Get Started with the Bitnami Launchpad for Microsoft Azure

Introduction

Microsoft Azure is a secure, flexible and high-performance cloud platform integrating multiple tools and managed services. It provides a complete set of tools to build, deploy and manage enterprise, mobile and Web applications in the cloud.

If you're new to the cloud, the easiest way to get started with Microsoft Azure is with Bitnami. Bitnami provides pre-packaged application images for Microsoft Azure cloud servers, so that you can get productive with your new server immediately. You can access and launch these images through the free Bitnami Launchpad for Microsoft Azure, which gives you an intuitive Web-based dashboard to create and manage your Microsoft Azure cloud servers.

In this tutorial, I'll walk you, step by step, through the process of using the Bitnami Launchpad for Microsoft Azure to create and provision a new Microsoft Azure cloud server. And since Microsoft Azure offers a free trial with $200 credit for 30 days, you'll have plenty of time to experiment with your server and Bitnami stacks without worrying about being billed for usage.

Overview

If you're interested in creating a personal or small business blog, chances are that you're going to use WordPress. WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms in the world, in use on over 60 million websites (according to Wikipedia). It's not hard to see why: WordPress is incredibly easy to use, comes with thousands of extensions and themes, and is completely free and open source.

In this tutorial, I'll launch a cloud server with the Bitnami WordPress Stack, which gives you a pre-configured WordPress blog that you can start using right way. But WordPress is just an example: there are hundreds of other Bitnami applications to choose from, and they're all equally easy to set up.

Here are the steps you'll follow in this tutorial:

  • Register with Microsoft Azure
  • Register with Bitnami
  • Connect your Microsoft Azure and Bitnami accounts
  • Deploy the Bitnami WordPress Stack on a Microsoft Azure cloud server
  • Log in and start using WordPress

The next sections will walk you through these steps in detail.

Step 1: Register with Microsoft Azure

At the end of this step, you will have signed up for the Microsoft Azure free trial. If you already have a Microsoft Azure account, you may skip this step.

Begin by creating an Azure account, by browsing to the Microsoft Azure website and choosing the "Free Trial" option for a one month free trial. You will need an existing Microsoft account to log in and sign up for the free trial; if you don't have one, you can create one here. Remember to keep track of your account username and password, because you'll need them in the next step.

Azure account creation

Once you've signed in, sign up for the Azure free trial by providing some basic personal information and your mobile phone number. Azure will send a verification code to your mobile number, which you'll need to enter into the registration form. Once that's done, proceed to the next stage by entering your credit card information.

Azure account creation

If you're wondering why you need to provide credit card information for a free trial, or if you're worried about being billed for services, relax. By default, Azure trial accounts are configured with a spending limit of $0, which means that your card will never be billed unless you remove or modify the spending limit. Azure needs your credit card information for security purposes, to avoid service misuse and to confirm your identity.

IMPORTANT: When your spending limit is set to $0, Azure will automatically deactivate your cloud servers so that you don't incur any charges if your usage exceeds your free quota. Read about the Azure spending limit.

Once your payment information is entered, review Azure's terms of service, free trial details and privacy statement, and indicate your agreement by ticking the box. Then, hit the big green "Sign up" button.

The Azure account registration machine will churn away for a minute or so, and you will then be redirected to your Azure account management page, which allows you to manage your subscriptions, edit your profile and get support. You should see that your free trial is now active in the subscription list.

Step 2: Register with Bitnami

At the end of this step, you will have created a Bitnami account.

The next step is to create a Bitnami account, so that you can launch a cloud server with the Bitnami WordPress Stack. If you have a Google, Facebook, Yahoo! or Github account, you can use your credentials from those services with OpenID to create your Bitnami account.

If you don't have accounts with those services (or you don't want to use them), you can use your email address and password to create a Bitnami account, as described below:

  • Head to the Bitnami sign-up page.
  • Enter your name and email address.
  • Choose a password.
  • Review the Bitnami terms of service.

Then, use the "Sign up" button to create your account.

Bitnami sign up

Bitnami will send you an email with a verification link which you'll need to click or browse to, to activate your account. This will also sign you in to your Bitnami account.

Bitnami confirmation

Step 3: Connect your Microsoft Azure and Bitnami accounts

At the end of this step, your Bitnami Launchpad for Microsoft Azure will be configured and you will be ready to provision a cloud server.

The easiest way to set up your Microsoft Azure cloud server with Bitnami's WordPress Stack is via the Bitnami Launchpad for Microsoft Azure, which gives you a simple control panel to provision, start, stop, connect to and check status of your cloud servers. However, to use it, you must first connect your Microsoft Azure and Bitnami accounts.

