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Posted by Mike Racine

How to keep up with changes in Azure (CHECK OUT THIS AWESOME TOOL!)

It seems like almost every day Microsoft makes improvements to Azure. Being a better Azure administrator means you need to keep up with Azure as it gets updated and changes. In this episode of KnowOps, Dana shows the tricks of trade with one of his favorite tools that helps him keep up with everything, all in a fraction of the time most of us need to do the same.


Show Transcript

Microsoft publishes updates to Azure almost every single day. How do you keep up with all the updates and changes? It's not an easy task. Let me show you a cool tool I use that helps me stay on top of things, and saves me boatloads of time every single week.

Dana Epp here, welcome to the channel that helps aspiring Azure administrators like you and me to know ops, and well, master the Microsoft cloud. I'm glad you're here. If you haven't yet, please smash the subscribe button so that you can be notified when I release new videos each week.

Keeping up with everything that's happening in Azure can be a daunting task. Microsoft publishes several different feeds of update change logs, RSS feeds, and webpages in an effort to keep communications with us going as administrators. It's information overload, and it's hard to keep up. I'm gonna show you a simpler way to consume all this information that can be done in a fraction of the time. So load up your favorite browser and follow along.

Alright, so open up a new browser and head to azurecharts.com. Welcome to the Azure heat map. This is a visual representation of a lot of the key public data sources that Microsoft publishes. It's built by a senior cloud architect at Microsoft, but it's not actually an official product from them. Let me walk you through it to show you how I use it. When you first get to the site, you'll see that this is a heat map of every single service that they have, so they suck in all the different data feeds and RSS feeds, and then publish this once a day in a different way, so that you can visually see what's going on.

What I like to do is go, because I go once a week, I head over to the only last seven days, to be able to see what's actually changed. And you can notice here, Cognitive Services, and Stream Analytics, and Azure Functions, and Virtual Machines, and when you hover over, it will tell you when things changed, and how they changed, and a short review of the information. Anything with a white boundary around it represents that this is something that's rather new. So you can see here Azure DevOps, and database for MySQL all show as new, so if I was to click on Azure DevOps, it would open up a new tab, and take me to the Azure updates site, properly filtered specifically for this. So we can see here on November 11th that Azure DevOps, new sprint burndown widget, improved pipeline security was released. And that's great to see, and then of course, we can scroll back, and if this was a service I care about, which obviously it is for me, I can see a lot of different things of what happened when. And if I wanna go deeper into it, I can click right onto it, and now I'm right into the update information, and I can learn more about it.

Which is very powerful when you think about it, because it allows us to get the information as it's going on for the services that we really really like. And those filters are a very powerful way of being able to see it. But Azure charts is more than just the general heat map that you see here. You know as a Microsoft security MVP, I like to keep abreast on all things around security. So I like to go to the highlights page. And then in the highlights page, what you're able to see is starting from the top going down is the level of priority of what's going on, and then newer items are to the left with older things to the right. But if I go in and filter this by cloud role, I can do this by security engineer. And now all of a sudden I can see four priority things related to security, here's the newest one, which relates to Azure Firewall.

So if I was to click on that, this filters the Azure updates for Azure Firewall, and I can see on November fifth that Azure HDInsights now restrict outbound network traffic by using Firewall. More importantly though, here's an interesting thing about Azure Firewall manager now being in preview. So you wouldn't normally find this stuff unless you're subscribed and are part of those teams and things like Azure Advisor, but now here's a new preview for the Azure Firewall manager. This might be very interesting for me to go check out as a security person. What you do may be different, so just make sure you go check out the roles, and see what might align. Maybe you're a developer, let's check out what they've got there. Looks like there's new updates to the SDK and tools. So if we wanted to check that out, you can see App Service sites running Python 3.4.1 are being updated to 3.6.6, migrating experiences are now available for Azure Migrate, and these just keep going on every single day, there's new updates, and you can just figure out based on your role, and what you're doing, as an administrator, good to know about things that are going on for regions and data centers.

