In this course, I’ll start by explaining the purpose of Azure Service Level Agreements (or SLAs) and some of the details they contain. Then I’ll cover some of the actions that impact SLAs. Finally, I’ll go over the lifecycle of Azure services, from public preview to retirement.
- Understand the purpose of Azure Service Level Agreements (or SLAs) and what they contain
- Understand actions that can impact SLAs in both positive and negative ways
- Understand Azure service lifecycle stages, including preview, general availability, and retirement
- Anyone who is responsible for tracking or maintaining service levels on Azure implementations
- Basic knowledge of Azure (or take our Overview of Azure Services course)
Microsoft adds new Azure services and removes old ones on a regular basis. These Azure services go through a predictable lifecycle from the day when they’re first made available to the day when they’re retired.
For example, Microsoft used to offer something called Azure Container Service (or ACS). It was a container orchestration solution that was first made available on December 2, 2015. At that point, it was available in preview. This meant that you could try it and give Microsoft feedback, but using it for production workloads could be risky.
On April 19, 2016, ACS became generally available. This meant that the testing period was over, and Microsoft considered ACS to be ready for production workloads.
On December 10, 2018, Microsoft announced that it would be retiring ACS on January 31, 2020. This meant that after that date, the service would no longer be supported. Notice that Microsoft made this announcement more than a year before retiring the service. This is part of its Modern Lifecycle Policy, which says that Microsoft will give at least 12 months’ notice before ending support for a service.
You might be wondering why Microsoft retired ACS. Was it no longer needed? Well, not exactly. Many Azure customers still needed a container orchestration solution, but ACS was retired because Microsoft had released a replacement service called Azure Kubernetes Service (or AKS). In fact, after January 31, 2020, even though customers could no longer create new instances of ACS, Microsoft didn’t delete customers’ existing instances. That’s because Microsoft wanted to give customers the opportunity to migrate those instances from ACS to AKS. Although Microsoft doesn’t always provide a migration option for a service that’s retiring, it usually does.
Now let’s go back to the beginning of the service lifecycle, the preview stage. If you want to try out a service that’s in preview, first you have to know that it exists. So how do you find out what services are in preview? The easiest way is to go to the Azure updates page, which lists announcements about Azure services and features. If you want to get these announcements sent to you, then you can subscribe to the RSS feed.
If you select “In preview”, and click the “Filter Results” button, it’ll show you all of the preview announcements. You’ll discover that the vast majority of them are about features rather than services that are in preview. That’s because new features are being added to existing services all the time, but brand-new services are much less common.
If you want to try a preview feature or service, then be aware that there are two types: public and private. A feature or service that’s in public preview is available in the Azure portal and has “preview” next to its name so you’ll know it hasn’t been completely tested yet. In some cases, you might have to enable preview features in the service before they’re visible.
A feature or service that’s in private preview can only be accessed if you register as a test user first. Microsoft needs to approve your request and grant you access before you can see the feature or service in the Azure portal.
What if you want to try a preview version of the Azure portal itself? You have to go to a different URL. It’s at preview.portal.azure.com.
I mentioned earlier that although you can run production workloads on a preview service, it’s usually not a good idea. As you’d expect, when a service is in preview, Microsoft doesn’t provide a service level agreement, so there are no guarantees about its performance. Because of this, preview services are sometimes free or priced at a lower cost than usual, but that’s not always the case.
And that’s it for the service lifecycle.
Guy launched his first training website in 1995 and he's been helping people learn IT technologies ever since. He has been a sysadmin, instructor, sales engineer, IT manager, and entrepreneur. In his most recent venture, he founded and led a cloud-based training infrastructure company that provided virtual labs for some of the largest software vendors in the world. Guy’s passion is making complex technology easy to understand. His activities outside of work have included riding an elephant and skydiving (although not at the same time).