(Don’t miss Part Two and Part Three of this series!)

Early in my web development career, I always tried to avoid deployment work. It made me uneasy to watch other developers constantly bang their heads against their desks, frustrated with getting our app deployed to whatever cloud service we were using at the time. Deployment work became the “short straw” assignment because it was always a long, unpredictable and thankless task. It wasn’t until I advanced in my tech career that I realized why I felt this way.

My experience with deployment activities, up to this point, always involved a manual process. I thought that the time it took to set up an automated deployment mechanism was a lot of unnecessary overhead – I’d much rather spend my time developing the actual application and spend just a few hours every so often on a manual deployment process when I was ready. However, as I got to work with more and more experienced developers, I began to understand that a manual deployment process is slow, unreliable, unrepeatable, and rarely ever consistent across environments. A manual deployment process also requires detailed documentation that can be hard to follow and in constant need of updating.

As a result, the deployment process becomes this mysterious beast that only a few experts on your development team can tame. This will ultimately isolate the members of your development team, who could be spending more time working on features or fixing bugs related to your application or software. Although there is some initial overhead involved when creating a fully automated deployment pipeline, subsequent deployments of the same infrastructure can be done in a matter of seconds. And since validation is also baked into the automated process, your developers will only have to devote time to application deployment if something fails or goes wrong.

This three-part blog series will serve to provide a general set of instructions on how to build an automated deployment pipeline using Azure cloud services and Octopus Deploy, a user-friendly automation tool that integrates well with Azure. It might not detail out every step you need, but it will point you in the right direction, and show you the value of utilizing automated deployment mechanisms. Let’s get started. Read More…

If you need managed services to maintain peak IT network operations, consider us here at Applied Information Sciences. We’ll manage all your IT services for a predictable cost so you can focus on more strategic investments. AIS’ Managed Services Practice provides ongoing responsibility for monitoring, patching and problem resolution for specific IT systems on your company’s behalf.

Capabilities

  • Patching
  • Monitoring
  • Alerting
  • Backup and Restore
  • Incident Response

AIS’ Managed Service Practice has up to 24×7 coverage for initial responses to incidents through a combination of dedicated, part- and full-time staff, both onshore and offshore. AIS prides itself in being on the leading edge of managed services support. Our collaborative, disciplined approach is committed to quality, value, time and budget. Read More…

The recent #AWS and #Azure outages over the past two weeks are a good reminder of how seemingly simple problems (failure of power source or incorrect script parameter) can have a wide impact on application availability.

Look, the cloud debate is largely over and customers (commercial, government agencies, and startups) are moving the majority of their systems to the cloud. These recent outages are not going to slow that momentum down.

That said, all the talk of 3-4-5 9s of availability and financial-backed SLAs has lulled many customers into expecting a utility-grade availability for their cloud-hosted applications out of the box. This expectation is unrealistic given the complexity of the ever-growing moving parts in a connected global infrastructure, dependence on third-party applications, multi-tenancy, commodity hardware, transient faults due to a shared infrastructure, and so on.

Unfortunately, we cannot eliminate such cloud failures. So what can we do to protect our apps from failures? The answer is to conduct a systematic analysis of the different failure modes, and have a recovery action for each failure type. This is exactly the technique (FMEA) that other engineering disciplines (like civil engineering) have used to deal with failure planning. FMEA is a systematic, proactive method for evaluating a process to identify where and how it might fail and to assess the relative impact of different failures, in order to identify the parts of the process that are most in need of change. Read More…

With the ever-increasing complexity and proliferation of data, protecting our nation’s most valuable information is not an easy task. In response to this growing challenge, this month’s Microsoft Azure Government DC Meetup covered practical strategies for governance to help attendees prepare for today’s cloud era.

A great group of government/industry professionals and governance subject matter experts covered a wide array of governance and security topics, including:

• Empowering users while protecting sensitive information

• Ensuring compliance across platforms including: on-premises, hybrid, or cloud-hosted SharePoint/O365 deployments

• Enforcing governance by leveraging automation tools to ensure seamless provisioning of service requests across your organization’s varied lines of business.

In case you missed it, AIS livestreamed a few portions of the event on Twitter. Watch the videos below and be sure to follow us @AISTeam. (And check out the #AzureGovMeetup hashtag for more photos and great quotes from the outstanding lineup of expert speakers.) For future DC AzureGov Meetup dates and details, go here. We hope to see you next month!

Transient exception handling and retry logic are considered an important defensive programming practice, especially in the public cloud. But how good is your exception handling? Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to simulate transient exceptions.

Consider the Azure Redis Service for example. It does not have a way to simulate failures. So we decided to create our own Chaos Redis library. Fortunately, Microsoft has developed a Windows port of Redis Cache.

We decided to modify the code so we can inject chaos. Read More…

It’s 2017 and it’s official: Government agencies want to move to the cloud. But they are often unprepared for the transition, or stuck in the middle of a confusing process. So this week, AIS and Microsoft kicked off the new year with a terrific AzureGov Meetup full of valuable information, training resources and demos on exactly where and how to start a successful government cloud journey.

The full line-up of cloud experts includied David Simsik, Cloud Practice Manager at AcceleraDan Patrick, Chief Cloud Strategist at OpsgilityBrian Harrison, Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft, and AIS’ own Vishwas Lele, who presented a demo of the AIS Service Catalog offering, which is specifically designed to ease cloud adoption for government agencies.

See below for some photos of this (packed!) event and a video of Vishwas’ Service Offering presentation. For future DC AzureGov Meetup dates and details, go here. We hope to see you next time!

(Check out our Cloud Adoption Framework for more on how AIS can take you step-by-step through the Cloud Journey here.)

msgovcloudThis is an overview of a solution built by AIS with Microsoft for a federal client in the DC area. The client’s goal was to be able to automate the setup and takedown of virtual machine sandboxes on the fly. These sandboxes are used by the client’s developers to do security testing of their applications.

Goals

The first step of this project was to help the federal client provision their own Azure Government subscription, with some assistance from Microsoft. We then wanted to document the client’s on-premises environment so that it could be accurately replicated within Azure. The next step was to actually build and deploy the Azure services and scripts in the cloud environment. Lastly, we wanted to be able to define and implement automation use cases, such as the provisioning of an entire sandbox, or just specific machines within that sandbox. Read More…


azure-api-managementAIS’ CTO and noted Azure expert Vishwas Lele has a brand new course available at Pluralsight: Microsoft Azure API Management Essentials.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are increasingly considered “engines of growth” and are already fundamentally changing the way organizations do business. In this three-part course, you’ll learn about how the Azure API Management service can ensure that your current and future APIs reach their fullest potential.

First, you’ll learn why you should use API Management, and how to manage your API with the Azure service. Next, you’ll learn how to protect your API with rate limits, plus how to add caching to improve API performance. Then, you’ll learn about policies in API Management and C#-based Policy Expressions. Finally, you’ll learn about security in API Management.

By the end of this course, you’ll have a solid understanding of Azure API Management, its key capabilities, and how to host and secure your API (both internal and external). Get started right now!

WindowsAzureAs more and more businesses move their applications to the cloud, it’s clear that operation and log data analysis is a major component to the migrating process. That data is crucial to understanding the health and reliability of your cloud services with respect to scalability, resilience, uptime, and your ability to troubleshoot issues.

But how do you deal with all that operational data? How do you identify specific application issues such as exceptions raised from bugs in the code, troubling increases in processor or memory consumption, or slow response times?

It turns out that migrating your applications to the cloud is just the first step: Having a well-thought-out operational data and monitoring user story is just as important. Read More…