The 5 Components of Azure DevOps

The 5 Components of Azure DevOps

In the search to accelerate and simplify the DevOps process, we take a look at Microsoft’s Azure DevOps, a hosted service providing development and collaboration tool that was formerly known as Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS). Last year, Microsoft split VSTS into five separate Azure-branded services, under the banner Azure DevOps for a complete offering in public cloud that makes it easier for developers to adopt portions of the Azure DevOps platform, without requiring them to go “all in” like the former VSTS.

Azure DevOps supports both public and private cloud configurations – the services include:

  • Azure Boards – A work tracking system with Kanban boards, dashboards, and reporting
  • Azure Pipelines – A CI/CD, testing, and deployment system that can connect to any Git repository
  • Azure Repos – A cloud-hosted private Git repository service
  • Azure Test Plans – A solution for tests and capturing data about defects
  • Azure Artifacts – A hosting facility for Maven, npm, and NuGet packages

Each of these Azure DevOps services is open and extensible and can be used with all varieties of applications, regardless of the framework, platform or cloud. Built-in cloud-hosted agents are provided for Windows, Mac OS and Linux and workflows are enabled for native container support and Kubernetes deployment options, virtual machines, and serverless environments.

With all five services together users can take advantage of an integrated suite that provides end to end DevOps functionalities. But, since they are broken up into separate components, Azure DevOps gives users the flexibility to just pick which services to employ without the need to use the full suite. For example, with Kubernetes having a standard interface and running the same way on all cloud providers, Azure Pipelines can be used for deploying to Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), or clusters from any other cloud provider without requiring the use of any of the other Azure DevOps components.

Embracing Azure DevOps

One of the main benefits for teams using Azure DevOps is developers will be able to work securely from anywhere and in any format and embrace open-source technology. Azure DevOps addresses the vendor lock-in problem from its early version by providing extensive integration with industry and community tools.

With the many integrations available, users can log in using SSO tools like Azure AD or communicate with their team via Slack integration while accessing both cloud and on-premises resources.

Azure Pipelines offers free CI/CD with unlimited minutes and 10 parallel jobs for every open source project and many of the top open-source projects already use Azure Pipelines for CI/CD, such as Atom, CPython, Pipenv, Tox, Visual Studio Code, and TypeScript.

Benefits of Azure DevOps 

Azure DevOps use cases include:

  • Planning – Azure DevOps makes it easy for DevOps teams to manage their work with full visibility across products and projects, helping them keep development efforts transparent and on schedule. Teams can define, track, and layout work with Kanban boards, backlogs, custom dashboards and reporting capabilities using Azure Boards.
  • Developing –  Allows teams to share code and collaborate together with Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code. Users can create automatic workflows for automated testing and continuous integration in the cloud with Azure Pipelines. 
  • Delivery – Helps teams deploy applications to any Azure service automatically and with full control. Users can define and spin up multiple cloud environments with Azure Resource Manager or HashiCorp Terraform, and then create continuous delivery pipelines into these environments using Azure Pipelines or tools such as Jenkins and Spinnaker.
  • Operations –  With Azure Monitor, users can implement full stack monitoring, get actionable alerts, and gain insights from logs and telemetry.

Pricing

As for Azure DevOps pricing, there are a lot of open-source tools that can be combined to deliver the functionality that Azure DevOps promises to provide, but the basic plan for open source projects and small projects is free up to five users. For larger teams, the cost can range from $30 per month for 10 users to $90 per month for 20 users and so forth.

In summary, Azure DevOps is an all in one focussed project tracking and planning tool mixed with Developer and DevOps tools for writing, building and deploying code that’s relatively quick and easy to use. But, while maintenance cost is decreased, developers only need an active subscription to have constant access to the latest version. Azure DevOps will indirectly utilize Azure Storage and compute services that will increase usage and impact costs.

The Three Core Components of Microsoft Azure Cost Management

The Three Core Components of Microsoft Azure Cost Management

Organizations that utilize Microsoft Azure as their cloud service provider have free access to Microsoft Azure Cost Management as a part of their subscription. Much of this originates from cloud monitoring and analytics tool, Cloudyn, which Microsoft acquired in July 2017. After the acquisition, Microsoft started migrating Cloudyn features into their Azure Cost Management portal and began offering it to their paying customers. The tool helps you monitor your cloud spending, increase your organizational accountability, and optimize your cloud efficiency. Let’s take a look at each of these features and see how well it performs in each.

