Category Archives: Azure Backup

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 address. 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 a new version of 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 address 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.

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

In November there have been several announcements from Microsoft concerning Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. This article will summarize briefly with the necessary references to be able to conduct further studies.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Log Analytics

As already announced since 30 October 2017 Microsoft has launched the upgrade process of the OMS workspaces not yet updated manually. In this regard has been released this useful document that shows the differences between a legacy OMS workspace and a updated OMS workspace, with references for further details.

Solutions

Those that use circuit ExpressRoute will be glad to know that Microsoft announced the ability to monitor it through Network Performance Monitor (NPM). This is a feature currently in preview that allows you to monitor connectivity and performance between the on-premises environment and vNet in Azure in the presence of ExpressRoute circuit. For more details about the features announced you can consult theofficial article.

Figure 1 – Network map showing details of ExpressRoute connectivity

Agent

As usual it was released a new version of the OMS Agent for Linux systems that now takes place on a monthly basis. This release fixes bugs related diagnostics during agents onboarding. Are not being introduced new features. To obtain the updated version please visit the official GitHub page OMS Agent for Linux Patch v 1.4.2-124.

Protection and Disaster Recovery

Azure Backup always protected backups from on-premises world toward Azure using encryption that takes place using the passphrase defined during the configuration of the solution. To protect VMs in Azure the recommendation for greater security in the backup was to use VMs with disk-encrypted. Now Azure Backup uses Storage Service Encryption (SSE) to do the encryption of backups of virtual machines on Azure, allowing to obtain in an integrated manner in the solution a mechanism for the implementation of the backup security. This also will happen to existing backup automatically and through a background task.

Microsoft, in order to bring more clarity with regard to pricing and licensing of Azure Site Recovery, updated the FAQ which you can see in the official page of pricing of the solution.

System Center

As is already the case for the operating system and System Center Configuration Manager, the other 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). The goal is to rapidly deliver new capabilities and to ensure a speedy integration with the cloud world, which is essential given the speed with which it evolves. In November was announced the System Center preview version 1711 which you can download at this address.

Figure 2 – Summary of what's new in System Center preview version 1711

To know the details of the new features in this release, please consult theofficial announcement.

System Center Configuration Manager

For System Center Configuration Manager current branch version 1706 was issued an important update rollup you should apply as it solves a lot of problems.

Released the version 1710 for the Current Branch (CB) of System Center Configuration Manager that introduces new features and major improvements in the product. Among the main innovations of this update definitely emerge the possibilities offered by the Co-management that expand the possibilities for device management using either System Center Configuration Manager and Microsoft Intune.

Figure 3 – Features and benefits of Co-management

For a complete list of new features introduced in this version of Configuration Manager, you can consult theofficial announcement.

Released the version 1711 for the Technical Preview branch of System Center Configuration Manager. The new features in this update are:

  • Improvements in the new Run Task Sequence step.
  • User interaction when installing applications in the System context even when running a task sequence.
  • New options, in the scenario of using Configuration Manager associated with Microsoft Intune, to manage compliance policy for devices Windows 10 related to Firewall, User Account Control, Windows Defender Antivirus, and OS build versioning.

I remind you that the releases in the Technical Preview Branch allows you to evaluate in preview new SCCM functionality and is recommended to apply these updates only in test environments.

Released a updated version of the Configuration Manager Client Messaging SDK.

System Center Operations Manager

Released the new wave of the SQL Server Management Packs (version 7.0.0.0):

The Management Packs for SQL Server 2017 can be used for the monitor of SQL Server 2017 and subsequent releases (version agnostic), this allows you to avoid having to manage different MPs for each version of SQL Server. The controls for versions of SQL Server earlier than 2014 are included in the generic MP "Microsoft System Center Management Pack for SQL Server".

System Center Service Manager

Microsoft has published a series of tips and best practices to be followed during Authoring Management Pack of System Center Service Manager (SCSM).

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.

Azure Backup: the System State protection in the Cloud

The ability to protect the System State of Windows Server machines directly in Azure using the Azure Backup Agent was recently included. This feature was in preview for a few months and now it is available to be used in production environments. In this article I'll show you how you can protect with Azure Backup the System State of the machines, analyzing the characteristics and the benefits brought by this new feature.

The Azure Backup Agent allows you to save files, folders and thanks to the incorporation of the System State are covered by the protection of Windows Server machines the following components:

  • Boot files, including system files, and all files protected by Windows File Protection (WFP).
  • Active Directory and Sysvol (on domain controllers).
  • The registry.
  • IIS metabase (on Web Server IIS machines): includes IIS configurations and web sites hosted by the web server.
  • Database cluster (on cluster nodes).
  • Certificate Services (on the certification authority).
  • Information about the Performance counters.
  • Component Services Class registration database.

