With many users subscribed to their applications, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) can struggle to deploy widespread updates. Azure has released VM Image Builder capabilities which can automate this process saving ISVs time and money while managing security.
As an ISV grows, so too does the number of customers they have and the number of daily application users. With this increased scale, these users could be located across the globe. ISVs are being faced by the challenges associated with big data and managing the experiences of thousands of users. Application management overhead costs can be high as a result of this. This can place pressure and increased demand on development team resources when it comes time to deploy changes or updates. The use of virtual machine scale sets can allow ISVs to quickly respond to issues. Azure Virtual Machine scale sets allow ISVs to manage, configure and update to many virtual machines at the same time. These scale sets can be configured to automatically create new VM images. ISVs can better manage their applications and user experience by pushing service updates. Some of these updates may include changes to cloud capacity, performance, or maintenance.
To make the process of deploying these updates easier, Microsoft is adding additional capabilities for applications built within or migrated to the Azure environment. Cloud applications do not just benefit from the widespread access for global users, but also the capability to deploy updates at scale. In a recent announcement, the Microsoft Azure team discussed new image sharing capabilities. Now ISVs can “Automatically deploy new versions of custom images to scale set virtual machines using the new capabilities of virtual machine scale sets” (Microsoft Azure, 2020).
How does the deployment of updates using Azure VM images work for ISVs?
The introduction of virtualization and building applications on containers, such as Kubernetes, has allowed ISVs to scale their applications. This includes the rollout of changes and updates to applications at scale while managing compliance and security. This can become a complex task which consumes overheads. While deployments of application and security updates to all users can be complex, Azure’s new VM image capabilities can support these processes. This is achieved through the capability to create and deploy virtual machine images. These images include important configuration and security settings.
VM images are created in Azure VM Image Builder service, which is currently in preview. Both custom and Marketplace images can be used or customized. Following the addition of descriptive configuration, ISVs can submit this image which is subsequently built and distributed. The VM images are added to the centralised Shared Image Gallery. Once uploaded the ISV can make specifications about the relevant recipient groups, applications and versions. These specifications ensure that the updates are rolled out to the right group of users. This could be useful if specific users have a variation of compliance regulations to be adhered to.
Once this action is complete, there is no further work to be completed on the part of the ISV. Automation replaced previously manual processes. Following this, the new VM images can be automatically deployed across the specified customer subscriptions and geographical locations. Once deployed, the operating system disk of a VM is replaced, creating a new disk containing the latest image version, and therefore the required updates/upgrades.
Reduce downtime and identify issues using a batch approach
When deploying updates across many users, quality is important. To ensure quality and system health, the process of deployment is carried out in batches to the various VM scale sets for upgrading. The maximum persentage of scale set that can be upgraded at the same time is 20%. Because of this, the process can be automatically monitored with issues being quickly identified within the batches. These scaled upgrades can also be set to deploy in staging in certain regions. All of these features help to minimize user downtime.
The benefits of this approach
ISV IT leaders who are adopting the process of deploying updates using VM scale sets are experiencing the benefits of automation, autoscaling and centralized update deployments. These can make a big difference to ISVs who are focused on scaling their applications. Many ISVs who have migrated already enjoy the ease of deploying application updates this way.
One of the key advantages of migrating applications to Azure is the increasing capabilities that Microsoft are adding to their services. The Azure environment is constantly innovating to ensure that ISVs can achieve scaling goals, while still managing user experience and security.
To learn more about these technologies and migrating to the Azure environment
contact our team.