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Office 2016 Releases

Office 365 Logo

Office 2016 is released on 22nd September 2015 and hits the volume licensing pricelist on the 1st October.  What’s new?  Some will be disappointed it’s not radically different from Office 2013.  Others will breathe a sigh of relief and appreciate the consistency between the versions whilst having a good level of improvement over Office 2013 which was a fantastic suite of applications.  We’ll be running a series of hints and tips blog posts over the next month detailing the main changes.

For now, if you’re a Microsoft partner you can visit the Microsoft Drumbeat site, packed full of sales training events and resources to help you start, grow and accelerate your Office 365 practice (registration required).

If you love videos of Americans waving their hands around too much and generally being very excited with words like ‘super’ and ‘cool’ then take a look at the 400 second-long Vimeo video.

FAQ

Q – Is this going to be an automatic upgrade from 2013 to 2016 if I’m on Office 365?

A – No.  If you want to deploy Office 2016 you’ll need to do that using your usual deployment processes, e.g. via the Office 365 portal.  There will be automatic upgrades in the future but there aren’t any full details on that yet, for example how to accept or prevent the automatic upgrade to 2016.

Q – Will Office 2016 still be available as a perpetual, on-premises product?

A – Yes, Office 2016 is available on-premises and through Office 365 subscriptions.  Unless you have Software Assurance on Office 2013 on-premises, you’ll need to buy the licence to Office 2016 as it’s a completely new version.  Office 365 includes new version rights so if you’re on an Office 365 which includes the Office apps (e.g. E3, E4, Business, Business Premium, ProPlus) you have the rights to 2016 immediately.

Q – I’m on Office 365; how long can I stay on the 2013 release?

A – For 12 months after the release of Office 2016.

Q – InfoPath is no longer included in the 2016 release, where can I get this?

A – InfoPath 2013 is the last version and can be downloaded from Microsoft’s download centre.  Your Office 365 ProPlus licence allows use of InfoPath 2013 and it will still be supported


Free Technical Events for Partners

man_spyglass_books_1600_clr_17479

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) face a complex and changing landscape when it comes to understanding all of the different ways new technologies can help their businesses.

Many Microsoft partners are capitalising on the opportunity to grow their businesses by expanding their roles to that of a trusted advisor and business consultant — looking for ways to help SMBs modernise across the IT platform.

Microsoft is focused on helping you deliver solutions that address your customers’ key goals and business challenges.  So you can use technology to help make them be more successful, whether by improving operational efficiency, protecting data, helping employees be more productive, or better connecting with customers.  In fact, only Microsoft offers a complete platform with the flexibility to deliver the solutions your customer’s need, from server to cloud, desktop to mobile devices.

ModernBiz Technical Series

The ModernBiz Technical Series provides training, demonstrations and hands-on instruction on how to use the latest Microsoft technologies to deliver solutions to SMB organisations.  This set of training courses is designed to prepare Microsoft value-added reseller (VAR) partners to help customers get the benefits of the modern business by providing solutions and services that span the entire IT ecosystem, from server, to cloud, to devices.

In this training, you will:

  • Get hands-on experience: With a focus on building real-world solutions, this training consists of presentations, demos, and hands-on labs.
  • Get the skills you need to build real-world SMB solutions: This technical series is designed specifically for partners working with SMB customers to build solutions using the latest products and technologies from Microsoft.

Any of the ModernBiz Technical Series courses can be attended as a standalone course or as a part of the complete series.

Who should participate: The ModernBiz Technical Series course is for Microsoft value-added reseller (VAR) partners who work with small and midsize organisations.  The training is designed for those who are ready to learn more about meeting the technical needs of SMBs with Microsoft solutions.

Audience: IT Professionals, Consultants, SMB Resellers

Level: 200 (Technical) This training aligns to the Microsoft ModernBiz campaign for SMB partners.

There are free one or two day courses for each of these key technology areas.

