Comparing Azure Window Server AD VM vs Azure ADDS for IaaS

When designing an Azure IaaS architect; should IaaS use a Windows Server AD VM or Azure ADDS for managing user and service accounts? The diagram below show two strategies.   The yellow arrow points to WCC2016AD, which is a windows 2016 server running AD. The red arrow points to Azure Active Directory. Each with their advantages and disadvantages.

AzureAD-ADDS.png

Using Azure to setup IaaS environments for either TEST and QA is a great way to reduce costs. Typically for an on-premise solution, the organization’s support costs may double or triple for supporting a production application. TEST and QA environments are typically created for supporting application. This means additional hardware and software are added to the total cost for support. For a large IT shops this may not be a problem; however, for small and medium size, it can be a real burden.

Azure IaaS (Infrastructure as a Solution) can be a real cost saver if managed properly. The cost saving occurs when VM are turn off when not needed. When VMs are turned off, there is no billing for compute processing and disk storage is a relatively low billing item. In my small world, I can keep all my Azure costs below my MSDN subscription fees and thus not pay anything at end of month.

A typical IasS includes Front-End Server, Application Server, SQL Server, Windows 10 and Active Directory VM.  Typical for me, because I build and configure many different SharePoint environments and need a minimum of five server VMs. The Azure LAB environment provides a good enough environment to typical production environment. Over time, I have always wonder if it would be cheaper or better to use Azure ADDS or continue to use my Azure AD server VM.

The answer really depends on what you are doing and trying to accomplish. In my case, keeping costs down is important.   The ADDS cannot be disable. It can only be deleted and causes a lot of trouble when rebuilding. Because of this and many other factors, my preference is to continue to use the Azure Windows Server AD VM.   Spin it up when it is need and turn it off when done.

Azure ADDS Azure Windows AD VM
Cost Minimum of $2 /day Zero cost if VM is turned off
Managing Accounts Useful (half dozen) Useful (six)
Account creation Must be done on Azure and synced Not required using VM
Syncing User Profile Required for testing AD Sync Not needed unless testing

In summary, my preference is to use Azure Windows Server VM with Active Directory installed and configured to support my TEST and QA environment.

Sharing Visions using Project Roadmaps

ProjectRoadmapDashboard

Microsoft announce Roadmaps during Ignite 2018.  To be perfectly honest, during the demo and afterwards, I didn’t find it very interesting.  It looked mostly like a One-Pager report that I had seen many years ago and Roadmaps implied that it was only for executives.  I attribute this view because One-Pager reports was developed for executive management that didn’t want to see many details.

Then it dawned on me that the Project Roadmaps was much more than what I originally thought and can be applied to many different visions.   The “Vision Roadmaps” can be used not only for executives, programs or projects but even small teams and personal goals.  Once I saw these capabilities, I was sold on it.

What are Project Roadmaps?

Basically, it’s a reporting dashboard that pulls project data from multiple sources, such as Microsoft Project, Teams and Visual Studio azure boards.  Then major deliverable are highlighted with different colored bars, milestones and dates making it easier to see the vision and how it’s going to be achieved.

Whats Next in Project Maps?

Microsoft Ignite announce it but it’s not out at the time of this writing (11/4/2018).   It’s pretty much ready for, however Microsoft will continue test, refine and enhance new feature until it met all of Microsoft requirements for integrating into the Microsoft’s Modern Solution; which means it runs as part of CDS (Common Data Service).  For example, Project Roadmaps is fully integrated into Flow and Power BI.

 

 

Microsoft Project Server 2019 Available Now!

ProjectServer2019
Microsoft Project Server 2019, our on-premises, end-to-end project and portfolio management solution, is available as of Monday, October 22, 2018.   Its enhancements include performance, scale ability, reporting, and accessibility and an expanded set of resource engagement APIs. Project Server 2019 continues to provide your organization with the robust collaboration capabilities powered by SharePoint Server 2019.

Download Project Server 2019 here to get started today!

Resources

Estimating Annual Budgets using Project Online/Server

As we all know, Project Online/Server (PWA) does a great job with managing project schedules and resource loads; however, can PWA manage other company process when we stretch the PMO into taking on more roles? For example, several of my previous clients have used PWA to estimate next year’s annual budgets. This article takes a quick look on how PWA can be used to roll up departmental budgets and improve on the capturing of the real resource load across a whole organization.

Let’s first look at what project center looks like when departmental budgets are loaded into PWA. Then, we’ll walk back and see how to accomplish this. Note that the same project center view shows next year’s budget (2019) rolled up for all the departments in the organization. In the example below, the company only has three departments, but the concept works for as many departments as are required.

The project center view is grouped by year. Because of this, we can roll up the plan costs for all the departments. The blank year displays current projects that are in process— some of them across multiple years. These are current projects not involved with the budget. Year 2019 shows the day to day (D2D) schedules. You might wonder what that means. It will be discussed later, but basically it captures non-project work for those people not on a project. For example, D2D 2018 IT schedule, which captures work business as usual work from a DBA or help desk person.

