Month: November 2018

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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