Category Archives: Operations Management Suite

Azure Security Center: introduction to the solution

Azure Security Center is a cloud solution that helps prevent, detect and respond to security threats that affect the resources and workloads on hybrid environments. This article lists the main characteristics and features, to address the use cases and to understand the potential of the instrument.

Key features and characteristics of Azure Security Center

  • It manages security policies centrally. It ensures compliance with the safety requirements to be imposed on business and regulatory. Everything is handled centrally through security policies that can be applied to different workloads.

Figure 1 – Policy & Compliance Overview

Figure 2 – Policy management

  • It makes Security Assessment. It monitors the situation continuously in terms of security of machines, networks, storage and applications, in order to identify potential security problems.
  • It provides recommendations that you can implement. Are given indications that are recommended to implement to fix the security vulnerabilities that affect your environment, before they can be exploited in potential cyber attacks.

Figure 3 – Recommendations list

  • It assigns priorities to warnings and possible security incidents. Through this prioritization you can focus first on the security threats that may impact more on the infrastructure.

Figure 4 – Assigning severity for each report

Figure 5 – Assigning severity for each potential security incident detected

  • It allows to configure your cloud environment in order to protect it effectively. It is made available a simple method, quickly and securely to allowjust-in-time access to system management ports and applications running on the VM, by applying adaptive controls.

Figure 6 – Enabling Just-in-time VM access

  • It provides a fully integrated security solution. Allows you to collect, investigate and analyze security data from different sources, including the ability to integrate with third-party solution.

Figure 7 – Integration with other security solutions

 

The Cost of the Solution

Security Center is offered in two different tiers:

  • Free tier. In this tier Azure Security Center is completely free and provides visibility into security of resources residing only in Azure. Among the features offered there are: basic security policy, security requirements and integration with third-party security products and services.
  • Standard tier. Compared to tier free adds enhanced threat detection (including threat intelligence), behavioral analysis, anomaly detection and security incidents and reports of conferral of threats. The tier standard extends the visibility on the security of the resources that reside on-premises, and hybrid workloads. Through machine learning techniques and having the ability to create whitelist it allows to block malware and unwanted applications.

Figure 8 – Comparison of features between the available pricing tiers

For the Standard tier, you can try it for free for 60 days after that, if you want to continue using the solution, you have a monthly fee for single node. For more information on costs of the solution you can access to the official page of costs.

Figure 9 – Standard tier upgrade screen

To take advantage of all the Security Center features is necessary to apply the Standard Tier to the subscribtion or to the resource group that contains the virtual machines. Configuring the tier Standard does not automatically enable all features, but some of these require specific configurations, for example VM just in time, adaptive control of applications and network detection for resources in Azure.

 

Basic principles of operation

The collection of security data from systems, regardless of their location, is via the Microsoft Monitoring Agent, that it provides to its sending to a Log Analytics workspace. Security Center requires a workspace on which you enabled the following solution according to tier chosen:

  • Free tier: the Security Center enables the solution SecurityCenterFree.
  • Standard tier: the Security Center enables the solution Security. If in the workspace is already installed the solution Security & Auditit is used and nothing else is installed.

To save the data collected from the Security Center you can use a Log Analytics workspace created by default or select a specific one associated with the relative Azure subscription.

Figure 10 – Configuration of the workspace of Log Analytics where you collect the data

Conclusions

Azure Security Center is an appropriate, mature and structured solution to meet the security requirements for cloud, on-premises, or hybrid environments. Thanks to several features covered provides the knowledge that Microsoft has matured in the management of its services, combining it with powerful new technologies, as machine learning and big data, to treat and manage consciously and effectively the security.

Azure Site Recovery: the protection of Hyper-V virtual machines using Windows Admin Center

Among the various features that can be managed through Windows Admin Center, there is the possibility to simply drive the protection of virtual machines, present in a Hyper-V environment, with Azure Site Recovery (ASR). This article lists the necessary steps to follow and the possibilities offered by the Admin Center in this area.

Windows Admin Center, formerly known as Project Honolulu, allows through a web console, to manage the infrastructure in a centralized way. Thanks to this tool Microsoft has initiated a process of centralization in a single portal for all administrative console, allowing you to manage and configure your infrastructure with a user experience: modern, simple, integrated and secure.

