What advice would you give…

I see people on Twitter saying what advice would you give to younger people or what career advice would you give people who are just getting started in their careers.

Ok, so, I have been in the I.T. industry for 25 years, I didn’t do any Computer Science courses, etc, I am a self-taught programmer and here is my advice, yep that’s right my advice, you may disagree and that’s great, be boring if we all agreed all the time.

  • Ask for help, don’t be shy to ask for help always.
  • Ask for feedback, on all types of things, feedback is important for growth, you may not like it but you’ll learn more from negative feedback than you will from positive feedback.
  • Work like someone is watching you, never slack, put a shift in each and every day.
  • Do something you enjoy doing, at your job you will be doing it day in and day out for a long time most likely.
  • Find a mentor, and talk to them regularly.
  • Be passionate about what you do. Learn something outside your comfort zone, as often as you can, staying in your comfort zone teaches you next to nothing.
  • Don’t try and learn it all, no one knows it all, and neither will you.
  • Pick a subject area and be someone who stands out in this area.
  • If you are thinking about doing something and it’s a challenge, go for it, just do it, stop overthinking.
  • If you have a job that you don’t like – find another job.
  • Be honest and trustworthy and you will go a long way, no BS, leave that for others.
  • Thank the people who help you.
  • Give back when you can.
  • Network with like-minded people, there are lots of people out there just like you.
  • Work smart, not hard.
  • Share failures and successes, no one wins all the time, you’ll learn more from your failures.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel.



AI-102 Azure Study Guide

In this blog post I cover all of the resources I came across whilst studying for the AZ-102 Exam

AI-102: AI Engineer on GitHub: – https://github.com/MicrosoftLearning/AI-102-AIEngineerhttps://github.com/MicrosoftLearning/AI-102-AIEngineer

And this too:-

https://microsoftlearning.github.io/AI-102-AIEngineer/

Plan and Manage an Azure Cognitive Services Solution (15-20%)
Select the appropriate Cognitive Services resource



People Networking

I got some great advice from my sister when I was younger regarding networking with people and it stayed with me.

I get people saying to me that I know everyone, I smile at that because that means my hard work is paying off, what do I mean by hard work?

I am different to a lot of people – a lot of people look at things like Twitter and see numbers of followers, etc and they say they don’t care about numbers, I believe them, I really do. I on the other hand think of it differently, I see social media as a way to people network. If I have the opportunity to engage with people who I can help or they can help me then I am going to grab that opportunity always.

If you walked into a conference and you know people and people know you, there is an ice breaker for starters, but not everyone is a social butterfly, trust me neither am I, but I am working on it.

Imagine you could find all of the like-minded people who can help you day to day with questions you may have and explanations without ever leaving your seat or having to troll through wrong stack overflow answers.

Going back to the whole everyone knows you, I took some time to find the people I want to connect with, I work with Azure daily, I looked for all the people who work at Microsoft and are Azure minded people – I follow them and that way I learn more than you would think.

When I went to Ignite 2019 I recognized a lot of people and that was amazing, I spoke to people I had interacted with a little bit on Twitter and now I chat with them regularly.

Summary

There is no ego here, If you have an ego then we can’t be friends. I don’t follow people to get numbers up, although the image below does crack me up, I follow people so that I can network, as networking brings opportunities, wide-ranging opportunities at that.

I have had more opportunities than I could ever imagine, I’ve spent the Covid time saying mostly no to people. Networking has meant I have been able to help a lot of people with the Azure exams and also get started learning Azure.

My 2 cents is to network your backside off.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel.



Azure DP-300

Azure DP-300 Exam Study guide

Plan and Implement Data Platform Resources (15-20%)
Deploy resources by using manual methods



TFS

TFS TF400917 – Upgrading TFS to move to Azure Devops

A customer at work had an issue upgrading from TFS 2017 to TFS 2019 with a view to moving to Azure DevOps today, so I thought I would blog the issue and the fix in case anyone else runs into the same sort of issue. I learned how to resolve such issues like the one we had shown below: –

TF400917: The current configuration is not valid for this feature was the error message, googling takes you to this link: – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/devops/reference/xml/process-configuration-xml-element?view=azure-devops-2020

From here we can download and run a tool called witadmin, you can read more here -> https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/devops/reference/witadmin/witadmin-customize-and-manage-objects-for-tracking-work?view=azure-devops-2020

