Category Archives: Azure Backup

OMS and System Center: What's New in June 2018

In June have been announced, by Microsoft, a considerable number of news about Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. Our community, through these articles released monthly, aims to provide a general overview of the main new features of the month, in order to stay up to date on these arguments and have the necessary references for further information.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Log Analytics

Recently it was officially announced that the OMS portal will be deprecated, in favour of the Azure Portal. In this article are examined the aspects related to this change and what you should know to avoid being caught unprepared.

Figure 1 - Notifications in the OMS portal

Azure Backup

Azure Backup is enriched with an important new feature that allows you to natively protect SQL workload, running in IaaS virtual machines that reside in Azure. In this article are showed the benefits and the characteristics of this new feature.

Figure 2 – Protection of SQL Server on Azure VMs with Azure Backup

Released an updated version of the’Azure Backup agent (MARS), which can be obtained by accessing this link.

Using Azure Backup there is the possibility of generating the reports needed to be able to easily check the status of resource protection, details on the different backup jobs configured, the actual storage utilization and status of its alert. All this is made possible by using Power BI, allowing you to have a high degree of flexibility in the generation and customization of reports. In this video, recently published, there is show how to configure a Power BI workspace for sharing reports of Azure Backup within your organization. To analyze the steps required to configure the reporting of Azure Backup you can refer this article.

Figure 3 – Sharing PowerBI reports of Azure Backup

Azure Backup introduces the ability to protect workloads running on Azure Stack environment. The tenant who use the Azure Stack solution can then have a short term protection directly on the Azure Stack environment and can make use of Azure Recovery Service vault for long term retention and to perform offsite. For more details on this you can consult therelease announcement.

Figure 4 – Azure Stack Tenant backup with Microsoft Azure Backup Server

Azure Site Recovery

In Azure Site Recovery (ASR) was announced in "general availability (GA)" the ability to configure the Disaster Recovery (DR) of Azure Virtual Machines. Configuring the replication of virtual machines in different regions of Azure, you have the ability to make applications resilient to a fault affecting a specific Azure region. This feature is available in all the Azure regions where you can use ASR. Azure is the first public cloud to offer a native solution for Disaster Recovery for applications that run in IaaS.

During the preview, Microsoft has taken into account the different feedback from the customers and added to the solution, the following import capabilities:

We highlight these useful references regarding this solution:

Security and Audit

The solution Azure Network Security Group Analytics will be replaced by Traffic Analytics that was released in General availability (GA). This solution, fully cloud-based, allows you to have an overall visibility on network activities that are undertaken in the cloud environment. For more details about you can see "How to monitor network activities in Azure with Traffic Analytics"

System Center

System Center Data Protectrion Manager

In environments where System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) is connected to Azure Backup service was introduced the ability to view all the items protected, details on the use of storage and information about the recovery points, direct from the Azure Portal, within the Recovery Service vault. This feature is supported for SCDPM 2012 R2, 2016 and for Azure Backup Server v1 and v2, as long as you have the latest version of Azure Backup Agent (MARS).

Figure 5 – Information from DPM outlined in Recovery Service vault

System Center Configuration Manager

It is usually released a technical preview per month in Configuration Manager, but this month, due to the considerable number of new features, they were released two.

The first is the version 1806 for the Technical Preview branch of System Center Configuration Manager. The main innovation introduced by this update is the addition of support for third-party software update catalogs. From the Configuration Manager console, you can easily subscribe to third-party software update catalogs, then publish updates via Software Update Point. These updates will be issued to the client by using the classic method of Configuration Manager to deploy software update.

Figure 6 – Access to third-party software update catalogs from the SCCM console

In addition to this new feature were released updates on:

  • Sync MDM policy from Microsoft Intune for a co-managed device
  • Office 365 workload transition in co-management
  • Configure Windows Defender SmartScreen settings for Microsoft Edge
  • Improvements to the Surface dashboard
  • Office Customization Tool integration with the Office 365 Installer
  • Content from cloud management gateway
  • Simplified client bootstrap command line
  • Software Center infrastructure improvements
  • Removed Network Access Account (NAA) requirement for OSD Boot Media
  • Removed Network Access Account (NAA) requirement for Task Sequences
  • Package Conversion Manager
  • Deploy updates without content
  • Currently logged on user information is shown in the console
  • Provision Windows app packages for all users on a device

The second is the version 1806.2 for the Technical Preview branch of System Center Configuration Manager, that mainly includes the following news related to the Phased deployment:

  • Ability to monitor the status natively, from the Deployments node.
  • Ability to create Phased deployment of applications and not just for task sequences.
  • Ability to carry out a gradual rollout during the deployment phase.

Also this preview contains updates regarding:

  • Management Insights for proactive maintenance
  • Mobile apps for co-managed devices
  • Support for new Windows app package formats
  • New boundary group options for optimized P2P behaviors
  • Third-party software updates support for custom catalogs
  • Compliance 9 – Overall health and compliance (Report)

Please note that the releases in the Technical Preview Branch help you evaluate the new features of SCCM and it is recommended to apply these updates only in test environments.

System Center Operations Manager

Released an updated version of the Management Pack for OS Windows Server 2016 and 1709 Plus which includes several updates and issues resolutions. For further information you can consult this article.

Released the version 8.2 of the MP Author that includes several improvements. For a list of what's new in this version you can see theofficial announcement of the release.

Evaluation of OMS and System Center

Please remember that in order to test and evaluate for free Operations Management Suite (OMS) you can access this page and select the mode that is most appropriate for your needs.

To test the various components of System Center 2016 you can access theEvaluation Center and after the registration you can start the trial period.

