Windows Azure

SUSE Studio supports building and deploying system images to Windows Azure, Microsoft’s IaaS offering. In order to use this service, you’ll need to have a Windows Azure account, and setup at least one Azure storage account to upload your images into.

Compatible images

There are some limitations on the images that can be run in Azure’s infrastructure:

  • Only x86-64 kernels are compatible
  • Terminal access only; no GUI support

As a result, you can only use a subset of Studio’s templates to create a new appliance. The Azure format is available for the following templates:

  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2 or newer, 64-bit, JeOS or Server
  • openSUSE 12.3 or newer, 64-bit, JeOS or Server

Windows Azure also has basic images available natively. The images published to Azure’s internal Gallery and available in SUSE’s Gallery; these are an ideal foundation to build your custom Studio appliance.

Appliance configuration

Once you have selected an Azure-friendly template, there are some suggested configurations in order to be compatible with Azure’s infrastructure.

Network

Azure’s infrastructure provides DNS and both public & private IP allocation. Under normal circumstances, network settings should be configured for automatic discovery via DHCP.

Firewall

Azure provides its own firewall and port forwarding layer, and requires some open ports in order to provision a new virtual machine. We recommend disabling your appliance’s built-in firewall when using Azure. If you do not disable the firewall, your image may not be externally accessible when running in Azure.

Users and groups

Administrative credentials are provided via Azure’s provisioning tool. The root password defined in Studio will be removed; root cannot log into Azure virtual machines. You may define additional users for specific internal roles, but if you only require an account for administrative access, we suggest using the account configured during system provisioning.

Logo and background

Since virtual machines in Azure have no graphical UI, Studio’s logo and background will only affect pages describing your appliances, such as the Gallery page if an appliance is published there.

End user license agreement

Azure’s provisioning process requires an uninterrupted boot process, with no end user interaction. As a result, Studio’s EULA configuration cannot be used. If you need to present a EULA in a Windows Azure appliance, you should configure it via a separate script the user must run manually after the appliance has successfully booted.

Desktop

The desktop login features are not applicable on a text-only appliance.

Disk size

Azure relies on fixed-size disk images for its appliances. Once an image has been deployed to Azure, there is no easy way to resize the disk. Please be sure to leave your appliance sufficient disk space for its expected life, but be aware that you may incur storage costs per gigabyte.

LVM

LVM-based disk configurations have not been tested within Azure. We recommend not using any LVM configuration at this time.

Additional options

Xen host mode should be disabled for Azure appliances; this may cause kernel conflicts.

VMware CD-ROM support, enabled by default, may be disabled for Azure appliances.

Scripts

Refrain from adding any manual interactions to boot/firstboot scripts, as this may block provisioning.

Building Azure images

If you have selected (or cloned) a compatible template, you will have the Azure Image format available on the Build tab. Azure images are different than Hyper-V images, although they are both varieties of the Virtual Hard Disk (.vhd) format. Hyper-V images will not function in Windows Azure, and Azure images may not boot properly on Microsoft Hyper-V Server.

During the build process, Windows Azure Linux Agent, and its dependencies will be injected into the image. The agent is open source and published under the Apache 2.0 license. The source is available via the windows-azure account on Github. The agent is used by Azure’s infrastructure to provision the appliance.

The Azure format is not Testdriveable, we suggest you use a hard disk image for iterating and testdriving, then build the Azure image when you are ready to publish.

Azure Dashboard

Credentials

The first time you visit the Azure dashboard you will be prompted to provide Azure credentials. One of the coolest features of your Azure account is that you don’t need to fill out a complex form: just download your settings file and upload it into Studio - we’ll validate your settings and connect to your storage account in one click. If you have more than one storage account, select the one you’d like Studio to upload to, and Save the change. Now you can head to the dashboard.

Uploading images

The dashboard provides a list of your appliances and the versions that you’ve built Azure images for, but not yet uploaded. Select an appliance by name, then select the version, and click Upload. We’ll queue the upload job, and list the appliance below. Uploads go pretty quickly, so hang around for a minute or two, and we’ll keep you updated on the progress. When your upload is complete, we’ll show you the name of your Windows Azure Image.

Once the upload is complete, follow the link over to the Azure Management Portal and follow the brief instructions on the dashboard for provisioning a new Virtual Machine from your uploaded image.

Removing images

Once you’ve uploaded an image to Azure, you may incur storage costs. For your convenience, you can click the remove icon ( x ) on any uploaded image to deregister the image and remove it from Azure Storage. We strongly recommend that you double-check your Azure account, though, as both the registered virtual machine image, and the storage blob can be locked during the removal process, prevent it from completing successfully.

If you manually remove an image from Azure, but it is still showing on Studio’s Azure dashboard, removing will simply clean up the entry on the dashboard.

Managing Virtual Machines

We feel that every tool should do the job its best at, and for Studio that is generating system images. For that reason, we’ve decided not to implement any virtual machine management into our dashboard, but leave that up to the Azure Management Portal.

Additional information