If you downlod this tool and export the config like so:-

witadmin exportprocessconfig /collection:CollectionURL /p:ProjectName [/f:FileName]

We can export the processconfig and check for invalid items, in our case there was duplicate State values within the xml. So I exported the xml and made a change by hand and then imported the file with the removed duplicate item using the following command: –

witadmin importprocessconfig /collection:CollectionURL /p:ProjectName [/f:FileName] /v

For both of the commands above you have to supply the CollectionURL, ProjectName and a FileName and then by importing the config this fixed the issue. The devil here is in the detail, find the invalid details, in our case it was a duplicate State of Completed, I had to remove one and save, nope not that one, so I added it back in and removed the other and re-imported the config – problem solved.

Note
You can also download an add-on for Visual Studio which can help with the task of migrating from TFS to Azure DevOps which is called the TFS Process Template Editor. The link to download this is https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/items?itemName=KarthikBalasubramanianMSFT.TFSProcessTemplateEditor

With the above tool, you can visualize the config for your TFS setup which can help you see what’s going on under the hood a little better – a useful tool!.

Kudos to https://twitter.com/samsmithnz for telling me about this – Sam rocks!



Azure App Service

Troubleshooting App Services in Azure

In this blog post, I wanted to cover how to go about troubleshooting an App Service in Aure which is a web app with a SQL server backend whereby users have reported issues with the slow performance of the website.

The first thinh I tend to look at is the backend store, in this case, Azure SQL Server and we have some really great tooling we can use to troubleshoot perforamce issues with Azure SQL.

The first port of call was to open up the Azure Portal and go to the Resource Group with the issues and click on the SQL Server database and head to the Intelligent Performance section on the left-hand menu as highlight below: –

Performance Overview
This currently has a recommendations area that suggests adding 5 different Indexes which are all set as HIGH impact.

Indexes can sometimes cause adverse effects so it’s recommended to look at the suggestions, copy the script from the recommendations and consider if this Index will indeed help with the performance of queries.

Query Performance Insight
The second area I look at is query performance insight and from here we can see the average CPU, Data IO, Log IO on the SQL Server database across the last 24 Hours as an average. We also get an insight into what queries are running and taking the longest time to complete.

I changed the graph above to show the last 7 days and I can see CPU is maxed out at 100% for a long period within the last 7 days as seen below:-

Long Running Queries
This area identifies queries which are taking a long time to complete and always worth checking on this regularly.
The following is a screen shot of long running queries within the database for the past week. To find this information select the database instance in the portal and then select Query Performance Insight and select Long running queries, then I chose custom and changed the time period to Past week.

We can see above the yellow query is the database query which has the longest duration this past week, you can click on the yellow area and it will show you the details of the query which is a long running query.

Automatic Tuning

Azure SQL Database built-in intelligence automatically tunes your databases to optimize performance. What can automatic tuning do for you?

  • Automated performance tuning of databases
  • Automated verification of performance gains
  • Automated rollback and self-correction
  • Tuning history
  • Tuning action Transact-SQL (T-SQL) scripts for manual deployments
  • Proactive workload performance monitoring
  • Scale out capability on hundreds of thousands of databases
  • Positive impact to DevOps resources and the total cost of ownership

I would recommend that FVN turn this on and leave it like the following:-

This means that Azure will tune the indexes using built in intelligence and create indexes when it thinks you need them based on usage patterns. A word of caution here as these recommendations aren’t always correct so please bare this in mind.

Log Analytics
I always recommend adding the Azure SQL Analytics workspace solution to the subscription and this gives us further insight into the SQL Server in Azure. Once you turn this on you need to wait sometime before it can gather a decent amount of data.

The screen shot below shows us the type of information we can get from it, this screen shot was taken not long after being turned on so if you wait some time it will have much more useful details:-

From here we can get more information about deadlocks, timeouts, etc.


Now lets take a look at the website which is in an App Service in Azure and see what tool we can use to help us troubleshoot issues with the performance.

I always recommned adding Application Insights into Azure for resources when possible, and here if we click on the App Insights for the web app we can instantly get soe basic info. If you click on the Application Dashboard as seen below we get a high level vue of whats going on in our App Service.

