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Step-by-Step: Connect System Center 2012 App Controller to Windows Azure

Setting up System Center App Controller to drive Windows Azure

The article I’m writing for part 13 our “31 Days of Servers in the Cloud” series involves using App Controller to create a virtual machine.  But to do this, you first need to connect and associate App Controller (a component of System Center 2012) with your Windows Azure subscription.

So in today’s Part 12, as a preliminary document for part 13, in this article I’m going to show you how to connect App Controller to your Windows Azure account.

To do this, we need to have a few preliminaries in place:

  1. You have a Windows Azure subscription, and have requested the ability to preview the use of Windows Azure virtual machines.  (If you don’t have an account, you can start a free 90-day trial HERE.)
  2. You have System Center 2012 App Controller installed.  (Download the System Center 2012 Private Cloud evaluation software HERE.) 
    NOTE: In my examples I’m using System Center 2012 SP1 App Controller, which at the time of this writing is available to TechNet and MSDN subscribers and volume license customers only; but will very soon be generally available.  I will update this blog post as soon as that happens.

Connect App Controller to your Windows Azure subscription
To make this happen, you first have to have a management certificate in place.  This makes up the bulk of the complexity involved.  It must be a management certificate that has a key length of at least 2048 bits and resides in the Personal certificate store.  To make this all work, you’ll need both a .cer file, which is the exported certificate that you’ll upload as the management certificate in Windows Azure, and a.pfx (personal information exchange) certificate file that you’ll  use to connect App Controller to your Azure subscription.  You can create this self-signed certificate easily in one of two ways:

  1. If you have Visual Studio installed, you can use the makecert command from the Visual Studio command prompt to create the certificate and at the same time create the exported .cer file that you can upload into Azure.   Ore…
  2. More likely if, like me, you’re not a developer, you’ll use IIS (Internet Information Services) to create the self-signed certificate.  Add IIS either as a role to a Windows Server, or even as an to Windows 8.

For my example, I’m going to use IIS that I’m going to install on Windows 8.

Install IIS on Windows 8
In the “Turn Windows features on or off” section of the “Add or Remove Programs” (just search from your Start Screen), add the IIS Management Console feature:

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Generate the Self-Signed Certificate
Once installed, open up the IIS Manager.  Double-click on “Server Certificates”, and then in the Actions pane on the right, select “Create Self-Signed Certificate”.

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Give your certificate a friendly name that you’ll recognize later, and click OK.

Export the .pfx File
Next, we need to export the new certificate as a .pfx file.  (This is the file we’ll later use to connect App Controller to our Windows Azure subscription.)  You can create this from IIS Management as well.   With your new certificate selected, click export in the Actions pane.  Choose a file name and destination for the file, set a password, and click OK.

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Once this is done, and if you have no further use of IIS on your Windows 8 machine, you can remove it just as easily as you added it.  You won’t need it for anything more here.

Generate the .cer file.
Now we need a .cer file – the exported certificate that we will upload into our Windows Azure subscription.  The certificate we just created is in the Local Computer certificates store, so we could either need to use MMC and the “Certificates” snap-in to get to and export the certificate from there, OR we could import the .pfx into the personal certificate store and then export it from there.  I’ll describe the latter..

Run certmgr.msc as a quick way to open up MMC connected to the current user’s certificate store, and navigate to Personal –> Certificates

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Right-Click on Certificates, and under All Tasks, select Import…

In the Certificate Import Wizard, click Next, and then browse to and select your recently created .pfx file.  (NOTE: You’ll have to change the file type you’re looking for to include .pfx files in order to see it as you navigate)

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Click Next.

Enter the password you used to secure your .pfx file, and click Next.

Leave the Certificate Store as the Personal store.  Click Next, and then click Finish to complete the import.

Now in the list of your certificates in the personal certificate store, you should see a certificate that contains a friendly name you used earlier (in my case it’s “MyAzureMgmtCert”).   Right-click on your certificate, and under All Tasks, select Export.

Just use the defaults through this wizard, browse to a location for and name your certificate:

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Click Next and then Finish.

Okay.  Now you have both the .pfx and the .cer files you’ll need to connect App Controller to Windows Azure.

Upload the .cer to Windows Azure.

In the Windows Azure portal, at the bottom left, select Settings, and then click Upload.

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Browse to and select your .cer file:

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Click the Check Box, and in a few seconds you should see a notification telling you that your upload is successful.  You should also see your certificate added to the list of management certificates

Connect App Controller to Windows Azure
Before we make the connection, we’ll need to have our Windows Azure Subscription ID.  The subscription ID is a long set of numbers, formatted to look something like this: 00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000

You can get this a number of different ways.

  • If you have any storage defined or any virtual machines created, you can select them and see the subscription ID on the bottom right of the “quick glance” information.
  • If you have Windows Azure PowerShell installed and connected to your subscription, you can simply run the “Get-AzureSubscription” cmdlet to see the Subscription ID.
  • Or most easily since we’ve just uploaded one, you can see the subscription ID as one of the columns in our list of management certificates.

Copy the subscription ID to the clipboard.

Now we’re ready to open up App Controller and log in as your administrative account.

In the Overview pane, under Public Clouds, click “Connect a Windows Azure Subscription

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Paste your subscription ID into the appropriate field, browse to and select your .pfx certificate file, enter the password, and give your connection a name and optional description.

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Once you click OK, you should soon see that you have a Windows Azure subscription connected.  If you had any virtual machines or services running in Windows Azure, you’ll be able to see those represented here also.

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And that’s it!  You’re connected!

Now you can do really cool things like using App Controller to create Virtual Machines in Windows Azure.

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I hope you found this useful!  If you have any questions or comments, please add them to the comments and we can discuss them.

More Stories By Kevin Remde

Kevin is an engaging and highly sought-after speaker and webcaster who has landed several times on Microsoft's top 10 webcast list, and has delivered many top-scoring TechNet events and webcasts. In his past outside of Microsoft, Kevin has held positions such as software engineer, information systems professional, and information systems manager. He loves sharing helpful new solutions and technologies with his IT professional peers.

A prolific blogger, Kevin shares his thoughts, ideas and tips on his “Full of I.T.” blog (http://aka.ms/FullOfIT). He also contributes to and moderates the TechNet Forum IT Manager discussion (http://aka.ms/ITManager), and presents live TechNet Events throughout the central U.S. (http://www.technetevents.com). When he's not busy learning or blogging about new technologies, Kevin enjoys digital photography and videography, and sings in a band. (Q: Midlife crisis? A: More cowbell!) He continues to challenge his TechNet Event audiences to sing Karaoke with him.