Microsoft maintains 77 services across 13 service categories, everything from Artificial Intelligence to Compute to Databases to Storage to Azure Orbital – this is a lot of code and infrastructure to maintain and evolve, often at pace. Inevitably some of these services will be retired, either as new services replace them or through investments in the Microsoft Partner ecosystem.
This article will provide an overview of the tooling that exists within Azure to obtain a single centralized view of Service Retirements and reduce the reliance on manually checking the Azure Updates feed and/or Email notifications.
What is Service Health?
First, we should define Service Health and include service retirement as a metric that contributes to it. Service Health is the status of a service at a point in time and is primarily impacted by one of three Service Health impacts:
Outages or incidents – service unavailability or reduced capacity
Maintenance – a planned service outage over a defined period of time
Retirement – a future date when a service will be retired
The Inevitability of Change
Customers run mission-critical workloads on Azure. Our goal is to provide transparency and timely communication in all aspects of Azure delivery. Retiring a service is therefore not a decision that is taken lightly or without a migration/mitigation strategy being considered.
In the application domain, the benefits and importance of patching and therefore maintenance of an application are well understood, prioritized and automated in DevOps processes.
The lifespan of a service is less considered as we focus on updates, as they are more frequent and therefore more likely, than a service being retired. However, given the inevitability of change and the pace at which this happens, the lifecycle and therefore retirement of a service needs to be given the same importance – both updates and retirements are agents of change.
An indicator of a service lifecycle change is if a Service is renamed to contain “(classic)” – clearly signaling it is not the latest version of a service and therefore we should be starting to think about this service being on the road to retirement.
A real world example of service retirement and migration/mitigation
On June 30th 2023, Microsoft notified affected Customers that Azure Media Services (AMS) would be retired on June 30th 2024, giving one year of notice. This timeline, on first inspection, appears to be short and led to a lot of questions from Customers, but the Azure Media Services team had been working with Microsoft Partners to formulate a migration strategy.
In the case of AMS, the retirement impacts the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that provides on-demand encoding, live streaming, on-demand streaming and content protection.
Microsoft Partner Solutions from Harmonic and MediaKind are available in the Azure Marketplace. Both have migration guides available, and in the case of MediaKind, they have retained much of the terminology and user interface layout from AMS – making the transition as seamless as possible.
Once a Customer has chosen a featured partner solution, all of the video assets, audio assets, storage containers/accounts remain on Azure. The billing also remains with Microsoft as both are Azure Marketplace solutions.
Both partners provide a wide range of media services capabilities and experiences beyond what is currently available in Azure Media Services. Crucially, these partners will continue to add improvements for Azure customers in the future.
Evolving how service retirements are communicated
Service retirements are published on the Azure Updates feed and through Email to affected subscription owners and administrators, but these communication channels do not provide a comprehensive list of active service retirements. They require constant monitoring for changes, and it is easy to miss an update.
Announcing the Service Retirement Notebook [Public Preview]
Introducing the public preview of the Service Retirement Workbook will enhance how we communicate service retirements to Customers – at no additional cost, this can be added through the Azure Advisor Workbooks Gallery.
The Workbook provides a single centralized resource level view of service retirements that may require customer action to mitigate. This will help customers assess the impact, evaluate options and plan to migrate off the retiring service.
The workbook will present a list and a map of service retirements that impact the affected resources. For each of the services being retired, there is a planned retirement date, number of impacted resources and migration instructions including recommended alternative service(s).
Use subscription, resource group and location filters to focus on a specific workload.
Use sorting to find services which are retiring soon and those that have the biggest impact on your workloads.
Share the report with your team to help them plan a migration using the export function.
Service retirements are as inevitable as service updates but one that we rarely plan for. As the pace of change gathers, the tools in Azure to surface retirement information more prominently and make it easier to assess and manage retirement impacts will become increasingly important.
A service retirement notice period will always be considered and weighed alongside the impact and migration/mitigation strategy. The retirement notice period for AMS, as I noted earlier, is one year, which appears overly short, but when reviewing the migration guide and assessing the impact, one year is enough time to comfortably migrate to a Microsoft Partner Solution.
The Services Retirement Workbook now makes it even easier to visualize retirements by subscription, resource group, location and resource type. It is another example of how we are delivering on our commitment to enhance communication and be more transparent, along with providing the tools and resources to manage the inevitability of change.