Current Schedule:

South:

Microsoft Cloud for SMB – 19th October (London)

Connect With Customers – 26th October (Reading)

Business Anywhere – 27th October (Reading)

Microsoft Cloud for SMB and Grow Efficiently Track 2 (2day) – 3rd & 4th November (Bristol)

Microsoft Cloud for SMB and Grow Efficiently Track 2 (2day) – 9th & 10th November (Reading)

Safeguard Your Business – 16th November (London)

Safeguard Your Business – 1st December (Reading)

Microsoft Cloud for SMB and Grow Efficiently Track 2 (2day) – 7th & 8th December (London)

 

Midlands:

Microsoft Cloud for SMB – 7th October (Birmingham)

Business Anywhere – 18th November (Birmingham)

 

North:

Microsoft Cloud for SMB – 5th October (York)

Business Anywhere – 6th October (Manchester)

Connect With Customers – 19th November (Manchester)

Grow Efficiently Track 2 – 25th November (York)

Microsoft Cloud for SMB – 15th December (Manchester)

 

Scotland:

Business Anywhere – 12th October (Edinburgh)

Connect With Customers – 13th October (Edinburgh)

Microsoft Cloud for SMB and Grow Efficiently Track 2 (2day) – 23rd & 24th November (Edinburgh)

Imageframe are pleased to be running many of these courses so come along and say hi!

Keep up to date with these and more on the Microsoft Partner Network UK blog.


Clean Install of Windows 10 Upgrade

Microsoft Windows 10

Performing a clean install of the free Windows 10 upgrade is a 2 step process.  Firstly as an in-place upgrade to register the free upgrade and then as a clean install.  This is an inconvenience especially when upgrading multiple desktops and sometimes in-place upgrades from one version of an OS fail to complete.

In-place Upgrades can Fail

Reasons for failed upgrades range from undetected incompatible hardware drivers, erroneous applications, user tweaked settings, malware, antivirus and hard disk accelerator software through to not enough disk space, underlying bad disk sectors and proprietary disk compression or encryption software.

Although these possibilities have been around for many years, the free offer of a Windows 10 upgrade has made more people than ever want to jump up onto this new release and because of the time limitation before the free upgrade offer expires in July 2016, it has made the heightened the perception of urgency to do it now (it could just be because ‘the grass is greener’ or maybe even some think Microsoft will suddenly have a change of heart and whip this free upgrade from under them).

And while the vast majority of people will simply perform the in-place upgrade and allow Windows 10 to merge onto their existing PC setup, some, however, prefer to go down the ‘purists’ route of a clean install.  Migrate all the useful data off their existing system, wipe the drive (preferably after having run a HDD surface scan on older drives), install a fresh OS and enjoy the challenge of searching out any missing drivers for those odd hardware pieces.

In order to be eligible for a Windows 10 free upgrade you must allow the upgrade process to identify that your existing OS installation is valid in terms of version (Windows 7, 8.0, 8.1), edition (Home or Pro), and activation (genuine software, not a trial, or otherwise not properly activated).  For those interested in more detail, go to the Windows 10 FAQ.

Two-Step Upgrade Process

This leads us back to our original point; performing a clean install of Windows 10, whilst trying to qualify for the free upgrade, is a 2 step process.  Firstly the existing OS must be registered as being eligible and secondly that eligibility must be migrated over to the new clean install.

Given that quite often the reason for a clean install is that this existing OS is experiencing some of the issues I mentioned right at the very start of this article this can mean that this initial in-place upgrade never completes, preventing enrolment of the PC to enable a subsequent clean install.

However, this is a shortcut to this initial step – that of enrolling/registering/certifying (call it what you will) the PC’s existing OS that it is indeed suitable and eligible for a free Windows 10 upgrade without having to perform the entire Windows 10 in-place upgrade first.

Naturally, before proceeding, any data migration from the old PC must be completed, either in the form of a backup, file transfer or Easy Transfer Wizard.  You may even want to consider performing a full system image copy in case you do not successfully complete the fresh install phase.  Proceed only if you have a way to recover.

