Thursday, January 17, 2019

How to Become a Business Analyst

Image result for business analyst

I created some training material for the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) local Tampa chapter and it is open for anyone to utilize.  I have am working with them to help with training in using Azure DevOps (formerly VSTS/TFS) and for new folk to the field.

How to get into the field:
  • I would recommend getting the and the ECBA certification from the IIBA.  The best way to go for the ECBA certification is to pay for the membership for the IIBA which will give you lots of training materials and an exam discount (about the price of the membership so it's like free materials!).
  • Go to local meetups and search for IIBA in your area and find some nice folk to ask about the field and what the job is like!
  • When searching for jobs make sure to search for a generic "Analyst" as there are many, many names for Business Analysts.  Also add in keywords for "entry level" or "junior" and don't be afraid of the requirements or years of experience they ask for in the posting, that is simply a wish list of an ideal candidate, not a real person that they actually plan on finding (especially for junior roles). 
  • Write a cover letter explaining why you are interested in the Business Analyst role, why you are a good fit, what you have done to prepare yourself, what skills you have, and why you are interested in the particular company you are applying for.
  • On the top of your resume, list skills that are relevant to the IT field and the Business Analyst role.  Members of local meetups or industry Analysts can help you out!
  • Learn about Agile, Scrum, SDLC, Epics/Features/User Stories, and more by searching online.  Also... see below on this point:
I have some training on how to write Epics/Features/User Stories and examples of how to break things down.  I also have hands on labs on how to utilize Azure DevOps as a tool in the Business Analyst role.  Azure DevOps is completely free to use for up to 5 people (so for 1 person learning, it's a great tool). The labs and info is all free and I just hope it helps someone out!

Please click here to see it:

Note: I am not a Business Analyst, I am a developer who has partnered up with Business Analysts to make this training. I do work at Microsoft and I do train Business Analysts on how to utilize Azure DevOps as a tool, but I do not train Business Analysts on how to do their role.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Networking Part VI: Azure Networking - VMs, IP Addresses, and Load Balancing

This is part 6 of a series of networking posts:
Azure VM Networking
  • A NIC on a VM can connect to your VNet for example. Properties of a NIC that are normally set in the OS are able to be configured in Azure for your Azure VMs.  
    • Note: VMs (and all other resources) need to be deployed to the same region as your VNet.  So you need a VNet for each region that you have resources.
  • A NIC on a VM can also be attached to a load balancer (for highly available applications). 
  • Up to 250 IPs can be assigned per NIC, and these can be public or private IP addresses.  
    • You can add/edit IPs by going to your VM resource > Network interface > Settings > IP Configurations > Add.  If you select an existing IP address, you can go into another menu where you are able to enable it as Public/Private or assign it as Dynamic/Static. You can also change the actual IP address value for Static IPs.   Changing to a new IP address will cause the VM to reboot.
  • You can add more NICs to the VM if you need more IPs from a Microsoft block of reserved IP addresses (you cannot port in your own IP address ranges that you are using on prem or otherwise).
  • The underlying Azure platform handles connections to/from the machine, you should not RDP into your VM and setup a static IP address for you IPv4 (you will lose access to your machine, it is an unsupported action for an Azure VM and well documented). 
  • You also should not install a DHCP service on your VM (unsupported as well). You can do dynamic or static IP addresses for your VM.
    • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) is a client/server protocol that automatically provides an Internet Protocol (IP) host with its IP address and other related configuration information such as the subnet mask and default gateway.
  • MAC address persistence: by default we guarantee that the MAC address will not change for a VM or NIC provided the VM is not deleted, redeployed from disks, or redeployed using the redeploy feature that rebuilds the virtual hardware.
  • When you create a new VM you can add it to an existing VNet and subnet.  If you want it publicly available, you can add Public IP, or if you don't then select None for the Public IP address (and it will automatically get assigned only a private IP address).  You should create a new NSG for it (default option).

IP addresses
  • IP addresses are treated as a separate resource in Azure, which allows you to move it from one resource to another.
  • Not all resources in Azure support a static (reserved) IP. For example, a VPN Gateway or Application Gateway do not support a static address because they are Microsoft managed resources. The dynamic IP will not change unless you delete or redeploy that resource, however. 
  • Static (reserved) Public IPs - retain the IP address.  The IPs can be moved between services easily and within seconds. 
  • Public IPv4 resources are a finite resource. You can have 5 public static IP addresses as part of your Azure subscription for no cost, but any additional ones will start becoming a billable resource. Dynamic IPs can help you with cost savings as they are cheaper than static IPs.
Load Balancing
Azure has 4 different options for traffic distribution:

1. Traffic Manager - DNS based
An illustration showing Azure Traffic Manager routing a user request to the nearest data center.

2. Azure Load Balancer - Layer 4 of OSI model (TCP/UDP)
An illustration showing the web tier of a three-tier architecture. The web tier has multiple virtual machines to service user requests. There is a load balancer that distributes user requests among the virtual machines.

