How Microsoft Azure Deallocate VM vs. Stop VM States Differ

How Microsoft Azure Deallocate VM vs. Stop VM States Differ

Do you know the difference between Azure “deallocate VM” and “stop VM” states? They are similar enough that in conversation, I’ve noticed some confusion around this distinction.  

If your VM is not running, it will have one of two states – Stopped, or Stopped (deallocated). Essentially, if something is “allocated” – you’re still paying for it. So while deallocating a virtual machine sounds like a harsh action that may be permanently deleting data, it’s the way you can save money on your infrastructure costs and eliminate wasted Azure spend with no data loss.

Azure’s Stopped State

When you are logged in to the operating system of an Azure VM, you can issue a command to shut down the server. This will kick you out of the OS and stop all processes, but will maintain the allocated hardware (including the IP addresses currently assigned). If you find the VM in the Azure console, you’ll see the state listed as “Stopped”. The biggest thing you need to know about this state is that you are still being charged by the hour for this instance.

Azure’s Deallocated State

The other way to stop your virtual machine is through Azure itself, whether that’s through the console, Powershell, or the Azure CLI. When you stop a VM through Azure, rather than through the OS, it goes into a “Stopped (deallocated)” state.  This means that any non-static public IPs will be released, but you’ll also stop paying for the VM’s compute costs. This is a great way to save money on your Azure costs when you don’t need those VMs running, and is the state that ParkMyCloud puts your VMs in when they are parked.

Which State to Choose?

The only scenario in which you should ever choose the stopped state instead of the deallocated state for a VM in Azure is if you are only briefly stopping the server and would like to keep the dynamic IP address for your testing. If that doesn’t perfectly describe your use case, or you don’t have an opinion one way or the other, then you’ll want to deallocate instead so you aren’t being charged for the VM.

If you’re looking to automate scheduling when you deallocate VMs in Azure, ParkMyCloud can help with that. ParkMyCloud makes it easy to identify idle resources using Azure Metrics and to automatically schedule your non-production servers to turn off when they are idle, such as overnight or on weekends. Try it for free today to save money on your Azure bill!

Further reading:

7 Ways to Get Azure Credits

7 Ways to Get Azure Credits

Azure credits are a perk offered by Microsoft that help you save money on your cloud bill. Like a gift card for a retail store, credits are applied to your account to help cover costs until they are exhausted or expire. In a sense, these credits act as a spending limit because any usage of resources or products that are not free will be deducted from the credit amount. We found 7 different ways that you can earn credits and start saving on your Azure bill. 

1. Visual Studio Subscription

If you’re a Visual Studio subscriber, you get monthly Azure credits that can be used to explore and test out different Azure services. The amount of Azure credits that you receive will depend on the type of Visual Studio subscription that you have. 

With a Visual Studio Enterprise subscription, you get a standard of $150 in monthly credits. For subscriptions through MSDN Platforms you get $100 a month. For Visual Studio Professional and Visual Studio Test Professional, you get $50 a month. 

2. Azure for Students

Full-time students at an accredited, two or four-year educational institution in a STEM-related field are eligible for these credits. 

When a student signs up with their school email address, Microsoft gives them $100 in credit in order to help them further their career and build their skills in Azure thanks to the free access to learning paths, labs, and professional developer tools. 

3. Azure Free Account

With a free account, you get access to a number of popular Azure services for no cost. In addition to access to free services, you’ll also get a $200 credit. It’s important to note that while the free account lasts for 12 months, your credits must be spent in the first 30 days. 

Whether you’re just getting started in Azure or are looking to further your knowledge, a free account is always a great way to test the waters without having to make a long term commitment.

4. Microsoft Partner Network

In the Partner Network, those that are members of Microsoft’s Action Pack program receive $100 of Azure credits every month. Based on your computing needs, you can use these credits for any Azure service; some examples include, Virtual Machines, Web Sites, Cloud Services, Mobile Services, Storage, SQL Database, Content Delivery Network, HDInsight, Media Services, and more.

The great part about this is that there are a handful of usage scenarios that won’t consume all of the $100 credit – you can use this pricing calculator to estimate how much you could use with a $100 credit.

Any of the unused monthly credits can’t be carried over to succeeding months or transferred to other Azure subscriptions, so make sure to use it while you can!

5. Microsoft for Startups

This global program is designed to help startups as they build and scale their organizations. Part of the technical enablement features that are always free and available to all startups is $200 of Azure credits that can be used towards any service for 30 days. This is a great option for startups because it’s free and gives you the ability to explore all the different offerings without having to spend any money. 

6. Azure for Education

With Azure for Education, users are given access to the learning resources and developer tools that educators and students need in order to build cloud-based skills. This program is available to students, educators and institutions – once signed up, educators get $200 of Azure credits.

