Microsoft Azure Cloud Shell Highlights: 7 Most Important Features




What do you do when you need to get access to a command line console such as Bash or PowerShell? If your operating system is the Windows, you are likely to jump onto the PowerShell executable. Similarly, if you are using Linux or MacOS, you can use either of the consoles as per your preference. But what if the operating system wasn't your main concern, and you are using your iPhone to get to the command-line interface (CLI)? The Azure Cloud Shell can help you with that.

Azure Cloud Shell is another service under the Microsoft banner that enables you to have a Bash or PowerShell console without changing your browser. Since the service is browser-based, there's no problem about having a local setup run for the two platforms. Azure Cloud Shell is basically what the cloud is integrated with. There's no point in worrying about the underlying infrastructure if your only focus is on the console. With Azure Cloud Shell, the key is to develop and manage Azure resources in a friendlier environment. The service offers a pre-configured, browser-accessible shell experience to take care of the Azure resources without incurring an additional cost of machine maintenance, versioning, and installation. And since the whole idea is to provide interactive sessions through Cloud Shell, the machine that works on a per-request basis automatically terminates the activity if left idle for 20 minutes. The latest upgrades enable Azure Cloud Shell to run on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.

Getting Started with Azure Cloud Shell

The Cloud Shell service can be used within the Azure Container service based on your subscription type. Not every subscriber have to pay for the storage account separately. If your subscription allows, it can be created and associated with the current package.

Also, the storage account is tied to the Cloud Shell and can be used right away. The container is mounted under the PowerShell user profile. In short, the Azure Cloud Shell is your Microsoft-managed admin machine in Azure which enables you to:

  • Get authentic virtual access to Azure Shell from anywhere in the world
  • Use common programming languages and tools in a Shell that's maintained and updated by Microsoft
  • Persists your data files across sessions in Azure files

With Azure, you have the flexibility to choose according to the preferred shell experience that perfectly matches the way you work. Both PowerShell and Bash experiences are available.

Microsoft Azure Cloud Shell Important Features

Here are the top most important features associated with Azure Cloud Shell:

Automatic Authentication for Improved Security

Cloud shell automatically and securely authenticates account access for PowerShell and Azure CLI. This means that the interactive session will terminate if the shell inactivity persists for more than 20 minutes. This automatic feature help improves security.

Persistence Across Sessions

To help the user with a stick with the files across sessions, you get a walk through with Cloud Shell, that instantly attaches on Azure file share right on the launch. After the session is completed, the Cloud Shell will attach itself to your storage and persist for all the sessions in the future. Moreover, your home directory is saved as a .img file in your Azure File share. The files that are outside of the machine state or home directory are not persisted across sessions. It is best to refer to the best practices for Cloud Shell for storing secrets like the SSH keys.

Virtual Access from Anywhere

The service allows you to connect to Azure platform using a browser-based, authenticated shell experience that is hosted in the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere. The Cloud Shell service can be utilized by a unique user as per the automatic assignment. The user account is then authenticated for each session for increased security. To enjoy a modern CLI experience using multiple access points - including Azure mobile app, shell.azure.com, Azure docs (such as Azure PowerShell, Azure CLI), Azure portal, and VS Code Azure Account Extension.

Common Programming Languages and Tools

Just like any other component of the Microsoft, the platform regularly updates and maintains the Cloud Shell. The browser-based service naturally comes common CLI tools, which include PowerShell modules, Linux Shell interpreters, source control, text editors, Azure tools, container tools, build tools, database tools, and many more. On the other hand, Cloud Shell also works with a number of supportive programming languages. The most popular ones include Python, .NET, and Node.js.

Azure Drive

Cloud Shell in PowerShell begins in the Azure Drive. This enables you to navigate through the entire range of Azure resources including Storage, Network, and Compute among the rest. The process of discovery and navigation are similar to filesystem navigation. However, the drive really doesn't matter as you can still manage the resources using Azure PowerShell cmdlets. Whatever changes you make to the Azure resources will be reflected in the drive right away. To refresh the resources, run dir-Force.

Configured and Authenticated Azure Workstation

Naturally, one cannot deny the security and authentication of Cloud Shell as it works under the most reliable name, Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft manages the Cloud Shell and ensures popular language support and command-line tools as mentioned earlier. Cloud Shell is also responsible for securely authenticating the instant and automatic access to the resources using Azure CLI.

Seamless Deployment

One of the latest updates of Cloud Shell is the graphical text editor. The feature is integrated based on the open-source called the Monaco Editor. The feature enables you to create and customize files by running code. This helps with seamless and smooth deployment through Azure PowerShell or Azure CLI 2.0.

As far as the pricing is concerned the Cloud Shell machine hosting services are free. These services are a pre-requisite of a mounted Azure Files share. However, to access all the features and to utilize the storage, the regular cost may apply. The best way to get the hang of it and to use it for maximum benefits, it is best to get Azure training and Azure certification for a more detailed understanding of Azure Cloud Shell.  

About The Author
Associate Instructor

Yahya Siddiqui

Yahya has experience in the field of Microsoft Azure, Active Directory, Exchange Server, Office 365, System Center, PowerShell, and Proxy Server /TMG/ ISA Server. He has worked as System Administrator and deployed Active Directory & File Servers.

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