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Microsoft Azure: Taking Cloud to the Next Level - Part 2 Azure Automation

This is the second installment in my three part series about Microsoft Azure.  In the first installment I reviewed the basics and how Azure can be used to help increase efficiency within your IT environment, as well as reducing costs.  In this installment we’ll dig a little deeper into Azure and how you might get started with Azure.  As always, you can find more info about Microsoft Azure by heading to http://azure.microsoft.com for the latest and greatest information.  

The great (and sometimes difficult) thing about cloud based solutions is that they are constantly changing.  Maybe changing isn’t the right word. It’s more accurate to say they are constantly evolving and that would be the case with Microsoft Azure as well.  Almost daily, Microsoft is releasing updates to Azure, either in its compatibility, functionality, or deployment options.  This constant state of improvement shouldn’t be overwhelming as these changes will ultimately benefit end users in terms of added functionality and more flexible deployment options.

Speaking of added functionality and flexible deployment, two weeks ago Microsoft released the Microsoft Azure Automation Preview.  This automation preview gives IT staff a powerful set of tools to use to create Azure virtual machines using specified templates, set performance parameters for these machines to auto provision more machines when performance and usage dictate, AND automatically shut down these machines when they aren’t needed.   Let’s say XYZ Company sells goods or services where demand peaks at a certain time of year.  They add seasonal staff to accommodate this increased demand and in the past they have had to design their IT infrastructure around peak demand, spending more on hardware and licensing all year long, just so they can keep their employees productive during their busy season.  Statistics show that 70% of on premises computing power sits unused.  Using Microsoft Azure with Automation you can create the virtual servers you need based on your current number of users, set your performance parameters so that Azure Automation automatically provisions and decommissions the virtual machines as needed based on the performance needs of the precise number of users that are using the system.  

Becoming familiar with Azure involves refreshing your IT skill set and learning some new terminology but the payoff for your organization can be huge.  You will become familiar with terms like runbooks and blobs but after you start working with them they will soon become second nature and you will appreciate the productivity gains that Azure can help you leverage.  As Azure gains more critical mass, the amount of prewritten scripts, virtual machine images, and runbooks that are available from the community will give you even more tools to use.  Here is a quick run through of an Azure automation runbook implementation.

1. Create an Azure Automation account and import a runbook named “Write-helloworld” that follows the Azure best practice naming convention of verb-noun:  


2. Import the previously created/downloaded runbook:


3. Select the imported runbook:  


4. Clicking AUTHOR, and then DRAFT allows you to see the contents of the run book and allows you to modify it.  


5. Publishing the runbook makes it ready for production.  


6. Clicking NEXT allows you to specify any parameters and then start the automation job:


  7. Finally the summary page allows you to see all the important info of the automation job:  


A more detailed walk through can be found here.  If you are interested in learning more about Azure Automation or have questions about how Azure can help your organization, contact one of our Azure experts at Innovia now.

Jeffrey Pergolski

Jeffrey Pergolski

Jeff has worked with clients large and small to help them make the most of their Microsoft licensing solutions. Jeff is a technology enthusiast, which has led him to be an early adopter of both hardware and software solutions. Jeff is also the co-host of the Innovia Conversation, where he and Steve share Business Central/NAV tips, interviews, and more. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in Mathematics and Computer Science.

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