Isolated Virtual Machines in Azure

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In a recent design session, I had someone mention how they wish that Azure had dedicated and/or isolated IaaS VMs like some of the other cloud providers. They were shocked with I said – they do! Azure has a number of isolated VM types that you can provision and leverage just the same as any other IaaS VM.

The link to Microsoft documentation below states that “Azure Compute offers virtual machine sizes that are Isolated to a specific hardware type and dedicated to a single customer. These virtual machine sizes are best suited for workloads that require a high degree of isolation from other customers for workloads involving elements like compliance and regulatory requirements.”

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/security/azure-isolation#isolated-virtual-machine-sizes

Yup, you read that right, dedicated hardware. This means that using one of the isolated VM types (listed below) will guarantee that your virtual machine will be the only one running on that server instance (as of Nov. 1, 2018).

  • Standard_E64is_v3
  • Standard_E64i_v3
  • Standard_M128ms
  • Standard_GS5
  • Standard_G5
  • Standard_DS15_v2
  • Standard_D15_v2

 

If VM isolation is what you’re after, you can also consider Nested Virtualization in Azure (link below). A few VM types in Azure support Nested Hyper-V (not suitable for production, mind you) and Hyper-V Containers using Docker.

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/nested-virtualization-in-azure/

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/virtualization/windowscontainers/manage-containers/hyperv-container

 

Lastly, there is a new feature that recently went GA that’s sort of in-line with VM isolation – Confidential Compute. While this isn’t VM isolation, it is an isolated enclave for executing code in TEEs (Trusted Execution Environments) using Intel’s SGX capabilities. This allows for code to be executed in an environment that, while it’s being executed, can not be accessed by any source outside of the enclave (see diagrams in the links below).

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/introducing-azure-confidential-computing/

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/azure-confidential-computing/

 

Using physical isolation techniques in the cloud can be very different than the way we’re used to doing it on-prem. Hopefully, though, this post and its associated links will get you thinking about different ways you can design for isolation in Azure. Feel free to comment, or reach out on Twitter @MattHansen0.

Thanks, and I hope I’ve made your day at least a little bit easier.

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Azure Point-to-Site VPN with RADIUS Authentication

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For the money, it’s hard to beat the Azure VPN Gateway. Until recently though, Point-to-Site VPNs were a bit clunky because they needed mutual certificate authentication. It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t good. Thankfully, Microsoft now allows RADIUS backed authentication. This post is how you impliment said configuration.

 

To start off, here is my environment information I’m using to setup this configuration.

Virtual Network: “raidus-vnet”

Virtual Network Address Space: 10.1.0.0/24

Virtual Network VM Subnet: 10.1.0.0/28

Virtual Network Gateway Subnet: 10.1.0.16/28

VPN Gateway SKU: VpnGW1

VPN Client Address Pool: 172.28.10.0/24

Domain Controler/NPS Server Static IP: 10.1.0.10

 

 

Virtual Network (VNET) Setup:

You most likely already have a VNET where you will be configuring this setup, but if you don’t you need to create one with two subnets. One subnet for infrastructure, and one “Gateway Subnet”. The Gateway Subnet will be used automatically, and is required,  when you configure the VPN Gateway.

 

VPN Gateway Setup:

The Azure VPN Gateway is just about as easy as it gets to configure and to managed (sometimes to a fault). The only caveat you need to be aware of in this scenerio, is that RADIUS Point-to-Site authentication is only available on the SKU “VPNGW1” and above. You’ll then need to choose the vnet where you have created the VPN Gateway, and create a Public IP Address resource.

 

This will take anywhere from 20-45 minutes to provision, as noted. While that’s running, you can provision your NPS (Network Policy Server) VM. This being a test environment, I provisioned a VM to be both the domain controler and the NPS box. Make sure to set a static IP on the NPS box’s NIC in Azure, you’ll need a static for your VPN configuration. I used 10.1.0.10.

After complete,  you will need to configure the VPN Gateway’s Point-to-Site configuration. Choose “RADIUS authentication”, enter in the static IP of the will-be NPS server, and set a Server Secret. This being a test environment, my password is obviously not as secure as I hope yours would be.

 

Configure NPS:

Now, go back into that VM that was created earlier and install the NPS role.

 

After it’s installed, you need to create a Network Policy with a condiational access clause (I used a group in AD) and tell it what security type you want to allow.