Azure Backup: the protection of SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machines

Azure Backup is enriched with an important new feature that allows you to natively protect SQL workload, running in IaaS virtual machines that reside in Azure. In this article we will explore the benefits and the characteristics of this new feature.

Figure 1 - Protection with Azure backups of SQL Server in Azure VMs

Azure Backup has always been with an approach cloud-first allowing you to protect your systems quickly, safe and effective. The SQL Server protection in Azure IaaS virtual machines provides the only solution of its kind, characterised by the following elements:

  • Zero-backup infrastructure: you do not need to maintain a classic backup infrastructure, composed from the backup server, by various agents installed on systems and storage that host backups. In addition, nor is it required to use backup scripts, often needed in other backup solutions, to protect SQL Server.
  • Monitor backups by Recovery Services Vault: Using the dashboard, you can easily and intuitively monitor various backup jobs for all types of workloads protected: Azure IaaS VMs, Azure Files and SQL server databases. You can also set up email notifications against unsuccessful backup or restore.
  • Centralized management: you have the option to configure common protection policy, usable for databases residing on separate servers, where is defined the scheduling and the retention for short-term and long-term backup.
  • Restore DB to a precise date and time: an intuitive graphical interface allows the operator to restore the most appropriate recovery point for the selected date. Azure Backup will take care of managing the restoration of full backups, differential and log backup chain in order to get the database at the selected time.
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of 15 minutes: You can back up the transaction log every 15 minutes.
  • Pay as you go service (PAYG): billing takes place monthly on the basis of consumption and there are no upfront costs for the service.
  • Native integration with SQL Server APIs: Azure Backup invokes the native APIs of the solution to ensure a high efficiency and reliability of the operations performed. Backup jobs can be viewed using SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).
  • Support for Always On Availability Group: the solution is able to back up databases that reside within an Availability Group (AG), ensuring the protection in case of failover events, honoring the preference backup set at the AG level.

This new feature supports the following versions of the operating system and SQL Server, independently that are VMs are generated by a marketplace image or less (SQL Server installation done manually).

Supported operating systems

  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016

Linux, at the moment, is not supported.

Supported SQL Server VersionsEditions

  • SQL 2012 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Developer, Express
  • SQL 2014 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Developer, Express
  • SQL 2016 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Developer, Express
  • SQL 2017 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Developer, Express

To take advantage of this feature, the following requirements must be met:

  • Have a Recovery Services vault in the same region where resides the Azure virtual machine hosting SQL databases to be protected.
  • The virtual machine with SQL Server need connectivity to Azure public IPs.
  • On the virtual machine that holds the databases to be protected must be present specific settings. Azure Backup requires the presence of the VM extension AzureBackupWindowsWorkload. This extension is installed in the virtual machine during the process of discovery and enables communication with Azure Backup. The extension installation involves the creation in the VM, by Azure Backup, of the Windows virtual service account named NT Service AzureWLBackupPluginSvc. This virtual service account needs permissions of log in and sysadmin on SQL side, to protect your databases.

To enable the backup of SQL workloads in virtual machine in Azure it is necessary to carry out a process of discovery and later you can configure the protection.

Discovery process

This paragraph shows the procedure to be followed, by accessing the Azure Portal, to enable discovery of databases:

Figure 2 – Initiation of the discovery process

Figure 3 – Discovery in progress

Figure 4 – Discovery of DBs on selected systems

 

Configuring SQL backup

After the discovery phase of the the databases you can proceed with the configuration of SQL Server backup.

Figure 5 - Start the backup configuration, post DBs discovery inside the VMs

Figure 6 – Selection of DBs to be protected

Figure 7 – Creation of the policy that defines the type of SQL backup and data retention

Figure 8 – Enabling backup

 

Backup monitor and restore process

Figure 9 – Dashboard of the Recovery Service vault

Figure 10 - Number of backup items of SQL in Azure VMs

Figure 11 – SQL backup status

By selecting the single DB you can start the restore process.

Figure 12 - Starting the restore process of the DB

Figure 13 – Selecting the destination where to restore the DB

Figure 14 – Selecting the restore point to use

Figure 15 – Restore settings and directories where to place the files

Figure 16 – Starting the restore job

 

The Cost of the Solution

The cost for the protection of SQL Server in Azure Backup is calculated on the number of instances protected (individual Azure VMs or Availability Groups). The cost of a single protected instance depends on the size, which is determined by the overall size of the various protected DBs (without considering the amount of compression and encryption). At this cost it has to be added the cost of Azure storage actually consumed. This is Block Blob Storage including locally redundant storage (LRS) or geo-redundant storage (GRS). For more details on costs please visit the Microsoft's official page.

 

Conclusions

Azure Backup is enhanced with an important feature and confirms to be a great enterprise solution for systems protection, wherever they are. With this feature, Azure differs from any other public cloud, providing a solution for the protection of SQL Server in IaaS virtual machines, totally integrated into the platform. For more information on Azure Backup solution you can consult the official documentation.

OMS and System Center: What's New in May 2018

Compared to what we were used to seeing in recent months, in the month of may, have been announced by Microsoft a few news about Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. This article will summarize bringing the references needed to conduct further studies.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Log Analytics

Microsoft announced the retirement, starting from 8 June 2018, of the following solutions:

This means that, as of this date, you can no longer add this solutions in the Log Analytics workspaces. For those who are currently using it, is appropriate to consider that the solution will still work, but will be missing its support and will not be released new updates.

In this article are reported some important recommendations that should be followed when using the operators "Summarize" and "Join" in Log Analytics and Application Insights query. It is recommended to adjust the syntax of any existing query, using these operators, to comply with the specifications given in the article.

