The new service that is available now on cloud is called Azure Automation and it is can be very useful when you need to manage application hosted on Microsoft Azure. Before talking about Azure Automation let’s see what we didn’t had until now.
Imagine that we have an application that contains a web sites, 2-3 worker roles, a database and use different services from Azure like Service Bus, Storage and Media Services. At each deploy, we need to ensure that we follow the steps defined in our deployment document. If something’s would go wrong or we forget a step that we are doomed, there are cases when we cannot revert the action that we done. Also, at monitoring level, our team will do the same tasks over and over again, they will get bored – in the end we lose time and money when we don’t automate this kind of actions (also human errors can appear very easily).
A solution that we have out of the box is Power Shell scripts. For each of this tasks we can create scripts that will be executed by our team when is needed. This script can manage and configure almost all the services available on Microsoft Azure.
The only thing that we don’t have when we use this scripts is a workflow support, where we can order script, execute them in a transaction way (if is possible) and schedule them – in one world we are referring to automation.
For all this issues, Microsoft come with a solution called Azure Automation. Basically, over all the actions that can be done using Power Shell, we have now support to a workflow execution engine. Using this engine, we can automate our script, without needing a human intervention.
Theoretically, that could be done by our administrators, but Azure Automation offer us the possibility to create restoring points. This means that in the moment when a crash or error appears, the system will be able to recover – ‘workflow power’.
With this new service we need to enrich our vocabulary with some new terms.
Runbook – Is the workflow from Azure Automation that give us the possibility to automate all the actions.
A Runbook can be created directly from the portal and can be found under New App Services section (in this moment is in preview and you need to sign in to the preview program if you want to try it). From some configuration options, a Runbook is pretty similar with a job because you need to add the script to the portal and also you have the possibility to schedule it or to trigger it. Similar with a scheduler job, you have the possibility to see the status of last runs from dashboard.
Additional to this, a nice feature that I think that can be very useful is log level that is configured (debug, verbose, process).
All the Runbooks will run on Microsoft Azure on worker roles. It is important to know that the management of this worker role is done by the cloud provider and not by us – w don’t need to create our own worker roles for this. Because of this you don’t have control one what machine the Runbook will run, but in the end you don’t care about this.
I already imagine a case where I would like to integrate this service. I would create a Runbook that to clean some directories from web and worker roles. Additional to this I would also trigger some cleaning actions at storage level. Also, it will be very interesting if we would create Runbook for deployments.
Costs – In this moment (in preview) Azure Automation is FREE. After this preview phase, we will be able to run jobs that takes maximum 500 minutes per month free. If we need more, we will need to pay 20$ for month and will have 10.000 minutes available (yes, I wrote 10.000 minutes = 166h ~ 7 days).
From now we can automate all the administrative process related to deployment and management actions or operational and support activities.