Year 2019 is the roll up of all the departments for next year. This is accomplished by having each department or business group create a staff schedule with any additional fixed expenses. The screen shot below shows what a schedule may look like. There are many ways to do this. My preference is to set up each staff member as a summary task and include big pockets of time showing their main activity. For example, Teresa Black is estimated to spend 1400 hours on projects, 500 hours on design and questions outside of her projects, and 100 hours on administrative activities. The hours add up to about 2000. Close enough for me; however, based on your requirements, you may want a more accurate accounting of hours.

You may have a circumstance where you wish to add two additional people for next year. The same kind of hourly planning can be added to that schedule.

Finally, utilizing fixed costs or cost resource options can be used to capture other costs and overhead. This would bring your budget in line and provide an accurate picture of what you are asking for for the following year. As I said before, this is just one of many ways to create a budget with PWA. Of course, you’ll want to include enough details to make good decisions on what is required or to be cut for next year’s budget.

Once the D2D schedules are completed, they can be revised and several iterations can occur until the final budget is approved. Wow! This makes budgeting easy for next year, and could be the end of article, but it’s not!

There are many more benefits beyond just budgeting to this approach for both the PMO and the company as a whole. Resource load is more accurate for all resources throughout the year, and using PWA time-sheets can be a good replacement for primitive or expensive time tracking systems. Let me explain.

By capturing the day to day schedules of all resources for the year, the project and resource manager have a better view of what the actual resource load looks like. For example, the DBA may spend half their day doing maintenance leaving them with only 20 hours a week for working on projects. The diagram below shows a more accurate picture of resource workloads when using D2D schedules.

Once the schedules are published, there is a good reason to start using the PWA time sheet system or at least removing an old-time tracking system. The PWA time-sheet can be configured to use charge code and capture where time is really going. It also has a robust approval system. See an example below of a simple time-sheet showing a few day to day items. Another bonus is entering vacation time and capturing the impact of such on project schedules.

In summary, when using PWA to estimate next year’s budgets, we have killed three birds with one stone:

  • The company has a better way to estimate annual budgets each year.
  • The PMO has better view of resource workload for the year.
  • The PWA Time sheet system allows for the replacement of outdated time sheets, making time tracking easier to manage by department.

I hope you will join me for my upcoming webinar on this topic, as we’ll explore more fully the in’s and out’s of implementing the process I have suggested here.

Speaking PMI Chapter Meeting, Oct 2, 2018 Agile is not Always the Right Answer

Would you use the agile approach to build your house or have your government build missiles using agile?  How to Determine the Right Scheduling Approach for your Project

Agile is an adaptive approach to managing projects, however there are many other predictive scheduling approaches that may work better. This session covers the strengths and weaknesses of Agile, Critical Path Method, Resource Critical Method, Critical Chain, Earned Value and Earned Work approaches and how to determine which approach works best for your project management needs.  This topic is based on the research of Eric Uyttewaal, who is also the author or Forecasting Programs, Critical Path 2.0 and Forecast Scheduling 2013 and 2016.   After this session, you can choice the best tool for managing your project.

Link to more information: Click Here for PMI Chapter Meeting Info

PIC Mattrix

Speaking SQL Saturday Atlanta, Sept 22, 2018

Create IaaS SQL Server Test Premise Environment in Azure Cloud

Speaker: Michael Wharton
Duration: 60 minutes
Track: Cloud Application Development & Deployment
Level: Intermediate
Why create a SQL Server Test premise environment in Azure cloud? One of the first steps into moving to Azure cloud, is building an environment that looks a feels like premise but only in the cloud. This session is an overview of getting started with basics of Azure environment, such as Accounts, virtual networks, Storage and creating virtual machines.. Once we fly by reviewing several building blocks, we then build Active Directory VM, SQL Server VM and App Server Tier VM using Azure portal and PowerShell.
You may ask what does this have to do with project?  Its a foundation for building a TEST Project Server in Azure.  The savings is that you only pay for when its needed. Things like SharePoint patches or software development.
SQL Saturday Atlanta

Window Server patch breaks SharePoint

Ouch!  A windows server security patch of the .NET Framework can break SharePoint.  The following link goes into details about the security patch its effect.

Click link for more details about patch and fix

RedmonServerDown

Microsoft does not have a fix for SharePoint. I recently had a customer apply the patch and then removed the patch.   This doesn’t work but worth a try.   The only option for recover is to restore the windows image from a previous backup.  It a good practice to always back up the windows image before applying patches.

Here is my suggestion

  1. Windows server image backup of all the servers and all SharePoint databases.
  2. Apply patches
  3. Run SharePoint Configuration Wizard on each server.   This is often overlook by window server engineers because they don’t understand that patches really don’t get applied to SharePoint until the wizard is run
  4. Test and verify SharePoint.

Hopefully patches work and SharePoint is running.  If not, the backups can get you back to your happy places.