Security and Audit

It should be noted this interesting article where it is shown how you can detect and investigate unusual and potentially malicious activities using Azure Log Analytics and Security Center.

Azure Site Recovery

Microsoft has announced that the following versions of the REST API of Azure Site Recovery will be deprecated since 31 July 2018:

  • 2014-10-27
  • 2015-02-10
  • 2015-04-10
  • 2015-06-10
  • 2015-08-10

You will need to use at least version API 2016-08-10 to interface with Azure Site Recovery. This type of change has no impact on the portal of Azure Site Recovery and to the solution access via PowerShell.

System Center

System Center Orchestrator

The Integration Packs of Orchestrator, version 7.3 for System Center 2016, have been released.
The download can be done at this link and includes the following components:

  • System Center 2016 Integration Pack for System Center 2016 Configuration Manager.
  • System Center 2016 Integration Pack for System Center 2016 Data Protection Manager.
  • System Center 2016 Integration Pack for System Center 2016 Operations Manager.
  • System Center 2016 Integration Pack for System Center 2016 Service Manager.
  • System Center 2016 Integration Pack for System Center 2016 Virtual Machine Manager.

These Integration Packs allow you to develop automation, interfacing directly with the other components of System Center. The Integration Pack for System Center 2016 Operations Manager has been revised to require no more the presence of the Operations Manager console to function correctly.

System Center Operations Manager

Following, are updates released for Operations Manager Management Packs:

  • Active Directory Federation Services version 10.0.1.0
  • Active Directory Federation Services 2012 R2 version 7.1.10100.1

System Center Service Management Automation

Service Management Automation sees the release ofUpdate Rollup 5. Among the issues addressed are:

  • Runbooks that, using cmdlets of System Center 2016 Service Manager, fail with the error "MissingMethodException".
  • Runbooks that fail with the exception "unauthorized access".

Improvements have also been made in the debug logging.

To see the complete list of issues and the details on how to upgrade, you can access to the specific knowledge base.

 

Evaluation of OMS and System Center

Please remember that in order to test and evaluate for free Operations Management Suite (OMS) you can access this page and select the mode that is most appropriate for your needs.

To test the various components of System Center 2016 you can access theEvaluation Center and after the registration you can start the trial period.

Azure Backup: as the solution evolves

Microsoft recently announced important news regarding the protection of virtual machines using Azure Backup. Thanks to an update of the backup stack you can get consistent improvements that make the solution more powerful and extend the potential. In this article will be investigated the benefits obtained by the update and will be examined the steps to switch to the new backup stack.

Features introduced by the new backup stack

Instant Recovery points and performance improvements

The Azure Backup job for the protection of virtual machines can be divided into two distinct phases:

  1. Creating a snapshot of the VM.
  2. Snapshot transfer to a Recovery Service vault.

Figure 1 - Steps of the backup job

Updating the backup stack, the recovery point is made available immediately after you create the virtual machine snapshot (Phase 1), and it is usable for restore operations according to the known methods. Unlike before that it was possible to use it only at the end of phase 2. From the Azure portal it is possible to distinguish the type of recovery point, as at the end of phase 1, the recovery point type is defined as "snapshots", while at the end of the snapshot transfer to the backup vault, the recovery point type is marked as "snapshot and vault".

The snapshots created during the backup process are maintained for 7 days. With this change are reduced considerably the execution time of the restore, carried out using the snapshots, which can be used in the same way to the checkpoint created by Hyper-V or VMware.

Support for large disks

The new backup stack also allows you to protect disks of size up to 4TB, both typologies: managed and unmanaged. Previously the limit in the maximum size of protected disks was 1 TB.

Distribution of disks during the recovery of virtual machines

After the upgrade of the backup stack you have the option to choose where to place the disks unmanaged of the virtual machines during the restore process. This reduces the configurations that would be necessary, post restore activities, putting all disks within the same storage account.

The Upgrade process

In order to enjoy the benefits introduced by the new backup stack you must manually upgrade your subscription which owns the Recovery Service Vault in the manner later described.

Consideration Pre-Upgrade

Before dealing with the upgrade of the stack you should consider the following aspects:

  • Since the upgrade is enabled at the Azure subscription level, the method of performing backups is changed for all protected virtual machines, present in the specific subscription. In the future it will be possible to have more granular control of this upgrade process.
  • The snapshots are saved locally to speed up the process of creation of the recovery point and to increase the speed of the restore processes. This means that there will be costs for the storage used by the snapshots preserved for 7 days.
  • The incremental snapshots are saved as page blob. For those who use managed disks there are no additional costs, while those using unmanaged disks must also consider the cost of the saved snapshots (during the 7 days) in the local storage account.
  • In the event of restore of a premium VM, starting from a snapshot recovery point, will be present, when creating the VM performed by the restore process, a temporary storage location.
  • For premium storage account you need to consider an allocation of 10 TB, for snapshots created for the purpose of instant recovery.

How to upgrade

The upgrade can be performed directly from the Azure portal or through PowerShell commands.

By accessing the Recovery Service vault from Azure portal, a notification will appear which indicates the ability to perform the backup stack upgrade.

Figure 2 – Backup stack upgrade notification

Selecting the notification the following message will appear that allows you to start the upgrade process.

Figure 3 - Launch of the backup stack upgrade process

The same operation can be performed using the following Powershell commands:

Figure 4 – Powershell commands to register the subscription to the upgrade process

Upgrade backup stack generally takes several minutes (maximum two hours), but it has no impact on scheduled backups.

Considerations

This major update of the Azure Backup stack shows that the solution is evolving to expand its capabilities and to ensure higher performance levels. To make a contribution with new ideas or vote the features that are considered most important for Azure Backup you can access this page. For more details on Azure Backup you can see the Microsoft's official documentation.

OMS and System Center: What's New in April 2018

Microsoft announces constantly news about Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. Our community releases this summary monthly, allowing you to have a general overview of the main new features of the month, in order to stay up to date on these arguments and have the necessary references to conduct any insights.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Log Analytics

Microsoft has decided to extend the Alerts in Log Analytics from OMS to the Azure Portal, centralizing on Azure Monitor. This process will be done automatically starting from 14 May 2018 (the date has been postponed, Initially it was planned for 23 April), will not result in any change to the configuration of Alerts and related queries, and it does not foresee any downtime for its implementation. For further details please consult the specific article “The extension of Log Analytics Alerts in Azure Monitor“.

Figure 1 – Notification of alerts extension in the OMS portal

To avoid situations where, the resources managed in Log Analytics may send in an unexpected way a high volume of data to the OMS Workspace, is introduced the ability to set a Daily Volume cap. This allows you to limit the data ingestion for your workspace. You can configure the Data volume cap in all regions, accessing to the section Usage and estimated costs:

Figure 2 – Setting the Daily volume cap

The portal also shows the trend of the volume of data in the last 31 days and the total volume of data, grouped by solution:

Figure 3 – Data ingestion for solution (latest 31 days and total)

Log Search API usage, used by the old Log Analytics query language, has been deprecated since 30 April 2018. The Log Search API has been replaced with theAzure Log Analytics REST API, which supports the new query language and introduces greater scalability than the results you can return. For more details on this you can consult theofficial announcement.

Agent

This month the new version ofOMS agent for Linux systems resolves a significant number of bugs and introduces new versions of the various components. It also introduced support for Debian 9, AWS 2017 and Open SSL 1.1. To obtain the updated version of the OMS agent you can access to the official GitHub page OMS Agent for Linux Patch v 1.6.0-42.

Figure 4 – Bug fixes and what's new for the OMS agent for Linux

Azure Backup

As for Azure Backup, have been announced the following improvements in service scalability:

  • Ability to create up to 500 recovery services vaults in every subscription for region (previously the limit was 25).
  • The number of virtual machines that can be registered in each vault is increased to 1000 (it was previously 200).

Azure Backup, for the protection of Azure Iaas VM, now supports the storage account secured using storage firewalls and Virtual Networks. More details about this can be found on Microsoft's official blog.

Figure 5 - Protection of Azure Iaas VM in storage protected scenarios

There are different rules to enable the long-term backup for Azure SQL Database . The procedure, to keep the backup of Azure SQL DB up to 10 years, expected saving in an Azure Recovery Vault Service. By introducing this new feature, you have the option to keep the long-term backup directly within an Azure Blob Storage and will terminate the need for a Recovery Vault Service. All this gives you more flexibility and greater control of costs. For more details about it you can see the article SQL Database: Long-term backup retention preview includes major updates.

System Center

System Center Configuration Manager

For System Center Configuration Manager has been released the version 1804 for the Technical Preview branch. In addition to general improvements in the solution this update introduce new features concerning the OSD, the Software Center and the Configuration Manager infrastructure. All the new features included in this update can be found in the article Update 1804 for Configuration Manager Technical Preview Branch. Please note that the releases in the Technical Preview Branch help you evaluate the new features of SCCM and it is recommended to apply these updates only in test environments.

System Center Operations Manager

Microsoft has released theUpdate Rollup 5 (UR5) for System Center 2016 Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC). This update does not introduce new features, but fixes several bugs.

Following, are the references, about this update, for each System Center product:

There are no updates regarding Service Provider Foundation.

System Center Operations Manager 1801 introduces support for Kerberos authentication when the protocol WS-Management is used from the management server for the communication with UNIX and Linux systems. This allows you to have a higher level of security, eliminating the need to enable basic authentication for Windows Remote Management (WinRM).

Also in System Center Operations Manager 1801 introduces the following improvements on the management of the Linux log file monitor:

  • Support for Wild Card characters in the name and path of the log file.
  • Support for new match patterns that allow customized searches of log.
  • Support for pluging Fluentd published by fluentd community.

Below there are the news concerning the Management Pack of SCOM:

  • MP for Windows Server Operating System 2016 and 1709 Plus 10.0.19.0
  • MP for SQL Server 2008-2012 7.0.4.0
  • MP for SQL Server 2014 7.0.4.0
  • MP for SQL Server 2016 7.0.4.0
  • MP for Microsoft SQL Azure Database 7.0.4.0
  • MP for SQL Server Dashboards 7.0.4.0
  • MP for UNIX and Linux 7.6.1085.0

Evaluation of OMS and System Center

Please remember that in order to test and evaluate for free Operations Management Suite (OMS) you can access this page and select the mode that is most appropriate for your needs.

To test the various components of System Center 2016 you can access theEvaluation Center and after the registration you can start the trial period.

OMS and System Center: What's New in March 2018

In March there have been several news announced by Microsoft on Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. In this series of articles, which we make with monthly basis, are listed all the main innovations of the current month, accompanied by the necessary references to be able to conduct further studies.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Azure Automation

In Azure Automation new features have been officially released that allow you to:

  • Manage the distribution of updates (Update management).
  • Collect inventory information about the applications installed on systems (Inventory).
  • Track changes made on the machines (Change tracking).

The our article, posted in recent months, shows how to configure the Azure Automation Account to take advantage of these new features and reports the key features.