Thanks to the incorporation of the System State, Azure Backup becomes ideal for protection strategies of Active Directory, File Server and IIS Web Server.

Figure 1 – Protection of System State in Azure

This solution is supported starting with Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows Server 2016.

To enable this type of protection is necessary to create within the subscription Azure a Recovery Service Vault, install the Azure Backup Agent on Windows Server machine and complete its registration by following the steps shown in the following diagram:

Figure 2 - Activation steps for the protection with Azure Backup

By accessing the Azure portal and selecting the Recovery Service Vault, within which you want to include the protection, in the Backup section appears the possibility of protecting the System State for workloads running On-Premises:

Figure 3 – Selection of System State as a component to be protected

By selecting the button "Prepare Infrastructure" it lists the necessary steps to protect the System State of the machines:

Figure 4 – Steps for preparing the infrastructure

From the panel above you need to download the Recovery Service Agent installation setup and the Vault credentials.

The installation of the agent (MARSAgentInstaller.exe) is very fast and consists of the following steps:

Figure 5 - Selecting the installation folder and the cache location

In the cache location it is advisable to have as free space at least 5% of protected data.

Figure 6 – Configuration of proxy system for Internet access

Figure 7 – Check the requirements and installation

Figure 8 – Initiation of the process of registration with the Recovery Service Vault

Figure 9 – Selection of login credentials to the vault

Figure 10 - Generate and save the passphrase

The Passphrase is used to encrypt and decrypt the backups, it is never sent to Azure, it is not recoverable in any way by Microsoft support personnel and it is essential to be able to perform restore operations, so you must keep it very carefully.

Figure 11 – Registration successfully

From Microsoft Azure Backup console, you can schedule a backup and for servers, in the selection of items to protect, there is the System State:

Figure 12 - Selection of the System State Protection

Figure 13 - Settings on the frequency of the backup

Figure 14 - Definition of the retention rules

Figure 15 - Final Step, activation of the System State backup

System State protection can also be automated with PowerShell. You also have the possibility to consult easily the backup jobs directly from the Azure portal, and you can configure notifications to be notified in case of failure of protection jobs.

The offsite backups is ensured with this solution without investing in infrastructure costs and saving time in operational activities. It is also good to keep in mind that the cost of this solution are really beneficial, in fact, typically the size of the System State for a single machine is significantly less than 50 GB then the System State protection pricing level falls within the lower cost band specified for the instances protected with Azure Backup. For more details on the cost of the solution you can consult the Azure Backup pricing page. No cost for any restore operations is also required.

Conclusions

The System State for Windows Server machines is a critical component that should be saved for a proper and effective strategy to protect its infrastructure. Azure Backup due to its defined approach cloud-first extend their potential enabling you to protect the System State of the machines easily, securely and with low costs. To try Azure Backup and other Azure services you can create a Azure free Account.

Azure Backup Server v2 in Windows Server 2016

Azure Backup Server is a solution available on the market since October 2015 and in the spring of this year has been released the second version of the product, named Azure Backup Server v2 (MABS v2), that supports installation on Windows Server 2016. Actually Azure Backup Server has inherited the same capabilities of System Center Data Protection Manager, with the substantial difference that does not support backup to tape. Using Azure Backup Server v2 implemented on Windows Server 2016 allows the use of Modern Backup Storage that guarantees, thanks to the new technologies introduced in Windows Server 2016, to improve the performance of backups, to reduce the occupation of storage and to increase the resilience and safety with regard to the protection of virtual machines. This article describes how to implement Azure Backup Server v2 and contains the instructions to follow to take advantage of the benefits through native integration with Windows Server 2016.

Installation requirements

Deploy Azure Backup Server v2 (MABS v2) can be performed on a standalone physical server , on a virtual machine in VMWare or Hyper-V or on a virtual machine hosted on Azure.

The operating system can be Windows Server 2012 R2, but it is recommended Windows Server 2016 in order to benefit from the advantages of Modern Backup Storage. The machine must be joined to an Active Directory domain and should have the ability to access in Internet to Microsoft Azure even if you decide not to send the protected data to the cloud.

Regarding hardware specs Microsoft recommends the following.

Processor
Minimum: 1 GHz, dual-core CPU.
Recommended: 2.33 GHz, Quad-core CPU.

RAM
Minimum: 4 GB.
Recommended: 8 GB.

Disk space
Software installation: recommended about 8-10 GB.
Storage Pools: 1.5 times the data you wish to protect.
Scratch Location: at least the 5% of the total space of the protected data in the cloud.

With regard to the software requirements you must install Microsoft .Net 3.5 SP1, Microsoft .Net 4.6 and Hyper-V Powershell modules.

