Azure, your template repository (preview)

The functionality of Azure is ever expanding. People can easily feel overwhelmed by the wealth of functionality accessible through API’s and the Azure portal.

Today I’d like to show you how you can easily store your favourite (company-specific) templates right inside the Azure environment, where it can be accessed by you, your co-workers and customers alike, secured by the RBAC mechanism we all love, trust and know how to apply in Azure. 

The first thing you might ask yourself, is why should I use this? Especially since there are things on the market like Git, Github, Bitbucket, Gitlab, Launchpad and/or SourceForge.

Well, and this might come as a shock to you, not all organisations / users require the elaborate tools and processes these providers can offer. Other companies would like their customers to use only a subset of templates which do not deviate over time. For this purpose, easy storage and utilisation of templates, Microsoft created Azure templates in Azure.

You can find the feature by using the search bar on the top of the portal, looking for “templates”.

When you start out, this screen will of course be empty, but since I’ve fooled around a little with this feature, there’s already a template loaded. If you want to add a template, you can start from scratch. The only thing is, the built-in template editor won’t give you the best experience in editing a template, so I suggest re-using a template from the Azure QuickStart Template Github repo, to ensure your success on this exploration.
To add a template to this repository in Azure, click the +Add button as shown below.

As any item you deploy inAzure, the template also needs a name. Below you will see me use a name in PascalCaseTextStyle, that will be converted to all lowercase in the proces of saving your template.
In the description box place some useful information for your customer or colleagues and continue on by clicking the “OK” button on the bottom of this section.

Then, the tough bit. Here’s where you add your code to the repository. Again, this isn’t the best place to edit your code. It can work kind of sluggish, and I’d really recommend something like Visual Studio Code, Visual Studio, Atom, or even still good old Notepad++ to write and check your code before storing it here.

When the code looks ok to you, save it with a simple “OK” and after a while it will show up in the overview section of Azure templates. Or, since I’m not that patient, after hitting refresh on the top of the User Interface.

Let’s Deploy!

To deploy your newly created template, go to the section of the interface and choose “Deploy”

Fill out the parameters as you are used to do in the Azure portal or in your preferred development-tool.

Soon after clicking “Purchase” you will get the “Deployment succeeded flag and life is good, once again.

The steps above showed you the basics of working with Azure templates stored in an Azure repository. I’m personally looking forward to more features around this product, and can think of a few that would be on my shortlist to build out functionality.

Basic functionality looks good, I can share out these templates across my tenant and the feature logs whoever creates the templates and when.
Again, in the future I’d like to see more information on this location in the GUI, like when templates were deployed and by whom, but since the feature is still in preview, I won’t be to harsh.

Now, is this the next big thing in Azure? I guess not. Can some Azure-users benefit from this basic feature? It depends…
There are of course the companies that utilise services like Github and such that are real tech savvy who need all the bells and whistles that those platforms offer. Those companies can also afford to cope with the complexity of managing connections between the platforms, and such. For a basic user who just want to store some templates they regularly use, without the need for version management, this could be a nice fit.

Before signing off, I do have to issue a big warning to everyone excited about this addition in the Azure portal; it is a preview feature at the moment.
This means there is absolutely no certainty that this feature will be continued in the future and there is no SLA/formal support on this feature just yet. Experimenting and researching a preview-feature is fine, using it for trivial processes in your organisation might not be so fine when Microsoft decides to can this feature in the future.

Thanks for reading my blog, and if you do have some questions, post them below or come and find me on twitter; @bertwolters.

Thanks to Ben Gelens for an early review of this blog!

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