Figure 1 – Related solutions in Log Analytics


Azure Backup

Azure Backup introduces several new features that address the following aspects:

  • Large disk support: ability to protect disks of size up to 4 TB, both typologies: managed and unmanaged. The limit was previously of 1 TB.
  • Backup and Restore performance improvements: to reduce the execution time of the backup and restore will be retained snapshots, performed during the backup process, for 7 days.
  • Instant recovery point: the recovery point is made available instantly at the moment of creation of the snapshot made by the backup job, in a similar way to the checkpoint created by Hyper-V or VMware.
  • Distribute the disks of restored VM: during the restore process you are given the opportunity to choose where to place the disks unmanaged of virtual machines. This reduces the configurations, post restore activities, that would be required putting all disks within the same storage account .

To take advantage of these improvements you need to upgrade your subscription which owns the Recovery Service Vaults. The upgrade can be performed directly from the Azure Portal (there will be an appropriate notification in the dashboard of the Recovery Service vault ) or via PowerShell commands. For further information you can consult theMicrosoft's official announcement.

Figure 2 – Subscription upgrade process at the new stack

Microsoft has also announced that the Azure Backup service is now also available in the regions of Azure France (France Central and France South).

 

System Center

Microsoft has officialized the release of Windows Server 2019 which will be available to the public in the second half of 2018. In the same time will be made available System Center 2019 and it will have full support for Windows Server 2019 from the very first day of release.

System Center Configuration Manager

During the month has been released the version 1802 for the Current Branch (CB) of System Center Configuration Manager that introduces new features and major improvements in the product.

This summarizes the areas impacted by this update:

Modern Management

  • Endpoint Protection workload transition in co-management
  • Management insights
  • Co-management reporting

Figure 3 – Co-management reporting

Microsoft 365 Adoption

  • Phased deployments
  • Windows AutoPilot Device Information report
  • Support for Windows 10 ARM64 devices
  • Surface Device Dashboard
  • Microsoft Edge browser policies
  • Report to show default browser for client machines
  • Windows 10 Servicing for a specific collection report
  • Improvements to Office 365 client management dashboard
  • Improvements for Windows Defender Exploit Guard
  • New settings for Windows Defender Application Guard

Streamlined Infrastructure

  • Configure Windows 10 Delivery Optimization to use Configuration Manager boundary groups
  • Add management points to your boundary group fallback relationships
  • Moving Distribution Points between sites

Improvements in Cloud Management Gateway

  • Cloud management gateway support for Azure Resource Manager
  • Install user-available applications on Azure AD-joined devices
  • Windows 10 in-place upgrade task sequence over the Internet

Improvements in Software Center

  • Approve application requests for users per device
  • Improvements to client settings for Software Center

Improvements in OSD

  • Improvements to Windows 10 in-place upgrade task sequence
  • Deployment Template for Task Sequences

Miscellaneous Improvements

  • Support for hardware inventory strings greater than 255 characters in length
  • Run scripts

Figure 4 – Run Script status

To see the complete list of new features and to get more details about it you can access the Microsoft's official documentation.

The update will be made available globally in recent weeks and will be displayed in the node "Updates and Servicing" in the SCCM console. To force the availability of this update you can use this PowerShell script.

For System Center Configuration Manager has been released the version 1803 for the Technical Preview branch. In addition to general improvements in the solution are introduced useful changes that can improve the Configuration Manager infrastructure. In addition, interesting improvements have been made to the Software Center. All the new features included in this update can be found in the article Update 1803 for Configuration Manager Technical Preview Branch.

Please note that the releases in the Technical Preview Branch help you evaluate the new features of SCCM and it is recommended to apply these updates only in test environments.

System Center Updates Publisher

System Center Updates Publisher (SCUP) is the Microsoft solution that allows you to manage custom third-party update. This month a new version of SCUP has been officially released and can be downloaded at this link. The new release introduces support for Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016. All details about this release can be found in the’official announcement.

System Center Operations Manager

Following, are reported the news about Management Packs of SCOM:

Evaluation of OMS and System Center

Please remember that in order to test and evaluate for free Operations Management Suite (OMS) you can access this page and select the mode that is most appropriate for your needs.

To try System Center products you can access to the’Evaluation Center and after the registration you can start the trial period.

OMS and System Center: What's New in February 2018

The month of February was full of news and there are different updates that affected Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. This article summarizes in concise terms to have a global vision and it contains the necessary references to learn more about it.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Log Analytics

Everyone who uses Azure ExpressRoute will be glad to know that you can now monitor it by using the Network Performance Monitor (NPM). This feature has been in previews for a few months and has now passed in the state of general availability. Among the features of this monitor solution we find:

  • Ability to view interactively, using the topology view of NPM, the various components (network on-premises, circuit provider edge, circuit ExpressRoute, edge Microsoft, and the Azure VMs) and latency measured in each hop. This allows you to easily identify any performance issues in connectivity and quickly locate the problematic segment of communication.
  • Ability to view the bandwidth usage of primary and secondary ExpressRoute circuit . Thanks to drill-down is also possible to intercept the bandwidth usage for each vNet connected to the ExpressRoute circuit.
  • Ability to create queries and custom views thanks to the fact that all details of the solution are available in the repository of Log Analytics and therefore you can use the native search functionality and correlation to suit your needs.
  • Ability to diagnose various problems of connectivity present in ExpressRoute circuit .

Figure 1 – Azure ExpressRoute Monitoring

For more information about how to configure the ExpressRoute monitor with NPM please visit the Microsoft's official documentation.

Also in Network Performance Monitor (NPM) was introduced the Service Endpoint Monitor with the integration into the monitor and into the performance of your application also of the performance end-to-end of the network. This feature allows you to create different types of tests (HTTP, HTTPS, TCP and ICMP), that must be carried out in key points of the network infrastructure, so you can quickly identify whether the problem encountered is related to the network or is related to the application. Through the use of the network topology map the problem and its nature is easily locatable. This is a feature in public preview whose characteristics are described in detail in this article.

