Free ebook: Microsoft Azure Essentials: Azure Automation

NOTE: The Microsoft Press Guided Tours app has been discontinued and is no longer available in the Windows Store. If you have already installed the app, you can continue to use it for as long as you like. All the tours will remain available for download from within the app.

Microsoft Azure Essentials Azure Automation

We’re happy to announce the release of our newest free ebook, Microsoft Azure Essentials: Azure Automation (ISBN 9780735698154), by Michael McKeown. This is the second ebook in Microsoft Press’s free Microsoft Azure Essentials series. Future ebooks will cover specific Azure topics, such as Azure Machine Learning, Azure Websites for Developers, and others.

Download all formats (PDF, Mobi and ePub) at the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

August 11, 2015 update: You can now get this eBook with interactive features by downloading the free Microsoft Press Guided Tours app from the Windows Store.

Below you’ll find the ebook’s Foreword, by Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise group at Microsoft, as well as its full Introduction. Enjoy!

I’m thrilled to be able to share these Microsoft Azure Essentials ebooks with you. The power that Microsoft Azure gives you is thrilling but not unheard of from Microsoft. Many don’t realize that Microsoft has been building and managing datacenters for over 25 years. Today, the company’s cloud datacenters provide the core infrastructure and foundational technologies for its 200-plus online services, including Bing, MSN, Office 365, Xbox Live, Skype, OneDrive, and, of course, Microsoft Azure. The infrastructure is comprised of many hundreds of thousands of servers, content distribution networks, edge computing nodes, and fiber optic networks. Azure is built and managed by a team of experts working 24x7x365 to support services for millions of customers’ businesses and living and working all over the globe.

Today, Azure is available in 141 countries, including China, and supports 10 languages and 19 currencies, all backed by Microsoft's $15 billion investment in global datacenter infrastructure. Azure is continuously investing in the latest infrastructure technologies, with a focus on high reliability, operational excellence, cost-effectiveness, environmental sustainability, and a trustworthy online experience for customers and partners worldwide.

Microsoft Azure brings so many services to your fingertips in a reliable, secure, and environmentally sustainable way. You can do immense things with Azure, such as create a single VM with 32TB of storage driving more than 50,000 IOPS or utilize hundreds of thousands of CPU cores to solve your most difficult computational problems.

Perhaps you need to turn workloads on and off, or perhaps your company is growing fast! Some companies have workloads with unpredictable bursting, while others know when they are about to receive an influx of traffic. You pay only for what you use, and Azure is designed to work with common cloud computing patterns.

From Windows to Linux, SQL to NoSQL, Traffic Management to Virtual Networks, Cloud Services to Web Sites and beyond, we have so much to share with you in the coming months and years.

I hope you enjoy this Microsoft Azure Essentials series from Microsoft Press. The first three ebooks cover fundamentals of Azure, Azure Automation, and Azure Machine Learning. And I hope you enjoy living and working with Microsoft Azure as much as we do.

Scott Guthrie
Executive Vice President
Cloud and Enterprise group, Microsoft Corporation


This ebook introduces a fairly new feature of Microsoft Azure called Azure Automation. Using a highly scalable workflow execution environment, Azure Automation allows you to orchestrate frequent deployment and life cycle management tasks using runbooks based on Windows PowerShell Workflow functionality. These runbooks are stored in and backed up by Azure. By automating runbooks, you can greatly minimize the occurrence of errors when carrying out repeated tasks and process automation.

This ebook discusses the creation and authoring of the runbooks along with their deployment and troubleshooting. Microsoft has provided some sample runbooks after which you can pattern your runbooks, copy and modify, or use as-is to help your scripts be more effective and concise. This ebook explores uses of some of those sample runbooks.

Who should read this ebook

This ebook exists to help IT pros and Windows PowerShell developers understand the core concepts around Azure Automation. It’s especially useful for IT pros looking for ways to automate their common Azure PaaS and IaaS application duties such as provisioning, deployment, lifecycle management, patching and updating, de-provisioning, maintenance, and monitoring.


You should be somewhat familiar with concepts behind Windows PowerShell programming as well as understand fundamental Azure provisioning and deployment. It helps if you have written and run some Windows PowerShell code, especially as it relates to the Azure PowerShell Management API. This ebook looks at some Azure Automation Windows PowerShell workflow scripts and breaks down what they are doing. If this is your first time with Windows PowerShell, it might be a real challenge for you.

