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Azure VM Image Builder Goes GA for Windows and Linux

Microsoft announced Azure VM Image Builder has reached general availability, providing a managed service that reduces the complexity of manually creating virtual machines images -- with associated workflows and pipelines -- for Windows and Linux.

Building VM images is key to enterprise cloud migrations but it's a complicated process with several moving parts: gathering requirements, creating configuration tooling, setting up infrastructure, ensuring security compliance and so on. It's even harder for complicated deployments involving multiple OSes and clouds.

Now users can start with a template -- such as those available in the Azure Marketplace -- on which to base their VM images, adding configuration information such as a base source image, customization to perform and where the new image should be distributed. Once configuration and customization data is specified, the managed service --based on Packer tooling from HashiCorp ("Build automated machine images") -- takes over. The high-level workflow looks like this:

How It Works
[Click on image for larger view.] How It Works (source: Microsoft).

"You don't need to relearn or rebuild all the tooling and image building pipelines; all you need to do is to gather your organization's requirements and then choose from the template in Azure for building Linux or Windows VM images and the service will create the image for you," Microsoft said in a blog post this week. "You don't need to worry about all the infrastructure, technical differences between Operating System versions, or other underlying components in the image building while getting what you need in a simple, streamlined way."

Automation Configuration
[Click on image for larger view.] Automation Configuration (source: Microsoft).

Overview documentation lists these supported features:

  • Creation of baseline images, that includes your minimum security and corporate configurations, and allow departments to customize it further.
  • Integration of core applications, so VM can take on workloads after creation, or add configurations to support Windows Virtual Desktop images.
  • Patching of existing images, Image Builder will allow you to continually patch existing custom images.
  • Connect image builder to your existing virtual networks, so you can connect to existing configuration servers (DSC, Chef, Puppet etc.), file shares, or any other routable servers/services.
  • Integration with the Azure Shared Image Gallery, allows you to distribute, version, and scale images globally, and gives you an image management system.
  • Integration with existing image build pipelines, just call Image Builder from your pipeline, or use the simple Image Builder Azure DevOps Task.
  • Migrate an existing image customization pipeline to Azure. Use your existing scripts, commands, and processes to customize images.
  • Creation of images in VHD format to support Azure Stack.

The managed service appears similar to the AWS EC2 Image Builder, said to " the building, testing, and deployment of Virtual Machine and container images for use on AWS or on-premises." Google Cloud, meanwhile, has published documentation on building VM images using that same Packer tooling.

Regarding the new Azure kid on the image building block, Microsoft said: "With Azure VM Image Builder, we're making image building extremely easy for you with different options like using the Azure CLI or the Azure portal to start your VM Image Build process. And you can also combine the service with Azure Shared Image Gallery to set up your image-building pipeline and distribute the images globally with just a few clicks. Applying security configurations and group requirements will no longer be a heavy burden when it comes to building custom golden images."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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