Agent

This month the new version ofOMS agent for Linux systems fixes some bugs and also introduces an updated version of the components SCX and OMI. To obtain the updated version of the OMS agent you can access to the official GitHub page OMS Agent for Linux Patch v 1.4.4-210.

Figure 2 – Bug fixes and what's new for the OMS agent for Linux

Azure Backup

In this article is described how to build the solution of monitor in Log Analytics for Azure Backup. With this monitor solution, you can control the main aspects of Azure Backup as the backup and restore jobs, backup alert and use of cloud storage. You can do all cross Recovery Service vault and cross subscription, being able to take advantage of the features built into Log Analytics, such as the automated opening of ticket via webhooks or through integration with ITSM. It is a community solution, and each contributed is obviously welcome.

For Azure Backup was announced (in general availability) the possibility of creating consistent backups at the application layer for Linux virtual machines running on Azure. On Windows systems this is done using the VSS component, while for Linux VM it is made available one scripting framework through which you can run the pre-scripts and post-scripts to control the backup execution.

Figure 3 – Mechanism for realization of backup application consistent in VMs Linux on Azure

For more details on this you can consult theofficial announcement, while for more information about Linux virtual machine protection in Microsoft Azure, using Azure Backup, you can view the article: Azure Backup: the protection of Linux on Azure.

Azure Backup introduces the ability to protect natively Azure File Shares. This feature is currently in Public Preview and the main features are:

  • Chance, accessing Recovery Service vault, to make the discovery of storage acccount and detect files shares unprotected.
  • Large-scale protection: there is the possibility to back up multiple file shares contained in a storage account and apply a common security policy.
  • Instant and granular restore. The protection is based on file share snapshots and this allows you to quickly restore files selectively.
  • From the Azure portal you can explore the different restore point available to easily identify which files to restore.

Figure 4 – Backup of Azure File Shares

For further information you can consult theofficial announcement.

This month has been released a Mandatory Update for the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services agent (MARS). For all those who use Azure Backup you must install this update as soon as possible to avoid failures in backup and recovery tasks.

Azure Site Recovery

In Azure Site Recovery was made available a wait functionality, that allows to protect virtual machines having managed disk, in the replication scenario between different Azure regions, allowing greater flexibility for Disaster Recovery scenarios with systems in Azure.

Figure 5 – Enabling replication of a VM with Managed Disks

System Center

As announced in the last few months and as is already the case for the operating system and Configuration Manager, also the others System Center products, in particular, Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, and Data Protection Manager will follow a release of updated versions every 6 months (semi-annual channel). This month there was the first release with the version 1801 of System Center.

Figure 6 – Summary of what's new in version 1801 of System Center

To know the details of what is new in this release, please consult the official announcement. Please remember that for belonging to the semi-annual channel support is guaranteed 18 months.

System Center Configuration Manager

Released the version 1802 for the branch Technical Preview of System Center Configuration Manager: Update 1802 for Configuration Manager Technical Preview Branch.

This release introduces a considerable number of innovations on different areas, including: OSD, Cloud Management Gateway, features of Windows 10 and Office 365, Software Center and Site Server High Availability.

Please note that the releases in the Technical Preview Branch help you evaluate the new features of SCCM and it is recommended to apply these updates only in test environments.

System Center Operations Manager

The feature called "Updates and Recommendations", introduced in SCOM 2016 for Management Packs from Microsoft, is useful to facilitate the process of discovery of appropriate MPs to monitor different workloads present in your infrastructure and keep them updated. This feature is enabled by well over 110 Microsoft workloads. Microsoft announced that it is extending this feature also for MPs produced and offered by third parties. In release 1801 of Operations Manager are currently covered MPs of the following external partners:

Figure 7 – Feature Updates and Recommendations with MPs of partners

As a result of the release of version 1801 of System Center were also made available the following new SCOM Management Packs:

System Center Service Manager

Released an new version of the Service Manager Authoring Tool.

Evaluation of OMS and System Center

Please remember that in order to test and evaluate for free Operations Management Suite (OMS) you can access this page and select the mode that is most appropriate for your needs.

To test the various components of System Center 2016 you can access theEvaluation Center and, after registering, you can start the trial period.

Azure Backup: the protection of Linux on Azure

Azure Backup is a Microsoft cloud-based data protection solution that, making available several components, allows you to back up your data, regardless of their geographical location (on-premises or in the cloud) toward a Recovery Service vault in Azure. This article will examine the main aspects concerning the protection of Linux virtual machines present in Microsoft Azure, using Azure Backup.

In the security scenario of Azure Iaas virtual machines (Infrastructure as a Service) do not need any backup server, but the solution is completely integrated into the Azure fabric and are supported all Linux distributions approved to run in Azure environment, with the exception of Core OS. The protection of other Linux distributions is also allowed provided that there is the possibility to install the virtual machine VM agent and there is support for Python.

How Azure back up Linux VM

On Linux systems are installed, during the execution of the first backup job, a specific extension called VMSnapshotLinux, through which Azure Backup, during job execution, pilot taking snapshots that are transferred to the Recovery Service vault.

Figure 1 – Principles of backing up Azure IaaS VM with Azure Backup

To have an effective data protection you should be able to make consistent backups at the application layer. Azure Backup by default for Linux virtual machines creates consistent backups at file system level but can also be configured to create application-consistent backup. On Windows systems this is done using the VSS component, while for Linux VM it is made available one scripting framework through which you can run the pre-scripts and post-scripts to control the backup execution.

Figure 2 – Application-consistent backups in Linux VM on Azure

Azure Backup before starting the virtual machine snapshot creation process invokes the pre-script, if this is completed successfully the snaspshot is created, at the end of which runs the post-script. The scripts are fully customizable by the user and they need to be created according to specific characteristics of the application present on the virtual machine. For more details please visit the Microsoft's official documentation.

How to enable the backup of Linux virtual machines running on Azure

Recently it has been introduced the possibility to enable from the Azure portal the protection of virtual machines already from the moment of creation:

Figure 3 - Enabling backup when creating the VM

Alternatively you can enable the protection after creating the virtual machine by selecting it from the Recovery Service vault or by accessing the blade of the VM in the section OperationsBackup. From the same panel, you can view the status of backups.

File Recovery of Linux virtual machine on Azure

Azure Backup, besides the possibility to restore the entire virtual machine, also allows for Linux systems to restore individual files using the File Recovery feature. To do this you can follow these steps below.

From the Azure portal, you select the virtual machine for which you need to restore the files and in the Backup section you start the task of File Recovery:

Figure 4 - Starting the process of File Recovery

At this point will appear the panel where you must select the recovery point that you want to use for the restore operation. Then press the button Download Script which generates a script with extension .sh, and password, that is used to mount the recovery point as system's local disk.

Figure 5 – Recovery Point selection and script download

The script must be copied on the Linux machine and to do that you can use WinSCP:

Figure 6 – Copy of the script on the Linux machine

By accessing the Linux system in terminal mode, you must assign execution permission to the copied script , using the command chmod +x and then you can run the script:

Figure 7 – Script for File Recovery

At the time of the execution the script requires the password which is shown in the Azure portal and then proceed with steps for making your recovery point connection via iSCSI channel and mount it as file system.

Now you can access the mount point path which exposes the selected recovery point and restore or consult the necessary files:

Figure 8 – Access to the path of the mount point

After completing the restore operation is appropriate to make an unmount of the discs through the appropriate button from the Azure portal (in any case the connection to the mountpoint is closed forcefully after 12 hours) and you need to run the script with the parameter -clean to remove the path of the recovery point from the machine.

Figure 9 – Unmount disks and removing mount points from the machine

If in the VM for which you want to restore the files are present LVM partitions, or RAID arrays you must perform the same procedure, but on a different Linux machine to avoid conflicts in the discs.

Conclusions

Azure Backup is a fully integrated solution in the Azure fabric that allows you to protect easily and with extreme effectiveness even Linux virtual machines present on Azure. All this happens without the need to implement complex infrastructure for the data protection. Azure Backup also helps to protect many large-scale systems and to maintain a centralized control of the data protection architecture.

OMS and System Center: What's New in January 2018

The new year has begun with different ads from Microsoft regarding what's new in Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. This article summarizes briefly with the necessary references in order to learn more about.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Log Analytics

The release of theIT Service Management Connector (ITSMC) for Azure provides a bi-directional integration between Azure monitoring tools and ITSMC solutions such as: ServiceNow, Provance, Cherwell, and System Center Service Manager. With this integration you can:

  • Create or update work-items (event, alert, incident) in ITSM solutions on the basis of alerts present in Azure (Activity Log Alerts, Near real-time metric alerts and Log Analytics alerts).
  • Consolidate in Azure Log Analytics data related to Incident and Change Request.

To configure this integration you can consult the Microsoft's official documentation.

Figure 1 – ITSM Connector dashboard of the Log Analytics solution

Agent

This month the new version ofOMS agent for Linux systems fixes important bugs also introducing an updated version of the components SCX and OMI. Given the large number of bug fixes included in this release the advice is to consider the adoption of this upgrade. To obtain the updated version of the OMS agent you can access to the official GitHub page OMS Agent for Linux Patch v 1.4.3-174.

Figure 2 – Bug fixes and what's new for the OMS agent for Linux

Azure Backup

During the process of creating virtual machines from Azure portal now there is the ability to enable the protection via Azure Backup:

Figure 3 – Enabling backup while creating a VM

This ability improves in a considerable way the experience of creation of the virtual machine from the Azure Portal.

Azure Site Recovery

Azure Site Recovery allows you to handle different scenarios to implement Disaster Recovery plans, including replication of VMware virtual machines to Azure. In this context the following important changes have been introduced:

  • Release of a template in the format Open Virtualization Format (OVF) to deploy the Configuration Server. This allows you to deploy the template in your virtualization infrastructure and have a system with all the necessary software already preinstalled, with the exception of MySQL Server 5.7.20 and VMware PowerCLI 6.0, to speed up the deployment and the registration to Recovery Service Vault of the Configuration Server.
  • Introduced in Configuration Server a web portal to drive the main configuration actions necessary such as proxy server settings, details and credentials to access the vCenter server and the management of the credentials to install or update the Mobility Service on virtual machines involved in the replication process.
  • Improved the experience for deploying the Mobility Service on virtual machines. Since the 9.13.xxxx.x version of the Configuration Server would be used VMware tools to install and update the Mobility Service on all VMware virtual machines protected. This means that you no longer need to open firewall ports for WMI and for File and Printer Sharing services on Windows systems, previously used to perform the push installation of the Mobility Service.

The monitoring features included natively in Azure Site Recovery have been greatly enriched for having a complete and immediate visibility. The Panel Overview of Recovery Service Vault is now structured, for the section Site Recovery, as follows:

Figure 4 – Azure Site Recovery dashboard

These the various sections, which are updated automatically every 10 minutes:

  1. Switch between Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery dashboards
  2. Replicated Items
  3. Failover test success
  4. Configuration issues
  5. Error Summary
  6. Infrastructure view
  7. Recovery Plans
  8. Jobs

For more details on the various sections you can see the official documentation or view this short video.

