Switching To Managed Disks In Azure

Chris Seferlis walks us through an easy method to convert unmanaged disks to managed disks in Azure:

First off, why would you want a managed disk over an unmanaged one?

  • Greater scalability due to much higher IOPs and storage limits. There’s no longer the need to add additional storage accounts when you’re adding disk space, which has been a challenge for users that were using large virtual machines and required large storage space.

  • Better availability and reliability which ensures that disks are now isolated from each other in different storage scale units.

  • Managed disks offer an over 99.99% uptime, plus are always stored with 3 replicas of the data.

  • More granular access control by employing role-based access control (RBAC) security. You have granular capability to assign access to various people in your organization.

Keep reading to learn how to switch.

Against Multi-Cloud Models

Tyler Treat argues against companies looking at multi-cloud models:

A multi-cloud strategy looks great on paper, but it creates unneeded constraints and results in a wild-goose chase. For most, it ends up being a distraction, creating more problems than it solves and costing more money than it’s worth. I’m going to caveat that claim in just a bit because it’s a bold blanket statement, but bear with me. For now, just know that when I say “multi-cloud,” I’m referring to the idea of running the same services across vendors or designing applications in a way that allows them to move between providers effortlessly. I’m not speaking to the notion of leveraging the best parts of each cloud provider or using higher-level, value-added services across vendors.

Multi-cloud rears its head for a number of reasons, but they can largely be grouped into the following points: disaster recovery (DR), vendor lock-in, and pricing. I’m going to speak to each of these and then discuss where multi-cloud actually does come into play.

It’s an interesting article.  I think that Tyler is right, but that companies should be capable of switching between cloud providers or even creating hybrid approaches should the need arise.

Limiting Azure Administrator Data Access

Melissa Coates gives us a look at one aspect of Azure security:

Recently a customer expressed concern that an owner of an Azure resource group automatically gains access to the data within the services contained in the resource group. In this case, the customer was specifically referring to data in Azure Data Lake Storage Gen 1 but this concept applies to Azure Storage and other data-oriented services in Azure as well. The customer’s comment prompted me to look into available alternatives. This is by no means a detailed security post…rather, I’m trying to share a few nuggets of what I learned.

Worth the read.  Much of the latest round of regulatory push seems to be in the realm of limiting high-access insiders (like DBAs) from accessing sensitive information, and this post aligns with that.

Forcing MAXDOP In Azure SQL DB

Arun Sirpal shows us that you can change MAXDOP in Azure SQL Database:

In this quick post I will show you my parallel plan and how I use MAXDOP = 1 to suppress parallel plan generation so the operation will be executed serially. (Disclaimer – I am not saying this is the right thing to do, merely using it as an example of tweaking this setting, to be honest in 10 years I have changed MAXDOP = 1 twice). I executed a query in Azure. You can see the classic operators such as gather streams and repartition streams.

This change will affect all queries hitting that database, so it’s a coarser tool than changing cost threshold for parallelism (not allowed) or setting MAXDOP per-query (allowed).

ElasticMapReduce And RStudio

Tanzir Musabbir demonstrates how to set up Amazon ElasticMapReduce to include an RStudio edge node:

RStudio Server provides a browser-based interface for R and a popular tool among data scientists. Data scientist use Apache Spark cluster running on  Amazon EMR to perform distributed training. In a previous blog post, the author showed how you can install RStudio Server on Amazon EMR cluster. However, in certain scenarios you might want to install it on a standalone Amazon EC2 instance and connect to a remote Amazon EMR cluster. Benefits of running RStudio on EC2 include the following:

  • Running RStudio Server on an EC2 instance, you can keep your scientific models and model artifacts on the instance. You might have to relaunch your EMR cluster to meet your application requirements. By running RStudio Server separately, you have more flexibility and don’t have to depend entirely on an Amazon EMR cluster.
  • Installing RStudio on the master node of Amazon EMR requires sharing of resources with the applications running on the same node. By running RStudio on a standalone Amazon EC2 instance, you can use resources as you need without having to share the resources with other applications.
  • You might have multiple Amazon EMR clusters in your environment. With RStudio on Edge node, you have the flexibility to connect to any EMR clusters in your environment.

There is one major difference between running RStudio Server on an Amazon EMR cluster vs. running it on a standalone Amazon EC2 instance. In the latter case, the instance needs to be configured as an Amazon EMR client (or edge node). By doing so, you can submit Apache Spark jobs and other Hadoop-based jobs from an instance other than EMR master node.