 

 

 

 

Next, you’ll need to create a Client Access Policy. Here you need the IP of the VPN Gateway you created, and the shared secret. Here is the interesting bit, you can’t view the IP of your VPN Gateway in the Gateway Subnet. If you looked at “Connected Devices” in the VNET the VPN Gateway doesn’t show any IP. I know that the VPN Gateway is deployed (behind the scenes) as an H/A pair, but I would assume they’re using a floating IP that they could surface. Anyways, there is no real way to find it – but it looks like (after testing with a dozen different deployments) it uses the 4th available IP in the subnet. This subnet being a 10.1.0.16/28, the 4th IP is 10.1.0.21. This is the IP that goes in the address of the RADIUS Client.

 

 

Next, I configure NPS Accounting. You don’t have to do this, but I think it helps for the sake of connection logging and for troubleshooting. You can log a few different ways, and choose here just to use a text file to a subfolder I created called “AzureVPN”.

 

 

 

Generate VPN Client Package:

Now that everything is set, you need to generate a VPN Client Package to distribute to your users.

 

After it is installed, you can see the VPN Connection in the VPN list and users can logon using their domain credentials.

 

 

 

After logging in, we can go back and look at the accounting log which shows us the successfull authentication of that user.

 

 

There we go, connecting to an Azure VPN Gateway with RADIUS authentication using domain credentials. I think we can all thank Microsoft for this one, and not having to do cert management anymore.

I hope I’ve made your day at least a little bit easier.

Configure Azure Blob Archive Storage

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Azure storage is great. Good thought to open on right? Of course! This year Azure graced us with the ability to (preview) the new Azure Archive Storage. Obviously this is enticing, especially at it’s  (current) $0.0018/GB price point. For more cost informaiton on Azure Archive Storage you can visit the link below.

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/storage/blobs/

 

Now this is nice, but I found myself a bit perplexed. How do I configure a storage account as an “archive” storage account? As it turns out, you don’t. Let’s walk though configuring an archive blob tier.

First, obiously you need a storage account. The Archive access tier is currently available on either “Blob” or “General Purpose v2”.  General Purpose v2 will work the same way, you’ll just also have the ability to host non-blob storage (File, Queue, Table). I’m going to just choose Blob though for this purpose.

 

Account kind selected, I’ll create the storage account. You can choose whatever Access Tier you’d like, that’s the access tier all of your objects will inheret by default. I choose “Cool” here because you will have to upload data before you can archive it and the cool tier saves money initially.

 

Alright storage account created, let’s go open it up.

 

If you go to the “Configuration” tab you can see the default acces tier you selected durring creation. Here is where I was a bit confused, why don’t I have the ability to select archive? You’ll see in a bit.

 

Go ahead and create a container, and upload a file. I created a container with the very complex name of “container1”, and have uploaded my very important image file that I want to archive.

 

Can see above that the inhereted access tier is “Cool” which was set at the storage account level. If you go into the blob properties you can see at the bottom there is an option to select the access tier for that specific file. Ah! There is it, Archive!

 

I’ll go ahead and select Archive, and see the the following message.

 

 

Please be cognizant of this, they aren’t kidding when they say that rehydration can take a long time. We can now refresh and see that the file is set to an access tier of “archive”.

 

Fantastic, we’ve archived the file! Now here is where you have to be careful, while the file is in archive the only data you’re able to access is the file metadata. The file itself is NOT ACCESSABLE until rehydrated. If you try and download the file while archived you can see the following message.

 

Archive storage is designed to be very long-term storage that you don’t need to access immediately, thus the low cost point. If you do need to access your file, you simply go back to that object and change it’s access tier to either Cool or Hot. It will then go through the “rehydration” process to move the file back into an accessable access tier.

 

I urge you to take that message seriously, in this example it took about 8 hours for my 48k image file to be rehyrated. They say it takes longer for larger files, and I’m going to test that next. Though in the mean time, assume it will take quite some time to be accessable again. After which time, WHEW! I recovered my very, very important file.

 

There you go, how to configure Azure Blob Archive Storage.

I hope I’ve made your day at least a little bit easier.

DFSR Failure After VM Restore (DFSR Error 2104)

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I have an environment that heavily leverages DFS, and recently one of the replication member servers had to be restored from a VEEAM backup. Typically VEEAM is great and doesn’t cause any issues, in this case though DFS completely broke. I got a TON of SCOM alerts, and the event log was littered with them as well.

