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Overview of Azure Virtual Machines

Updated: June 24, 2015

This article will be removed from the Azure library in the coming weeks. Newer content is available on the Azure website and will be updated there. See About Azure Virtual Machines.

An Azure virtual machine gives you the flexibility of virtualization without spending the time and money to buy and maintain the hardware that hosts the virtual machine. However, you do need to maintain the virtual machine -- configuring, patching, and maintaining the operating system and any other software that runs on the virtual machine.

  • A virtual machine is a software version of a computer that you configure and maintain according to your needs.

  • An operating system image is a set of one or more files to be used as a template to create a new virtual machine. An image acts like a template because it doesn’t have the personalized settings that a configured virtual machine has, such as the computer name and user account settings.

  • A virtual machine OS disk is virtual hard disk (in .vhd file format) that can be booted and mounted as a running version of an operating system instance. Virtual machines can also use one or more data disks, which can be attached to the virtual machine at any time.

  • An Microsoft Azure application can have multiple virtual machines. All virtual machines that you create in Microsoft Azure can automatically communicate using a private network channel with other virtual machines in the same cloud service or virtual network. Microsoft Azure allows you to load-balance traffic between them.

To find out which Microsoft applications are supported when running in Microsoft Azure Virtual machines, see Microsoft server software support for Azure Virtual Machines.

You can create a virtual machine in Microsoft Azure by using the Azure Management Portal, Azure PowerShell, the programmable API interface (REST); or the command-line tools provided for Mac and Linux desktops.

Regardless of which tool you use, you’ll need to pick an operating system to use with your virtual machine. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Use an image provided by Azure or a certified partner: You can create your own virtual machine directly in the cloud by using an image provide by Azure or one of its certified partners.

    Use an image based on an Azure VM. To use this approach, you ‘capture’ a running virtual machine, which creates an image file in the same storage account as the operating system disk of the captured virtual machine. You can then use this image to create multiple virtual machines. For instructions, see How to Capture a Windows Virtual Machine to Use as a Template and How to Capture a Linux Virtual Machine to Use as a Template.

  • Use your own image or disk: You can upload your own .vhd file to use as either an image or a disk. The difference is that an image is appropriate to use repeatedly, like a template, and a disk isn’t. For example, if you want to retain specific application settings, such as a SQL Server installation, you can upload the .vhd file as a disk and then create a virtual machine from this disk. For instructions, see Creating and Uploading a Virtual Hard Disk that Contains the Windows Server Operating System.

When you create a virtual machine, choices you’ll need to make include the following:

  • The size of the virtual machine. This determines configuration such as the number of CPU cores, amount of memory, and storage capacity. For details, see Virtual Machine and Cloud Service Sizes for Azure.

  • The operating system. You can choose from stock images, some of which include SQL Server or Sharepoint. Or, if you’ve uploaded your own VHD, you can use that as a custom image for the virtual machine.

  • The networking configuration. If you want a virtual machine to use a virtual network, you’ll need to specify the virtual network when you create the virtual machine. For more information, see the Virtual Network Overview.

  • The cloud service configuration. Each virtual machine resides in a cloud service, either by itself or with other virtual machines. When you place virtual machines in the same cloud service, you can load balance your applications and services by configuring load-balanced endpoints. For instructions, see Load Balancing Virtual Machines

See About Azure VM configuration settings for a summary of the settings and links to details about them.

See Also

Other Resources

Virtual Machines

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