What Aidan Wants for Azure Christmas 2018


Microsoft is hooked on conversations about SAP deployments on Azure and migrations to Azure. This coming 13 months sees the end of support (and security fixes) for Windows Server 2008/R2 and SQL Server 2008/R2. Customers can get an additional 3 years of security fixes (for free) if they migrate those workloads to Azure. So, we can expect “lift and shift” conversations to pick up the pace.
I have two asks in this space. The first is related to the fact that I have given up putting any serious effort into these pre-sales efforts because they just don’t happen – at least they don’t for me. There is plenty of new work being done in Azure, but migrations … they’re not that common. The cause is that people just don’t understand how the cost of on-premises is more than the sticker on the tin. Quite honestly, the purchase price of the server/storage is just the tip of the iceberg: support contracts, rent, electricity, cooling, operating system, hypervisor, management systems, your time wasted during purchase cycles and driver/firmware maintenance, and so much more. IT rarely concerns themselves with some/many of the bigger additional costs because they come from another budget. And calculating those costs is a nightmare. I’d love if an army of cloud-elves could descend on a computer room or data center and calculate how much it costs to run monthly, including the refresh cycles that occur every 3-5 years.

On a related note, those of us working with Hyper-V are still waiting on the Hyper-V version of Azure Migrate. Azure Migrate is a tool for assessing an on-premises server deployment and helps you plan for the Azure sizing and migration. The VMware edition has been out for a while, and even though the Hyper-V version was announced at Ignite, it was not released. I guess that was a kind of Longhorn release. So if anyone who is working on Azure Migrate for Hyper-V is reading – you’ll make me happy if it appears over the holidays.

Meaningful Azure Certifications

There is a huge shortage of Azure (and cloud overall) skills worldwide. The skills are not being produced in universities or in the labor force. That will change – hopefully. However, human resource departments are not exactly good at evaluating resumés (CVs). They look for magical little letters like MCSE, even though the recent version of MCSE was nothing like what I achieved back in 2001. These HR types will look for Azure certifications.
Microsoft reinvented their Azure certifications a few months ago. The old certifications were goo general and too hard to achieve – that was the feedback they received. For example, the Azure infrastructure exam, 70-533, was 40% PaaS, covering stuff that IT pros would typically not know. 70-533 was replaced by AZ-100 and AZ-101, with an upgrade via AZ-102. The certification that you achieve from the two exams is good for two years when it has to be renewed. I sat the beta exams and I probably spent as much time writing feedback as I did answering the questions.
The content spanned from the stereotypical pick-one Microsoft exam question (no answers being correct or all answers being correct) to content that wasn’t even Azure! I found the exams to be quite unfair. I’ve heard similar about some of the other new exams too.
What will result is that people sitting the exams will not take them seriously. If they work with Azure, they will know Azure, and not necessarily the stuff outside the scope of their roles. For example, a person working on Azure in a large enterprise will have no access to any of the identify management stuff from Privileged Identity Management (PIM), a solution that is sold outside of Azure (Azure AD Premium P2 per-user licenses), typically run by a different department, is rarely purchased at all, and comprised an unusually high number of questions in  my sitting of AZ-101. So, these people will go to certain well-known exam piracy sites, study the actual questions & answers, and sit the exams without knowing the content. This is the sort of thing that lead to the phrase “paper MCSE” – a highly certified person with no actual knowledge.
Azure certifications that aren’t good quality at the exam level will result in few and meaningless qualifications. I hope that the Azure-elves fix this for us.

Better Code Quality

As I’ve discussed in other posts, cloud outages will happen. On-premises outages happen too, but I would rather the people who write Hyper-V fix it for me than me, and I’m handy at Hyper-V! Not only that, but the engineers and operators in the likes of Azure can fix things faster, especially when it’s a big-bad-nasty failure.
Sadly, code quality Microsoft has taken a bit of a dive in several parts of Microsoft. The urge to “fail fast” leads to frequent failures. I think Azure has managed to stay fairly immune from this, although there is one feature of Azure that I lost faith in after many issues and undocumented changes about a year ago.
This kind of problem is a disease and, if left untreated, it will spread. Microsoft needs to kill this malaise before it hits the profit and loss statement.

Azure Pricing Calculator

Estimating the price of Azure solutions is a critical step before deployment approval for many organizations, especially those of us working in the partner channel. The Azure pricing calculator is intended to solve this problem but, to be honest, in many cases, it has caused more problems than solutions for me. It took years to get Microsoft to finally rename “disk drive” to “temp disk drive” in their pricing docs – with luck, it won’t take years to get other problems solved.
Reserved Instances (RI) is where you can pre-pay for the compute cost of a virtual machine for 1 or 3 years. The pricing calculator does not show this or break this out from the remaining monthly estimate, nor does it show the monthly Windows cost that will remain for Windows machines.
Several the default values for virtual machine pricing are daft:

  • The OS drive for Windows machines should default to 128 GB but it is 32 GB.
  • The quantity of OS drives defaults to 0 instead of 1.
  • The default value for managed disks (data disks) defaults to 1000 when the max of a large virtual machine is 64.
  • Managed disk storage transactions default to 100000 when I rarely see customers hit 1000.
  • The running hours of a default gateway default to 0 but a gateway runs until you remove it, so it should default to 730 hours per month.

Sorting out these silly little things would improve this important tool and ease the complexity of adopting Azure.
And with that, let me wrap up 2018 by wishing everyone a happy whatever-you-celebrate and a Cloudy 2019!

Save the Devil

My last wish has nothing to do with Azure – it’s Christmas and I’m going to throw a tantrum, dammit! I’ve binge-watched Daredevil on Netflix since it launched – I also watched the other Marvel shows and enjoyed them … yes, even Iron Fist. By the way, I was not and am not a comic book reader.
I especially enjoyed Daredevil because of the actors and the characters. The portrayal of Wilson Fisk, particularly in season 3, was awesome. Sure, a blind person running the roofs of Hell’s Kitchen in New York and beating up gangsters is a bit of a stretch, but it was enjoyable.
It surprised me that Netflix announced that they were canceling the pre-production of Season 4 of Daredevil, along with the other Marvel shows. The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen was one of their most successful shows, and it caught fans by surprised. Maybe it was Netflix thrown their toys out of the pram at the news of Disney (the owner of Marvel and Daredevil) launching their own streaming subscription service? So my last Christmas wish is that Netflix reconsiders this, follows Microsoft’s new behavior, and works with a rival to make their joint customers happy.
And with that, let me wrap up 2018 by wishing everyone a happy whatever-you-celebrate and a Cloudy 2019!