Known Issues

Please note the following possible problem in the execution of backup of Linux VMs on Azure. The error code returned is UserErrorGuestAgentStatusUnavailable and you can follow this workaround to resolve the error condition.

System Center

System Center Configuration Manager

Released the version 1801 for the branch Technical Preview of System Center Configuration Manager: Update 1801 for Configuration Manager Technical Preview Branch.

Among the new features in this release there are:

  • Ability to import and run signed scripts and monitor the execution result.
  • The distribution point can be moved between different primary sites and from a secondary site to a primary site.
  • Improvement in the client settings for the Software Center, with the ability to view a preview before the deployment.
  • New settings for Windows Defender Application Guard (starting with Windows 10 version 1709).
  • Ability to view a dashboard with information about the co-management.
  • Phased Deployments.
  • Support for hardware inventory string longer than 255 characters.
  • Improvements in the scheduling of Automatic Deployment Rule.

Please note that the releases in the Technical Preview Branch help you evaluate the new features of SCCM and it is recommended to apply these updates only in test environments.

In addition to System Center Configuration Manager current branch, version 1710 was issued an update rollup that contains a large number of bug fixes.

Evaluation of OMS and System Center

Please remember that in order to test and evaluate for free Operations Management Suite (OMS) you can access this page and select the mode that is most appropriate for your needs.

To test the various components of System Center 2016 you can access to the’Evaluation Center and after the registration you can start the trial period.

OMS and System Center: What's New in December 2017

Compared to what we were used to seeing in recent months, during the month of December, also because of the holiday period, have been announced by Microsoft a few news about Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. This article will be made a summary accompanied by references required for further study.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Log Analytics

In Azure Monitor was including the ability to view and define alert of Log Analytics. This is a feature in preview that allows you to use Azure Monitor as a centralized point of management and visualization of alerts.

Figure 1- Defining a Log Analytics alert in Azure Monitor (preview)

This month the new version of the’OMS agent for Linux systems fixes in particular a major bug concerning the DSC package (omsconfig) that due to a possible hang prevents sending data to the OMS workspace. In this release, there are not new features. To obtain the updated version you can access to the official GitHub page OMS Agent for Linux Patch v 1.4.2-125.

Figure 2 – Bug Fix list for the new OMS agent for Linux

Azure Automation

In Azure Monitor, within Action Groups was introduced the possibility to define a Azure Automation Runbook as action type. It is a further integration that enables you to have an effective alerting platform to take action not only for workloads running on Azure, but independently from their location.

Figure 3 – Defining an action based on Automation Runbook

Protection and Disaster Recovery

Azure Backup introduced support for the protection of Azure virtual machines with discs, managed or unmanaged, encrypted using Bitlocker Encryption Key (BEK). This feature extends the possibilities of protection of encrypted virtual machines, already supported previously in the Bitlocker Encryption Key scenario (BEK) and Key Encryption Key (KEK), allowing to obtain with ease a high level of security in these protection scenarios. For further information you can consult theofficial announcement.

Figure 4 – Protection of VM encrypted using Bitlocker Encryption Key (BEK)

Microsoft has released Azure Site Recovery Deployment Planner a very useful tool that can be used when you plan to implement a disaster recovery plan through to Azure Azure Site Recovery (ASR). ASR Deployment Planner is able to make a detailed assessment of the on-premises environment, targeted use of ASR, and provides the necessary elements to be taken into consideration in order to contemplate effectively the various operations required by the DR plan (replica, virtual machine failover and DR-Drill). The tool works in VMware and Hyper-V also includes a cost estimate for the use of ASR and resources necessary for the protection of Azure virtual machines on-premises. This tool currently can also be useful to make the necessary assessments when you have the need to address real migration scenarios from Hyper-V to Azure. This is because the instrument Azure Migrate, designed specifically to assess migration scenarios, allows you to present to the assessment only of VMware environments. The support for Hyper-V in Azure Migrate will be introduced in the coming months. ASR Deployment Planner can be downloaded at this link and includes the following features:

  • Estimates of the network bandwidth required for the initial replication process (initial replication) and for delta replication.
  • Indicates the type of Storage (standard or premium) required for each VM.
  • Indicates the total number of storage accounts (standard and premium) required.
  • For VMware environments, indicates the number of Configuration Server and Process Server you need to implement on-premises.
  • For Hyper-V environments, provides guidance on additional storage needed on-premises.
  • For Hyper-V environments, indicates the number of VMs that can be protected in parallel (through batch) and the order to be followed in order to successfully activate the initial replication.
  • For VMware environments, specifies the number of VMs that can be protected in parallel to complete the initial replication at any given time.
  • Estimate the throughput attainable by ASR (on-premises to Azure).
  • Perform an assessment, of the supported virtual machines, providing details about the disks (number, its size and IOPS) and the type of the OS.
  • Estimate the costs of DR, for use it in a specific region of Azure.

For detailed information about using the tool you can consult the official documentation relating to the specific scenario:

Figure 5 – Sample reports generated by ASR Deployment Planner

System Center

System Center Configuration Manager

Released the version 1712 for the branch Technical Preview of System Center Configuration Manager. The new features in this update are:

  • Improvements on the Surface Device dashboard, that allows you to view the firmware version of Surface devices, as well as the version of the operating system.
  • Dashboard improvements in Office 365 client management.
  • Multiple installation of applications by accessing the Software Center.
  • Client can be configured to respond to PXE requests without adding a distribution point role (Client-based PXE).

Please note that the releases in the Technical Preview Branch help you evaluate the new features of SCCM and it is recommended to apply these updates only in test environments.

Microsoft allows you to test and evaluate for free Operations Management Suite (OMS) by accessing this page and selecting the mode you find most suitable for your needs.