Windows Admin Center requires no dependency with the cloud in order to function and can be deployed locally to gain control of different aspects of your local server infrastructure. In addition to the component Web Server, that allows access via browser to the tool, the Windows Admin Center consists of a component gateway, through which you can manage your server via Remote PowerShell and WMI over WinRM.

Figure 1 - Basic diagram of the architecture of Windows Admin Center

 

Connecting your Windows Admin Center gateway to Azure

Windows Admin Center also offers the opportunity to integrate with different Azure services, including Azure Site Recovery. In order to allow the Windows Admin Center gateway to communicate with Azure it is necessary to proceed with its registration process, by following the steps later documented. The wizard, available in the preview version of Windows Admin Center , making the creation of an Azure AD app in its own directory, which allows the Windows Admin Center communication with Azure.

Figure 2 - Start of the registration process from the Admin Center settings

Figure 3 - Generation of the code needed to log in

Figure 4 - Enter the code in the Device Login page

Figure 5 - Start the Azure authentication process

Figure 6 – Sign-in confirmation

Figure 7 – Selection of the Tenant where register the Azure AD app

Figure 8 - Guidance for providing permissions to the Azure AD app

Figure 9 – Assignment of permissions, from the Azure Portal, to the registered app

Figure 10 - Azure integration configuration completed

 

ASR environment configuration for protecting Hyper-V VMs

After configuring the connection of Windows Admin Center with Azure you can, selecting the Hyper-V system that holds the virtual machines to be replicated to Azure, proceed with the entire configuration of the Recovery Services vault, directly from the web console of Windows Admin Center. The steps below illustrate the simplicity of the activation.

Figure 11 – Start the configuration necessary for protecting VMs

From the Admin Center you are asked to provide basic information for the ASR environment configuration and it provides the ability to create a new Recovery Service vault or select an existing one.

Figure 12 – Configuration of the Hyper-V host in Azure Site Recovery

In the form proposed by the Windows Admin Center are offered only some values, therefore I advise you to proceed before to the creation of the Recovery Service vault and, on the previous screen, select an existing one, created with all configuration parameters at will and to suit your needs.

This step performs the following actions:

  • Install the ASR agent on the Hyper-V host or on all nodes in a cluster environment.
  • If you select to create a new vault it proceeds to the creation in the selected region and places it into a new Resource Group (assigning a default name).
  • It registers the Hyper-V system with ASR and configures a default replication policy.

Figure 13 - Site Recovery Jobs generated by the configuration

 

Virtual machine protection configuration

After the configuration of the previously reported activity is possible to activate the protection of virtual machines.

Figure 14 - Activation of the VM protection process

Figure 15 - Selection of the storage account and start of protection

At the end of the process of replication, you can validate the replication process by activating the test failover procedure from the Azure Portal.

 

Conclusions

Being able to interact with certain Azure services directly from Windows Admin Center can facilitate and speed up the administration of an hybrid datacenter. At the moment the possibility of integration with Azure Site Recovery are minimal and not suitable for complex scenarios. However, Windows Admin Center is constantly evolving and will be more and more enriched with new features to better interact with Azure services.

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

In August have been announced, by Microsoft, a considerable number of news about Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. Our community releases this monthly summary that gives you a comprehensive overview of the main news 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)

Azure Log Analytics

As already announced in the article The management of Log Analytics from the Azure portal Microsoft has chosen to abandon the OMS portal, in favour of the Azure Portal. The date announced for the final withdrawal of the OMS portal is the 15 January 2019. As a result of this choice also creation of new workspace of Azure Log Analytics can be performed only from the Azure Portal. Trying to create a new workspace from the old OMS portal you will be redirected to the Azure portal to complete the task. Have not made any changes to REST API and PowerShell to create workspaces.

Even the Advanced Analytics Portal is incorporated into the Azure Portal. At the moment you can access this portal by logging on to Logs (preview) available in the workspace of Log Analytics.

