Buying Azure through Cloud Solution Providers (CSP)

I just saw Aidan Finn posted his thoughts about buying Azure through Cloud Solution Providers (CSP), and wanted to share my 5 cents on this topic, since I was planning a post about it anyways. While I agree with Aidan most of the time and admire his work, I’m not completely following him here.

As you might know, Microsoft is switching to Azure Resource Manager (ARM) APIs for all Azure services, and not all features are available there yet. If you buy Azure through CSP, you will only get access to ARM, and not the old APIs (Azure Service Management/ASM). There are different opinions about that, and there definetely is cons to it, but I think it was the right decision so we can get rid of ASM.

I for one will not be doing any ASM projects, unless there is an absolute requirement for a feature that isn’t available through ARM, and which cannot be worked around. There is *no* need to invest time and money in infrastructure that you will have to do over quite soon. And it will also save you the migration headaches. Add to that, that ASM is a complete PITA for IaaS.

Aidan specifically mentions a couple of services, that I’d like to add a comment to:

  • Azure Backup – Unless you’re looking for IaaS VM backup, this won’t be an issue. It’s like 2-3 lines of PowerShell to create a backup vault and get the credentials for DPM/MABS/Azure Backup agent. A lot of work is currently put into getting IaaS VM backup ready for ARM too.
  • Azure Site Recovery – This one is not fully implemented. It will be soon though, so unless you can’t wait, I would hang in there and save the time migrating from ASM->ARM later.
  • RemoteApp – Yup, this will be a long wait. If you have other infrastructure parts you need running in Azure, I would deploy them using ARM, and then connect ARM and ASM networks through VPN. That way it’s only RemoteApp running in ASM.
  • Load Balancing – UI is here *soon*, if you really can’t stand doing it with PowerShell, reach out to your Microsoft partners who work with Azure and they should be able to help you.

So, of the 4 services, it’s really just RemoteApp which will be a long wait. There is of course more services that aren’t available yet (Azure AD in the new portal, for example), so check before you decide on something. Development in Azure is extremely fast, so just because you checked yesterday, it doesn’t mean it’s not there today. This list is updated regularly: Resource Manager supported services
As I said above, I will recommend you wait for the features to be available, unless there is no way you can do that. I have a couple of upcoming ASR and backup projects with CSPs, and this will not be a showstopper for us.

If you don’t feel comfortable with PowerShell, reach out to the community (Twitter, Reddit, whatever), there is a lot of help to get. If you want help to actually implement it, I would suggest talking to a consultant who works with Azure and knows his/hers way around it. We are out there, and it doesn’t have to be expensive and take weeks. Some CSPs will be able to help you too (well, they will if they listened when I did the training with them Winking smile).

Oh and btw, I do not work for a CSP, I help them getting started though. We have our own EA internally which we have had our… challenges with, but that’s a different story.

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