This ebook assumes you have worked in some context with Azure in either the PaaS or IaaS spaces. Items such as Azure assets in the form of connections, credentials, variables, and schedules all will help you manage your Azure applications and deployments. For instance, you should know what is an Azure Virtual Machine (VM) or an Azure Cloud Service.

Organization of this ebook

This ebook includes seven chapters, each of which focuses on an aspect of Azure Automation, as follows:

Introduction to Azure Automation: Provides an overview of Azure Automation, looking at what it involves, and the situations for which it is best suited. Shows how to enable Azure Automation and how to create an Azure Automation account, which is the highest-level root entity for all your automation objects under that account.

Runbook management: Covers how to manage runbooks, which are logical containers that organize and contain Windows PowerShell workflows. Also, learn about the concept of authentication and the role of management certificates or Azure Active Directory.

Assets: Describes the entities that runbooks can globally leverage across all runbooks in an Azure Automation account. Learn about variable, credential, connection, and schedule assets.

Runbook deployment: Discusses publishing a runbook after it has been authored and tested. Also provides some troubleshooting ideas.

Azure Script Center, library, and community: Learn more about Windows PowerShell Workflow functionality, the execution process, and how it relates to Azure Automation runbooks. Provides an overview of resources for reusable scripts that you can import into your runbooks and use wholly or in part.

Best practices: Looks at some key recommendations to optimize and maximize your use of Azure Automation.

Scenarios: Explores in-depth a few common Azure Automation scenarios that you can hopefully relate to your everyday work.

Conventions and features in this ebook

This ebook presents information using conventions designed to make the information readable and easy to follow:

  • To create specific Azure resources, follow the numbered steps listing each action you must take to complete the exercise.
  • There are currently two management portals for Azure: the Azure Management Portal at and the Azure Preview Portal at As of this writing, features related to Azure Automation are available only in the Azure Management Portal.
  • Boxed elements with labels such as “Note” or "See Also" provide additional information.
  • A plus sign (+) between two key names means that you must press those keys at the same time. For example, “Press Alt+Tab” means that you hold down the Alt key while you press Tab.
  • A right angle bracket between two or more menu items (e.g., File Browse > Virtual Machines) means that you should select the first menu or menu item, then the next, and so on.


I’d like to thank the following people. Jeff Nuckolls, my manager at Aditi, who encouraged me to do this for personal growth. Charles Joy of Microsoft, who helped me get started with Azure Automation and took time to help me work through some tough issues. Joe Levy, who gave me some technical guidance to ensure I was both correct and current. And, my wife and faithful support, Tami, and my kids, Kyle, Brittany, Hap, Mikey, and Wiggy, who put up with me working all the time to get this done. Oh yeah, and so as not to offend any other family support, I might as well thank my Husky, SFD, and my two rabbits, Ting and Chesta.

Errata, updates, & support

We’ve made every effort to ensure the accuracy of this ebook. You can access updates to this ebook—in the form of a list of submitted errata and their related corrections—at:

If you discover an error that is not already listed, please submit it to us at the same page.

If you need additional support for this ebook, email Microsoft Press Support at

Please note that product support for Microsoft software and hardware is not offered through the previous addresses. For help with Microsoft software or hardware, go to

Free ebooks from Microsoft Press

From technical overviews to in-depth information on special topics, the free ebooks from Microsoft Press cover a wide range of topics. These ebooks are available in PDF, EPUB, and Mobi for Kindle formats, ready for you to download at:

Check back often to see what is new!

Free training from Microsoft Virtual Academy

The Microsoft Azure training courses from Microsoft Virtual Academy cover key technical topics to help developers gain the knowledge they need to be a success. Learn Microsoft Azure from the true experts. Microsoft Azure training includes courses focused on learning Azure Virtual Machines and virtual networks. In addition, gain insight into platform as a service (PaaS) implementation for IT Pros, including using PowerShell for automation and management, using Active Directory, migrating from on-premises to cloud infrastructure, and important licensing information.

We want to hear from you

At Microsoft Press, your satisfaction is our top priority, and your feedback our most valuable asset. Please tell us what you think of this ebook at:

We know you’re busy, so we’ve kept it short with just a few questions. Your answers go directly to the editors at Microsoft Press. (No personal information will be requested.) Thanks in advance for your input!

Stay in touch

Let’s keep the conversation going! We’re on Twitter: