Azure Building Blocks – Like Legos™ for the cloud?

imageI thought this was an interesting announcement.  Yesterday Microsoft announced a new way to more-simply deploy Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) resources into Azure, along with a new command line tool to drive it with.  The tool is called Azure Building Blocks.  These building blocks are described as “a set of tools and Azure Resource Manager templates that are designed to simplify deployment of Azure resources.” 

“But isn’t that what Azure Resource Manager templates are for?”

Absolutely, but apparently some people find the creation and management of the full templates a little too complex; especially when they only need to spin up some resources with basic best-practice or common default parameters.  “I just want a Windows Server VM.. I don’t want to have to define the storage type or network or all that.  Just do it.”  And so you’ll define your machine (or other resources) in a much simpler template (parameter) file that will be used to deploy it.  It’s “A tool for deploying Azure infrastructure based on proven practices.

“Cool!  How do I get started?”

Legos are awesome!The Azure Building Blocks page is where you should begin.  The tool claims to run equally well on Windows or Linux (or Bash on Windows, or even in the Azure Cloud Shell).  Fundamentally it requires you to have the newest Azure CLI installed, as well as Node.js installed in your shell of choice.  Then you install the tool with this command:

npm install -g @mspnp/azure-building-blocks

Verify that the tool installed by running “azbb”, and you should see a typical command usage and options displayed.

azbb default options

Once installed, you can start with a very simple template example.  Samples for various scenarios can be found here:

I’m going to try what looks to be the most simple of all VM samples: vm-simple.json.

This is the contents of that file:

    "$schema": "",
    "contentVersion": "",
    "parameters": {
        "buildingBlocks": {
            "value": [
                    "type": "VirtualNetwork",
                    "settings": [
                            "name": "simple-vnet",
                            "addressPrefixes": [
                            "subnets": [
                                    "name": "default",
                                    "addressPrefix": ""
                    "type": "VirtualMachine",
                    "settings": {
                        "vmCount": 1,
                        "osType": "windows",
                        "namePrefix": "jb",
                        "adminPassword": "testPassw0rd!23",
                        "nics": [
                                "subnetName": "default",
                                "isPublic": true
                        "virtualNetwork": {
                            "name": "simple-vnet"

That’s all there is to the file!  You can see pretty easily that this just creates a simple Windows Server 2016 VM, along with a supporting virtual network and subnet.  Interestingly, and I think this helps underscore one of the values of Azure Building Blocks, if I had set the vmCount to something other than 1, it would have created that many AND put them in an availability set for me.  Automagically.

Now, having saved that vm-simple.json file to my disk, and after I login to Azure…

az login

…I can run this command…

azbb -g testRG -s xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx -l westus -p .\vm-simple.json -deploy

…where the xxx-xxx’s are replaced by my Azure Subscription ID.  And since I ran the command while in the folder containing the vm-simple.json file, I only needed to use “.\” as the path to the file.

And after a few minutes, the Resource Group in the Azure portal looks like this:


You’re also given a couple of output files that contain the JSON which created the virtual network and the machine.  It was only after digging into one of these that I was able to see the default username used was “adminUser”.

For the full story, read the announcement here, and start learning and working through the tutorials here.

Azure Building Blocks

What do you think?  Let us know in the comments if you have any questions or rants. Smile

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