Azure, Sharepoint
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WPC 2014 – One-click deployment of SharePoint Farm on Azure

At WPC 2014, Scott Gu announced several new capabilities in Azure and one such new capability is the templates available for ready deployment. Scott demonstrated creation of a SharePoint 2013 farm that can be highly available and demonstrated that we can customize the SQL and other settings. This is a great feature and I couldn’t wait to try this. Here is a quick overview.

TL;DR

This is a great step towards demonstrating the platform capabilities. I am really excited to see this capability. I can expect many more Microsoft teams and partners creating such templates for faster deployment of multi-tier applications.

For all the virtual machines, we can customize host name prefixes and pricing tiers. Each VM tier has a different set of pricing options you can select from. When it comes to customizing the farm configuration, there are limited set of options here.

Domain Controllers: You cannot specify an existing AD forest. You can select the size of the DC VMs. There are not many settings you can customize here.

SQL Servers: You can choose between three different sizes of SQL VMs and each size has a specific DB size. Apart from this, you can customize the SQL service account user name and password. This deployment does not allow you to change the database names and so on for the SharePoint farm.

SharePoint Servers: You can customize setup and farm service account names and passwords and the farm passphrase. This is it really.

Now. coming to the time it took for my deployment, I feel it is a bit longer. It took more than 120 minutes. I did not choose to enable HA for the SharePoint farm. So, for a HA farm, I expect this time to be close to 2x unless they are doing a lot of parallel jobs. I have done this type of deployment automation in the past and I feel the whole process of deploying a non-HA SharePoint farm took longer than expected. That said, this is just a preview and will certainly improve in future. Also, I have not tested multiple regions. The region I deployed the farm was East US and not sure if this varies between regions.

Also, the deployment does not check upfront for the subscription resource limits. So, any errors due to core count exceeding the subscription policy and so on won’t be seen until the orchestration kicks off the resource creation. In fact, my first three attempts at this failed for the same reason. This must change.

Overview of steps

This is available only using the new portal – https://portal.azure.com. Once you open up the new portal, click on the New option at the bottom-left corner of the home page and select SharePoint Server Farm.

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3In the Create SharePoint farm dialog, you can enter a very minimal set of input parameters such as the resource group, username, and password for the farm.

The Resource Group parameter is used to group all the Azure resources created for the SharePoint farm and make it easy to manage all of them.

The value you provide to User Name parameter is used to create a domain administrator account and a local administrator account on all the virtual machines that are a part of the new SharePoint farm.

You can select the Enable high availability if you want to create multiple SharePoint Servers and database servers so that your SharePoint services are highly available even in the event of a virtual machine failure at one of the application tiers.

At this moment, you can simply click Create and let Azure create a SharePoint farm with all default values for other application configuration.

If you want more control over the application configuration settings, you can scroll down in the same dialog and expand the different groups of related options.

 

4In the Domain Controller settings, we can change the Host Name Prefix for the domain controller virtual machines created in your SharePoint farm.

The Forest Root Domain Name is the name of the DNS suffix for the Active Directory domain for your SharePoint farm.

The Pricing Tier lets us select a VM size for the domain controller. The available options are A1 Basic, A1 Standard, and A2 Standard.

Once you select the right settings for your domain controllers, you should click on OK to save the settings.

 

5Similar to the Domain Controller settings, we can even customize the SQL Server settings.

Once again, the Host Name Prefix lets us change the prefix for the SQL Database server VMs in the SharePoint farm.

We can change the Pricing Tier between A5 Standard, A6 Standard, and A7 Standard tiers.

We can use the SQL Server Service Account options to specify a service account name. If we de-select the Use the Administrator password option, we would be able to specify a different SQL service account password than the administrator password specified during the initial configuration. At the end of the customization, click OK to save.

 

6In the SharePoint Servers dialog, we can change the Host Name Prefix and Pricing tier for the SharePoint Server VMs. For the Front End VMs, we can choose between A3 Standard, A4 Standard, and A7 Standard sizes.

The other settings include changing the service account username and passwords for Setup User Account and Server Farm Account. Once again, like the Database server role, you can choose to Use the Administrator password as the service account password too.

Finally, you have to enter a Server Farm Passphrase too if you de-select the Use the Administrator password option.

Once you are done customizing these settings, Click OK to save.

We can, finally, update other settings such as Virtual Network, Virtual Storage, and Diagnostics settings.

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By default, the diagnostics are set to off. I don’t recommend turning this on unless you are debugging or troubleshooting issues with your SharePoint deployment. The diagnostic logs are sent to the storage account in your Azure subscription and therefore it attracts additional charges.

Once you are done customizing these additional settings, you need to click OK to save the settings and click Create to start farm deployment. The deployment progress is indicated via notifications and a tile on the home page.

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This is it. Once the deployment is complete, you will see the status in the notification hub and SharePoint farm resource group pinned to the home page.

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We can drill into the farm roles to find the SharePoint Central Administration port number. I did not see a place where the public IP address is listed.

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PowerShell to the rescue!

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Another way to do this is to use the Resource Manager cmdlets. Since the SPFarm (in my deployment) is a resource group, the following code snippet gives the central administration URL.

With the central admin URL handy, I can access the Central Administration portal and manage my SharePoint farm.

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Filed under: Azure, Sharepoint

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Ravikanth is a principal engineer and the lead architect for Microsoft and VMware virtualized and hybrid cloud solutions within the Infrastructure Solutions Group at Dell EMC. He is a multi-year recipient of Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award in Windows PowerShell (CDM) and Microsoft Azure. Ravikanth is the author of Windows PowerShell Desired State Configuration Revealed (Apress) and leads Bangalore PowerShell and Bangalore IT Pro user groups. He can be seen speaking regularly at local user group events and conferences in India and abroad.