Whether you’re teaching advanced workloads, interested in building cloud-based skills, or just getting started in your Azure learning journey, this program provides guidance and resources for individuals looking to further their knowledge in Azure.

7. Microsoft for Nonprofits

In an effort to make their technology more affordable and accessible for nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, Microsoft offers donated and discounted products. Each year, approved organizations receive $3,500 in Azure credits which can be used to purchase all Azure workloads created by Microsoft (excluding Azure Active Directory, which is licensed under EM+S).

No matter the industry you’re in or learning level you’re at, there are a wide variety of credits and resources offered that can help make Azure an affordable option for you.

 

Further Reading:

Top 3 Ways to Save Money on Azure

How to Save Money with Microsoft Azure Enterprise Agreements

9 Ways to Get AWS Credits

4 Ways to Get Google Cloud Credits

Core Components of Azure IoT

Core Components of Azure IoT

Azure Internet of Things (also known as Azure IoT) is a collection of cloud services managed by Microsoft that monitor, connect and control billions of IoT assets. Basically, this is a solution that operates in the cloud and is made up of 1 or more IoT devices and 1 or more back-end services that communicate with one another. Organizations across all industries use Azure IoT to help them improve their business and achieve their IoT goals.  

There are three main parts that make up an IoT solution – devices, back-end services, and communication between the two. In this blog, we’ll dig in a little more into these components, different IoT services, and possible challenges.  

How to Use Azure IoT

Devices

IoT devices are pretty much anything that has a sensor attached to it and can transmit data from one object to another or to people with the help of the internet. Typically, they are attached to a particular object that operates through the internet, enabling the transfer of data among objects or people automatically without human intervention. It’s also important to note that many of these devices can communicate through a Wi-Fi chip as well. Some examples of IoT devices that work with Azure IoT may include:

  • Pressure sensors on a remote oil pump
  • Temperature and humidity sensors in an air-conditioning unit
  • Accelerometers in an elevator
  • Presence sensors in a room

Communication

With Azure IoT Hub you can connect, manage and scale your IoT devices to communicate securely with back-end services in both directions. Here are some examples of how this communication works:

  • Your device may send temperature from a mobile refrigeration truck every 5 minutes to an IoT Hub.
  • The back-end service can ask the device to send telemetry more frequently to help diagnose a problem.
  • Your device can send alerts based on the values read from its sensors. For example, if monitoring a batch reactor in a chemical plant, you may want to send an alert when the temperatures exceeds a certain value.

Back-end services

Here are some of the functions a back-end service can provide:

  • Receiving telemetry at scale from your devices, and determining how to process and store that data.
  • Analyzing the telemetry to provide insights, either in real-time or after the fact.
  • Sending commands from the cloud to a specific device.
  • Provisioning devices and control which devices can connect to your infrastructure.
  • Control the state of your devices and monitor their activities.

Azure IoT Services Offered

Microsoft offers eight IoT services in Azure. With so many different options it can be confusing to figure out which one best fits your needs. Depending on how much help and control you want in building your own solution will affect which service is the best one for you. Here are the available services and what they can be used for: 

  1. IoT Central: This application platform makes the creation of IoT solutions more simple and helps reduce the load and cost of IoT management operations, and development. This service is intended for straightforward solutions that don’t require a significant amount of service customization.
  2. IoT solution accelerators: This is a group of PaaS solutions that can be used to accelerate development of an IoT solution. 
  3. IoT Hub: This service allows you to monitor and control billions of IoT devices by logging into an IoT hub from your devices. This is especially helpful if you need communication that goes both ways between your devices and back-end. This is the primary service for IoT solution accelerators and IoT Central.
  4. IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service: This service helps IoT Hub in that you can use this to securely provision devices to your IoT hub. Instead of provisioning millions of devices one at a time, this service gives you the ability to quickly and easily provision millions of devices all at once. 
  5. IoT Edge: This service can be used to analyze data on IoT devices instead of in the cloud. This is a service that builds on top of IoT Hub. 
  6. Azure Digital Twins: This service enables you to create comprehensive models of the physical environment. 
  7. Time Series Insights: This service allows you to store, visualize, and query extensive amounts of time series data that is generated by an IoT device. 
  8. Azure Maps: This service provides geographic data to web and mobile applications. 

Things to consider

All IoT devices have different characteristics when compared to other clients, such as apps and browsers. Azure IoT devices, tools and data analytics may help you manage these to achieve your IoT goals. But, adopting IoT technologies can present its own set of challenges. While reducing IoT application costs and easing development efforts are important things to consider when implementing an IoT solution, connecting devices securely and reliably is often the biggest challenge most organizations encounter when using IoT services.

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.