Click through for detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to do this.

Azure Data Factory V2 Or SSIS?

Merrill Aldrich explains the differences between Azure Data Factory V2 and SQL Server Integration Services:

The next consideration is a bit more involved if you are new to data integration. Both of these tools excel at transporting data from place to place, but they have important differences in terms of what you can do to modify the data in transit. As a matter of emphasis, ADF has more features geared toward moving the data than performing any complex transformation along the way. SSIS, on the other hand, was built with a large library of transformations that you can chain together to make elaborate data flows including lookups, matching, splitting data, and more.

The tools also overlap quite a lot. In projects this seems to lead to the question of whether you’ll transform the data “in flight” using Extract Transform Load (ETL), or instead move the data to a destination where it’ll be transformed using Extract Load Transform (ELT).

These are not “pretty much the same thing” and Merrill does a good job of explaining what those differences in design mean for the products.

Thoughts On The Evolution Of Big Data

Praveen Sripati shares an opinion on where the various Hadoop and Big Data platforms are headed:

The different Cloud Vendors had been offering Big Data as a service for quite some time. Athena, EMR, RedShift, Kinesis are a few of the services from AWS. There are similar offerings from Google CloudMicrosoft Azure and other Cloud vendors also. All these services are native to the Cloud (built for the Cloud) and provide tight integration with the other services from the Cloud vendor.

In the case of Cloudera, MapR and HortonWorks the Big Data platforms were not designed with the Cloud into considerations from the beginning and later the platforms were plugged or force fitted into the Cloud. The Open Hybrid Architecture Initiative is an initiative by HortonWorks to make their Big Data platform more and more Cloud native.

It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

Databricks Cluster-Scoped Init Scripts

Aayush Bhasin shares some background on a Databricks intern project, adding cluster-scoped initialization scripts to Databricks clusters:

One of the biggest pain points for customers used to be that init scripts for a cluster were not part of the cluster configuration and did not show up in the User Interface. Because of this, applying init scripts to a cluster was unintuitive, and editing or cloning a cluster would not preserve the init script configuration. Cluster-scoped init scripts addressed this issue by including an ‘Init Scripts’ panel in the UI of the cluster configuration page, and adding an ‘init_scripts’ field to the public API. This also allows init scripts to take advantage of cluster access control.

Read on to see how Aayush & co. solved this issue.

Databricks UDF Performance Testing

Tristan Robinson shares some performance comps for different Azure Databricks scenarios:

I’ve recently been spending quite a bit of time on the Azure Databricks platform, and while learning decided it was worth using it to experiment with some common data warehousing tasks in the form of data cleansing. As Databricks provides us with a platform to run a Spark environment on, it offers options to use cross-platform APIs that allow us to write code in Scala, Python, R, and SQL within the same notebook. As with most things in life, not everything is equal and there are potential differences in performance between them. In this blog, I will explain the tests I produced with the aim of outlining best practice for Databricks implementations for UDFs of this nature.

Scala is the native language for Spark – and without going into too much detail here, it will compile down faster to the JVM for processing. Under the hood, Python on the other hand provides a wrapper around the code but in reality is a Scala program telling the cluster what to do, and being transformed by Scala code. Converting these objects into a form Python can read is called serialisation / deserialisation, and its expensive, especially over time and across a distributed dataset. This most expensive scenario occurs through UDFs (functions) – the runtime process for which can be seen below. The overhead here is in (4) and (5) to read the data and write into JVM memory.

Click through for the results.  Looks like Python barely beat out Scala for the #1 position, but Scala was a little faster than Python in-class (e.g., the Scala program with a Scala SQL UDF was a little bit faster than the Python equivalent).

Migrating Azure SQL Databases Between Resource Groups

Arun Sirpal shows us a method for moving Azure SQL Databases between resource groups:

In my mind there are a couple of ways to move a database across resource groups. They vary from scripting to just using the Azure portal. I am going to use the Azure portal and do the following.

  1. Export a database in resource group X to a storage account Z.
  2. Import the file from the storage account Z into a database that is in resource group Y.

It’s just like a “backup and restore” strategy, all with the assumption that you are working within the same subscription ID.

Read on for a step-by-step demonstration on how to do this.

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