Two new compute-intensive instances on Windows Azure

by Shijaz Abdulla on 01.02.2014 at 14:49

Two new compute-intensive virtual machine instances have been added on Windows Azure over the weekend.

Cloud Services A8 8 virtual cores,
56 GB memory
$ 2.45 per hour
Cloud Services A9 16 virtual cores,
112GB memory
$ 4.90 per hour

A8 and A9 belong to a new category of instances called compute-intensive instances that provide faster processors and more virtual cores for higher compute power, larger amounts of memory, and a 40 Gbit/s InfiniBand network that includes remote direct memory access (RDMA) technology for maximum efficiency of parallel Message Passing Interface (MPI) applications.

Compute-intensive instances are optimal for running compute and network-intensive applications such as high-performance cluster applications, applications using modeling, simulation and analysis, and video encoding. Please consider using the new A8 and A9 instances for running your compute and network-intensive applications.


Windows Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) General Availability (GA)!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 16.04.2013 at 19:23

Windows Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering hit general availability worldwide today.

Furthermore, to eliminate price as a discussion when comparing to the competition, namely Amazon, we made a new pledge to our valued customers. Quite simply, we will match AWS prices for commodity services such as compute, storage and bandwidth. We may charge less, but never more.

“If you had concerns that Windows Azure was more expensive, we’re putting those concerns to rest today.”

Steven Martin, Operations GM – Azure

The reason is simple. We want to remove price as part of the equation. We’d rather compete on the services we provide and the complete vision of the Microsoft Cloud OS which provides rich:

  • Infrastructure services
  • Platform services
  • Hybrid scenarios (move VMs from your datacenter to Windows Azure and back. Use common technologies across private & public clouds (Active Directory for identity, System Center for Management, Hyper-V for virtualization, .NET for development)

Furthermore, based on customer input, we are also announcing two new higher capacity virtual machines:

  1. A four virtual processor VM with 28 GB of memory
  2. An eight virtual processor VM with 56 gigabytes of memory!

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These configurations enable workloads with increasing compute demands.

Oh, and BTW, yes, Azure IaaS runs 100% on Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

Finally, it should be noted just how fast Azure is growing. Bill Hilf is quoted as saying that Azure is growing at the rate of 1,000 customers A DAY and today supports over 200,000 active customers.


Accessing Windows Azure storage using FTP

by Shijaz Abdulla on 25.02.2013 at 23:03

You can access the Windows Azure blob storage by setting up an FTP server connected to it. For this you will need to create a Windows Azure VM running Windows (or Linux for that matter) that will host the FTP service. Each VM gets its own public IP and DNS name on the internet which you can use to access your FTP service.

In this example, I will show you how you can create a Windows Server VM on Windows Azure and configure it as an FTP server.

Besides the method described above, there are also other options such as using open source software like FTP2Azure http://ftp2azure.codeplex.com/

1. First create a Windows Server VM on Windows Azure. I used Windows Server 2012.

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2. Connect via RDP to the newly provisioned VM and install the Web Server (IIS) role. Make sure you enable the FTP Server role services for the IIS role. I am assuming you already know how to add roles to your Windows Server and use the Remote Desktop client on your computer.

3. Create FTP site on IIS: Open the IIS Manager console, right click on Sites, and choose Add FTP Site. Specify the FTP Site Name and Local Path for the FTP site. Click Next. Specify binding and SSL information. Hit Next. Specify authentication options, click Finish.

This is just a test environment, so I’m just going to use the local administrator account for FTP login. Of course, in production you wouldn’t want to do that for security purposes.

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4. Open a Command Prompt, use the ftp command to see if you can connect locally on port 21. (You could also use telnet)

ftp 127.0.0.1

You should get something like this:

Connected to 127.0.0.1
220 Microsoft FTP Service

5. Set External IP address on your IIS FTP server. This should be the public IP of your Azure VM service. You will find this IP listed on the right side of the VM service page on the Windows Azure Management Portal.