Figure 1 - Advanced Analytics available in the Logs (preview) from the Azure Portal

 

Azure Automation

Managing updates through Azure Automation Update Management sees the addition of a new option for the deployment of the updates. When creating or editing an update deployment is now an option the Reboot, that allows you to control whether and when reboot systems. For more information please visit the official technical documentation.

Figure 2 – Reboot option available in the update deployment

In the functionality of Change Tracking the following changes have been made:

  • To track changes and make the inventory of the files in the Windows environment now you can use: recursion, wildcards, and environment variables. In Linux there is already the support for recursion and wildcards.
  • As for the changes that are processed in files, both Windows and Linux, introduced the ability to display the content of the changes.
  • Introduced the possibility to reduce the frequency with which Windows services are collected (frequency is expressed in seconds and runs from a minimum of 10 seconds to a maximum of 30 minutes).

Agent

This month the new version ofOMS agent for Linux systems fixes some bugs and introduces an updated version for several core components, that increase the stability, the safety and improve the installation process. Among the various news is introduced the support for Ubuntu 18.04. To obtain the updated version of the OMS agent you can access to the official GitHub page OMS Agent for Linux Patch v 1.6.0-163. In the case the OMS agent for Linux systems has been installed using the Azure Extension and if its automatic update is active, this update will be installed independently.

Figure 3 – Bug fixes and what's new for the OMS agent for Linux

 

Azure Site Recovery

For Azure Site Recovery was released theUpdate Rollup 27 introducing new versions for the following components:

  • Microsoft Azure Site Recovery Unified Setup/Mobility agent (version 9.18.4946.1): used for replication scenarios from VMware to Azure.
  • Microsoft Azure Site Recovery Provider (version 5.1.3550.0): used for replication scenarios from Hyper-V to Azure or to a secondary site.
  • Microsoft Azure Recovery Services agent (version 2.0.9125.0): used for replication scenarios from Hyper-V to Azure.

The installation of this update rollup is recommended in deployments where there are components and their respective versions below reported:

  • Unified Setup/Mobility agent version 9.14.0000.0 or later.
  • Site Recovery Provider (with System Center VMM): version 3.3. x. x or later.
  • Site Recovery Provider (for replication without VMM): version 5.1.3100.0 or later.
  • Site Recovery Hyper-V Provider: version 4.6. x. x or later.

For more information on the issues resolved, on improvements from this Update Rollup and to get the procedure for its installation is possible to consult the specific KB 4055712.

 

In Azure Site Recovery was introduced support for enabling disaster recovery scenarios Cross-subscription, for IaaS virtual machines, as long as belonging to the same Azure Active Directory tenant. This feature is very useful because often you have environments that use different Azure subscriptions, created primarily to have greater control of costs. Thanks to this new support you can more easily reach business continuity requirements creating disaster recovery plans without altering the topology of the Azure subscriptions in your environment.

Figure 4 - VM replica configuration to a different subscription target

 

Azure Site Recovery now can integrate with Veritas Backup Exec Instant Cloud Recovery (ICR) with the release of Backup Exec 20.2. Using ICR, Backup Exec users are able to configure replication of VMs on-premises to Azure and easily operate the DR plan if necessary, reducing the Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and the Recovery Time Objective (RTO). Instant Cloud Recovery requires a subscription Azure and supports Hyper-V and VMware virtual machines. For more details and references you can see thespecific announcement.

Azure Backup

In this interesting article there is the procedure to monitor all workloads protected by Azure Backup using Log Analytics.

System Center

System Center Configuration Manager

Released the version 1806 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 there is a new feature called CMPivot. It is a new utility available in the Configuration Manager console that can provide information in real time about connected devices in your environment. On this information you can apply filters and groupings, then perform certain actions.

Figure 5 – Features and benefits of CMPivot functionality

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

 

Released the version 1808 for the branch Technical Preview of System Center Configuration Manager. This update introduces the ability to perform a gradual release of software updates automatically. The button that allows you to configure this operation is shown in figure below and can be found in the console nodes All Software Updates, All Windows 10 Updates, and Office 365 Updates.

Figure 6 – Phased Deployment creation button

For more information about configuring Phased Deployments in Configuration Manager, you can refer to the Microsoft technical documentation .

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.

 

System Center Operations Manager

Released the updated version of Microsoft System Center 2016 Management Pack for Microsoft Azure (version 1.5.20.18).