  1. Download a copy of Windows 10.
  2. Use your preferred method to access the files within the downloaded ISO (such as burn it to disk, mount it within Windows or use a 3rd party utility to expand it).
  3. Search for gatherosstate.exe.  Depending on the version of the image you chose, it will either reside in sources or \Windows\x64\sources or \Windows\x32\sources.  Copy gatherosstate.exe to your desktop.
  4. Ensuring you are properly connected to the internet, run the gatherosstate application.  After a few seconds, an additional file should appear on your desktop – GenuineTicket.XML.  This is confirmation that your existing PC and OS have passed the pre-requisites needed to perform a clean Windows 10 install.  Save the file GenuineTicket.XML to a location NOT on your system HDD (as this is going to be wiped).  Any location will do; USB, network share, even email it to yourself!
  5. Perform your clean install of Windows 10.  When requested for the product key, click the ‘SKIP’ button.
  6. When the clean install has completed and you’re looking at your fresh desktop, locate GenuineTicket.XML and copy it to the hidden folder C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\ClipSVC\GenuineTicket.  You can navigate to it directly by pasting this URL directly into a RUN dialog box (Win+R to activate, or Win+X,R or just type in RUN into the Cortana search box).
  7. Reboot your PC.
  8. That’s it!  In order to confirm activation, bring up the SYSTEM panel (Win+Pause, Win+x, S, or type SYSTEM into the Cortana search box).  The System dialog box will now confirm that this new installation is activated.
  9. Allow updates to be performed on your new system, via SETTINGS, Update & Security.
  10. Enjoy that new-fresh Windows 10 installation smell!

Windows 10 – More Licensing FAQs

Microsoft Windows 10

Windows 10 was released on the 29th July and was made available in volume licensing on the 1st August.  The licence agreements are available on the Microsoft Volume Licensing documentation site (for software purchased through volume licensing) and the Microsoft Licence Terms site (for OEM and full packaged product, FPP).

So now is a good time to revisit some questions regarding the retail version.  For Windows 10 bought through Volume licensing, you can read the Windows 10 Volume Licensing Guide.

Q – Where can I download the ISO media for the free upgrade so I can upgrade several machines from a USB stick?

A – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10.  Of course this isn’t a free version of Windows to download and install but it allows you to upgrade several machines without requiring each of them to download the Windows 10 build from the internet.  You can also use it to perform a clean install if you have a Windows 10 product key.  Full instructions are given.

Q – When does a device cease being the same device?  If a faulty PC motherboard is replaced but the HDD remains unchanged will Windows 10 continue working?  We frequently re-install existing Windows operating systems to return to a clean test environment.  How many times will we be able to do this with a Windows 10 licence before the re-installs are blocked?

A – Typically, the motherboard is the critical mass here.  You can change the hard drive(s) and reinstall, change the video card, even upgrade the processor and Windows will still work on the device.  With the free upgrade offer, you must upgrade on a pc that has Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 already installed (except Enterprise and RT editions).  Once you have upgraded to Windows 10 on the PC and successfully activated it, you won’t have a Windows 10 product key but you will be able to perform a clean installation and select the Skip button on the product key page.  Your PC will activate online automatically so long as the same edition of Windows 10 was successfully activated on the PC by using the free Windows 10 upgrade offer.

You are also allowed to install Windows virtually on the device (but not off the device, e.g. on a network share as that becomes virtual desktop access and requires its own licensing).  Section 2d (iv) of the EULA (end user licence agreement):

(iv)    Use in a virtualized environment. This license allows you to install only one instance of the software for use on one device, whether that device is physical or virtual. If you want to use the software on more than one virtual device, you must obtain a separate license for each instance.

There are limits on how many times you can activate Windows over the Internet on the same device but if you ever hit that limit, you should be able to perform telephone activation instead.  There’s no activation limit enforced in the licence terms.  If you move a HDD containing a physical installation of Windows 10 or move a .VHD with Windows installed to another pc, it may work but you may also find that reactivation is triggered by the changes and unless the Windows licence is transferable you’ll be non-compliant.