Monitor Your Cloud Spending

The reports available in Microsoft Azure Cost Management help you view your past usage and costs while also allowing you to project your future spending. These costs can be viewed in daily, monthly, or yearly views, so you can see trends and anomalies across smaller or larger time frames. This data is pulled straight from Azure (or AWS, if you want to pay 1% of your AWS bill), so it helps for breaking down your raw cloud bill information.

Increase Your Organizational Accountability

Microsoft Azure Cost Management reports have the ability to be broken down in different ways by using “cost entities” to split resources into different buckets. These entities are often aligned with specific projects or departments within your organization, and can correlate with users or Azure subscriptions. Further, you can create “cost models” to split resources based on tags from your raw billing information.

Once the cost entities and cost models are in place, true accountability comes from having users log directly into Azure Cost Management to see and explore the costs associated with the teams and projects that they are a part of. On top of this, Azure Budgets can be set to alert or limit individuals or teams from overspending (or at least attempt to prevent it through warnings).

Optimize Your Cloud Efficiency

Even though this is a core tenant of Microsoft Azure Cost Management, optimization is one of the weakest features of the product. The essence of the documentation around this is that you should manually eliminate waste, without going into much detail about what is being wasted or how to eliminate it. Plus, this expects manual intervention and review of each resource without giving direct actions to eliminate the waste.

At ParkMyCloud, we believe that continuous cost control comes from actual action. We’ve created this for our customers through a simple UI (with full RBAC), smart recommendations with one-click remediation, and an automatic policy engine that can schedule your resources by default based on your tagging or naming conventions. Our multi-cloud platform will help you reduce cloud waste and maximize the value of your cloud.  Start a trial today to see the automation in action!

How to Value Azure Market Share When Placing Your Bets in the Cloud Race

How to Value Azure Market Share When Placing Your Bets in the Cloud Race

Azure market share appears to be growing within the cloud computing race – both at large and within our own customer base here at ParkMyCloud. 

As multi-cloud enthusiasts, we keenly observe the various commentator speculations about the winners and losers in the three-horse race between AWS, Azure and GCP that is the public cloud market. When quarterly results are reported, the tech news cycle buzzes for days, and what they choose to highlight can set the tone in the news. 

One of the side benefits of reviewing the utilization of our customers in the ParkMyCloud platform is to compare what we see to what the market sees. Our customer base is of course a non-random sample from the cloud IaaS market, but we definitely see a number of trend correlations which do seem to speak to changes in this highly competitive marketplace. 

Azure Market Share Among ParkMyCloud Users

One trend we recently spotted was an uptick in the relative proportion of Azure accounts and resources being managed within ParkMyCloud. Over the last six months or so, the proportion of customers using Azure exclusively has increased from roughly 10% to 20% – not to mention the handful using Azure in addition to one of the other major providers. Meanwhile, the proportion of our customers using solely AWS decreased slightly, while Google Cloud and the multi-cloud combinations remained roughly flat. 

Azure Market Share at Large

Is this growth reflected in the market at large? Last quarter’s earnings reports and market outlook align with what we observed in our small sample. According to a recent KeyBanc report, Amazon lost almost 6% stake, while Microsoft Azure went from 26% to 30% and Google successfully grew its share from 8% to 10% in the cloud business. As the report’s author stated:

“AWS has a formidable lead and first-mover advantage in IaaS and is maintaining AWS estimates for this year and next, but the slowdown warrants further investigation into multi-cloud competitive dynamics”.

 

(Source: BusinessQuant.com)

Still, Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing unit reported incredible revenue gains in their filings with its revenue increasing by 91% in FY18 and 72% in FY19. This growth has underpinned the overall performance of the entire Microsoft business and the consensus seems to be that Azure’s cloud momentum is still in its early days of playing out within the company’s massive install base. As shown in the chart above Azure’s growth has consistently been above the current 65% growth rate, and for much of the last five years has been close to doubling annually. Some have argued that the growth is slowing, which it is, but nevertheless it’s still at an impressive rate and even if it dropped to AWS levels would still be remarkable even by tech standards. After all, there is a key size after which the growth requires such a huge segment of the available market that it’s impossible to maintain early adoption rates. 

Another key indicator of growth is Microsoft’s stock price, which as of this week has nearly matched its all-time high. Many cite Azure as a key driver of this growth, also noting that Azure’s customer skew toward larger enterprises protect it from some of the market volatility that AWS and Google Cloud’s large proportion of startup customers leave them vulnerable to.

What’s Driving Azure’s Growth?

