I have been working with Windows Azure Virtual Machines for a few weeks now. As of this blog post, the preview feature is running six locations currently: West US, East US, East Asia, Southeast Asia, North Europe, and West Europe.

One of the things I like about Windows Azure is the world-wide presence. When I select Quick Create for a Virtual Machine, I am able to decide what location to host my Virtual Machine so I can ensure this is some place close to me. Today I might be in Seattle but tomorrow I might be in London. I have the option to select what works best for me at any given time.

Here are a few items I think are worth pointing out.

I found that when using Quick Create to create a new Virtual Machine, I am not able to specify a storage location in the event that I have an existing location I would like to use to store the VHD. A new storage location in the format of portalvhds* will be created for me. The plus side is if you have an auto created location already, all other Quick Create Virtual Machines will use that location.  The name of the auto created storage account is not the same across regions. 

When using From Gallery, I have a few more options. For Microsoft supplied Images, I have the ability to use a pre-created storage account or have a new one created for me.

If I select Use Automatically Generated Storage Account, I then have the ability to select the Region (i.e. the datacenter) to host the Virtual Machine and Storage Account.

If I select an existing Storage Account, I no longer have the ability to select the Region.

I have been creating and using custom images for a while now and always wondered when I went to use a custom image, why I cannot change the Region I want the Virtual Machine to run at.

And now it all makes total sense!

You cannot create a Virtual Machine in a different Region than your storage container used for the Image or VHD. When selecting an existing storage account in the Gallery, using an existing custom image, or an existing VHD – in these cases the location of the Virtual Machine depends on the location of the underlying storage account.

The location of the Image or Disk is shown on the screen when selecting the image using the From Gallery creation option.

How to ensure you are running in the region / datacenter you want to be running in?

If you want your Virtual Machine to be running in a different region you will need to move the Image or VHD to that region first before creating a Virtual Machine using that resource. Either download and re-upload or copy it to via the API’s. Watch out, at 30 GB to 50 GB a piece this can get “expensive” quickly (for 50 GB VHD Zone 1 – $6.00 US to download).  Inside the same datacenter, even across accounts, moving VHD currently do not have bandwidth charged. 

Watch for more to come related to moving VHD from one location to another for use with Virtual Machines. I have a tool in the works that should help with this process.