Microsoft Azure – the best thing since sliced bread or even a toasted Bialy, with a schmear!

The enormity of Microsoft’s Cloud undertaking, just amazing! Virtual networks, VM’s, Websites, Content Delivery Networks, Big Data, Blob Storage, Single-Sign-On Authentication, unlimited hardware resources, server farms, complete coding and Dev environments, Windows Backup Service, and on and on.

We just set up our first demo environment, with a small DNS server (1 core, 1.6 GB RAM) and a medium-large SQL VM (4 cores, 7GB). By shutting the bigger machine off at night, we can keep the price down to about $200/month. As a Microsoft Partner, we get a credit of $100, so the cost is minimal, compared to the resources available. The quality of the resources is excellent. SQL runs 10x faster on the Azure VM than it does on our in-house, bare metal server, which has double the RAM.

Microsoft does offer support, but best to have your own I/T resources available. I noticed that the MSFT technicians (offshore), although well-trained, only knew about their particular area of expertise. So that our support tickets got passed around as we encountered different issues, e.g.: installing a public key certificate, setting up the DNS server, creating Cloud Services, questions about SQL, etc. There are just so many different areas of technology today, that the technician who knows it all is rare and valuable.

The end result is that we have a very fast demo environment. We can create as many VMs as we like, shutting down the ones we don’t use, so as to avoid increasing cost. Another great idea is to use Azure to create a mirrored server of your in-house server. Every night backup your SQL database to Azure BLOB (binary large object storage). If your in-house server goes down, restore the SQL backup to the Azure clone and run your business from Azure, while you are repairing your in-house server.

Here are step-by-step screen shots of the setup process to create a virtual network, a DNS server, and an application server.

Create a Virtual Network with Affinity Group – East US Region

Enter 8 or more addresses in the first subnet

PDG_VNET created

Enter Name and IP Address for DNS Server

Create a Storage Account

Storage account created – in our Affinity Group (East US)

Add a VM which will be the Domain Controller.

Accept the defaults for Endpoints; Uncheck Install VM Agent

RDP was created for the PDG-DC; port 52708. (Azure gives you the pubic port).

Promote the Local Server to a Domain Controller

Add DC to an existing Domain

Assigned it to PDGCONSULTANTS domain

Finish off the configuration of the DNS

End Result of DC creation

View the IPConfig /All connections

Add a VM for Dynamics GP and SQL Server. Put it in the VNET, and link it to our Storage Account

Provide RDP access and open a port for SQL

Add Ports for HTTP and HTTPS

Initialize and format a data disk (0 is C: system; 1 is D: used only by the system; 2 is E: our data disk

Do a Quick Format; otherwise you need to come back tomorrow

Review all items from the Azure Portal Dashboard. (Note that each machine needs to be hosted in a Cloud Service).

Download Azure Storage Explorer (I prefer Cloudberry Explorer. $40, but easy to use.)

Look in the Containers tab for our virtual hard drive. See the path to it.

Shows our hard drives on the DC and SQL machine. (pdg-dc has one-C:, pdg-sql has 2 – C: and E:)

Microsoft says, “Everything is simple.”. That is true, after you have done it many times successfully. {:->

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