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With the latest release of Azure Web Sites and the new Azure Portal Preview we are introducing a new concept: Web Hosting Plans. A Web Hosting Plan (WHP) allows you to group and scale sites independently within a subscription.
The best way to understand how this would work is to walk through a scenario:
Joe runs a successful Web Agency and he currently has 2 main clients, the fabled Contoso International Corporation and the less well known Fabrikam Corporation. Joe bundles web hosting and site management as part of his contract with his clients and he uses Azure Websites to provide the hosting and management experience. His web agency is developing multiple web sites for both clients.
Joe has determined that to run the websites for Contoso he would need a minimum of 5 Medium Instance Size servers (2 virtual cores, 3.5 GB of Ram) in the Standard tier to satisfy the expected load and memory footprint of the applications.
On the other hand his Fabrikam contract would only need a single Small Instance Size server (1 virtual core, 1.75 GB of Ram) in the Standard tier with auto–scale configured to scale up to 3 instances to handle load peaks and stay within budget.
Before the new Web Hosting Plans feature, Joe had 2 options:
1) Host both collections of sites within his current Azure subscription, using Standard instances.
- Simple to execute on, with little management overhead.
- Scale Efficiency: Apps have different load profiles and while one of them calls for Small Instance Size servers, the other requires Medium Instance Size. This would require Joe would need to use Medium Instance Size for his workload even though it might be excessive for some apps and cost more.
- Noisy neighbors: Since all of Joe’s applications are running on a shared pool of Standard Instances, if one of Contoso’s apps has a surge in traffic, or starts to exceed the expected memory utilization, Fabrikam’s apps would be affected by this as well.
- Billing: Since all of the Standard Instances are treated as pool, there is no way to separate the cost by client (Fabrikam bill vs Contoso bill)
2) Create 2 independent subscriptions for each client and manage them independently.
- Complete Isolation: No resources are shared between the 2 subscriptions
- Billing: Billing concerns can be divided by subscription.
- Management Complexity: Mapping of subscription to clients’ needs to be done by the subscription owner.
- Access Control: creating and managing co-admins for each subscription to ensure the right set of people have the right access.
With the introduction of Web Hosting Plans Joe now has a third option:
3) Create a Web Hosting Plan for each of his contracts and assign the necessary resources to each.
- Better Isolation: With isolation at the Web Hosting Plan level, Contoso Applications will not interfere with Fabrikam’s or vice versa since they will each run in their own Web Hosting Plan with dedicated resources.
- Scale Efficiency: Each Web Hosting Plan can be scaled independently and can be configured with different instance sizes and Auto-Scale as needed.
- Management Overhead: Less management overhead than having independent subscriptions (as outlined in option 2)
- Isolation: Not the same level of isolation as independent subscriptions
As you can see each of the options above have their own, pros and cons, we believe Web Hosting plans provide a better option for managing multiple collections of sites with the least amount of overhead and complexity.
Using Web Hosting Plans
Customers who already had websites hosted in Azure Web Sites will discover that their existing sites have been automatically grouped into Web Hosting Plan(s) as a result of the new feature being introduced. A plan has been automatically created for each collection of sites in your subscription, grouped by web site mode and website region. For example, if you had websites hosted in Free, Shared and Standard mode in West US and sites hosted in Standard mode only in North Europe, you would end up with a total of 4 Web Hosting Plans: 3 in West US (one for the sites hosted in Free Mode, one for Shared Mode and a 3rd for Standard Mode sites) and 1 in North Europe.
Such auto generated Web Hosting plans would be labeled “DefaultServerFarm”. While that name can be confusing, the “DefaultServerFarm” is just a label chosen for legacy and API backward compatibility. Your new Web Hosting Plan won’t have any effect on your existing sites. Scale, Web Site Mode, and site configuration will remain un-changed.
At any point, you can create your own plans, name them as you please, and add one or more of your sites to them. A plan has to have at least one site, so creating a plan is integrated with creating a site. In the screenshot below, you can see how this looks:
When creating your plan, you can select the Pricing Tier for it. This determines the performance characteristics, storage quota, scale-out limits, auto-scale and other features. Websites created within a plan will share the resources and configuration that are determined by the Pricing Tier. For a more in-depth look at the Different Pricing Tiers and what they offer read this article.
The Web Hosting Plan looks a little different in the current version of the Azure Portal. When you create a new site, the wizard offers a drop-down to select the plan for it:
In closing, Web Hosting Plans provide a logical grouping for sites, and an easy way to independently scale, manage and configure collections of sites. This offers some great flexibility for website owners while keeping the management complexity at a minimum. For an in depth look at Web Hosting Plans you can take a look at this article