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Azure Subscriptions

The World of Azure Subscriptions and setting up a good Azure architecture can seem quite daunting (because it is).  Here is a guide to Azure Subscriptions and how they work.

Free Subscription

When you first go into Azure you can start for free.

This is probably the most used subscription starting point. There are services that you can use free for 12 months.  For example:

  • 5GB Blob Storage
  • 5 GB File Storage
  • 250 GB SQL Database
  • 750 hours of Windows VMs
  • 30,000 transactions of AI and machine learning

The list goes on.

You also get 150 credits to use on other services. And in many cases, some services are always free, like functions and App Services

Monthly Azure Credits for Visual Studio Subscribers

If you are a Microsoft Partner you get can get credits through the Microsoft Partner Portal

You can either get Visual Studio Enterprise (MPN) or Visual Studio Enterprise if you have a subscription but you are not a microsoft partner.

You get access to your Visual Studio benefits

MPN: Microsoft Partner Network

Note that the Azure service states “Your own personal sandbox for dev/test”

In regards to running Production environments, the guidance states

“Monthly Azure credits for Visual Studio subscribers are specifically for individual dev/test usage only. To run production workloads, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid Azure subscription, such as pay-as-you-go pricing.”

The question is, what does Microsoft consider a Production environment?

And if these are supposed to be for individual use, what should you do when you have multiple developers working on a development project?

Answers coming up later…….

Visual Studio Professional subscription gives you £40 a month credits. Professional costs around £920 for the first year and then yearly renewal is around £613

MSDN Platforms subscription gives you £75 a month credits

This is a new Subscription that provides IT Department with a cost effective way to license Microsoft Software for individuals but don’t require the full suite of Visual Studio Development Tools. Pricing is more complex

Create Subscription in Azure

When you go into Azure and search for Subscriptions +Add Subscription you are taken to the following screen. (these are the offers we have available to us. Depending upon your own environment you may have more or less)

Pay as you go

As advertised, this is simply the pay as you go model that many people move to after their free subscription has ended

Pay as you go  is billed at the standard Pay-As-You-Go rates and service level agreements (SLAs) are offered for each of the Azure platform services

Pay as you go Dev/Test

Meets the need of teams of Visual Studio subscribers and is specifically for development and testing only.

Enterprise Costs around £4,602 for the first year and then £1,970 for every subsequent year

Visual Studio Enterprise Solution – MPN

Again, this is specifically for Visual Studio Enterprise Subscribers in the Microsoft Partner Network. This relates to the Monthly Azure Credits for Visual Studio Subscribers section above

Within this service, you get low dev/test rates on VM’s (You pay for the linux rate) You also get low rates on HDInsight and Web Apps.

As mentioned, this is specifically for personal Dev/test Environments. Usage within the subscription does not carry a financially-backed SLA

Azure in Open

You can buy Azure through open licensing programmes from your Microsoft Reseller. Small and medium sized businesses purchase in this way. Simply contact your Microsoft Partner or find one to work with

To go for this option, you purchase Azure Monetary Commitment credits from your reseller in the form of an Online Service Activation (OSA) Key. You can use these credits for 12 months following Activation

Other Subscription Offerings

Enterprise Dev-test

Similar to Pay as you go Dev Test, If you have a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement

EA/SA (Enterprise Agreement/ Software Assurance) is a licensing package, targeting large organisations with 500 or more computers. The EA is a three year contract which covers software licensing and updates. Customers can renew for 1 year or 3 years.

Software under EA includes Windows 10, Microsoft office, Windows Server, Exchange, Sharepoint, System Center, Client Access Licenses etc.

To set up a subscription under this offer, you will have an Enterprise Administrator. They can add Account owners to their agreement via Azure Enterprise portal. Then the Account owner can create Subscriptions via the Azure Account portal.

Once in place, active Visual Studio subscribers can be added as co-administrators to manage and use resources.

