How Do Azure Subscriptions Work?

In this Azure Every Day installment, I’d like to talk about your organization’s subscription hierarchy. When working with Azure, it can get confusing with talk of tenants, subscriptions and user accounts. There are some key components to understanding the organizational hierarchy of using Azure or other Microsoft cloud services.

The top level of your hierarchy is your organizational level. Microsoft classifies the organization as essentially everything in your domain name. Whatever your domain name is will be the encapsulating component. This organization contains all your subscriptions.

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The next level is subscriptions. Everything is run on subscriptions. Most of us have more subscriptions than we know what to do with! When you look at your organization and how it’s structured, remember that an organization grouping can contain multiple subscriptions. For example, in my organization, we have 2-3 Azure subscriptions, as well as Office 365 subscriptions, that we actively use. These are all part of our organization, but they are managed at the subscription level.

The subscription level is where the building and administration components happen. In Office 365, for instance, you have an administrator, and users and account permissions, as well as licensing and costs, all handled at that level.

The same thing happens in Azure, but it revolves around the resources that you allocated. Each subscription can isolate out what you want to do as far as a dev platform or test subscription. This is also where your billing happens (your invoices and credit cards associated to it).

The next tier down is user accounts. This can get confusing, as when I’m in user accounts, I can see multiple subscriptions. User accounts can be associated to multiple subscriptions because they all belong to the same organization.

Here’s a key component – as you start building out your organization, Azure Active Directory is the glue. This is where your accounts live and where you manage permissions. Here is the opportunity to consolidate your organization around that Active Directory, so you can share and manage users, subscriptions, and accounts within your organization.


ARM vs Classic Deployment in Azure

When Azure Resource Manager (ARM) was created back in 2014, I (like many) thought, “What does that mean?” Up until last year, every VM I created was in Classic Deployment model. In this Azure Every Day installment, I’d like to go over the differences between the two.

A deployment model is how you’re going to issue out and stand up your Azure resources. As you’re getting your Azure resources in place, you have the choice between Classic and ARM deployment. If you’re new to Azure, you’ll rarely see Classic except for VMs. You may hear Classic being referred to (as in “Don’t do this in Classic” or “This can only be done in Classic”), but for the most part you’ll be in ARM moving forward.

The primary difference between the two deployment models is how they are managed. Once you deploy, manage or monitor these resources within Azure, if you’re in Classic you’ll be doing everything independently. You’ll be deploying each asset independently and will be managing each asset and resource independently. So, if you have a whole application set for deployment that has 10 resources, that means 10 deployments and 10 independent management components.

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And if you are going to remove it, you’re going to remove 10 different resources. ARM allows you to group the resources together as a group. They can be deployed, and looked at or managed, as a group. This is the biggest difference between ARM and Classic deployment model. Some other things to be aware of:

  • If you’re using Classic cloud server, it’s only available in Classic. The upgrade means you’re going to have to move it over.
  • If you’re using VMs, storage, or virtual networks, those can be done in either mode. (Don’t listen to people who tell you it can only be done in Classic.)
  • The biggest thing to keep in mind, every other resource or new thing within Azure is going to ARM. So, if you want the newest technology, use ARM.

How Azure Storage Kick Starts Your Big Data Projects

So, your boss says, ‘Let’s do big data!’ And you think: ‘I don’t even know what that means or what I have to do. Do I need big data? Do I need a bunch of servers?’ These are the questions we hear all the time.

A simple intro into the big data world is to take advantage of Azure blob storage. This is a great starting point since when you put data in Azure blob storage, it’s formatted very similar to how you put it into any other Hadoop storage scenario.

Once you get the data there and it’s in your file-based storage, here comes the big question: What am I going to do with this data? As you’re in the introduction phase, start simple. Power BI will connect to your blob storage, and it will connect the same as you would connect to an HDInsight or Hortonworks cluster.

Using Power BI, with limited learning curve and expense, you’ll be able to take advantage of the data you stored there in your beginning big data scenario. It also gives you the chance to start adding on to that, such as looking at an HDInsight or Hortonworks cluster to use and reference the storage, without moving your data around.

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If your business wants to do big data, this is a great start on the path. If you’re doing other data warehouse work in Azure, you can use Azure blob storage as your staging area. It’s a simple way to begin without worrying about what you need from a server standpoint and infrastructure is eliminated from the equation.

How Do Azure Accounts and Subscriptions Work Together?

Azure accounts vs. Azure subscriptions – often a topic that brings some confusion to Azure newbies. Are they the same? What’s the difference? In this Azure Every Day installment, I’d like to clear up the confusion.

When you start out with Azure, you’ll hear a lot about Azure subscriptions. It’s simple; an Azure subscription has 2 components – an Azure account and an Azure subscription. So, when you log in, these are two different portals.

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An Azure account portal will show you billing, resource usage, etc. This is where the finance people of your organization can see where staff is spending the money in Azure to help with budgeting.

The second component is the Azure subscription. Here is where you manage permissions and access to your Azure resources. This portal allows you to look at resources and separate duties within your organization, as well as the place where security happens.

So, when you hear someone talk about Microsoft Azure accounts or Azure subscriptions, it’s really the same thing (just two sides of the same coin). Just remember that every subscription has an account aspect that allows you to see the billing side with its own separate portal.

Advantages of Azure Resource Manager (ARM) Deployment Model

Are you just starting out with Azure and wonder: What is Azure Resource Manager (ARM) Deployment Model? Or what’s the difference between ARM and Classic? Whether you’re just starting out with Azure or have been using it for some time, but you’re still using Classic, I’m here to give you 6 reasons why you should be using ARM.

1.  ARM lets you deploy, manage and monitor all the Azure resources for an application, or a solution, as a group. This can include almost every resource within Azure.

2. As you do ARM template deployment, you will be able to deploy as a unit, but not just once. You’ll have the ability to deploy multiple times through the lifecycle of your application, as well as manage that deployment process.

3.  Access control. Access to the resources can be managed as a unit. As you begin to think about separation of duties, compliance or specific rules around that application, you can apply access controls and those rules apply to the entire solution.

4.  Resources can be tagged. This is a great feature when you have a lot of components that you support using Azure (as we do). You’ll need a tag to note that these things are logically grouped together. We tag resources for the reason we are using them or the purpose of billing or just to identify them within the list of resources we are using.

5.  Templates. Why do templates matter? This is one of the most robust features of all the resources. JSON templates can be created to configure your entire pattern. So, if you’re doing a standard roll out, this allows you to create a template, parametrize it and you can deploy your resources as a group.

6.  You can define the dependencies to make sure it’s deployed in the correct order. Keeping this all straight can be one of the hardest things to do. Definitely look at ARM to help with this.

Here’s a bonus 7th reason to use ARM. More than likely, Classic will be going away. No predictions on when or how this will look, but we do know almost every new thing in Azure will be going to ARM first. So, if you’re new to Azure and want to take advantage of the newest technology, use ARM.

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