Finally you need to create on its own subscription Azure a Recovery Service Vault, which will be associated with the Azure Backup Server. The setup of Azure Backup Server will require the Vault credentials which can be downloaded by accessing the properties from the Azure Portal:

Figure 1 – Backup Download Credentials

 

Installation procedure

The download of the installation setup of Azure Backup Server v2 can be started directly by accessing this Microsoft page. After the download of different files you need to run the executable MicrosoftAzureBackupServerInstaller.exe to extract installer binaries in a single folder. Inside the chosen folder, you can run the Setup.exe file to start the installation process later documented.

Figure 2 – Select Install Microsoft Azure Backup Server

Figure 3 – Welcome page

Figure 4 – Check the prerequisites

azure backup server requires the presence of a microsoft sql server instance to host the related database. If you do not have an existing instance to use (required at least SQL Server 2014 SP1) the setup installs SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1 (recommended by Microsoft). In this scenario you do not require the acquisition of a license for SQL Server as long as the instance is for the exclusive use of MABS v2.

Figure 5 - Choice relative to the SQL Server that hosts the DBs of MABS v2 anf check of the requirements

If you have not installed the Hyper-V Powershell module the setup will install it, but you will need to stop the installation setup to restart the system.

Figure 6 – Requirements not met and restart required for Hyper-V Powershell module installation

Figure 7 – Requirements met

Figure 8 – Choice of installation path

The setup of MABS v2 creates the account MICROSOFT$DPM$Acct local to the machine that will run SQL Server and SQL Server Agent services and the account DPMR$Servername used for the generation of reports.

Figure 9 – Choice of password for the MICROSOFT$DPM$Acct and DPMR$Servername

Figure 10 – Choice of deploying updates to MABS v2 via Windows Update

Figure 11 - Summary concerning the installation choices

At this point starts the setup of Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) Agent required to connect to the Recovery Service Vault in Microsoft Azure.

Figure 12 - Configuration of the proxy server if required for access to public services in Microsoft Azure

Figure 13 – Verification of the presence of the necessary requirements and installation of MARS

After installing the MARS, starts the registration process of the Azure Backup Server to the Azure Recovery Service Vault that requires the Backup Vault credentials (recoverable following the step documented in Figure 1) and the passphrase required to perform the encryption of stored data. You should save this key in a safe place as it is necessary during recovery operations and can not be recovered in any way by Microsoft staff.

Figure 14 -Choose Backup Vault Credentials

Figure 15 – Passphrase for encryption of backups

After completing these steps, you must wait the end of the installation process.

Figure 16 - MABS v2 installation completed successfully

Before proceeding with the configuration of MABS v2 it is recommended to apply the latest update available for Microsoft Azure Backup Server v2 which you can be downloaded from the Microsoft support site.

At this point, it is necessary to configure the SQL Server instance just installed according to their own needs, and it is recommended to apply thelatest Cumulative Update available for SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1.

 

Features provided by the integration between MABS v2 and Windows Server 2016

Azure Backup Server v2 is natively integrates with the new technologies available in Windows Server 2016 so you can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Efficiency major in backups operations: using the technologies Refs Block Cloning, VHDX and Deduplication you can get a reduction of storage needed to protect data and improve performance in the execution of backup. The configuration of the Modern Backup Storage can be done by following the steps documented in official documentation, which although relating to DPM 2016 is identical for Azure Backup Server v2. Very interesting also the functionality Workload-Aware Storage that allows you to select which volumes use depending on the type of workloads are protected, having thus the opportunity to choose more efficient storage and dedicate it to more frequent backup tasks for which it is good to have high performance.
  • Reliability elevated in Hyper-V virtual machine protection, thanks to the integration with technology Resilient Change Tracking (RCT) can natively track changes made to VMs compared to backups, without the need to add filter drivers. This reduces the time-consuming tasks to perform consistency checks.
  • Safety: ability to backup and restore Shielded VMs.

 

Costs of the solution

As regards the cost of the solution is good to specify that it is obviously necessary to contemplate the license of the machine's operating system on which you are installing MABS v2. An interesting aspect is that in order to implement Azure Backup Server is not require any licence concerning System Center, but you must have an Azure subscription . In the cost of the solution you should consider a fee for each protected instance and any storage occupied in Microsoft Azure. For more details on the cost of the solution, please consult the Official Microsoft page on the Pricing.

 

Conclusions

Azure Backup Server v2, with its approach cloud-first and through the integration with certain features in Windows Server 2016 , is a complete and functional solution for the protection of different workloads. For those using the first release of Azure Backup Server you can upgrade to MABS v2 keeping all the settings. The advice is still to implement MABS v2 on Windows Server 2016 so that you have a solution that allows you to perform backups with speeds up to 3 times and to reduce up to 50% storage utilization.