Q – How will licensing work for people who build their own PC and would normally buy a retail version of Windows?  Is that licence going to be transferable to a subsequent build, or is the retail licence going to be limited to that particular PC [and if so, what’s the definition of “that particular PC”]?

A – You can still purchase the retail (FPP) licence of Windows 10, install that on a bare-metal pc and the licence will be transferable to another device (subject to only installing Windows on one device at a time).  Preinstalled Windows (OEM) remains non-transferable.  Now this does open up new territory for retail Windows; you can buy the retail version once, enjoy updates to Windows and when you want to upgrade your pc, simply transfer your Windows licence to your new pc without requiring an OEM licence.  It’s pretty tricky to buy a bare-metal pc from the major manufacturers however and OEM licences became a lot cheaper recently so that may not save much money.  Section 4b of the EULA details transfer rights:

b.      Stand-alone software. If you acquired the software as stand-alone software (and also if you upgraded from software you acquired as stand-alone software), you may transfer the software to another device that belongs to you. You may also transfer the software to a device owned by someone else if (i) you are the first licensed user of the software and (ii) the new user agrees to the terms of this agreement. You may use the backup copy we allow you to make or the media that the software came on to transfer the software. Every time you transfer the software to a new device, you must remove the software from the prior device. You may not transfer the software to share licenses between devices.

If you are an OEM or System Builder, there remains the COEM (Commercial Original Equipment Manufacturer) product for just that purpose.  Windows 8.1 COEM licence removed the DIY (personal use rights) addendum so if you’re building your own pc for personal use, buying the retail product is the correct way to licence.

Q – How is the lifespan of a PC going to be determined?  If I have a PC with Windows now, will it still be supported as long as the hardware is still operational, or is there going to be a time limit?  Or just a drift towards bits of hardware no longer being supported which would result in being forced to upgrade to a newer PC [and a new Windows licence]?  Not everyone cares about the latest capabilities – plenty of people only use PCs to browse the web.

A – No time limit but you’ll find that certain components will become superseded and as such the minimum system requirements for Windows may change.  The Microsoft Product Lifecycle pages state:

• Updates are cumulative, with each update built upon all of the updates that preceded it.  A device needs to install the latest update to remain supported.
• Updates may include new features, fixes (security and/or non-security), or a combination of both.  Not all features in an update will work on all devices.
• A device may not be able to receive updates if the device hardware is incompatible, lacking current drivers, or otherwise outside of the Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (“OEM”) support period.
• Update availability may vary, for example by country, region, network connectivity, mobile operator (e.g., for cellular-capable devices), or hardware capabilities (including, e.g., free disk space). 

Q – How much will an OEM version of Win10 cost; a version to be incorporated into our instruments?  I cannot find any info on this.

A – There are new editions of Windows 10 called Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 Core.  These are ideal for industry and embedded devices such as instruments.  They’re on the price list and you should be able to get this information from your Microsoft retailer.

Keep the questions coming!


Microsoft Certification Map

Microsoft retires Select PlusThe path to qualifications can be a little confusing so we’ve produced a handy interactive PDF which shows the current Microsoft MTA, MCSA, MCSE and MCSD qualification routes along with the courses and exams required to get you there.

Think of this as your handy CertNav!

Why strive for an IT qualification?

For employees, 85% of IT hiring managers consider certifications a medium to high priority according to the CompTIA research paper Employer Perceptions of IT Training and Certification.

For managed services providers, a 2009 research report by Beth Vanni (then Director of Market Intelligence for Amazon Consulting) found 60% of customers trust a certified partner more and involved that partner more readily in future decision making.  Also, 60% engaged more repeat business and purchased services beyond products from certified providers.

And my favourite research finding is quoted on the Microsoft certification site: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Microsoft Certified IT Professional, and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator are among the top 25 highest-paying IT certifications.