To do this:

The Launchpad will recognize your Bitnami credentials and automatically sign you in. You may also be prompted to set up your Bitnami password vault by entering an administrative password. Enter a hard-to-guess password.

Bitnami password configuration

The Bitnami Vault password offers an additional level of protection against misuse: you'll need to enter it when performing certain operations, such as creating new cloud servers. Again, make sure you note it down for future reference.

IMPORTANT: Your Bitnami Vault password is different from your Microsoft Azure account password.

Proceed as follows:

  • Select the "Account -> Subscriptions" link in the Launchpad menu.
  • Click the "Add Subscription" button.
  • You'll be transferred to an authorization page, where you can confirm that the Bitnami Launchpad is authorized to connect to your Microsoft Azure account. Select the "Create a Management Certificate for Microsoft Azure" button.

    Bitnami password configuration

    So long as you're still logged in to Azure, this will generate a .publishsettings file which you'll be prompted to download through your browser.

    Bitnami password configuration

  • Once the file is downloaded, drag it from your desktop to the Bitnami Launchpad page and then click the "Upload certificate" button to upload the management certificate to the Launchpad.

    Bitnami password configuration

Your Microsoft Azure and Bitnami accounts will now be connected.

Bitnami password configuration

You will now be able to launch new cloud servers with Bitnami application stacks.

Step 4: Deploy WordPress on a Microsoft Azure cloud server

At the end of this step, your WordPress blog will be running on a Microsoft Azure cloud server.

The next step is to launch a cloud server and get WordPress running on it. The Bitnami Launchpad lets you do this in just a couple of clicks. Follow these steps:

  • Select "Library" in the Launchpad menu.
  • Look through the list of applications available in Bitnami until you find WordPress (it's usually the first item in the list).
  • Select it and click "Launch". Application launcher

  • Define a name, size and region for your cloud server. You can choose from an "A0" server, which uses a shared CPU to a "D14" server, which has 16 dedicated virtual cores. For more information, refer to the Microsoft Azure pricing sheet.

    Server configuration

    TIP: An "A0" server will work just fine for a low-traffic WordPress blog or for WordPress development.
  • Confirm your selection by hitting the "Create" button at the end of the page.

The Bitnami Launchpad will now begin spinning up the new server. The process usually takes a few minutes: a status indicator on the page provides a progress update.

Server initialization

Once the cloud server has been provisioned, the status indicator will show that it's "running", and the Bitnami Launchpad page will display the server details, including its IP address.

Server initialization

At this point, you should be able to browse to the cloud server, either by clicking the link in the Bitnami Launchpad (a new browser tab will open) or entering the cloud server IP address directly into your browser's address bar. You should now see your WordPress blog's home page with a sample post, as shown below.

Server with application

The Launchpad page also includes controls to shut down or delete the server. You can also obtain the SSH password for the server if you'd like to connect to it directly with an SSH client (like PuTTY on Windows).

Server detail page

By default, the Bitnami Launchpad creates an application user account named user and an auto-generated password when a new server is provisioned. You will need this password in order to use WordPress. To do this, go back to the Launchpad page containing the server information screen, look in the "Credentials" section, and make a note of the password.

Application password

Step 5: Log in and start using WordPress

At the end of this step, you will have logged in to WordPress and created a new blog post.

To log in to the WordPress dashboard, follow these steps:

  • Browse to the WordPress dashboard, usually at the URL http://SERVER-IP/wp-admin.

  • Log in with the administrator credentials from the previous step.

    WordPress credentials

You should now arrive at the WordPress dashboard, which allows you to manage posts, pages and comments; customize your blog with themes and plugins; import and export content; manage navigation menus; add or delete new user accounts; and much more.

WordPress credentials

You can now add a new post using the following steps:

  • Select the "Posts -> Add New" menu option to create a new post. Add new WordPress post
  • Enter a title and content for the post. You can use the formatting tools at the top of the content area to format your post and add hyperlinks or images.
  • Optionally, choose the format and category for your post.
  • Publish it immediately using the "Publish" button. Add new WordPress post

And now, when you visit your blog's front page, you should see your new post.

WordPress post publishing

Congratulations! You now have a working, fully-functional WordPress blog in the cloud.

You can keep your WordPress installation up-to-date with the WordPress automatic update feature. To access this:

  • Log in to WordPress using the administrator account.
  • Select the "Dashboard -> Updates" menu item.

    WordPress update

  • Review the resulting page to see if WordPress needs an update. If an update is available, you can install it by clicking the "Update Now" button. You can also re-install WordPress if needed with the "Re-install Now" button.

    WordPress update

To learn more about the topics discussed in this tutorial, use the links below: