Have you ever used a public WiFi in a coffee shop? Or did you use one in an airport, hotel, restaurant or a museum? I bet you were wondering how safe these networks are and whether your HTTP traffic can be sniffed by anyone nearby! Well, to keep the answer short, public WiFi network at anything but safe and the traffic can be sniffed with ease in almost any available public WiFi.

On the other hand, did you ever try to watch movies on Netflix, listen to some good music on Spotify or Internet radio on Pandora from an Eastern-European country (e.g. Romania), just to find out that these services don’t work in Romania (yet)?

Well, Azure is here to the rescue! During this article you’ll go through all the steps necessary to create a VM hosted in one of Azure’s data centers so that all your Internet traffic goes through a secure VPN tunnel to the data center. In the end, this basically means that your traffic will look as if originates from within Azure and thus you’ll be able to use the kind of services mentioned earlier.

The infrastructure schema of what we’re trying to achieve looks something like this (please try to bear with me here – I’m totally aware my drawing skills are close to nonexistent):

Untitled

Prerequisites

There are a few requirements in order to successfully complete this step-by-step guide:

  • you will most certainly need an Azure subscription. You can either use a 30-days free trial account or a Pay-As-You-Go account. Additionally, if you have an MSDN subscription, you can also use your Azure credits, which are part of your benefits as an MSDN subscriber. Here’s a link on how to sign-up for a 30-day trial account today using your Microsoft Account
  • a SSL certificate. Yes again, there are a few options here: the obvious one is to buy a SSL certificate from a publicly available Certificate Authority (CA), or to create a self-signed certificate which you’ll manually install in the Trusted Root Certificate Authority container. In order to create self signed certificates, you can either use makecert.exe, a utility which comes with any installation of Visual Studio 2013 (or 2012, for that matter) and/or Windows SDK, or selfssl.exe, part of the lightweight IIS6 Resource Kit.

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Pinkyandthebrain

image source: 90sbabiesonly.com

Microsoft announced yesterday a new family of VMs within Azure, called the ‘G’ family. If you’re wondering what the letter ‘G’ stands for, it is ‘Godzilla’, which used to be the codename of the new server family. But if you’re wondering why ‘Godzilla’, it’s because of the monstrous-sized virtual machines, which offer up to 32 CPU cores, 6.5 TB using the latest in SSD technology and up to 450GB of RAM.

Thanks to these new series of VMs, Microsoft’s largest VM size is twice as fast as AWS’ largest VM and four times faster than GCE’s largest VM. That’s what I call ‘taking over the world’ (in a good way!).

During yesterday’s announcement, Microsoft also announced a few new features within their IaaS offering, specifically:

  • the Microsoft Cloud Platform System, powered by Dell, which is a container of Azure infrastructures delivered ‘in a box’, with pre-integrated hardware from Dell and software from Microsoft
  • full CoreOS support – the popular Linux distribution can now be deployed directly from the Azure Marketplace

Additionally, Microsoft has also announced GA of the two latest Australian data centers. Thus, by the end of 2014, Microsoft will be fully operational in 19 regions around the world. If you’re wondering, by the time of this writing, GCE only runs in 7 regions whilst AWS is available in 9 different regions (yet not all their regions host offer all services).

Last but not least, a Premium Storage service was also announced, which offers sub-millisecond latency (thanks to local SSD), up to 32 TB and over 50,000 IOPS.