3. Application Gateway - Layer 7 of OSI model (HTTP/HTTPS), can start to add in some Web Application Firewall (WAF), SSL Termination and Cookie based affinity
4. 3rd Party Virtual Appliances - Layer 3-7 of OSI model.  Network Virtual Appliances (NVAs) are simply custom IaaS VMs that can provide network functions such as firewall, app firewalls, IDS/IPS, load balancer, and VPN terminators. Azures IP forwarding and UDRs can help send packets to these VMs or override default routing behavior.  Many NVAs are available in the Azure Marketplace. Some common vendors are:

  • Cisco
  • Citrix
  • F5
  • Infoblox
  • Check Pint
  • Fortinet

Networking Part V: Azure Networking Foundations - VNet, Subnet, Security, and Connectivity

This is part 5 of a series of networking posts:
Azure Networking Overview
Azure data centers manage the physical hardware for you. You configure virtual networks through software, which enables you to treat a virtual network just like your own network. For example, you can choose which other networks your virtual network can reach, whether that's the public internet or other networks in the private IP address space.

Azure Foundation Networking
Image result for vnet subnet diagram

  • Virtual Network: logically isolated network on Azure that enables the flow of communication between different resources/subnets/VMs, other VNets, or to on-premises (depending on how you set it up). This is the foundation of Azure Networking and it is a Layer-3 overlay. Virtual networks are segmented into one or more subnets. Limitation of VNets: VNets cannot span regions or subscriptions.  VNet Peering, ExpressRoute, or VNet-to-VNet can connect regions or subscriptions together, however.
  • Address Space: usable IP addresses within your virtual network. Mainly an IPv4 environment. Public and private available.
      • VNets are isolated by default. If you deploy two or more VNets in the same address space, it is fine as long as you do not intend to ever try to connect them. 
      • If you need to add multiple address spaces, go to your VNet resource > Settings > Address Space and add more. As you add more, you can make subnets from all added address spaces.
      • Azure Reserved Addresses are needed for Azure core connectivity.  /29 is the smallest and /9 is the largest you can use in Azure. Typically x.0.0.4 will be the first usable address space. 
    • Subnet:  Subnets can help you organize and secure your resources.
      • In the Portal when you create a VNet it has  you define your first subnet, you can add more later  or delete/modify the one you created initially.
      • Network Security Group: controls ingress and egress traffic (allows or denies) to your Azure resources such as a NIC or subnet. Think of a network security group as a cloud-level firewall for your network. Prioritized set of rules based on a 5-tuple rule-set: source + destination IP, source + destination port, and protocol.  Can expose only certain ports of a subnet or NIC to the Internet as well as secure the flow of traffic between subnets/NICs on the same subnet.  Stateful rules and will keep track of your requests.
      • Route Tables: A route table contains a set of rules, called routes, that specifies how packets should be routed in a virtual network. Route tables are associated to subnets, and each packet leaving a subnet is handled based on the associated route table. Each route table can be associated to multiple subnets, but a subnet can only be associated to a single route table.
    • DNS Servers: References to DNS servers that will be assigned to the VMs or cloud server instances in the VNet. DNS resolution service is provided by default out of the box with your VNet in Azure. 
      • You can specify a custom DNS service
    • User Defined Routes (UDR): control traffic to a much finer degree. 
      • Send traffic to/from IPS or IDS for monitoring/auditing.
1. Policies - Azure Policies can be setup for general security to ensure that your company/team follows rules that you setup.  Below are some good practices for networking specific policies:

  • Keep resources within a specific region
  • Prevent resources from being provision with Public IPs
  • Force resources location to match their resource group
  • Force certain users/prefixes to be deployed only to certain subnets (like dev/qa/prod networks)
  • Constrain the Azure regions that is allowed to be deployed to (whitelisting)

2. Setup RBAC for user access.
3. Setup a User Defined Route (UDR).
4. Setup a Network Security Group (NSG).

IPSec Tunnels
Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) is a secure network protocol suite that authenticates and encrypts the packets of data sent over an internet protocol network. It is used in virtual private networks (VPNs). In tunnel mode, the entire IP packet is encrypted and authenticated. It is then encapsulated into a new IP packet with a new IP header. Tunnel mode is used to create virtual private networks for network-to-network communications (e.g. between routers to link sites), host-to-network communications (e.g. remote user access) and host-to-host communications (e.g. private chat). -

Connectivity Within Azure Options
  1. VNet Peering within Region - Connects two VNets in the same region via the backend network in Azure.  No extra overhead with this and almost no latency. 
  2. Global VNet peering - connecting VNets across Azure regions
  3. VNet to VNet via VPN Gateway - Leverages the Azure VPN gateway in each VNet to make the IPSec tunnel across regions or within the same region. Can also span to other customers or subscriptions easily.
  4. VNet to VNet via ExpressRoute - Associate multiple VNets to the same circuit.  Behind the scenes, Azure will enable routing between these VNets and their different regions to all connect to each other easily.  Could cause security concerns with default behavior, but can be controlled. 
Hybrid Connectivity from On Premises to Azure Options
  1. Internet Connectivity - resources are public facing directly to Internet and you can connect from anywhere.  While possible, not usually preferred by companies. 
  2. Secure point-to-site connectivity - IPSec based tunnel that based from a client machine. Really good for individuals traveling and outside of the corp network and need to access private resources. Individual developers can use this.
  3. Secure site-to-site VPN connectivity - Most enterprises start here, simple IPSec tunnel over public Internet connectivity from your on-premises gateway and Azure.  Connect to private IaaS and PaaS resources seamlessly, should just feel like an extension from your network. 
  4. ExpressRoute private connectivity - Enterprise solution geared towards customer who need high throughput (~10GB range) / low latency connections. Dedicated direct connection from your datacenter to Azure (pretend there's a big cable going from your datacenter to Azure datacenter).  Backed by SLA.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Azure Containers Offerings Comparison