You will try to remember us when you’re sunning yourselves on your yacht in the Bahamas won’t you?


Rolling Back with Office 365

talk_show_interview_1600_clr_8350A question from our Twitter feed: “@imageframeuk Can you download the old version of #MSOffice when you purchase #office365? The new #MSOffice2016 for Mac is very buggy…”

Great question.  Forgive us because we’re going to answer for the Windows platform here, I don’t have my demo Mac handy but when I get it back we’ll include Mac-specific information.

Office 365 is an evergreen, versionless service.  This means there isn’t strictly what Microsoft would call a major version although in this case going from Office 2011 applications to Office 2016 applications is a major upgrade.

There are no downgrade rights with Office 365 so it’s impossible to subscribe to Office 365 and install Office 2010 applications or Office 2011 Mac applications.  Depending on the subscription plan you have:

     1- you can control how and when future updates are installed

     2- you can disable automatic updates

     3- you can rollback to a previous update

There are limitations to this though.  Option 1 is discussed in this TechNet blog article Managing Updates for Office 365 ProPlus.

Option 2 can be achieved through company-wide policy or in the individual program.  In any Office 365 ProPlus for Windows application, select File, Account and you’ll see the update options on the right-hand side.

 

Option to Disable Office 365 updates

Select Disable Updates and none of your Office applications will be updated; you won’t need to do this in each application.  Somewhere in the world a puppy will start crying however, because you are defying Microsoft.

 

Option to Disable Office 365 updates

This action shouldn’t be taken lightly though; you will also not receive security patches so your products may become vulnerable.  And at some point, your installation of Office will become unsupported.

Option 3 is performed by running OfficeC2RClient.exe from an administrative command-prompt and using the updatetoversion switch with the specific version you want to deploy which can be newer or older than the current version (or you may not have one installed at all).  If you don’t specify a version, it defaults to the latest one.  The versions only go back so far but theoretically you could deploy an older release going back a couple of years.

How will rollbacks work when Office 2016 applications are brought into mainstream Office 365?

We’ll post an update to this blog when we try it.

The last point may seem obvious and irrelevant but we have to mention it for completeness.  You can of course still use Office 2011 for Mac on the device whilst connecting to the Office 365 cloud services.  But this is not going to help if you’ve subscribed to an Office 365 plan which includes Office applications; who wants to pay twice for the same thing?


Reimaging Windows 10

Confused people

A question on Microsoft’s UK TechNet blog: “Do Reimaging Rights also apply to Windows 10 Professional?  I’ve a customer using desktops licensed with both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.  Can I upgrade these machine and reimage them at a later time?”

The short answer is possibly.  As you can tell, we like to keep our advice helpful and in no way ambiguous.

So as I understand it, the scenario is that you have some devices licenced with Windows 7 and some with Windows 8.1.  You want to upgrade these machines to Windows 10 via the free upgrade offer.  In the future you may want to reimage these machines, for example to repurpose them or provide them to another employee.

There are some assumptions we need to make in order to answer this correctly as these subtleties make a difference to the rights and upgrade paths.  Firstly, which edition of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are currently installed?  We’ll assume they are Windows Pro.  We also need to know where you’re getting the Windows 10 media that you will use to reimage these machines.  Will it come from a Volume Licence (VL) agreement or will it be the media supplied via the Windows 10 upgrade offer?

 

Windows 10 reimage paths

 

Upgrading the Existing Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 Desktops to Windows 10

As we’ve discussed in How to Upgrade to Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 (Home and Pro editions) are eligible to benefit from the 1-year free upgrade offer.  If your desktop machines are upgraded within that year they have a perpetual (but not transferable) licence for Windows 10 and they are able to be reimaged or reinstalled with Windows 10.

