I hope everyone had a great and productive week. I certainly did.
On this post I would like to share what I learnt about Automated Deployment with Windows Azure at the AX 2012 R3 Tech Conference. As always, I would like to extend my gratitude to TriBridge for taking me to this event.
As discussed in previous events, Microsoft said that it was moving to a cloud environment where it would provide a service to host and run AX instances in the cloud. At this stage, Microsoft offers a wide variety of services to an organization that provide a well-designed infrastructure for development, testing and small-scale production environments.
The following is the Azure Hosting Model (Blue boxes is what Azure is proving us)
Only AX 2012 R3 is certified and supported for Azure at this time. When asking Microsoft about older CU (i.e. CU6), they said it could be possible to work with these versions, and there are a number of companies that are doing it, but it is not supported.
A very cost-effective concept is that Azure takes care of all the back-end processes when creating a new Azure instance. Microsoft accomplished this by using a set of automated scripts that install, and slightly configures the instance. However, customer specific configuration as well as customer specific network details are not part of the automated process for obvious reasons.
Moving right along, Azure provides a very good cost effective solution for hosting. Azure calls it, “Pay-as-you-Go”, which mean that a user will be charged a certain amount of money only when he/she is using the Azure instance.
One of the main benefits of this solution is that any device with RDP capabilities can access the Azure instances.
Azure Deployment Services
Microsoft provides a robust framework for deploying Microsoft Dynamics AX Instances to Azure. The following are most of the steps needed to make use of these services.
- A user/Organization must get an Azure subscription ID by signing into the Azure website.
- There is a 3 month free trial available.
- A new subscription will include 20 cores for a basic deployment of a development and test environments.
- The Azure subscription service will setup the instance automatically.
- Azure will provide different topologies (Development, Test, and Production, which needs more than 20 cores in a real business deployment scenario).
- By default, Azure creates 2 machines per instance to support maintenance.
- A typical development Dev/Test deployment takes approximately 8-10 hours.
- The deployment process is an “intelligent” process that retries failures. In addition a user can define the maximum number of retries, which helps on troubleshooting times.
- Azure provides a Demo instance with Contoso data.
- Azure provide Lifecycle services as a default feature in each instance.
Post Deployment Considerations
Although Azure does many of the configuration tasks automatically, there are a number of post-deployment actions we need to follow up after each setup. The following describes the steps needed after deployment.
In addition, an important point to take in consideration is setting up TFS, Outlook and Lync (if available for a customer). Microsoft can help a customer/partner to set these applications.
One important point is the existence of SQL Server Always On feature, which brings SQL Server high availability and disaster recovery to a whole new level by allowing multiple copies of the database to be highly available. Always On Availability Groups allow you to fail over a group of databases as a single entity, unlike database mirroring where you can only do so one database at a time. Further, this architecture also offers SQL Witness. Its main task is to monitor the mirroring scenario and to initiate automatic failover.
Azure also provides a REST interface instead of a SOAP one. REST is a simple stateless architecture that generally runs over HTTP, and is often used in mobile applications, social networking Web sites, and automated business processes.
Finally, Microsoft recommends starting virtual machines in Azure in a sequence, otherwise the IP addresses will not match the VM’s sub-nets. A question was asked to Microsoft to expand on this issue, and they are not sure why this happens. The good news, however, is that they are working on it.
The following is the Azure portal possible architecture that Microsoft is working on.
Check out TriBridge Cloud Services at TriBridge Concerto. We provide cloud hosting for all your needs. Also, check our TriBridge Careers page and get on our winning team.