Updates: This was last updated 1/7/2019. Azure Containers offerings are constantly changing and services are moving from PREVIEW to GA all the time.
  • *GA = Generally Available, backed by SLAs and guaranteed up-time. Meant for production workloads
  • *PREVIEW = available for beta use/early access use, but not backed by SLA or guaranteed up-time, not meant for production workloads yet
  • *SLA = Service Level Agreement
Note: Price estimates are for average workloads on the service and could be less than or exceed the estimate depending on how you utilize the service.

Service Ease of Use / Cost / OS Support Scalability General Use Case
Azure Container Instances (PaaS) Easiest and quickest Container solution to setup.

Very cheap price for most workloads ($0-10, or under $100 per month on average for most workloads). More on pricing here.

Windows and Linux in GA
It is not possible to vertically scale a specific ACI instance to have more CPU/Memory, you would need to redeploy that container in order to get more. You can horizontally scale by adding more containers, however, ACI does not support load balancing so you would need to manage it yourself. Azure Container Instances offers the fastest and simplest way to run a container in Azure, without having to provision any virtual machines or learning new tools—it's just your application, in a container, running in the cloud. With Azure Container Instances, you can easily run containers with a single command. Wide spectrum of scenarios including batch processing, continuous integration, and event-driven computing. We hear consistently from customers that ACI is uniquely suited to handle their burst workloads. ACI supports quick, cleanly packaged burst compute that removes the overhead of managing cluster machines. Some of our largest customers are also using ACI for data processing where source data is ingested, processed, and placed in a durable store such as Azure Blob Storage. By processing the data with ACI rather than statically provisioned virtual machines, you can achieve significant cost savings due to ACI’s granular per-second billing.

Can also be used in conjunction with AKS to elastically burst from your Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster into ACI.
App Services: Containers (PaaS) Free option available for test workloads. Moderate price for most workloads (10's to 100's per month on average for most workloads. 1000's for Isolated Service Plan Tiers). More on pricing here.

Linux fully supported in GA. Windows supported in PREVIEW mode.
Built-in auto-scaling (vertically and horizontally) and load balancing available. Just pull container images from Docker Hub or a private Azure Container Registry, and Web App for Containers will deploy the containerized app with your preferred dependencies to production in seconds. The platform automatically takes care of OS patching, capacity provisioning, and load balancing. Can be used for simple Web Apps that require scaling, do not require orchestration, and have great cost savings.
Azure Container Service (ACS) (IaaS) To be depreciated in 2020 - Do not create new applications on ACS anymore. Azure Container Service Will Retire on January 31, 2020 -- --
Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) (PaaS) Difficult. Need to learn to use Docker and command line, Kubernetes architecture and kubectl command line, and most likely Azure command line. More on pricing here.

AKS the service has no cost. AKS master nodes also have no cost. Cost is from the VMs utilized for the worker/minion nodes. Expensive for most workloads (100's to 1000's per month on average).

Linux fully supported in GA. Windows supported in PREVIEW mode.
The cluster autoscaler (CA) (PREVIEW 01/2019) can scale your agent nodes based on pending pods. It scans the cluster periodically to check for pending pods or empty nodes and increases the size if possible. By default, the CA scans for pending pods every 10 seconds and removes a node if it's unneeded for more than 10 minutes. When used with the horizontal pod autoscaler (HPA), the HPA will update pod replicas and resources as per demand. If there aren't enough nodes or unneeded nodes following this pod scaling, the CA will respond and schedule the pods on the new set of nodes.

Currently you can setup autoscale on Kubernetes itself on AKS without worry about the PREVIEW mode cluster autoscaler (CA).
Best suited for: large enterprise micro-service architectures that need to be able to be scaled on demand quickly and need as close to 100% up-time as possible and want to be able to have rolling updates with no downtime. Usually front-facing customer applications. At the moment, best for .NET Core (cross platform) on Linux containers or other general Linux container workloads.

Additional Notes and Resources
  • Container Security in Microsoft Azure - August 2018
  • Azure automatically applies security patches to the nodes in your AKS cluster on a nightly schedule. However, you are responsible for ensuring that nodes are rebooted as required.
  • You can connect AKS to ACI, and use Kubernetes to handle orchestration and scale.
  • Docker Swarm and DC/OS will no longer supported as orchestrators on Azure and will be depreciated in Jan 2020.