What's nice on this filter though, is it also shows you things that are coming into retirement or deprecation. So here you can see as an example, that there are some deprecations in the Kubernetes Service, Scheduler, and Cosmos, so if we were to go and look in Cosmos as an example, we can see that there is information where they're retiring the V1 of the JavaScript SDK for the Cosmos DB. So if I took a dependency on that, it would be very important to know about this type of stuff, and be able to work with my team to make sure that we're updating to the latest stuff, because Microsoft's gonna be retiring and no longer supporting that in the same way that we might expect. So check that out, that can be very powerful for you to be able to see, based on your role, what type of services or regions or changes are going on, and you can get this very very quickly filtered so you know based on the priority and the severity and the timing, what's important, and allows you to filter through all the different things going on so you can see what's happening.

Now, if you are interested in knowing what's coming up in the data centers that you manage, go check out timeline. The timeline's pretty nice, because it gives you the idea to be able to see what's coming up in the next few quarters as new services. Especially useful when you're looking at preview to GA. Now if you wanna filter this by the regions or by the servers that you're looking at, in my case if I go look at Canada Central, I can take a look and see when is SignalR Service supposed to be coming out. So it's supposed to be expected in Q1 of 2020, which means that's been pushed back, because that was supposed to have been coming in Q4 of 2019, but now that's already slipped. So I can watch and see when this, Azure Bastion's, supposed to be coming this quarter, they announced GA of it, but I know it's actually not in the data centers. That's actually an interesting thing to be looking for as well.

Check this out, if you go into the regions and look for region scope, if I ever wanna know based off of my data centers that I use, how things are going, because not every region has all of the services together. So if I was to, as an example, take a look at Canada central, where I deploy a lot of my stuff, and then compare that to West US, which is one of the first data centers that ever gets services, I can see that the Canada Central is behind on several key services. In other words, where we do have parody in a lot of these services, things like Azure Bastion, they're not, we're behind, and if I then click on that I can go look at that availability to see what's going on. So because this then routes it to the update availability system, I can take a look and see for Azure Bastion, which is supposedly GA right now, I can see that it's actually not available there yet. It's not available, preview's supposed to be in Q4 of this year, and we'll have probably general availability in Q1. Again, if I wanna go take a look and see what's the timeline of that, if I wanna go take a look, I can see Bastion's supposed to be in Q4 of 2019. We will see.

But there you go, this is a very powerful way of doing it. And then one last thing, you wanna have a little bit of fun here, what I love that they've done here is, if you're not sure what's most important as you're first getting started out, check out the Azure services menu under Fun. It gives you the ability to understand, very similar to a restaurant menu. Here are some of the starters, these are the key things you need to be aware of and watching and knowing, and then once you've done those starters, look at those main dishes, some of the main compute workloads, and different systems you need to, and then of course never forget, never skip your desserts. Check out all the different services.

So it's a different way of slicing and dicing all this update information, that allows you to explore and see what's going on. So if you ever wanna know what's going, check out Azure Charts, this is actually a very powerful way to be able to take a look at what's available in your regions, what's been updated, when you wanna know go into the highlights, check out your favorite role, and see what services are there, it allows you to very quickly consume this information a lot faster than trying to go to the update sites and looking at all the different websites and collect all this information. It's a good idea to keep on top of what's happening in Azure. As Microsoft adds and deprecates services, it's good to know what's updating and changing.

I hope you found the Azure heat map an excellent tool to help you do just that. Let me know by leaving me a comment and hitting the like button. And if you haven't yet, smash the subscribe button so you can be notified as I publish more videos. Until then, thanks for watching, we'll see you in the next episode.


Microsoft publishes updates to Azure almost every single day. How do you keep up with all the updates and changes? #knowops @auditwolf





Topics: Cloud Operations (CloudOps), KnowOps