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Availability Sets allow you to group multiple VM’s across fault domains to ensure maximum uptime for your applications.

This allows you to avoid a single points of failure such as a network switch or power unit of a rack of servers

It also allows you to maintain 100% uptime even during planned downtime that your applications or VM’s  may require.

You can find out more details about Availability Sets on windowsazure.com:

http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/manage/windows/common-tasks/manage-vm-availability/

We just set this up for a client and wanted to capture the steps are there are quite a few :)

Step 1. Setup a new VM under Azure using a gallery image (Sql Server 2008 R2 or Sql Server 2012)

Step 2. Complete the Virtual Machine Configuration (VM name, user name, password, & size)
- size can be expanded later if needed

Step 3. Select a Virtual machine mode to determine if this VM will be standalone or part of an existing Azure DNS group

Step 4. Download the connect profile for the VM and RDP into the virtual machine

Step 5. Create a TCP endpoint for the virtual machine mapping a different external port to the internal 1433 address to obduscate

Step 6. Open a TCP port in the Windows firewall to allow routing to the VM Database Engine

Step 7. Configure SQL Server to make sute it is listening using the TCP protocol

Step 8. Configure SQL Server for mixed mode authentication

Step 9. Create SQL Server authentication login and grant access for that login to the appropriate databases

Step 10. Connect to the SQL Server VM using the DNS address provided on the dashboard in Windows Azure

(ex. myVM.cloudapp.net,57500 where 57500 is the port you configures in step 5)

You will also need to this this address in your application connection strings

Step 11. Test and verify connectivity is working

Step 12. Review the Windows firewall configuration on the Sql Server VM and lock down as much as possible to a specific IP range if possible

 

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No Charge for Stopped VMs

Prior to today, when you stopped a VM on Windows Azure Microsoft kept a reserved deployment spot for it inside one of their compute clusters, and continued to bill you for the VM compute unless you explicitly deleted the deployment. While technically possible, this was not practical.

Effective today, this has changed. When you stop a VM Microsoft no longer charges you for compute time while the VM is stopped (they still preserve the deployment state and configuration).  This makes it incredibly easy to stop VMs when you are not using them to avoid billing charges, and then restart them when you want to use them again.

This is idea for a development/test scenario where you often want to cycle down environments in the evenings or on weekends if they are not being actively used.

Now you can do so and not incur any hourly billing fees.

When do you incur costs with a Window Azure or Rackspace VM?

The answer is that once the VM is provisioned and activated, you start incurring hourly costs. Even if you shutdown the instance, you still continue to incur costs. Only by imaging the VM and deleting it can you avoid on-going costs. Ideally Microsoft and Rackspace will provide an “off-line” option where resources are not researved to allow used to reduce costs via server downtime (ex. in a test envionment). This is something that Amazon AWS has been preaching for a while.

Windows Azure provides every customer the ability to host 10 ASP.NET Web Sites for free.

See http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/net/aspnet/