The Application dashboard for a typical web app might look something like this: –

Ok, so let’s now do some further investigation into our app service issues. This time I chose the App Service itself and then I chose Diagnose and solve problems from the left-hand menu. This feature is underused in my opinion and is very useful indeed, not sure if many people have looked at it but it can be pretty helpful with recommendations and also pointing out some things that you may want to think about remediating.

Once in the Diagnose and solve problems area I usually click on Availability and Performance within the Troubleshooting categories section and if you do, you’ll see something like this: –

In the image above we can see that we have some App Performance issues to go and investigate. Clicking into the App Performance section we get in-depth details about the Performance and we get Observations that say things like Slow Request Execution with details of the web page, average latency, total execution time, etc. The detail here is very helpful in tracking down potential issues in the code, or the configuration of your web application. There are a number of options to check within each section of the 6 troubleshooting categories, an example is shown below for the Availbility and Performance section: –

Summary
In summary, there are a number of really awesome tools to aid us with troubleshooting App Service perormance issues, go check them out the next time your web app is running poorly.



Azure Functions

Azure Durable Functions – Support Caller

I wrote an Azure Durable function which makes a phone call to out of hours support engineers when an alert is raised within their production Azure environment, and I wanted to talk about how I did it and what I used.

When an alert is raised with the customers Azure environment I send an HTTP Post to my Azure durable function endpoint from the reporting tool we use, which is PRTG, you can do the same from Azure just as easily, we use PRTG to monitor Azure resources for things like High CPU and the amount of free disk space remaining, etc.

Durable functions was chosen so that I can make use of what’s called an orchestration durable function – you can read more about durable functions: – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/azure-functions/durable/durable-functions-overview?tabs=csharp

If you read the above articles you’ll get a good grasp of what an orchestrator in durable functions can do, to convey why I used them I have the following workflow requirements:-

  1. Receive details of the alert.
  2. Retrieve the support people’s phone numbers.
  3. If an alert is raised call the first number 3 times in 5 minutes, if answered by a human, read out the alert message and some extra content and ask the user to acknowledge the issue by pressing 1 on the keypad.
  4. If the support engineer doesn’t answer after 3 attempts then move onto the next number.
  5. If the support engineer answers and presses 1 stop the orchestration.

1 – Receive details of the alert
This is really easy to do, here I have a template set up in PRTG which forwards the details of the alert to my durable function like so:-

2 – Retrieve the support people’s phone numbers
I am storing the support people’s phone numbers in a CSV file which is uploaded to a simple Azure storage account, this allows the customer to edit the support numbers easily.

3 – Making the call
Here I make use of Twilio Rest API and I create a CallResource object and then call the Create method, Twilio has a thing called Twiml which you can create a message of your own out of and it will read this message out to the person who picks up the phone call. All of the details about who you call, what the call says, and the action they need to take are stored in config so it can be very easily changed for different customers.

The code to make a call is actually really simple.

var call = CallResource.Create(twiml: 
new Twilio.Types.Twiml($"<Response><Gather action='{callbackhandlerURL}'>{messageToReadToUser}"),
to: to,
from: from);

4 / 5 – Answering the call
This was the tricky part, figuring out if they had picked up the call was my initial challenge and I tried numerous things from the Twilio docs which were misleading, didn’t seem to work as I expected. The samples for this part of the documentation are sadly lacking.
Now when the call comes in the support engineer is asked to press 1 to acknowledge they have received the call and the orchestration can end, part of this involves having a callback URL so that Twilio can send you details back to a URL of your choice so that you can get the details of the call, things like call length, etc and if they pressed 1 during the call.


Orchestration
The orchestration part was pretty tricky for me to get right, huge thanks to @marcduiker he was an enormous help to me on this, figuring out how to do some of the steps proved tricky but very interesting!

Marc is putting together an Azure Functions University series where you can go and learn all about Azure Functions – please go check that out.


The orchestration logic was something like the following:-

MainOrchestrator – this function’s job is to be the orchestrator, within this function we call sub orchestrators, and also activity functions, think of an activity function as a separate function that does something, I had a GetNumbersFromStorage activity function and a SendNotification activity function. so the idea behind durable functions is to be able to call multiple azure functions using patterns, one of which is the orchestrator pattern.

RetryOrchestrator – this function’s job is to work out what to do when the call wasn’t answered the first time, do we need to make another call, how many times have we called this number, and have we ensured that the calls are spread out of 5 minutes so we don’t make multiple calls at the same time.


