Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Setting up a Sharepoint farm as an extension to Enterprise Network

In my previous blog I had talked about how to create a SharePoint Foundation VM on Windows Azure as standalone server. That was pretty easy and simple stuff. I also tried doing the same in cloudshare and that was pretty neat and impressive. I am also thinking about comparing cloudshare with Azure from price point of view but that I am keeping it for some other post.

As a sequel to my previous blog pos,t here I am going to talk about what it takes for an organization to build a sharePoint Farm which will be nothing but an extension to their corporate network. There are plenty of great "how to" articles available but my effort over here is to consolidate and put in one place all that you need to know if you are considering going this route.

As a part of Windows Azure's cross premise connectivity, Microsoft has come up with something call Windows Azure Virtual Network which is currently in preview stage and provides secure private IPv4 network which enables an organization to extend their enterprise network to Windows Azure securely over S2S VPN. With Azure Virtual Network  lot of new scenarios can be enabled like hybrid apps that span across cloud and their premise, Enterprise Identity and Access Control etc.

Now coming back to the topic of what are the steps one need to take to have a SharePoint farm work as extension to corporate network. Other than that there are other issues to that we need to be thinking about like how to configure load balancing for WFEs and how to implement high availability for SQL Server.

So, first thing first, let us start with how to create an extended Virtual Network. Following are the steps:

a) Create a Virtual Network for cross premise connectivity
b) Add a virtual machine to the virtual network
c) Install a Replica AD Domain controller on the VM  ( please note in this link there are few steps which you may not need to do if you are having your AD and DNS setup in your environment)
d) Provision other VMs to the Domain

Now coming on to other concern about load balancing the WFEs we have on our Azure SharePoint Farm. For load balancing the WFEs, we can use the Azure Load Balancer. Following are the steps for configuring the Load Balancer:

a) Create the first SharePoint WFE VM as standalone

Windows Azure Virtual Machine Windows Linux

b) Configure the HTTP endpoint for the first VM

Windows Azure configure VM endpoints
One point to notice here is that the endpoints are opened at the loadbalancer level, so even if we have one VM but that is also placed behind the load balancer, this makes the configuration of adding VMs to loadbalancer all that more simpler.

Install SharePoint on the VM.

c) Add other WFEs and connect to the previously created VM

Connect to an existing virtual machine in Windows Azure
d) Now add the VM to the previously created loadbalancer

Windows Azure comes with free load balancing

And that's it we are done!!! Thats pretty Simple...No?

Another concern people have is how can we setup high availability on SQL Server VMs on Windows Azure because Windows Azure doesn't allow SQL Server Clustering. So here we have two options either to go with SQL Server mirroring or Log shipping. For Automatic failover we can configure the SQL Server mirroring with witness which will have one primary server, secondary server and witness server.

One important thing to remember is that don't forget to add the WFEs and your SQL Servers (all three Principal,Mirro and Witness) on the their own availability set so that when Microsoft updates its OS, it won't take down all the server.

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