While AWS has long been seen as an innovator, Azure has the advantage of being the default option with the ability for large enterprises using other Microsoft products to roll Azure into existing contracts

However, we’re also seeing Azure as a component of more and more companies’ multi-cloud strategies, as well as more customers drawn to Azure’s now-mature feature set as market-leading on its own terms, taking advantage of offerings like Azure DevOps.

One interesting idea is whether Azure is growing its customer base at a risky rate compared to its infrastructure capacity. For example, we’ve seen anecdotal complaints regarding low availability of most sizes of low priority VMs, which may indicate a lack of excess capacity. On the other hand, we do not know of any widespread availability issues outside of this “spare capacity” offering, which indicates a razor’s edge balance of supply and demand thus far. 

Join us to Talk All Things Azure at Microsoft Ignite

If you enjoy discussing Azure market share and features, then come and discuss not only how to optimize your public cloud spend in Azure but also your own views on this fascinating market. You will find us at Microsoft Ignite in a few weeks. For Microsoft Ignite, November 4-8, we’ll be joining our parent company Turbonomic at booth #1713 in the expo hall. Schedule a time to stop by – we’d love to chat.

How to Get the Cheapest Cloud Computing

How to Get the Cheapest Cloud Computing

Are you looking for the cheapest cloud computing available? Depending on your current situation, there are a few ways you might find the least expensive cloud offering that fits your needs.

If you don’t currently use the public cloud, or if you’re willing to have infrastructure in multiple clouds, you’re probably looking for the cheapest cloud provider. If you have existing infrastructure, there are a few approaches you can take to minimize costs and ensure they don’t spiral out of control.

Find the Cloud Provider that Offers the Cheapest Cloud Computing for Your Needs

There are a variety of small cloud providers that attempt to compete by dropping their prices. If you work for a small business and prefer a no-frills experience, perhaps one of these is right for you.

However, there’s a reason that the “big three” cloud providers – Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud dominate the market. They offer a wide range of product lines, and are continually innovating. They have a low frequency of outages, and their scale requires a straightforward onboarding process and plenty of documentation. 

Whatever provider you decide on, ensure that you’ll have access to all the services you need – is there a computing product, storage, databases? If you want to use containers or have the option for serverless, how do those products fit in? How good is the customer support? Does your company directly compete with the provider – for example, with Amazon’s retail arm? (You may not care, but some companies definitely do.) 

While there is no one “cheapest” cloud provider among the major options, you should still compare to ensure you’re getting the best cloud prices for the services you’ll use most. For more information about the three major providers’ pricing, please see the following cloud computing cost comparisons:

A note on the idea of vendor lock-in: if you are already purchasing cloud services from a cloud service provider, you may be worried that you’re “locked in” to that provider. What we see in practice is a little different: with on-demand flexibility and more opportunity than ever to practice multi-cloud, companies shouldn’t really worry about vendor lock-in when it comes to public cloud.

How to Get the Cheapest Cloud Computing from Your Current Provider

Of course, whether or not you’re concerned about vendor lock-in, you should ensure that you’re getting the most efficient cloud computing cost available to you. That means optimizing your options for the products you use most. 

Here’s a brief rundown of things you should do to ensure you’re getting the cheapest cloud computing possible from your current provider.

Use Reserved Instances for Production Environments

All of the major cloud providers offer a pricing option for Reserved Instances – that is, if you commit to use capacity over time, you can pay a discounted price.  Reserved instances can save money – as long as you use them the right way. It’s important to focus on workloads with 24×7 demand – i.e., production workloads – for Reserved Instances. You will get the best price for the longest commitment. Of course, each cloud provider structures this option differently. Here are our guides to each:

Only Pay for What You Actually Need

There are a few common ways that users inadvertently waste money and throw away the option for the cheapest public cloud bill, such as using larger instances than they need, and running development/testing instances 24/7 rather than only when they’re needed. To pay for what you need, ensure that all of your instances are “rightsized” to the size that best matches the workload. You should also use on/off schedules so your non-production resources used for development, testing, and staging are turned off nights and weekends. 

ParkMyCloud makes it easy to automated both of those things and reduce wasted cloud spend – try it out.

Take Advantage of Other Discounted Pricing Options

There are a number of other discounted pricing and purchasing options offered by the major cloud providers to help you get the cheapest cloud services. 

  • AWS Spot Instances – the best way to get the cheapest EC2 instance. This option offers heavy discounts for excess infrastructure, which can be reclaimed for other workloads at any time.
  • Azure Low Priority VMs – similar to AWS’s spot instances, although there is a fixed discount for Azure’s offering, and a few other operational differences.
  • Google Cloud Preemptible VMs – Google Cloud’s preemptible VMs are another similar option.
  • Google Cloud Sustained Use Discounts – this is a built-in pricing mechanism for Google users that discounts pricing the more you run each server.
  • Azure Dev/Test Pricing – a discounting option specifically for workloads used for development and testing. 