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6. Enabling ports for FTP access on Windows Azure:

For Active FTP, you only need ports 21 and 20 to be opened. However for Passive FTP you will need to define a range of ports on the IIS FTP server and open them in Windows Azure, by defining them as “endpoints”.

a) First, define the port range on IIS using an elevated Command line using APPCMD utility, located at the System32\inetsrv in the Windows folder.

cd %windir%\system32\inetsrv

appcmd set config /section:system.ftpServer/firewallSupport /lowDataChannelPort:7000 /highDataChannelPort:7014

Then restart the IIS service.

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In this example, we are defining the port range as 7000-7014.

b) Now you need to define these port numbers as endpoints on Windows Azure. You could do it manually in the Windows Azure management portal, one by one. You do this by going to Virtual Machines > [Your VM] > Endpoints. However, defining 15 points manually is rather tedious, so you can leverage PowerShell commands.

To use PowerShell, you need to make sure you download and install Windows Azure PowerShell on your computer. Before you can use PowerShell cmdlets on Azure, you need to publish the settings file for your Azure account. You can use the Get-AzurePublishSettingsFile cmdlet, which will help you download the actual settings file that corresponds to your Windows Live ID associated with your Azure account.

After you download this settings file, you can import it to PowerShell by using the Import-AzurePublishSettingsFile cmdlet and you’re good to go.

To create the endpoints, use the command:

Get-AzureVM -ServiceName ‘ServiceName’ -Name ‘FTPPortalName’ | Add-AzureEndpoint -Name ‘FTP00′ -Protocol ‘TCP’ -LocalPort 7000 -PublicPort 7000 | Update-AzureVM

Get-AzureVM -ServiceName ‘ServiceName’ -Name ‘FTPPortalName’ | Add-AzureEndpoint -Name ‘FTP01′ -Protocol ‘TCP’ -LocalPort 7001 -PublicPort 7001 | Update-AzureVM

…and so on till you’re done with the 15 endpoints…

Get-AzureVM -ServiceName ‘ServiceName’ -Name ‘FTPPortalName’ | Add-AzureEndpoint -Name ‘FTP14′ -Protocol ‘TCP’ -LocalPort 7014 -PublicPort 7014 | Update-AzureVM

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Once the commands are done executing, here is what you will have in the portal now that all endpoints have been defined:

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7. Configure Windows Firewall to allow FTP traffic

Open an elevated command prompt on your server and issue the following command:

netsh AdvFirewall set global StatefulFTP enable

Then, restart the FTP service.

net stop FTPsvc
net start FTPsvc

8. Test externally

From your PC, open a command prompt and attempt to connect via FTP on the your VM’s public DNS name or public IP address (details will be on the Azure portal VM service details on the right side)

For example:

ftp aspiretest.cloudapp.net

If you are successfully able to connect, you are all set! Fire up your favorite FTP client and you can now use FTP to upload and download files from new VM hosted on Windows Azure.


Qatar National Day website hosted on Windows Azure

by Shijaz Abdulla on 16.12.2012 at 06:04

National Qatar Day Home  

December 18th marks a special day for the State of Qatar. It is the country’s National Day – the day that commemorates a historic day in 1878 when Shaikh Jassim, the founder of the State of Qatar, succeeded his father, Shaikh Muhammad bin Thani who was the ruler of the country and led the country towards unity.

Each year December 18 is celebrated with great festivities and special events in the State. Centerpiece to the celebrations and events is the Qatar National Day website, which keeps the public informed of the schedules of events and updates, and also features articles, videos, audio, and other content related to the National Day.

Starting this year, the Qatar National Day website, available at www.qatar.qa is proudly hosted on Windows Azure. The SharePoint-based website is hosted on Windows Azure’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering on Hyper-V virtual machines hosted in Microsoft’s Windows Azure datacenters.

“Due to the nature of the traffic to the website, which steeply increases around the period of the National Day, and remains steady during other times of the year, a cloud-based solution is the best fit for hosting the service. We chose Windows Azure as it eases deployment and helps us scale effectively and efficiently when required”, said Mahmoud Albatarni, who is the IT Consultant for the The State National Day Celebration and Organizing Committee.

For more information please visit Qatar national day website : http://www.qatar.qa/english/pages/default.aspx

Happy National Day!

Qatar Grunge Flag

Also check out the Qatar National Day Windows Phone app.