Musings on Azure CycleCloud

One of the (many) great aspects of my current role working in the Innovations area of a UK Bank is a relentless introduction to new features in Microsoft Azure. At my stage with Azure in practice and exams it is usually a new feature or behaviour that has dropped as part of a generation 2 (E.g. Storage vs Data Lake) or evolution of features or more subtly a change to the defaults of a combination (e.g. Automation and Desired State Configuration Extension). Then there are the “never heard of it” moments when a term gets mentioned and I rattle straight to a search engine.

One of these a few months back was Azure Cyclecloud, one of our projects involved input from Microsoft and their HPC specialist proposed it as a key component of the platform being evaluated. In our case it is acting as an orchestrator / scheduler and keeping tabs on a handful of low priority virtual machine scale sets.

I’ve not had any direct exposure to HPC beyond awareness due to Microsoft architectural exams I’ve done in the past for on-premises Windows, and latterly Azure cloud. The good news is within parameters that the news is good and Azure CycleCloud appears straightforward and being predominantly IaaS based is fairly easy to secure within our patterns. My thoughts so far are:

  • The web admin interface is fairly sensitive to environment – I’ve lost about a day to Internet Explorer (doesn’t work) and the reverse proxy on our firewall appliances mangling page scripts.
  • The manual install is straightforward and reliable in my limited experience – we have a vnet model that it sits in quite nicely and the documentation is good on required ports and cluster communications.
  • Azure Cyclecloud being HPC and batch etc comes from open source land, so lots of command line and Linux – quite ironic that my career includes so many loops (my first job at an accountants in the 1980s included being the guy who wrote sql reports using vi on a unix practice management system).
  • Following on from the previous point, Azure Cyclecloud integrates with Active Directory and therefore has it’s own RBAC model – very important to understand if you are trying to secure it.
  • I have a few concerns about the quickstart deploy, mainly due to the public ip address bound to a server but that probably reflects our use cases and my background. (Googling “cyclecloud initial setup” reinforces this concern as a number of servers in initial setup pop up).
  • The cloud account relies on a fairly big service principal so it’s important to keep on top of that bearing in mind the last two points.
  • About 50% of the time I get the name wrong and call it Azure CloudCycle. This hit rate is slowly improving.

Microsoft Certified Professional Exam Status

Where do I start? Migrating this blog over the weekend has led to a bit of a review and the realisation that a lot of the blog posts relate to my journey preparing for and sitting (and generally passing!) Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exams.

The last exam related post on this blog is Passed 70-631 WSS Configuring Today which was posted just under 10 years ago – yikes. I’m delighted to see that posts in the meantime related to Motorcycling and Off Road Skills so that would indicate some wider interests other than work.

As I write I am two weeks from passing my most recent Microsoft Exam Continue reading “Microsoft Certified Professional Exam Status”

AlistairL Blog migration from SubText to WordPress

In the spirit of the web I thought I would share a little more detail on how I migrated the content from my existing platform to new. This blog started in 2004 on a platform called subtext and with my dev skills fading in to the background and the original platform not being maintained anymore I was looking for something easier to run with (and a more current platform).

In the end the migration only took a couple of hours given preparation of a development machine which I was doing for a home lab Continue reading “AlistairL Blog migration from SubText to WordPress”

A new home for AlistairL

It has been a long time running but this is the second (more visible) post in the process of moving my blog from a hosted .net site running in SubText to something that is a bit more modern (yeah, 3 years behind the curve again – just look when I created this).

I’m going to do some checks of content etc but the plan will be to be a bit more active on to a platform that has a future.

The unfortunate side effect is that the comments haven’t come across – the api in the very old version of SubText that I was using didn’t have commenting. I’ve got a backup of the full original database but I’m not optimistic that posterity will bring back the comments (all over 10 years old now).

I need to get the domain switched over – what fun!

Motorcycle Maintenance Evening Classes – Edinburgh

I missed a comment from May from David mentioning motorcycle maintenance evening classes and asking about the Edinburgh area.

It would seem that evening classes mirror the school and college semesters so it is a good idea to keep an eye out for schedules as the summer holidays draw to a close and autumn starts coming in.

Edinburgh Council ran a Motorcycle maintenance evening class in Autumn 2014 from Boroughmuir High School and the new schedule may include similar when posted from 12th August 2015

West Lothian College in Livingston have a basic Motorcycle braking, steering and suspension course starting on 2nd September 2015 and on 3rd February 2016 their course on Motorcycle Electrics take place http://www.west-lothian.ac.uk/courses/basic-motorcycle-Electrical-trasmission

I don’t see anything listed in the Borders College prospectus for August 2015.

Looking farther away, North East College in Aberdeen have a motorcycle maintenance course starting 26th April 2016

These are all evening class “adult education” i.e. more recreational than career oriented. There are other day-release and full time courses that are better set up for a career in motorcycle maintenance but you never know!

SharePoint 2013 post CU says Server Error: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink?LinkID=177673

The situation was that I thought I would bring my SharePoint 2013 up to date with the latest cumulative update, at the time of writing December 2013 as we are still waiting for the issue with SP1 to be remedied.

So the cumulative update ran through fine and apart from a few complaints in the upgrade file to do with PowerPivot, all was well. So I went in to a demo site and got an empty screen with the following: Server Error: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink?LinkID=177673. When you click on that link it takes you to an update deployment page for SharePoint Foundation 2010.

So I checked central administration upgrade status – nothing. And checked the database upgrade status, all fine. So I went with my cavalier-lazy and ran the SharePoint 2013 Products Configuration Wizard. After the usual multi-stage process it completed with no complaints. Checked my site, no joy – same result.

So I had a hunt around and fired up the SharePoint 2013 Management Shell and Test-SPContentDatabase on the content database for my demo site and nothing. So I ran it as administrator and again got nothing. So I tried Upgrade-SPContentDatabase and it helpfully told me that my content database didn’t need upgrading.

So I had another hunt around and tried psconfig -cmd upgrade -inplace b2b -wait -force and again got no errors. So I admitted defeat and started hunting through my ULS logs. This threw up interesting errors, the start of which was:

04/21/2014 10:55:41.99  w3wp.exe (0x3208)                        0x237C SharePoint Foundation          Database                       880i High     System.Data.SqlClient.SqlException (0x80131904): CREATE TABLE permission denied in database ‘

So again I took the lazy approach and fired up SQL Trace on my database and narrowed down the filter to have a Database Name like the content database and ran it up, and assuming it was psconfig related ran that again. The command ran through with no errors reported to the command line and when I stopped the trace and had a look I didn’t see anything. And nothing in the ULS log. So I waited. And the same entry appeared again – don’t you love asynchronous stuff?

So I was a bit more patient this time – I restarted the trace, and ran psconfig, and waited until the error appeared in ULS. Then stopped the trace and went looking. And there it was, a big long SQL statement running under an account that didn’t have sufficient priviledge to create the table. So being a hacker I gave that account dbo priviledge – ran psconfig and after a suitable pause my site is running again.

The interesting bit ? The identity wasn’t the application pool identity of the web application, it wasn’t the identity of the timer service (Ok I know it wouldn’t be, owstimer.exe wasn’t owning up in ULS). On my VM it was the identity of the portal web application / community sites. I’m nonplussed but will put it on my “to learn” list.