Using Windows 10 Media as the Initial Upgrade Image

The Windows 10 free upgrade offer is aimed at consumers and most people will initiate the upgrade from their own pc.  However organisations with Windows Pro are eligible to take advantage of the offer and are unlikely to want to sit in front of each pc to upgrade it so upgrade media will be provided as part of the free upgrade offer.  This media can be used on a machine (or multiple machines) to initiate the upgrade process.  The media image can be customised like any other Windows image, for example via DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) to include drivers, applications, etc..  During the upgrade process, a Windows 10 licence will be obtained from the Windows Store for the specific device.  The upgrade media is intended to be used to initiate the upgrade process from within a currently-activated, eligible Windows OS.  It shouldn’t be used as bootable media because the upgrade process validates the currently running OS to ensure it is eligible to be upgraded.

Using Windows 10 Free Upgrade Media to Reinstall or Reimage

As long as the specific device has been upgraded within the free offer year, Windows 10 can be reinstalled or reimaged on that device because the licence is tied to the motherboard, so even a hard drive upgrade is fine.  So in theory, reimaging using the Windows 10 upgrade offer media will be allowed but as stated earlier, the advice from Microsoft is that it can’t be used as bootable so that makes reimaging tricky.  Allowed: yes.  Technically possible: it’s not clear because the upgrade media isn’t available yet.

Using Windows 10 VL Media to Reimage

One key benefit of licensing Microsoft software under a Microsoft Volume Licensing program is the right for customers to use VL media to deploy a standard image of software across multiple licenced devices.  It doesn’t matter whether those devices are licenced under that particular VL program, an OEM or retail so long as certain eligibility rules are followed.  The main rule is VL media may be used to reimage devices as long those devices are already licensed for the edition and version being reimaged onto them.

As long as your devices have upgraded to Windows 10 Pro within the free upgrade period, you will be allowed to use VL media to reimage them.  If your VL licence is for Windows 10 Enterprise you must down-edition to Windows 10 Pro.

Get Proof

The Microsoft Product Terms document (a new document from July 2015 combining the Product List and Product Use Rights document) states “If a third party intends to re-image Windows on Customer’s separately licensed devices, Customer must first provide that third party with written documentation proving it has licenses for the software the third party will install.”  So to cover your backs in case of an audit, ensure you have proof that the current installations of Windows are valid.  With OEM, that should be easy as there’ll normally be a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) sticker on the device.

What if the Current Editions are Windows Home?

The Product Terms document states that down edition rights for Windows through Volume Licensing are from Enterprise edition to Pro (see the image below).  You cannot down-edition Windows in volume licensing to Home edition because they are different products and that’s against reimaging rules.  Therefore you won’t be able to use Windows 10 VL media to reimage devices if they are only licenced for Windows 10 Home (hence the big red block in the top right of our flowchart above).  Licensing is full of exception though and it is possible that rights to reimage by using a different version or edition may be granted in the EULA that came with your OEM version of Windows.

Windows Down Editon rights

One Last Point

The main points in this article are taken from the Product Terms document which hasn’t yet been updated for Windows 10 but as far as we’re aware the Windows 8.1 rules will apply, and the Licensing brief: Reimaging rights document from February 2015.  We’ve also included some information from Microsoft sources in the case of unreleased bits such as the Windows 10 media and as such, they must be viewed as unconfirmed.

We hope that’s clear but feel free to Tweet us or contact us if you have any questions.


Windows 10 FAQ and Licensing Video

Windows 10 screenshotThere’s lots of chatter about Windows 10 so we’ve posted a licensing call that we recorded for Microsoft which sets out the fundamentals of how Windows as a service will work, the editions of Windows 10, licensing Windows per-user instead of per-device and how customers can get the Windows 10 upgrade.

You can also read our earlier blog posts on Never Pay for Windows Again and How to Upgrade to Windows 10.

Some important highlights:

1 – Windows will be an evergreen service and devices on Windows Home and Pro will have Windows updated at no ongoing cost.

2 – Windows Home will be on what’s known as Current Branch which means those machines will get feature updates as soon as they’re released.

