In a previous article we took a look at the new Windows Azure portal. The portal is the launching pad, for both Windows Azure free trial users and paid subscription users, to begin working with the new infrastructure-class virtual machines (VMs) and site-to-cloud virtual networking features. Now we are ready to spin up our first Azure IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) VM and kick the tires. It turns out to be very streamlined process that occurs across four minimalist, Metro-style wizard pages that is almost too easy. With less than one minute required to complete the wizard, your VM is ready to log into in less than 15 minutes.

Create a VM running Windows Server 2008 R2

When deploying new VMs in Windows Azure, you can select to either upload your own virtual hard drive (VHD) image, or you can select to use one of several pre-configured operating system (OS) images. We are going to use one of the prepared images (from a “gallery”) to deploy a Windows 2008 R2 server that we can log into via remote desktop protocol (RDP) and configure further.

1. In your web browser, navigate to the new Windows Azure management portal and sign in with the Windows Live account associated with your Azure subscription(s).

2. In the command bar, click New, Virtual Machine, and then From Gallery.

3. At the VM OS Selection page as seen in Figure A, click Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, May 2012 (or latest dated release) and click the next arrow.

Figure A

Selecting to deploy a prepared Windows Server 2008 R2 image from among six different OS choices.

4. On the VM Configuration page as seen in Figure B, enter a VM name, administrator password, and select a VM size. The VM name can contain only alphanumerics and hyphens–this is a Windows computer name of your selection. Make sure the VM size is the type you have paid for in your subscription or trial and click the next arrow.

Figure B

Give the VM a name, password, and confirm the size.

5. On the VM Mode page as shown in Figure C, select Standalone Virtual Machine, type a unique DNS name, select to use an automatically generated storage account, and select the regional Azure data center to create the VM in.

  • The DNS name does not have to match the VM name and can be a service name of your selection; it must be unique in Azure’s public cloud DNS namespace, *
  • The DNS name can contain from 3-24 lowercase letters and numbers.
  • Click the next arrow when settings are confirmed.

Figure C

Supply a DNS name for the VM, where the VM will be located, and the subscription the VM is billed to.

6. At the VM Options page, since this is our first VM and we don’t have any “Availability Sets” we are ready to create the VM. (An availability set is a group of VMs that are deployed across multiple physical locations, called fault domains, which helps protect the machines in the group from outages.) Click the check mark to create the VM.
7. You will be returned to the management portal where you will see the new VM in a Starting (Provisioning) status as seen in Figure D. The storage account provisioning will also be tracked in the portal. Note: If you have any VM role instances still running in the Azure Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering, those non-IaaS VMs can be seen at the Cloud Services tile in the new portal (left navigation pane, below the Virtual Machines tile).

Figure D

A new Azure VM in starting / provisioning status.

8. The VM status will progress to Starting, then Running (Provisioning), and finally Running in the space of under fifteen minutes.

9. When the VM provisioning is complete, the status will appear as Running, and the command buttons in the ribbon at the bottom of the VM pane will become active. Click the Connect button and your browser will prompt you to download an RDP file as seen in Figure E.

Figure E

Connecting to the VM with remote desktop protocol (RDP).

10. Click the Open button, accept an additional security warning, then when the Windows login appears (pre-loaded with the ‘Administrator’ user name) just type the password you created in step 5 and click OK. Accept an additional security warning, and you will find yourself logged into your VM with a clean Windows desktop.
11. System Information from inside the small instance VM instance is displayed in Figure F.

Figure F

System Information page inside the new Azure VM.

You may notice a few things about the VM:

  • The VM computer name will be as you selected in step 5, the VM running in a workgroup configuration.
  • The RDP connection will be to the DNS name you selected in step 6.
  • The OS of the VM is Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter (SP1) and Windows is immediately activated.
  • A small VM instance has a single CPU core as seen in Task Manager.
  • There will be no applications installed at Control Panel, Programs and Features. No roles or features appear in Server Manager.