I head the great news on the Microsoft TechEd 2012 Europe conference: You can even install Microsoft SharePoint on the Windows Azure virtual machines!
I see endless possibilities in Azure for testing purposes, data and active directory redundancy, external access and extranets and the list just continues.
New functionality in Windows Azure
The new functionality that had been introduced in Windows Azure which makes it possible to work with:
- Virtual Machines (Windows & Linux from templates or own vhd-images)
- Virtual Networks (separation of networks in Windows Azure)
- Site-to-Site VPN connection (e.g. to your own LAN)
- …much more
With these new features we are in fact able to run almost any type of program, server or service in the cloud – including Microsoft SharePoint.
Fig. 1 – Diagram of Windows Azure and the internal network connection
If you already have Microsoft Hyper-V machines (VHD-files) the good news is that these are fully compatible with Windows Azure. You can actually just copy the files between your environment and Windows Azure as you please. For this process please check out my blogpost “Using CloudXplorer to access Windows Azure Storage“.
I was determined to check this out right away and started my setup of test environment. This included installing a new domain controller, SQL Server and SharePoint farm in the cloud. I would connect this Windows Azure environment to my internal network with the new site-to-site VPN functionality – even though I had SonicWALL as firewall. At present time Windows Azure only supports (or actually provides the configuration details) to Cisco and Juniper VPN devices.
Signing up for a Windows Azure account is quite easy – just enroll on http://www.WindowsAzure.com
The pricing on Windows Azure services is in my opinion very fair as you only pay for what you use – space, usage and time. The price calculator is easy to use and gives you an exact overview of your spending.
Fig. 2 – Example of the monthly fee for 24 hours Windows Azure Windows Server
If you are connected to a Microsoft Partner or own a MSDN subscription you are entitled to activate some “free resources”. Read more on the Pricing, Member offers section on the website.
Preparing the environment for SharePoint
This blogpost provides you with a quick introduction of Windows Azure and do not go into much detail. You can read more information about Windows Azure and the services on the Microsoft Windows Azure website
I will post installation guides for the following setup soon:
This will provide you with an environment that is ready for a Microsoft SharePoint installation. More guides will follow on installation and access configuration to the SharePoint sites.
I will update the above headlines with the links to these blogposts.
Considerations regarding your data
Microsoft will keep the virtual machines and data online according to the service you buy. As default the data is stored on three physical drives but it is possible to buy local and geo redundant storage locations.
Please make sure you also make a backup/restore plan for your data as Microsoft only provides Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Of course you also need to have the licensing in place for the products you run.
Also check the support possibilities and make sure all the above matches your needs.