3 – Windows Pro and Windows Enterprise with Software Assurance (SA) will default to Current Branch but can be set to Current Branch for Business which allows them to defer feature updates for up to eight months.  If updates are not deployed within that time, the OS will become unsupported.

4 – Windows Enterprise is the only edition where customers can fix on a specific release (known as a Long Term Servicing Branch).

5 – Windows Enterprise without Software Assurance (SA) will NOT BE UPDATED.  The update facility (Current Branch or Current Branch for Business) is a Software Assurance benefit for Enterprise edition, not part of the Windows licence.  So Windows will only be kept up to date for Enterprise edition customers if they maintain their SA annuity.

6 – Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 devices can be upgraded at no cost for 1 year after the release of Windows 10.  Windows Enterprise is not eligible for this free upgrade.

7 – The upgrade licence is tied to the specific device and is not transferable.  For example if you bought Windows 8 retail, that can be transferred to another pc but the Windows 10 upgrade cannot be transferred.  Within the first year, you would need to transfer the Windows 8 licence to the new machine and then kick off the free upgrade again.  After the first year, if the new machine didn’t come with an OEM Window 10 then you would need to buy Windows 10 in order to install it on that device.

8- There will be downgrade rights so if you buy a device with Windows 10 you will be able to deploy Windows 8 or 7 in its place.  This varies according to the channel you purchase through.

9- We’d love to get some more questions so please contact us if you have any that you’d like us to answer.

 

 


How to Coexist A and D VMs in Azure

Microsoft Azure LogoMicrosoft Azure virtual machines are not the same as on-premises VMs.  Steve Plank’s excellent blog post on the difference between Azure Cloud Services and Azure VMs goes some way to explaining the reason why.  Bearing this in mind there are some common questions which only make sense when you think about how Azure services work.

Many customers have mentioned that they can’t change between an A series VM and a D series, or they can’t mix A and D series within the same cloud service.  However, it’s entirely possible to do both of those.

Firstly, why would you need to?  Let’s take a customer who has moved an on-premises line-of-business server application onto Microsoft Azure to take advantage of the cost-efficiency, super-reliable data centres and the ability to scale.  The customer has started with a Standard-tier A2 compute unit (11p per hour for 2 cores and 3.5GB RAM) but after their data volumes increase they find the IOPS from hard disk drives are becoming a bottleneck so they’d like to move the workload onto a D series to enjoy increased throughput from solid-state drives.

Having created the VM as an A2 in a new Azure virtual network or cloud service, they find that when they log on to the Azure portal and try to scale the VM up, D series machines aren’t available.

Scale Azure VMs

 

If the customer tried to create a new D series VM in the same VNet or cloud service, they will also receive the following warning message telling them the cloud service doesn’t support those compute units.

Warning for Azure A Series Cloud service

 

If you create an A series VM in a new cloud services, Azure’s cloud fabric will host that VM in a cluster that currently may only support A series.  That’s why you’ll see the behaviour that our customer has experienced.

It is not possible to move a VM between cloud services either so even if you had a service currently hosting D series VMs, the customer would need to delete their VM (but choosing the option to keep the attached disks) and recreate the VM from the attached disks in the other cloud service.

So our little trick would be for this customer to create the VM as a D series initially and as soon as it’s created, scale the VM down to an A2.  That way Azure will host the VM in a cluster capable of supporting both A and D series compute units.  The customer can scale up, down and mix VMs of A and D series to their heart’s content (with the exception of the A8-A11 compute sizes).  The image below shows a cloud service with both A and D series compute units.

Azure mixed VMs in a single cloud service

 

This doesn’t work with G series currently but at present they can only be hosted in the West US and East US 2 data centres anyway.  Of course the feature release cadence of Azure is rapid so it’s likely this will be possible at some point in the future.

How would the customer have known to create the D series first to avoid this trap?  We’d recommend utilising a Microsoft partner with experience in Azure services or attend one of our training courses; that’s what we’re here for.