Twilio
To make this all work I created a Twilio account and purchased a number, this means you can use this number to make the calls. It costs 2 pence per call and 7 pence per call if you want to detect if someone answered the call using answering machine detection, so there are options available.

Summary
Durable functions have a lot of great use cases, definetly check them out and build something yourself to get a handle on how they work. The Azure durable function docs are really good.




AKS Zero To Hero – Series for everyone

Richard Hooper and I have started a new series called AKS Zero to Hero, the aim here is for Richard to teach me AKS from zero to knowledge to hopefully becoming a hero when it comes to AKS.

We see a lot of customers either already using AKS or wanting help getting started with AKS so it’s about time I got up to speed. If you are new to AKS or a seasoned professional we will be covering as much AKS content as we possibly can, the aim is to try to have content out each week.

We will be taking an asp.net core project which will be open-sourced on GitHub at https://github.com/CloudFamily/AKS_Zero_to_Hero and we will deploy this to AKS and cover as many areas of AKS as we can possibly cover. The series will run for a while so please hit subscribe and click on the bell notification to be alerted when a new video drops.

The YouTube playlist for all of our videos thus far can be found below.

Please give us feedback, ask questions etc and we can try and answer them in an ask me anything session which we will be planning within the next month.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my own YouTube Channel.



Using the latest version of the Azure CLI

In this blog post, I wanted to quickly cover how you can keep the Azure CLI up to date on your local system and within Azure. I use the Azure CLI as my go-to choice for writing deployment scripts in Azure. The reason you want to keep this up to date is for new additions as we all bug fixes for previous versions.

The Azure command-line interface (Azure CLI) is a set of commands used to create and manage Azure resources. The Azure CLI is available across Azure services and is designed to get you working quickly with Azure, with an emphasis on automation.

Its super simple to keep this up to date and you can do this by opening a PowerShell or Bash script window and typing:-

az upgrade

But instead of doing this maybe you want to keep it up to date without having to keep checking, you can also do this by using the following command:-

az config set auto-upgrade.enable=yes

But even better yet you can keep the Azure CLI up to date without ever being prompted by using the following command:-

az config set auto-upgrade.prompt=no

And that’s it, no you no longer need to worry about am I using the latest version of the Azure CLI.

You can read more on this at the following URL: – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/cli/azure/update-azure-cli?WT.mc_id=AZ-MVP-5003451

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel.



Skylines Summer Sessions

Over the summer this past year, I and Richard Hooper were interviewing people around the world on Azure related content and it has been an absolute blast, it has been so much fun chatting to some very talented individuals who have a passion for their profession.

We talked about all things Azure and threw in some fun questions along the way. If you haven’t checked out the content its around 30 minutes per video and we have slides and demo’s galore.

Checkout the speakers and content -> SkyLines Summer Sessions

Huge thank you to the amazing people who work at Skylines Academy, Amy, Brette, and Nick – thanks for setting this up and organizing it.


Thomas Maurer talks to us about Azure Arc with a very cool demo.

Thomas Maurer

Richard Hooper talks to us about AKS with a very cool little demo.

Richard Hooper

Dwayne-Natwick talks to us about Virtual Machine Scale sets and Virtual Machine Availability Sets

Dwayne Natwick

Peter De Tender talks to us about Terraform on Azure.

Peter De Tender

Maarten Goet talks to us about Azure Sentinel.

Maarten Goet

Wesley Haakman talks to us about Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs) and Managed Service Providers (MSPs)

Wesley Haakman

Shannon Kuehn talks to us about Azure VMware Solution (AVS).

Shannon Kuehn

Joe Carlyle talks to us about Azure FireWall.

Joe Carlyle

April Edwards talks to us about A/B Testing in Azure.

April Edwards

Adam Bertram talks to us about PowerShell

Adam Bertram

Sarah Lean talks to us about Datacenter Migration & Azure Migrate

Sarah Lean

Sam Smith talks to us about common mistakes with DevOps.

Sarah Lean

Gwyneth Peña talks to us about her journey to becoming an Azure MVP and a Cloud Engineer.

Gwyneth Peña S.

Wim Matthyssen

Wim talks to us about Azure spend and how to take control.

Pete Gallagher

Pete talks to us about Azure IoT.

Michael Levan

Michael talks to us about using Octopus Deploy with Azure.