A few days ago, I received an email from Microsoft offering up a trial subscription to Microsoft Azure. It’s a promotion tied to their TechEd Challenge Entry, and while I know it’s a long shot that my trial will win me anything, I was quite intrigued to see how the product had moved on.
The last time I had looked at Azure, it was very firmly in the PaaS (Platform as a Service) space, but recently Microsoft has started providing an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) offering. I had used Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a demonstration of this when I had given a Cloud Computing talk to the BCS so was curious to see how far Microsoft had come. So I set myself a target to try and see how difficult it would be to roll out a WordPress site running on a LAMP stack hosted by Microsoft Azure. And for your viewing pleasure, I’ve taken screenshots of every step of the process, to demonstrate how it can be done.
So, without any further ado …
The first step was to sign up for a 90 day free trial. This was painless with a wizard walking you through the steps of choosing where in the world you wanted your cloud service to reside,
confirming your contact details
and providing a payment mechanism for your account (no charges taken in the 90 day trial)
Once the signup process is complete, you’re taken to the Azure dashboard, where you can see all the services then provide tabulated on the left. Obviously, there’s quite a bit of depth to each option, but today we’ll be looking at provisioning a server to install WordPress on.
The first step of this it to create a Virtual Machine, so I opted to create one from their “Gallery”.
This fires up a wizard which walks you through the parameters of the VM you want to create. There are a variety of preconfigured images, ranging from a plain server, to an already configured Sharepoint or BizTalk server. As I was after installing WordPress on LAMP (to compare with AWS), I went for an Ubuntu Server build.
The first step is to give the VM a name, choose one of the preconfigured sizes and set up your authentication. There’s an option to upload an SSH key, but I opted for the simpler username/password combination.
The next step is to give your VM an external name, specify if you want a new or previously created storage account and choose which region you would like your server to reside in.
The final stage is to specify if you want it to be part of an Availability Set for resiliance … and that’s it! Those are the parameters the wizard needs to go off and create a new VM for you.
Going back to your daskboard, you can now see your VM being created. It takes a few minutes before it’s ready, but once that’s done you can go ahead and play with it.
Once the initial setup is complete, Azure lets you know and the machine is available for you to play.
Seeing this was a Linux build, I pointed by favourite SSH client at it and got my hands dirty with installing the actual software. Installing WordPress and the prerequisites it needs was fairly painless thanks to an online guide. There was one additional step I had to do, which was to expose Port 80 on the VM to the outside world (by default only SSH is opened up), but the Azure UI is quite intuitive and I had no trouble finding how to do this.
All that needed doing was configuring WordPress
and Voila … my WordPress site was available to the world!
So, what was my verdict? Well, it was definitely easier and quicker than I expected, taking around an hour from start to end and most of that time I was exploring various options to see what it could do. It also seems easier to get to grips with than AWS though I haven’t had time to get under the covers and try and break it yet 🙂
From a corporate point of view, the options are fantastic. To have the ability to roll out as many or as few machines as you need at any point in time, without going through the rigmarole of procurement for every box you need will definitely give much-needed agility. Might try and fire up a Sharepoint box next .. just to see what it’s like 🙂