Deploying SharePoint 2013 on Azure

Over the years I have spent quite a lot of time on customer sites deploying SharePoint solutions. I remember back to SharePoint 2001 which used an exchange information store and web parts were developed using ActiveX controls. Things have come a long way with SharePoint but the ability to utilise cloud either for internet sites or just disaster recovery is really exciting. The cloud opens up new opportunities for us to speed up the deployment of our farms, reduce total cost of ownership by removing infrastructure related costs as well as only paying for what you use and of course the ability to scale our farms beyond our on premise infrastructure. With the latest version of SharePoint, 2013, and the ability to utilise distributed cache, improved disk IO for better performance in the cloud and support for apps that can be deployed to Azure PaaS (and utilise more open standards like OAuth/REST) we now have a SharePoint architecture that can take full advantage of this new scalable and elastic infrastructure.

Now Azure is not the only cloud provider that allows you to run SharePoint farms, but I feel it is worth calling out why you might consider Azure ahead of any other provider:

  • Our engineering teams work together and hence we are making sure our products work very well in the cloud. This doesn't mean we are making our products work just in Azure, but from a quality perspective you can be assured SharePoint is very much Azure aware.
  • Running SharePoint on Azure makes sense from a support perspective. If you have a support issue we will support the entire stack, from SharePoint, through Windows to the VM that it is running on in Azure. For me, this should be reason enough never to run SharePoint with another cloud provider. Amazon web services support running SharePoint on EC2, but what happens if you need support on SharePoint or Windows? AWS cannot support you and Microsoft cannot support the entire stack either, in that scenario. I have a lot of experience building SharePoint farms on AWS, prior to my Microsoft days, and have been at the mercy of the support "cul de sac" you hit when you mention your SharePoint Web front ends cannot connect to your SQL Servers because of connection problems. With such comprehensive support for SharePoint on Azure you have to ask if It makes sense to run SharePoint on AWS!
  • The ability to move VHD files from on premise to Azure and back is very compelling. People mention lock-in to me as a real issue for cloud adoption. But with Azure there really is no lock-in. Utilising the same Hyper-V VHD format on premise and in the cloud makes sense even from a dev and test perspective it means I can push my dev images up to Azure. The VHD files that run in Azure sit in BLOB storage containers and can be downloaded just like any other file.

Right now when it comes to running SharePoint you have a number of options from on-premise, to Office 365 and Azure if you want complete control over the environment. You can also mix things up, maybe deploy on premise and have disaster recovery to Azure, or just move everything into Azure, or deploy custom apps to Azure and surface through the Office 365 market place. You can also integrate with Azure Active Directory and integrate corporate credentials or multi-factor authentication. This gives you choice and whatever way you do it we will support you across the entire stack.

With all of that said I would like to provide a number of links to content our engineering team have put together to help you deploy SharePoint in a number of scenarios:

  1. Windows Azure Architectures for SharePoint 2013. This TechNet library gives detailed information on how you can consider deploying SharePoint on Azure, including designing the Azure IaaS architecture (VNet etc) as well as how to setup a hybrid solution.
  2. Building a DR Environment for SharePoint in Azure. This blog talks about some of the lessons learned when the engineering team built out the environment for DR.
  3. Architecture Guidance for SharePoint DR in Azure: Great guidance on the findings of the engineering team's DR research for Azure.
  4. Deploying SharePoint on Azure for Internet Sites: Architecture guidance and site templates for internet facing web sites in Azure.
  5. SharePoint on Azure and Azure AD: This site gives a step by step guide on how to configure SharePoint to work with Azure AD, allowing you to integrate SharePoint on Azure with your on premise corporate Active Directory or other identity provider