Ask

It never hurts to contact your provider and ask if there’s anything you could be doing to get a cheaper price. If you use Microsoft Azure, you may want to sign up for an Enterprise License Agreement, or if you’re on AWS, ask your rep about the Enterprise Discount Program. Or maybe you qualify for AWS startup credits

Get Credit for Your Efforts

While finding the cheapest cloud computing is, of course, beneficial to your organization’s common good, there’s no need to let your work in spending reduction go unnoticed. Make sure that you track your organization’s spending and show your team where you are reducing spend.

ParkMyCloud users have a straightforward way to do this. You can not only create and customize reports of your cloud spending and savings, but you can also schedule these reports to be emailed out. Users are already putting this to work by having savings reports automatically emailed to their bosses and department heads, to ensure that leadership is aware of the cost savings gained… and so users can get credit for their efforts.

10 Things You Should Know Before Buying Azure Reserved Instances

10 Things You Should Know Before Buying Azure Reserved Instances

Azure Reserved Instances are a way to reduce Azure costs by committing to a one- or three-year term for a virtual machine, in exchange for a discount of up to 72% compared to pay-as-you-go. Of course, before you lock in such a commitment, there are a few things you should know about this purchasing option – here are 10.

1. Azure Reserved Instances are a purchasing option.

First, you should understand that what you’re “reserving” is the pricing and purchasing option – the virtual machines are the same that you can pay for through pay-as-you-go pricing.  (If this seems counterintuitive to the idea of “that virtual machine I reserved,” recall that a reservation works more like a credit against your bill in retrospect rather than a specific VM with your name on it.)

2. Reservations are “use it or lose it”. 

Important: reservation discounts are “use it or lose it”. If no resources match your reservation for any hour, you lose the reservation for that hour. This is why you should always ensure that you have predictable, full-time usage planned before reserving capacity. 

3. They’re not available for everything… but perhaps more than you’d guess.

Reservations are available for virtual machines, SQL database compute capacity, Azure Cosmos DB throughput. 

Keep in mind what services are covered by your reservation:

  • Reserved Virtual Machine Instance – the reservation covers compute costs, but not software, networking, or storage costs.
  • Azure Cosmos DB reserved capacity – reservations are for the provisioned throughput – not storage or networking charges. 
  • SQL Database reserved vCore – the reservation covers the compute costs, but not licenses.
  • SQL Data Warehouse – reservations cover “compute Data Warehouse Units” (cDWU), or units of CPU, memory, and IO – but not storage or networking charges.
  • App Service stamp fee – reservations cover stamp usage, but not workers and therefore other resources associated with the stamp.

There are some limitations to availability. You cannot purchase reservations for A-series, Av2-series, or G-series VMs; any VM-series or size in preview; Germany or China regions; or in some cases, reservations may be limited due to low capacity in a region.

4. You need to set a “scope” for the Reserved Instance to apply.

Another concept to be familiar with is the concept of “scope” for reservations – in other words, what subscription or resource groups are eligible for the discount you are purchasing. Scope can be limited to a single resource group, a single subscription, or shared scope across multiple eligible subscriptions as long as billing is tied together.

5. Instance sizes are flexible, automatically.

When you purchase Azure Reserved Instances, there is an option to “optimize for instance size flexibility” that will be selected by default. This means the reservation can apply to the VM sizes in the same VM group, which makes each reservation a bit more broadly applicable.

6. Whether you pay upfront or monthly, the cost is the same.

Payment options: Azure just released in September 2019 the ability to pay for reservations through monthly payments – at the same cost that you would pay up front, with no extra fees. There is no “partial upfront” option. This is in contrast to, say, AWS’s Reserved Instance options, which have a variable discount depending on how much you pay upfront. The difference in approach may vary due to the cancellation options – AWS users can resell unused capacity on the Reserved Instance marketplace, while Azure users pay a cancellation fee. Google Cloud offers only a billed-monthly option – with no option to cancel.  

7. Azure recommends Reserved Instances based on your usage history.

Reservation Recommendations and quantity are shown when you purchase a VM reserved instance in the Azure portal, based on the last 30 days of usage and your savings potential.  You can see recommendations in Azure Advisor, at least, for individual subscriptions. For shared scope, you can use the API to get purchase recommendations. 

8. Azure Reserved Instance purchases are used immediately, and don’t renew.

There are two important things to understand regarding terms and renewal. First, the term for your reservation starts immediately: you can’t schedule them for a future date. Second, Azure Reserved Instances do not automatically renew, and when the billing term expires, you’ll pay the pay-as-you-go rate. (We’ll be blogging next week on an option AWS has recently released to queue new reservations in advance.) 

9. There are two solid options if you no longer need a reservation you already purchased.

What happens if you determine that you no longer need an Azure Reserved Instance you’ve purchased? There are two main options:

Exchange – you can exchange a reservation for another of the same type– that is, you can’t return a VM reservation to purchase an SQL reservation. This is only allowed if the total lifetime cost of the new purchase is greater than the leftover payments that are canceled for the returned reservation. 

Cancel – instead, you can choose to cancel the reservation contract and request a refund. However, you are subject to an early termination fee of 12%. Note also that there’s a total refund limit of $50,000 in a rolling 12-month window. 

10. Azure Reserved Instances make sense… in some situations.

For predictable production workloads, where you know you’ll have VMs running 24×7, Azure Reserved Instances can make sense. However, for your non-production workloads, this is likely not the case. You’ll save far more by using pay-as-you-go pricing, and scheduling those VMs to turn off when they’re not needed (ParkMyCloud can help with that.) 

Further reading:

How much do the differences between cloud providers actually matter?

How to save money with Microsoft Azure Enterprise Agreements

Can Azure Dev/Test pricing save you money?

3 Things to Look Forward to at Microsoft Ignite 2019

3 Things to Look Forward to at Microsoft Ignite 2019

The ParkMyCloud team is looking forward to attending our first Microsoft Ignite conference this year! The sold-out event, which will take place November 4-8 in Orlando, is a gathering of more than 25,000 Microsoft users focused on building solutions and managing infrastructures. Here are three things to look forward to at the conference. 

1. Announcements

As with other tech conferences, Microsoft will make plenty of product and service announcements at Ignite 2019. At the 2018 conference, more than 150 announcements covered product and roadmap highlights across AI/Machine Learning, Analytics, Blockchain, Compute, Containers, Databases, Developer Tools, DevOps, Identity, Integration, IoT, Management and Governance, Microsoft Azure Stack, Migration, Mobile, Networking, Security, Storage, Web, and Windows Virtual Desktop. 

Highlights from last year include doing away with passwords using Microsoft Azure Active Directory, Surface Hub 2 whiteboards, Microsoft Teams updates, Azure Digital Twins, and more – so we’re sure 2019 will have some exciting releases in store. 

2. Speakers & Sessions

Featured speakers at the event include leaders from throughout Microsoft – but it doesn’t stop there. There are currently 1445 sessions on the calendar – more than 500 of which are on Azure. Typically when confronted with this volume of options, we recommend that you pick 1-2 goals of things you would like to learn or questions you would like to get answered for your business, and look for relevant sessions from there. Many sessions will be recorded and posted online, so keep that in mind if you are interested in sessions at conflicting times – you can always come back to them. 

That said, here are a few sessions we thought looked particularly interesting:

  • THR1004 –  A real-world smart city: How Richmond VA is transforming citizen services
  • WRK 3017 – Accelerating natural language processing development with Azure Machine Learning
  • UNC1010 – Achieving zero downtime deployments with Azure DevOps and Kubernetes
  • BRK3181 – Advanced monitoring: Five Azure Monitor best practices you should know
  • BRK3190 – Analyze, manage, and optimize your cloud cost with Azure Cost Management
  • BRK1074 – Announcing Bing Maps Geospatial Analytics Platform Preview for Enterprise Business Planning
  • BRK3062 – API management for microservices in a hybrid and multi-cloud world
  • BRK2021 – Architecting and implementing governance across your Azure subscriptions
  • THR2186 – Azure Databricks and Azure Machine Learning better together

Check out also the 140 (!) podcasts that will broadcast live during the event.

3. Fun

Of course, part of the conference experience is the fun surrounding all the sessions. Be sure to spend some time in the expo hall to meet vendors, see product demos, get swag, and enter drawings for the chance to win cool prizes.

Don’t miss Thursday evening after party – this year, it’s at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Island of Adventure, which means you can explore Hogsmeade and more with access to the parks and rides, food and drink, and more. 

See You at Microsoft Ignite 2019

We hope to see you at the event! We’ll be joining our parent company Turbonomic at booth #1713 in the expo hall. Schedule a time to stop by – we’d love to chat cost optimization for Azure and hear what you think of the event.