The DFS Replication service failed to recover from an internal database error on volume D:. Replication has been stopped for all replicated folders on this volume. Additional Information: Error: 9214 (Internal database error (-1605)) Volume: D: xxxxxx Database: D:\System Volume Information\DFSR

 

Event 2212, DFSR 

The DFS Replication service has detected an unexpected shutdown on volume D:. This can occur if the service terminated abnormally (due to a power loss, for example) or an error occurred on the volume. The service has automatically initiated a recovery process. The service will rebuild the database if it determines it cannot reliably recover. No user action is required.

Additional Information:
Volume: D:
GUID: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

Error 2104, DFSR 

The DFS Replication service failed to recover from an internal database error on volume D:. Replication has been stopped for all replicated folders on this volume.

Additional Information:
Error: 9214 (Internal database error (-1605))
Volume: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Database: D:\System Volume Information\DFSR

 

The important error here is 2104, noting the database issue. There are multiple topics out there that talk about this, but they all end up linking back to this support article.

 https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/2517913/distributed-file-system-replication-dfsr-no-longer-replicates-files-af

 

In the end, essentially the database that is used by DFS replication becomes corrupted. It is a system-generated database so all you need to do is disable the replication service, delete the database, and start the replication service back up. Easy? No. There are a myriad of issues with doing this, mostly because the database is hosted in “System Volume Information” on the volume that hosts the DFS Root folder, or wherever you’ve placed the replication targets. Luckily for you, I hit my head against a wall for hours on end and figured out the solution.

Step 1: Stop DFSR service (stop-service DFSR)

Step 2: Grant yourself visibility to the “System Volume Information” folder. This entails flipping the radio button in explorer to “view hidden files”, as well as unchecking the box for “hide all system protected folders”.

Step 3: Grant yourself proper permissions to the “System Volume Information” folder. Go to the root of the volume that holds the replication targets eg. D:\. You will now see a grayed-out folder with a lock on it called “System Volume Information”. Go through the normal rigamaroo to grant “Administrators” full control over the folder. You should then be able to open it up, before it would have said “Access Denied”.

Step 4: Delete or rename the “DFSR” folder inside “System Volume Information”. Unfortunately, that’s not easy. Based on what I saw, it was because the file names in the database folder exceeded the limitations of explorer ( https://thetechl33t.com/2014/04/22/varying-file-name-too-long-issues ). Here the easiest thing to use is the wonderful Robocopy /MIR! Create an empty folder in the root of the drive and copy it into the DFSR folder using the /mir flag in robocopy. This will “mirror” the source folder into the destination folder.

Now the DFSR folder should be completely empty.

 

Step 5: Start the DFS Replication service (start-service DFSR)

Step 6: Check for validating event logs.

Event 4102, DFSR 

The DFS Replication service initialized the replicated folder at local path D:\xxxxxx and is waiting to perform initial replication. The replicated folder will remain in this state until it has received replicated data, directly or indirectly, from the designated primary member.

Additional Information:
Replicated Folder Name: XXXXXXX
Replicated Folder ID: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 
Replication Group Name: XXXXX\XXXX 
Replication Group ID: XXXXXXXXXX
Member ID: XXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

Event 4412, DFSR

The DFS Replication service detected that a file was changed on multiple servers. A conflict resolution algorithm was used to determine the winning file. The losing file was moved to the Conflict and Deleted folder.

Additional Information:
Original File Path: D:\XXXXXXX
New Name in Conflict Folder: XXXXXXXXXXX
Replicated Folder Root: D:\XXXXXXXX
File ID: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Replicated Folder Name: XXXXXXXXXXXX
Replicated Folder ID: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Replication Group Name: XXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Replication Group ID: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Member ID: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

There you go! You’ve done it! Microsoft said you had to contact their support to fix it, but you crafty devil – you’ve gone and done it yourself.

I hope I’ve made your day at least a little bit easier.

Configure Server Core for IIS Remote Management

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Everyone’s familiar by now with reasons why you want to use Server Core Edition for things like IIS, DNS, etc. In a recent project I found an interesting scenario where my GUI management server couldn’t connect remotely to the IIS instance that I was running on Server 2016 Core. There are a few oddities, so I decided to blog about it – let’s get going.

TL;DR steps are as follows:

  • Install IIS Web Role
  • Install IIS Management Feature
  • Change Registry Setting for Remote Management
  • Set Management Service to start automatically
  • Connect
  • Work
  • Get a promotion
  • Get a raise
  • Get a boat

Maybe not the boat, but that’s the dream right? Anyways, here’s the nitty gritty.