Visual Studio Enterprise (Bizspark)

In February 2018, BizSpark was replaced by the Microsoft for Startups program and has the same functionality as the Visual Studio Enterprise Subscription with £115 free credits

Azure Hybrid Benefit

Azure Hybrid Use Benefit (HUB) is a discount program for Azure users with Windows Server licences. It can save up to 40% of the normal costs of running Services.

Windows Server is used in business settings. Windows Server is a line of operating system that Microsoft specifically creates for use on a server. It includes Enterprise software because its intended for businesses.

Microsoft Windows Server 2019 pricing is complex so I wont go into detail here, but moving to HUB does provide savings for VMs and databases. Azure provides a great calculator for this. If this is an option, you really want to speak to a Microsoft Advisor to understand the best route.

Difference between Dev/ Test and Production Environments

Dev/Test  environments and Visual Studio credits are exclusively for developing and testing applications. These subscriptions don’t carry financially backed SLA’s

Any Subscription over a Visual Studio Subscription is for Dev/test and demonstrate only

It should also be noted that Training is NOT considered a development activity so training resources should be on the appropriate Subscription.

MSDN Licensing is now Visual Studio licensing but the following applies

“The single most important concept when discussing MSDN licensing is to understand the difference between production systems (those which are used to actually make money or carry out the business of an organisation) and development systems (those which actually create the programs and applications used in the production systems)”

IT Asset Management .net (2011)

And there is also the Subscriptions in Dev/ Test being for specific individual useage. For actual Project work where teams are involved, services are cheaper but you don’t get credits.

Is this policed by Microsoft? It is certainly a violation of the terms of use.

c. Suspension. We may suspend your use of the Online Services if: (1) it is reasonably needed to prevent unauthorized access to Customer Data; (2) you fail to respond to a claim of alleged infringement under Section 5 within a reasonable time; (3) you do not pay amounts due under this agreement; (4) you do not abide by the Acceptable Use Policy or you violate other terms of this agreement; or (5) for Limited Offerings, the Subscription becomes inactive from your failure to access the Online Services as described in the Offer Details. If one or more of these conditions occurs, then:

Production subscriptions can be purchased via several means

PAYGO is specified above

EA . Again this is specific to having a EA/SA (Enterprise Agreement/ Software Assurance). See above for more information

CSP (Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers) See Azure in Open for more information above.

Management Groups, Subscriptions and Resource Groups

As an example, imagine you have an Azure environment with just Visual Studio Enterprise Accounts complete with credits for each developer

So far, no thought has been put into creating Management groups

lets have a look at this so far. the decision has been made to split the resource groups up by environment. In this case Proof of concept. However, because we know that this subscription can only be for Dev/Test and POC maybe we need to think about about the hierarchy in a little more detail, bringing in the Management group

Management Group by Environment

Management groups are containers and they help to manage access, policy and compliance across multiple subscriptions. You can use them with Azure policy and Azure Role Based Access Control.

Here we have Management groups split by environment. So under Production we may have all the pay as you go Subscriptions complete with SLA backing. The Test/Dev subscriptions under the other Management Groups when required.

The Resource Groups here as set at Apps level.

You could add a Resource Group for all your SQL Servers and Databases for example. And another one for all your machine learning requirements.

Management Group by Business Area

This is a different way of looking at your hierarchy, by Business Area. Management groups can be up to 6 levels deep which allows you to set up what ever meets your needs. If you worked for other companies you could have a management group for each company for example.

You could then have management groups under this for environment. Next Subscriptions and finally the Resource groups, which can bring together resources that are related.

Don’t forget that Tagging is also an important part of the architecture process

Hopefully that gives a little more structure to what you need to to when thinking about Subscriptions, which then leads into your Management Groups, Resource groups and resources.

Right at the top of your Hierarchy is your Tenant which represents your Organisation. Your tenant is your dedicated Azure AD Service instance.

Understanding what licencing you have to work with, what hierarchies will be the most logical and who you work with within other tenants will really help you get to grips with Azure.


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