The Microsoft Azure development team gives us administrators many different ways of administering your Azure resources. These methods include, but are not limited to:
- The Azure Service Management (ASM) and Azure Resource Manager (ARM) Web management portals
- Azure Command-Line Interface (CLI)
- Azure PowerShell cmdlets
- REST APIs (ASM and ARM)
- .NET libraries
Nonetheless, it can be frustrating to, for instance, manage storage graphically in Azure. The same goes for configuring shared access signatures to provide granular security to storage assets. I think it makes the most sense to divide the tools by function.
With cloud services, such as Azure, it is crucial that you monitor your monthly spending to make sure that your service costs fall within your budgetary limits. Many Azure newcomers become concerned (and rightfully so) that they'll install services they later determine they don't need, but they forget to remove them and then incur a cost.
I mean, the Azure team does a nice job of helping you to control costs. Check out these Web resources:
Here are some hand-picked tools of the trade that may be able to give you some peace of mind with regard to the "monthly spend" issue.
- Cloudyn: Cloud-based service that includes a deep analytics engine. You can get fine details regarding your Azure billing and even perform "what-if" scenarios for accurate cost forecasting.
- Cloud Cruiser: Similar to Cloudyn inasmuch as you can run comprehensive analytics against your Azure costs. What's cool about Cloud Cruiser is that the product is aimed at managed service provider (MSPs) who need to track costing for several different Azure customers.
- Cloud Ninja: Free and open-source project that enables developers to meter Azure tenant resource usage in multi-tenant environments
Microsoft Azure offers four types of storage to its customers:
- Blob: Unstructured data (documents, images, movies, etc.)
- Table: Semi-structured key-value pairs
- File: Cloud-based Server Message Block (SMB) file shares
- Queue: Application message storage and retrieval
Here are some storage tools to make your life easier:
- AzCopy: Microsoft's command-line client. You can copy and move storage assets between blob containers, between storage accounts, or even between Azure subscriptions.
- Storage Explorer: Free and open-source Microsoft GUI utility that makes it easy to work with your various storage assets. It even runs on OS X and Linux! I show you the user interface in the next screenshot.
- Azure Storage Metrics: Windows 8.1/10 Universal app that allows you to visualize your Azure storage analytics data
- Cloudberry Explorer: This company makes its living developing storage management tools for all of the major cloud providers, including Microsoft Azure. I've used their tools for years and heartily recommend them.
- Azure Speed Test: This Web app measures latency between your current location and Azure storage in the various Azure datacenters around the world.
- Azure SAS Generator: Another Windows Universal app; this one makes it simple to create shared access signatures to your blob containers, tables, and queues.
I guess it makes sense to cover Azure backup-helper apps after concluding the storage section, right? While some Azure services perform automated backups for you (the SQL] database service and Azure storage replication service are notable examples), you're on your own in terms of keeping your VMs and Web apps backed up and safe. Here is some assistance:
- Azure Backup: This is Azure's own service that links with Windows Server Backup in Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016.
- Cloudberry Backup for Azure: This tool is pretty darn cool. You can even restore an on-prem Windows Server back to a new Azure virtual machine!
- Enzo Cloud Backup: This SaaS tool backs up Azure SQL databases, tables, and blobs. It can also run database scripts on a schedule.
- StorSimple: This is Microsoft's (expensive) hybrid storage solution. It involves your purchasing a storage appliance and managing the tool via the Azure APIs. The appliance has three storage tiers: SSD, traditional HDD, and Azure, all integrated together nicely. StorSimple is a tremendous service for companies who can afford it.
A common planning issue that many new Azure administrators face is whether to migrate their on-premises line-of-business (LOB) Web apps to Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) virtual machines or make use of Azure's Platform as a Service (PaaS) hosting service.
Here are some cool Web app-related management utilities:
- Project Kudu: This is the engine behind Azure App Service Git integration, WebJobs, and other behind-the-scenes services. You can access the Kudu dashboard by adding scm to your Web apphostname; for instance: mywebapp.scm.azurewebsites.net. What's particularly cool is that you can get a remote PowerShell console session for the VM hosting your Web app! I show you the Kudu interface in the next screenshot.
- Dynatrace: Create synthetic workloads against your Azure Web apps to load-test and identify vulnerabilities.
- AppDynamics: Another cloud-based monitoring and application performance management (APM) solution
- Azure Tools for Visual Studio: I'll tell you, loading the Azure SDK into Visual Studio 2015 gives you a super-powerful environment for developing, testing, staging, and deploying Azure Web apps. The degree of Azure integration we have in Visual Studio nowadays is astounding.
- Azure Websites Migration Assistant: This is a free tool for Microsoft that helps you to migrate on-premises IIS-based Web apps to Azure. Note: The Azure team now uses the term "Azure App Service" instead of "Azure Websites."
In my experience, the App Service PaaS and Virtual Machines PaaS offerings form the two chief Azure use cases. From what I've seen reported, one in four Azure virtual machines runs some Linux distribution--it's not a "Windows-only" world anymore!
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- Azure Linux Agent: If you plan to manage Linux VMs in the Azure cloud, then you need to become familiar with this open-source software. In particular, you'll need the agent to generalize your Linux VMs if you want to create generalized operating system (OS) image templates.
- Azure VM Readiness Assessment Tool: This free Microsoft tool inspects your on-premises network and reports on how ready you are to migrate your physical and virtual servers to the Azure IaaS cloud.
- Cerebrata Azure Management Studio: This is about the most full-featured general-purpose Azure management tool you'll find in the market nowadays. It isn't updated as much as I'd like for it to be (for instance, there's no Azure App Services support yet, and the ARM integration is limited), but for what it does, it's a nice tool. I’ll show you it in an interface screenshot below.