I have lots of links covering Azure global and specific topics. For example, my warehouse of Azure Shortcuts at aka.ms/Azure/Shortcuts, and an Azure IaaS Operations Guide located at aka.ms/Azure/IaaSOpsGuide. But to just get off the ground there are some essential tools that just everyone should have, or at least know about, along with a few more that may be a lot more specific. So let's get started and make a list of essential tools and then add a few more that we'll call "Added Value" tools, as I can can determine and dig up while writing this.
Azure Essential Tools
- https://portal.azure.com. I know you're a creature of habit! If you've only been using this all along, at least since the preview release, then you're doing great. If not, get used to this portal. Yes, there are for a bit some things like, ahem Azure AD, that are still in the old portal, but that not only will change, but the link to redirect you there already exists in the new portal. Not sure what's "there"? Just click B once you are at the portal, and it will open the Browse window. See something you like, click the star to the right of it, highlighting it in yellow, and voila!....it will be added to YOUR custom menu on the left. Try customizing that "other" cloud portal. Won't happen so easily 🙂
- Azure Access Panel. The Access Panel is a web-based portal that allows an end user with an organizational account in Azure Active Directory to view and launch cloud-based applications to which they have been granted access by the Azure AD administrator. If you are an end-user with Azure Active Directory editions, you can also utilize self-service group management capabilities through the Access Panel. The Access Panel is separate from the Azure Management Portal and does not require users to have an Azure subscription. Read more in the Introduction to the Access Panel.
- NOTE: it has a new preview look and feel. Check it out!
- Azure PowerShell. You must have the latest version to get all the richness of the latest azure portal capabilities in PowerShell.
- Tip! I see many people open this directly. Instead, once you have it installed, it will run within the Azure PowerShell ISE. If you've never used that before, wait are you waiting for? You not only get a script pane on top where you can save all of your scripts, but then a nice GUI command box on the right. Can you say search, sort and select? How about then "Fill in the blanks". Not only am I "Allergic to Code", but I can't type to save my life. So fill in the box and run some code? I'm on it! Oh, and did I mention in the rambling that once you install Azure PowerShell, that all of those modules then are dynamically loaded into PowerShell ISE. Gotta Love it!
- Got Visual Studio? Don't give me that "I don't do DotNet 🙂 The new portal which is based on Azure Resource Manager (ARM) lives by deploying things with JSON templates. Even with the "free" versions of Visual Studio, you can leverage the automatic JSON template capabilities with the latest SDK below. And as I mentioned above I am "Allergic to Code", yet I have and use Visual Studio to create and modify templates. It is just that darn simple for a Cave Man Infrastructure guy like me! Want a little more help on creating templates? See Authoring Azure Resource Manager templates and also World Class ARM Templates Considerations and Proven Practices.
- Got your SDKs? OK, so you're not allergic to code? Dive in my friend and just be happy. There is something for every platform and CLI to choose. There is now another similar page of Azure Developer Tools which has some others to consider as well.
- Quick Start Templates. Don't want to make your own ARM templates? There are a ton of these already out there. But caveat emptor. This is where the "tweaking" comes in. While there are many excellent templates out there, what I often find is that they are written with a blank slate. What I mean is that they assume that you have almost nothing. Therefore, most templates will create your storage account and virtual networks as part of the template. But in the real world, Networks are carved out, and storage accounts are planned. You DO plan your storage, right? So if those do exist, then you may have to modify the template. Again, you can do that even with notepad, but trust my IaaS hands....much easier to do with Visual Studio and the latest SDK added to it.
- Template Deployment. Although I wanted to avoid all the dozens of items in the portal, this is another nugget that many never find. When in the Azure Portal, just click N and type Template Deployment and then select it when it pops up just beneath where you typed it. Whether you created a template from scratch, used Visual Studio, or got one from a vendor (it happens), you simply copy that JSON file contents, and paste that into the "Edit Template" window, once you've expanded Template Deployment. It doesn't get much easier to test a template than this.
- Azure Resource Explorer. This is a Gem that many not only don't know about, but if they did, didn't also know that this is now baked into the new portal. Look back at #1 above and you can actually browse for it. The beauty of this online tool is that you can browse through all the templates and JSON throughout your entire subscription. Magical!
- Visual Studio Team Services. Visual Studio Team Services is the fastest and easiest way yet to plan, build, and ship software across a variety of platforms. Get up and running in minutes on our cloud infrastructure without having to install or configure a single server. If you already have Visual Studio Team Foundation Server, this article explains the differences between the two. Documentation for BOTH TFS and TS.
- Azure Architecture Designs and Visio Stencils. At some point, somebody is going to want you to draw this all up. So here are some diagrams and Azure Visio stencils to get you going.
Cost Calculators Online
- Azure Pricing Calculator
- Azure Channel Pricing Calculator
- Azure Resource Usage and RateCard API. Information about this family of APIs exposed by the Azure Resource Manager. This is what most third party tools leverage such as Cloudyn and Cloud Cruiser.
