An “Inexpensive” Exchange Lab In Azure

Posted on Posted in 2010, 2013, Azure, cloud, DNS, exchange, exchange online, hyper-v, IAmMEC, Office 365, vhd, vm, vpn

This blog post centres around two scripts that can be used to quickly provision an Exchange Server lab in Azure and then to remove it again. The reason why the blog post is titled “inexpensive” is that Azure charges compute hours even if the virtual machines are shut down. Therefore to make my Exchange lab cheaper to operate and to not charge me when the lab is not being used, I took my already provisioned VHD files and created a few scripts to create the virtual machines and cloud service and then to remove it again if needed.

Before you start using these scripts, you need to have already uploaded or created your own VHD’s in Azure and designed your lab as you need. These scripts will then take a CSV file with the relevant values in them and create a VM for each VHD in the correct subnet (that you have also created in Azure) and always in the correct order – thus ensuring they always get the same IP address from your virtual network (UPDATE: 14 March 2014 – Thanks to Bhargav, this script now reserves the IPs as well as this is a newish feature in Azure). Without reserving an IP, when you boot your domain controller first in each subnet it will always get the fourth available IP address. This IP is the DNS IP address in Azure and then each of the other machines are created and booted in the order of your choosing and so get the subsequent IP’s. Azure never used to guarantee the IP but updates in Feb 2014 now allow this with the latest Azure PowerShell cmdlets. This way we can ensure the private IP is always the same and machine dependancies such as domain controllers running first are adhered to.

These scripts are created in PowerShell and call the Windows Azure PowerShell cmdlets. You need to install the Azure cmdlets on your computer and these scripts rely on features found in version 0.7.3.1 or later. You can install the cmdlets from http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/documentation/articles/install-configure-powershell/

Build-AzureExchangeLab.ps1

# Retrieve with Get-AzureSubscription 
$subscriptionName = "Visual Studio Premium with MSDN"

Import-AzurePublishSettingsFile 'downloaded.publishsettings.file.got.with.Get-AzurePublishSettingsFile'

# Select the subscription to work on if you have more than one subscription
Select-AzureSubscription -SubscriptionName $subscriptionName

# Name of Virtual Network to add VM's to
$VMNetName = "MCMHybrid"

# CSV File with following columns (BringOnline,VMName,StorageAccount,VMOSDiskName,VMInstanceSize,SubnetName,IPAddress,Location,AffinityGroup,WaitForBoot,PublicRDPPort)
)
$CSVFile = Import-CSV 'path\filename.csv'

# Loop to build lab here. Ultimately get values from CSV file
foreach ($VMItem in $CSVFile) {

    # Retrieve with Get-AzureStorageAccount  
    $StorageAccount = $VMItem.StorageAccount

    # Specify the storage account location containing the VHDs 
    Set-AzureSubscription -SubscriptionName $subscriptionName  -CurrentStorageAccount $StorageAccount
  
    # Not Used $location = $VMItem.Location     # Retrieve with Get-AzureLocation

    # Specify the subnet to use. Retreive with Get-AzureVNetSite | FL Subnets
    $subnetName = $VMItem.SubnetName

    $AffinityGroup = $VMItem.AffinityGroup      # From Get-AzureAffinityGroup (for association with a private network you have already created). 

