Tag Archives: Virtual Machines

Creating a SharePoint Server Farm on Azure from the Gallery

As many of you know creating a SharePoint farm for testing can be a daunting task. I volunteered to help troubleshoot an issue that was working with SharePoint Excel Services and it couldn’t be done in Office365. So, my first attempt was to grab the SharePoint Server 2013 Trial from Azure’s VM Gallery.

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However, once I created the VM, it turns out that SharePoint is not installed, which is what I really wanted. To complicate matters further, the download stopped because IE was blocking file downloads. You can change that setting in Internet Explorer options on the Security tab. Select the Internet Zone and click on the Custom Level button. Scroll down to the Downloads section and enable File download. Restart IE and you can get the file downloaded. Of course, we have to ask, why isn’t it already enabled on the VM since that would be the obvious goal.

As I was troubleshooting that issue, I happened to check out the Azure gallery on the Azure site and found a SharePoint Server Farm gallery image that I could use.

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I clicked on the Farm icon to see what it was. It does the multi-server farm install in Azure.

You start the process by clicking the green Create Virtual Machine button in the middle of the screen. And then you are off to the configuration parts. The next few screen shots will show you the basic configuration points used during the install. Click the button… and your journey will begin.

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This will open up the preview portal from Azure with a blade for configuring your farm.

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Add a group name and work your way through the configuration steps on the blade. It will create 3 VMs by default unless you select the Enable high availability checkbox under the password textboxes.

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Each configuration step will open another blade in the portal allowing you to configure the various servers to be added to the farm.

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Once you have configured the settings you are ready to create your farm. Click the Create button and the “magic” starts to happen.

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You will see the following tile added to your Startboard.

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It took a little more than an hour to set up the three servers required – domain controller, SQL Server and SharePoint server.

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If you click on the new tile, you will get an overview of what was created including resources and estimated spend. The next step is to log into the instance and check out what is set up. If you click the Deployment history button and then the Microsoft.SharePoint.Farm tile, you can see the SharePoint Central Admin URL and the SharePoint Site URL. Each of these blades provide additional information about your environment.

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Log in to Central Admin or the SharePoint site. And you now have a functioning SharePoint Farm in Azure. If you are using this as a testing platform be sure to manage your VMs (e.g. shut them down) to reduce costs.

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Techfuse, a New Laptop, and How Microsoft Azure Helped Save the Day

On Tuesday, April 22, I had the opportunity to speak at the Techfuse conference in Minneapolis. I was presenting a session on the differences between tabular and multidimensional models with a focus on the developer’s experience. My deck has tenTechFuse_logo  slides including title, references, and bio. The rest of the time is spent in Visual Studio building out equivalent models in using SSAS Tabular and SSAS Multidimensional.

The previous week, I was issued a new laptop from my company, a Dell 7440. This is a very nice machine and I had it all set for the presentation. About 11 AM (I was scheduled to speak at 1:15 PM) it occurred to me that I did not recall seeing a VGA port only HDMI. Next question, did the projectors at the convention center support HDMI? Answer, No. Now I had about an hour and a half to resolve this issue. Simple, I decided to head downtown and get the convertor from Office Depot. This was about 8 blocks away. I could do that and get some exercise in.

I took off at about 11:30. First, I stopped at Target, it was closer. No luck. So on to Office Depot. Keep in mind that Office Depot sells laptops like mine with only HDMI support and it stands to reason that they would have the converter. No such luck. I was able to get the HDMI converted to DVI, but that would not help as I later found out. They directed me to Radio Shack where I promptly picked up a DVI – VGA converter. Now I have three pieces that when strung together should support my needs. I headed back to the convention center and arrived with 30 minutes to spare. Working with the AV guy, we got it all plugged in only to still have it not work. Turns out you need a convertor to convert the digital signal to analog for use in the older projectors. Now what?

The moderator for my room offered me her laptop to use for the presentation. Which was AWESOME! So now I have a way to give the presentation, all ten slides. However, she did not have Visual Studio with SSDT for BI and SQL Server installed. Which was fine, because I didn’t expect her to.

Here is where Azure comes in. I had created a VM with SQL Server Tabular installed along with Visual Studio 2012 and the SQL Server Data Tools for BI. So, I firedth9CGBMYN6 up the VM right before I gave the presentation. I warned the crowd about what had happened and decided to push the demos to the end of the presentation so everyone could leave if nothing worked and all the material could be covered.

I was able to get into the VM, fire up Visual Studio. Since the demo was a live build of a tabular model and multidimensional model, I used a database I had created in SQL Azure as the data source and we built it the models live. Granted we were not able to do a complete multidimensional model because the database was not formatted as star schema, but it helped highlight the difference between what needs to be done prior to development. Overall it went very well (I think, surveys are forthcoming…). At the end of the day, without the work I had been doing in Azure I would not have been able to demo and it would have been a very short presentation.

Some lessons learned –

  • Be sure to have what you need to support presenting in a variety of scenarios. I should have made sure to have a converter prior to the conference as most convention centers and other facilities haven’t upgraded their projectors yet.
  • I will likely set up Azure VMs to support more demos. Just in case. It is always good to have a backup plan though a wireless connection would have painful to do that on.
  • Roll with it. Don’t give up, try to make the best of a bad situation. People understand things don’t always go perfectly. At the end of the day, I came to talk about multidimensional and tabular model development. I could have opened the floor up for discussion and did Q&A. Make the most of every situation.

Windows 8 and Hyper-V: It’s that easy!

First, I need to set the record straight – I am not a systems guy.  When I need work done to set up a server or install an OS or handle networking, I usually talk to people who know what they are doing.  After the system is ready, I am build BI and data solutions on the system.

As far as Virtual Machines (VMs) go, I really did not like working with them.  I seem to always have issues getting them set up correctly and being able to work with them on a regular basis.  In particular, getting connected to the host system and internet always annoyed me.

Win 8 LogoWell, I upgraded to Windows 8 two weeks ago. Yes, I actually upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8 without issue.  I am really enjoying Windows 8 and my kids think it looks cool.

However, after the install, some VPN software provided by my client did not work.  It appears to have issues working with Windows 8.  I had heard that Hyper-V was easy to setup and use in Windows 8.  It’s true!  I merely had to turn on the service, create the network, create a VM, and point to a Windows 7 ISO and, voila, I had a VM running with Windows 7 and an internet connection.  A BuildingHyper-V logo Windows 8 blog post by the Steven Sinofsky on Hyper-V was the key to simplicity.  Check it out!  They have a video, 3 minutes long, on creating a VM in Windows 8.  It worked!

Kudos to the engineering team on making this a simple exercise that even a non-systems guy could figure out and use!