Azure Value Added Tools
- EA Portal. This is for those that literally own the subscription with an Enterprise Agreement. If you are not an administrator there, stay out. It won't let you in anyways. But if you are admin, do not let many people in. Remember separation of duties applies here. New Subscriptions can be created here. So for good governance the process should work like this. A. The administrator of the EA Portal creates a New Subscription. B. They go in and change the name in the Accounts portal (below) and C. Then, they login to the Azure Portal, and create a Co-Administrator for the new subscription. From that point, you have a new subscription and a new co-admin to go along with that, so there is no need for that admin to be an admin in the EA portal. Unless maybe she is a CFO 🙂
- Accounts Portal. This again is for the owners of the subscription largely from a billing perspective. The specific role that owns this is the Account Administrator One thing nice for this portal, is if you do not have an Enterprise Agreement, like many larger companies do, then this will be the top level subscription management portal. Learn about the differences between a Subscription, Co-Administrator and Account Administrator. From the Accounts Portal you can:
- Change the payment method
- Download Usage Details
- Contact Microsoft Support (which can be done also in the Azure portal)
- Edit Subscription Details.
- You can change the default subscription name (which you should to make it 'yours')
- Change the Service Administrator. There can only be one of these per subscription and many (though you want few) co-administrators
- Change the subscription address
- Transfer the subscription
- Cancel the subscription
- PowerBI. With the release of the Microsoft Azure Enterprise content pack for Power BI, you can now quickly import and analyze your Azure consumption data in Power BI. This data allows you to gain insights into which departments, accounts, or subscriptions are consuming the most. It also provides visibility into which service your organization used most and trends for spending and overall usage. This is very powerful to slice and dice your information.....you'll love it!
- HDInsight Tools for Visual Studio
- AZCOPY. Move Data to and from Azure Blob Storage using AzCopy
- Microsoft Storage Explorer. Microsoft Azure Storage Explorer (Preview) is a standalone app from Microsoft that allows you to easily work with Azure Storage data on Windows, OSX and Linux.
- Azure Storage Emulator. The Microsoft Azure storage emulator provides a local environment that emulates the Azure Blob, Queue, and Table services for development purposes. Using the storage emulator, you can test your application against the storage services locally, without creating an Azure subscription or incurring any costs. When you're satisfied with how your application is working in the emulator, you can switch to using an Azure storage account in the cloud.
- Azure Speed Latency Test. Azure Storage Latency Test - Azure Speed Test. Test network latency to Azure Storage in worldwide data centers, determine the best region for your application and users. A closer data center will provide less latency and fast throughput.
- Azure Resource Visualizer. A visual way of visualizing, editing, and saving Azure Resource Manager Templates.
- AzureLens. AzureLens is a demo project for managing and interacting with Azure via the existing public APIs
- To Do List Reimagined (TDLR). To-Do List Reimagined isn't a real app, per se. But it can help you understand how to integrate your app with Azure Active Directory in a realistic way. In the sign-up form, try typing in an email address of a user with an Azure AD account. Then sign in as that user, and get started adding some tasks to that user's to-do list.
- Once you've explored sign-up and sign-in, try sharing a task with other users in your company, and watch TDLR take the company by storm. Finally, click the Admin link to login as an admin of your company and view a list of users that have been assigned to the app. As you add/remove users, TDLR's user store is automatically updated.
- System Center Monitoring Pack for Windows Azure Applications. The Windows Azure Monitoring Pack enables you to monitor the availability and performance of applications that are running on Windows Azure.
- Azure Compute Benchmark Scores. Not exactly a tool in the traditional sense of something that opens up and you run it. But it is a fairly new document that you can use as a tool to show show compute performance for the Azure high performance VM lineup.
- Microsoft Threat Modeling Tool | Applying a structured approach to threat scenarios during design helps a team more effectively and less expensively identify security vulnerabilities, determine risks from those threats, and establish appropriate mitigations.
- Attack Surface Analyzer | Reducing the opportunities for attackers to exploit a potential weak spot or vulnerability requires thoroughly analyzing overall attack surface and includes disabling or restricting access to system services, applying the principle of least privilege, and employing layered defenses wherever possible.
3rd Party Tools
Hey, even Microsoft uses some, sometimes. So here are a few that I run into that may be useful for things like billing, governance, etc.
- Hanu Insight. Maximize your Azure investment with total end-to-end visibility of your Azure spend. Hanu Insight for Microsoft Azure delivers the IT governance and financial management tools you need in a familiar interface consistent with Azure itself. Enjoy self-service simplicity and seamless integration into your existing environment with Hanu Insight.
- Departmental Chargeback Tracking
- Self-Service IT
- Identify Wasteful Spending
- Streamlined IT Governance
- Integrated User Management
- Cloudyn. Obtain enterprise-wide cost transparency with customized reporting and analytics for your Microsoft Azure cloud deployment.
- Business and Data Insights
- Governance and Reporting
- Apptio. Apptio Cost Transparency provides the economic framework CIOs need to make data driven cloud decisions.
- Compare Application and infrastructure to cloud alternatives
- Prioritize migration decisions
- Monito CLoud consumption versus traditional IT
- Promote Private Cloud Adoption
- Ansible for Azure. Ansible includes a suite of modules for interacting with Azure Resource Manager, giving you the tools to easily create and orchestrate infrastructure on the Microsoft Azure Cloud.
- DataDog. Datadog gathers performance data from all your application components.