    $VMName = $VMItem.VMName
    $VMOSDiskName = $VMItem.VMOSDiskName        # From Get-AzureDisk
    $VMInstanceSize = $VMItem.VMInstanceSize    # ExtraSmall, Small, Medium, Large, ExtraLarge 
    $CloudServiceName = $VMName
    $IPAddress = $VMItem.IPAddress              # Reserves a specific IP for the VM
    if ($VMItem.BringOnline -eq "Yes") {
        Write-Host "Creating VM: " $VMName
        $NewVM = New-AzureVMConfig -Name $VMName -DiskName $VMOSDiskName -InstanceSize $VMInstanceSize | Add-AzureEndpoint -Name 'Remote Desktop' -LocalPort 3389 -PublicPort $VMItem.PublicRDPPort -Protocol tcp | Add-AzureEndpoint -Protocol tcp -LocalPort 25 -PublicPort 25 -Name 'SMTP' | Add-AzureEndpoint -Protocol tcp -LocalPort 443 -PublicPort 443 -Name 'SSL' | Add-AzureEndpoint -Protocol tcp -LocalPort 80 -PublicPort 80 -Name 'HTTP' | Set-AzureSubnet –SubnetNames $subnetName | Set-AzureStaticVNetIP –IPAddress $IPAddress        
        # Creates new VM and waits for it to boot if required
        if ($VMItem.WaitForBoot -eq "Yes") {New-AzureVM -ServiceName $CloudServiceName -AffinityGroup $AffinityGroup -VMs $NewVM -VNetName $VMNetName -WaitForBoot}
            else {New-AzureVM -ServiceName $CloudServiceName -AffinityGroup $AffinityGroup -VMs $NewVM -VNetName $VMNetName }
    }
}

Remove-AzureExchangeLab.ps1

# Retrieve with Get-AzureSubscription 
$subscriptionName = "Visual Studio Premium with MSDN"

Import-AzurePublishSettingsFile 'downloaded.publishsettings.file.got.with.Get-AzurePublishSettingsFile'

# Select the subscription to work on if you have more than one subscription
Select-AzureSubscription -SubscriptionName $subscriptionName

# CSV File with following columns (BringOnline,VMName,StorageAccount,VMOSDiskName,VMInstanceSize,SubnetName,IPAddress,Location,AffinityGroup,WaitForBoot,PublicRDPPort)
$CSVFile = Import-CSV 'path\filename.csv'

# Loop to build lab here. Ultimately get values from CSV file
foreach ($VMItem in $CSVFile) {

    # Stop VM
    Stop-AzureVM -Name $VMItem.VMName -ServiceName $VMItem.VMName -Force

    # Remove VM but leave VHDs behind
    Remove-AzureVM -ServiceName $VMItem.VMName -Name $VMItem.VMName 

    # Remove Cloud Service
    Remove-AzureService $VMItem.VMName -Force
}

CSV File Format

The CSV file has a row per virtual machine, listed in order that the machine is booted:

BringOnline,VMName,StorageAccount,VMOSDiskName,VMInstanceSize,SubnetName,IPAddress,Location,AffinityGroup,WaitForBoot,PublicRDPPort
Yes,mh-oxf-dc1,portalvhdsjv47jtq9qdrmb,mh-oxf-mbx2-mh-oxf-mbx2-0-201312301745030496,Small,Oxford,10.0.0.4,West Europe,C7Solutions-AG,Yes,3389
etc,…

The columns are as follows:

  • BringOnline: Yes or No
  • VMName: This name is used for the VM and the Cloud Service. It must be unique within Azure. An example might be EX-LAB-01 (if that is unique that is)
  • StorageAccount: The name of the storage account that the VHD is stored in. This might be one you created yourself or one made by Azure with a name containing random letters. For example portalvhdshr4djwe9dwcb5 would be what this value might look like. Use Get-AzureStorageAccount to find this value.
  • VMOSDiskName: This is the disk name (not the file name) and is retrieved with Get-AzureDisk
  • VMInstanceSize: ExtraSmall, Small, Medium, Large or ExtraLarge
  • SubnetName: Get with Get-AzureVNetSite | FL Subnets
  • IPAddress: Sets a specific IP address for the VM. VM will always get this IP when it boots and other VM’s will not take it if the happen to boot before it
  • Location: Retrieve with Get-AzureLocation. This value is not used in the script as I use Affinity Groups and subnets instead.
  • AffinityGroup: From Get-AzureAffinityGroup (for association with a private network you have already created).
  • WaitForBoot: Yes or No. This will wait for the VM to come online (and thus get an IP correctly provisioned in order) or ensure things like the domain controller is running first.
  • PublicRDPPort: Set to 3389 unless you want to use a different port. For simplicity, the script sets ports 443, 80 and 25 as open on the IP addresses of the VM

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