Great news yesterday and today the whole day after our Spanish SolidQ Summit 2012 in Madrid in Windows Azure with the new version of the Microsoft’s Cloud Platform full of new features and new names for the big amount of cloud services.

Today I’m testing some of the new features, in particular in this post I’m going to talk about the new Virtual Machines service, describing and testing the provided image for SQL Server 2012 Eval version.

A virtual machine in Windows Azure is a server in the cloud that you can control and manage. In version 1 (formerly VM Role), the task of installing and configuring the images (OS and other software) were user responsibility and the main goal for the service was to facilitate complex application migration to the cloud, in a kind of IaaS but completely PaaS (stateless, non-persistent virtual machines).

In Virtual Machines (version 2, June 2012) you can prepare, upload and deploy your own machines or use predefined base images for different OSs including Linux. Yes, Linux.

We are testing this second approach and use the predefined SQL Server 2012 Eval image for deploying into Windows Azure (small instance).

Figure 1. Windows Azure Management Portal (new version): creating Virtual Machines

The very first thing that surprises us is the brand news management portal. You can reach the new interface by the old one (when you go to you are invited to reach the new User Experience) or directly from the portal, under account menu. Once inside, the main maneu provides you the new way of reaching and managing cloud services in Azure: Web sites, Virtual Machines, Cloud Services (formerly hosted services), SQL Databases (formerly SQL Azure), Storage and Network.

Under Virtual Machines we start our experience for testing the SQL Server 2012 on the cloud. We select from Gallery (Figure 1), and Create a Virtual Machine by providing advanced options. And it starts the walkthrough to select and deploy the appropriate virtual machine.

Figure 2. First step in Virtual Machine creation: VM OS Selection


First, select the VM OS

In this step we will select Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Evaluation Virtual Machine base image. As the Figure 2 shows, there are interesting new options regarding this new version of the service. The minimum machine size you can choose for this base image is small, of course you can increase the size to whatever available options in the new version (number of cores and other resources).

Second, VM Configuration

The next step if for configuring VM name, and user/pass for remote desktop. There is the possibility to increase the VM size for one of the Windows Azure available virtual machine sizes and costs.

Figure 3. Configure your SQL Server 2012 VM


Click the name of the virtual machine and then consider managing how the virtual machine operates in Windows Azure.

Third, VM Mode

The new Virtual Machine in Windows Azure provides a real IaaS experience, without loosing machine state and with the possibility of connecting the machine to other existing machines (in the Virtual Network in Windows Azure) introducing really exciting scenarios we will talk about in future posts in this blog.

Set up a DNS name, a storage account and the region where you want to deploy your virtual machine. Remember to consider the code-near principle for avoiding unnecessary latency problems accessing your server.

Figure 4. Configuring different mode options (dns name, storage and region)


Fourth, VM Options

We’re almost done. Define if necessary an availability set. When a virtual machine is a member of an availability set, it is deployed to different fault domains as other virtual machines in the set. Multiple virtual machines in an availability set make sure that your application is available during network failures, local disk hardware failures, and any planned downtime. That’s a great feature linked to the real IaaS nature of the new Virtual Machine service.

Figure 5. High availability pass through the availability set in this step


Fifth, Proceed!

After this last step, just select the check icon on the bottom and you’re done. The process continue in the portal with feedback about the deployment and starting up process. Some minutes (pretty fast to deploy this base images) after you could connect via remote desktop to your brand new SQL Server 2012 (on Windows Server 2008 R2) on the cloud. Just take the service to the most! We will give you some ideas for using this service in future posts, so be connected and remember to subscribe to our feeds.

Figure 6. Deployment process and options to connect from the new portal

Figure 7. Inside your SQL Server 2012 into Windows Azure 🙂


Happy cloud!