Azure Virtual Machines Get Sprinkled With Salt

SaltStack comes to Microsoft Azure as the software giant supersizes operating system drive size limits on virtual machines.

Azure VMs

Salt, the popular open-source DevOps tool, has come to Microsoft Azure.

After demonstrating the technology on Azure during SaltConf15 in Salt Lake City earlier this month, Kundana Palagiri, senior program manager for Microsoft Azure, announced today in a statement that the project "has released a single click solution for deploying SaltStack Enterprise on Azure from the Azure Marketplace." Salt is an infrastructure management tool designed to make centralized systems management and configuration simple yet flexible.

"SaltStack is a configuration management system that can work on any cloud environment to manage and maintain remote nodes in defined states by performing remote execution and data querying tasks," explained Palagiri. Now Azure customers can use the technology to manage their Web scale applications and DevOps environments.

"With this integration, Azure Marketplace now provides a certified image for deploying SaltStack server on Azure in minutes using your existing SaltStack license," she noted. A free Salt master image (Salt Master, CentOS 6.5) for development and testing purposes is available at the Microsoft Open Technologies VM Depot resource site.

"In order to add new VMs [virtual machines] and accept them as Minions managed by the SaltStack Master, it is often easiest to use Salt Cloud, which can automate the process," advised Palagiri. Salt Cloud is included as part of the SaltStack Enterprise image.

Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines also got a major upgrade in the form of more headroom for operating system drive sizes.

"I'm pleased to announce the maximum OS drive has been increased by a factor of 8 to 1023 GB" on both Linux and Windows VMs, announced Guy Bowerman, senior program manager of Microsoft Azure Compute Runtime, in a blog post. The update has been applied to all public Azure regions, with the government and China clouds on track to receive the update soon, he added.

Previously, OS drive sizes were limited to a maximum 127GB, which sometimes got in the way of migrating on-premises physical PCs and virtual machines to Azure. The policy was enacted as a way "to discourage the use of the OS drive for performance intensive production workloads," said Bowerman. "Disk caching is optimized for OS performance, and for applications with persistent data requirements you can get better throughput by using an attached data drive."

Although Microsoft still stands by its guidance, customers now have much more leeway, enabling "simpler and more straightforward VM migration into Azure," he said. Customers requiring "disk persistence across hardware failure and reboots" for high-performance application workloads are advised to consider a solid-state drive (SSD)-backed Azure Premium Storage plan that provides up to 50,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS) per VM, he said.

"Performance intensive applications which do not need to be backed by the Azure Storage Service (i.e. don't need to keep their data across reboots and hardware failure events) also have the option of using SSD temp drives with D Series VM sizes," Bowerman further suggested.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...