

Fabric is infrastructure

Azure is this platform. It is a bunch of VMs but it isn't a bunch of VMs. There are roles and instance of roles (which are technically VMs).

Then there is this mysterious thing called 'fabric'. The fabric is the secret sauce, it is the thing that makes it all work.

For those of us who have been in enterprise IT - we know all about fabric. We have built it, we have managed it, we have fixed it.

This is a term that is not Azure specific by the way - you will see it appearing in more and more places - fabric is infrastructure. Azure fabric is a bit more - but you will be seeing this fabric term more frequently in the future.

In the simplest sense, fabric is infrastructure. It is the server, the hypervisor that runs on it. It is the storage and storage management. It is the network; the load balancers, the subnet, the VLANs. It is also the management layer that brings all of these things together.

It is this management layer that provides the real keys - the orchestration of events. Provisioning of storage, a VM on a hypervisor, booting that VM, configuring its firewall and networking, installing / instantiating / injecting / inserting / configuring the application, setting the virtual interfaces of the load balancers, and verifying the "health" of your application.

All of this is what the fabric does and it is really valuable, important, and useful.

If you want to geek out (in an IT Pro sort of way) and want to learn more - here are some presentations by Mark Russinovich describing the entire thing in deep detail at PCD 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pale Blue Cloud that is Azure part 1 VMRole

Lately I have had my head in the Microsoft Cloud – Azure to be specific.

It is pale blue and pretty.  It scales, it is definitely intended for developers.

I know there has been lots of speculation about Azure and the VM Role and the ability of Infrastructure as a Service.  I can tell you that the VM Role is not intended for a person to run their entire datacenter in the Azure Public Cloud. 

On the other side, once you work things out – the VM Role is actually pretty cool but not always necessary.  In fact, unless you have a total lack of creativity you really don’t need the VM Role for doing much.  The Web Role and the Worker Roles have a great deal of flexibility. 

Now, this sounds like marketing speak as it comes across as sounding really easy – it isn’t – but I will tell you that if you can write code and understand installation and deployment that you can do most of what you might want to with Worker and Web roles.  There are lots of options available – and they are very traditional deployment options – but you have to structure them in code; so you must really understand your application and your application dependencies.

This is really where the VM Role comes into play.  It is designed for the scenario where you have a legacy application that you want to get into the cloud but it is too costly or not feasible to re-write it specifically for Azure.  Now, that being said – Azure has some really cool features that developers can use to make really big and really resilient and really grand applications.  But the reality is that software actually lives for a long time.  And not everyone upgrades to the latest and greatest version.  And, it takes time to re-write an application – it can take over a year for an enterprise application to go through a revision – let alone a major re-write for a new platform.

I plan on going into some of the features of Azure that will be of interest to ITPros – as most likely at some point in the future you will come into contact with an Azure application – Azure is not the exclusive playground of developers, they might think it is, but it really isn’t.

I hope that at some time in the future I can share the interesting things that I am playing with.

In the mean time – if you want an easy Getting Started with the VM Role guide – here is it:

There is no reason for me to write information a second time that already exists (and is pretty decent).