 

First, we need to see if IIS is installed. Assumedly because you’re already trying to figure out how to connect to it you’ve already done this. It’s good to check anyways, just to be sure. Note that in server core it first drops you into a cmd shell. This is 2017 and everything is done in powershell now, so go ahead and launch yourself into a PS shell. Then, we’ll check if the feature is installed by running the following command

Get-WindowsFeature | Where-Object {$_.DisplayName -eq “Web Server (IIS)”}

 

Here we can see that IIS is in fact not installed, so let’s go ahead and fix that. While we install IIS, it’s also important to install the IIS Remote Management Feature as well. Otherwise, there will be no connecting remotely to the instance. I’m installing both on the same line, using the following command.

Install-WindowsFeature Web-Server, Web-Mgmt-Service

 

It shouldn’t take too long. When it’s done you’ll get your output showing it’s complete.

 

Now that everything is installed, there is actually a registry key that needs modified. RegEdit is able to launch from Server Core from the command line, and you’ll need to set the following key to “1” rather than the default setting of “0”.

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WebManagement\Server\EnableRemoteManagement

 

Right, now we’ve got the settings in place. Unfortunately things still don’t work. That’s because the IIS Remote Management Service is disabled by default. Let’s go ahead and fix that by setting the service startup type to “automatic”, starting the service, and querying it’s state to confirm. We will do that by using the following three commands.

Set-Service WMSVC -StartupType “Automatic”

Start-Service WMSVC

Get-Service WMSVC

 

The status is now running, so we should be good to go. Let’s give it a shot by going into the GUI management server, launching the IIS console, and connecting to the server core box.

 

It will prompt you for the server name, and a user/password combo. After which, everything should be all set!

 

 

So there you have it, we’ve configured all the required settings to remotely manage IIS on server core!

I hope this makes your day at least a little bit easier.

Thanks,

Changing Azure Recovery Services Vault to LRS Storage

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Back in the classic portal with backup services it was an easy fix. Simply change the settings value of storage replication type. I’ve recently started moving my workloads to recovery serveries vaults in ARM, and noticed something peculiar. By default, the storage replication type of the vault is GRS.

 

If your needs require geographically redundant storage, that that’s perfectly fine. I however don’t have such needs, and trust in Microsoft’s ability to keep data generally available in a LRS replication topology. It should be just like it was in classic, as an option anyways, right? Strangely, the option to change the replication type for the storage configuration on the vault is grayed out.

 

 

Odd, right? I thought so, until I found this.

 

Okay, well it’s not optimal but it looks like I need to remove the backup data from the vault to change the storage replication types right? Well, I gave that a shot and no go. I had the same issue, the option was still grayed out.

I ultimately had to completely delete, and create a new recovery services vault. Once it’s initially created you can change the replication type.

 

 

Ah, finally! Then register the VM(s), run some backup jobs and voila! Confirmation that the vault is using LRS storage.

 

I hope this makes your day at least a little bit easier.

Thanks,

Explanation: F5 LTM Full-Proxy Architecture && SSL Bridging

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The concept of a full-proxy architecture, along with SSL Bridging has seemed to confuse a good majority of people to whom I’ve attempted to explain. In that light, here we go. I could write a long drawn-out explanation of this process (and will, if requested) but most folks reading this want a quick answer. Let’s proceed.

A few things to note:

  • “Full Proxy Architecture”, this means that clients or servers on either side of the F5 never talk to each other. The client thinks the F5’s endpoint (iApp) is the server, and the server thinks the F5 is the client. They never talk to each other.
  • “SSL Bridging”, this means Client -> F5 is encrypted, then decrypted for processing, then re-encrypted, and F5 -> server is encrypted.
  • “F5” is actually a company name, this products have many other names, such as F5 BIG-IP LTM ADC.
  •  It is a networking device, not a server, you can’t RDP to it like some people have assumed (although you can SSH into the management system and the TMSH data plane).

There is typically some confusion around what certs are on what box and whether or not they match. If they use the F5, the answer is – it doesn’t matter. They ONLY need to care about, and trust the cert that’s applied by the SSL Bridging profile attached the iApp that corresponds with the endpoint for that app. In the example I’ve drawn below (thanks to a fancy bright-link board) I show that the source client (which can be a server if you want), the F5, and the destination server all have different certs. Though, again all that matters to the anyone besides the F5 is the cert that the F5 uses. Note that the steps are numbered in green.

 

I hope this makes your day at least a little bit easier.

Thanks,