SharePoint on Windows Azure
Developing, deploying and managing SharePoint solutions on Windows Azure is one of the core competence pillars of Hanu Software Solutions. With more than a decade long expertise in building and managing applications for customers, Hanu provides an end-to-end lifecycle support for SharePoint on Windows Azure. As part of managing SharePoint solutions, Hanu is a Microsoft partner for Windows Azure Support, thereby providing 24/7 support for managing customer’s custom applications and SharePoint deployments on Windows Azure.
Architecture → Strategy → Develop → Deploy → Manage
On April 16th 2013 Microsoft announced the general availability of Windows Azure “Infrastructure as a Service”. With Virtual Machines and Virtual Networking Services going live, it is now possible to deploy, operate and support SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 on Windows Azure.
This now offers multiple choices in terms of hosting/leveraging SharePoint Solutions:
- Office 365/SharePoint online
- SharePoint On-Premise
- SharePoint on Windows Azure Infrastructure
As shown in the graphic, which option to pick and choose totally depends on your scenario, the feature-set that you need and the budgets that you have. While SharePoint on premise offers full hardware and software control, it does have high Capex as well as Opex cost. The office 365/SharePoint online offers -auto HA, fault–tolerance and friction free scale. It’s SharePoint as a Service. The only flipside to this is that where it stands today some of the features which are available in full blown SharePoint version are not available online. Features like Federated Search, Advanced Content Processing, and SharPoint search connector framework, Web Analytics, Advanced sorting are not available in the online version. That said you could still go with it based on your enterprises’ current requirements.
SharePoint on Windows Azure really provides a middle ground between the SharePoint Online and SharePoint On-Premise. It provides 100% feature support, 100% API surface area, ease of migrating existing apps and, ability and flexibility to roll your own HA/DR/Scale. In September 2012 Microsoft released a document for installing SharePoint on 2010 and endorsing the statement that they have validated SharePoint on Windows Azure and with GA in April 2013, SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 are completely supported workloads on Windows Azure.
So, what can you do with that and how can you get started?
Windows Azure Virtual Networking
Windows Azure Virtual Network lets you provision and manage virtual private networks (VPNs) in Windows Azure as well as securely link these with on-premises IT infrastructure. With Virtual Network, IT administrators can extend on-premises networks into the cloud with control over network topology, including configuration of DNS and IP address ranges for Virtual Machines.
- One could very well use on-premise DNS servers for name resolution.
- Join VMs running in Windows Azure to your corporate domains.
- Run DNS servers in Windows Azure.
- Run Active Directory Domain Controller in Windows Azure.
- Define virtual networks and subnets.
- VNETs allow you to define the entire IP addressing scheme for your cloud network. You define the address space, the subnets and ultimately which VM goes into which VNET and subnet. The current biggest benefit to all of this is that each VM provisioned inside a VNET will retain the same IP address no matter how many times it is rebooted or recovered.
Windows Azure Virtual Machines
Windows Azure virtual machines are built from virtual hard disks (VHD). These VHDs are the same as the VHDs used by Hyper-V, and can be transferred to and from your existing environment. You can use a virtual machine in Windows Azure to deploy the Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012.
- You can pick and choose the size of the virtual machine(Small, Medium, Large, XLarge, A6 and A7)
- You can attach disks to the VMs.
- The Virtual machines are built from VHDs from the PAGE BLOBs from the Azure Storage.
- The Virtual machines can be domain joined to an on-prem AD DC using Windows Azure VPN.
SharePoint Scenarios for Windows Azure
With rich feature-set of Virtual Networks and Virtual Machines of Windows Azure, managing a fairly complex workload like SharePoint now becomes easy. The following scenarios for SharePoint are feasible and supported today:
- SharePoint for Internet Sites (FIS): Public facing, anonymous access sites.
- Developer, Test and Staging Environments: Quickly provision and un-provision entire environments.
- Complete production environment.
- Hybrid Applications: Applications that span your data center and the cloud.
- Disaster Recovery: Quickly recover from a disaster, only pay for use.
All the farm topologies can be very well created and configured from within the Windows Azure Portal or you can completely automate that using Windows Azure PowerShell.
Graphic from MSDN