Q: When I created a Windows Azure IaaS virtual machine, I notice the option to install the VM Agent. What does this option do?

A: Windows Azure includes an optional agent that you can add to a Windows Azure IaaS virtual machine. This option is available for Windows and Linux virtual machines. If you choose the Quick Create virtual machine option, the agent is installed automatically.

The purpose of the agent is to provide some management capability from the Windows Azure portal and from PowerShell for Windows Azure virtual machines—for example, being able to reset a local password within the local machine, as documented in the MSDN article "VMAccess." Extensions will be added over time to increase the number of ways you can interact with Windows Azure virtual machines from the various Windows Azure management tools.

Another currently available extension is the popular BGInfo tool, which displays information on your virtual machine in the background. Note that different features are available at different times in the various Windows Azure locations. For example, you can use the following command to change a password:

Set-AzureVMaccessExtension -VM $staticVM –UserName "localadmin" –Password "P@ssword!" –ReferenceName "MyVMAccessAgent" | Update-AzureVM