There are also the following news:

 

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 out the various components of System Center you must access theEvaluation Center and after the registration you can start the trial period.

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

Microsoft announces constantly news about Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. As usual our community releases this monthly summary that provides a general overview of the main new features of the month, in order to stay up to date on these topics and have the necessary references to conduct further exploration.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Azure Log Analytics

The possible integration of Azure Data Factory (ADF) with Azure Monitor lets you send usage metrics to Operations Management Suite (OMS). The new solution Azure Data Factory Analytics, available in the Azure marketplace, can provide an overview of the State of health of the Data Factory, allowing you to go into detail of the information collected. This can be very useful for troubleshooting. It is also possible to collect metrics from different data factories to the same workspace of OMS Log Analytics. For configuration details required to use this solution, you can see the official documentation.

Figure 1 – Overview of the new Azure Data Factory Analytics solution

In Log Analytics, query execution introduces the ability to easily select the workspace on which to execute the queries.:

Figure 2 - Selection of the workspace on which to perform the Log Analytics query

The same possibility is also introduced in Azure Application Insights Analytics. This feature is useful because in each query tab you can select the specific workspace, avoiding having to open Log Analytics in different browser tabs.

In case they are collected custom logs in Azure Log Analytics, a separate category was created called "Custom Logs", where they are grouped.

Figure 3 – Grouping of custom logs in the specific category

For workspace of Log Analytics present in the region of West Europe, East US, and West Central was announced the availability in public preview of Metric Alerts for logs. The Metric alerts for logs allow you to use data from Log Analytics as metrics of Azure Monitor. The types of supported logs has been extended and the complete list is available at this link. For more information please visit the official documentation.

Azure Backup

In Azure Pricing Calculator, the official Microsoft tool for estimating the cost of Azure services, has been made possible to obtain a more accurate estimate of the costs of Azure Backup, allowing you to specify different retention range for the Recovery Points.

Figure 4 – New parameters to make a more accurate estimate of costs of Azure Backup

 

Azure Site Recovery

For Azure Site Recovery was released theUpdate Rollup 26 introducing new versions for the following components:

  • Microsoft Azure Site Recovery Unified Setup/Mobility agent (version 9.17.4897.1): used for replication scenarios from VMware to Azure.
  • Microsoft Azure Site Recovery Provider (version 5.1.3400.0): used for replication scenarios from Hyper-V to Azure or to a secondary site.
  • Microsoft Azure Recovery Services agent (version 2.0.9122.0): used for replication scenarios from Hyper-V to Azure.

The installation of this update rollup is recommended in deployments where there are components and their respective versions below reported:

  • Unified Setup/Mobility agent version 9.13.000.1 or later.
  • Site Recovery Provider version 5.1.3000 or later.
  • Hyper-V Recovery Manager 3.4.486 or later.
  • Site Recovery Hyper-V Provider 4.6.660 or later.

For more information on the issues resolved, on improvements from this Update Rollup and to get the procedure for its installation is possible to consult the specific KB 4344054.

Azure Automation

Regarding Azure Automation has been introduced the possibility to configure the Hybrid Runbook Workers so that they can execute only runbooks digitally signed (the execution of unsigned runbooks not fail). The procedure to be followed is reported in this section of the Microsoft's article.

System Center

Following the first announcement of the Semi-Annual Channel release of System Center, took place in February with the version 1801, this month has been released the new update release, System Center 1807.

The update release 1807 introduces new features for Virtual Machine Manager and Operations Manager, while for Data Protection Manager, Orchestrator and Service Manager contains fixes for known issues (including bug fixes present in the UR5 for System Center 2016, released in April).

What's new in Virtual Machine Manager 1807
  • Supports selection of CSV for placing a new VHD
  • Display of LLDP information for networking devices
  • Convert SET switch to logical switch
  • VMware host management: VMM 1807 supports VMware ESXi v6.5 servers in VMM fabric
  • Support for S2D cluster update
  • Support for SQL 2017
What's new in Operations Manager 1807
  • Configure APM component during agent install or repair
  • Linux log rotation
  • HTML5 Web console enhancements
  • Support for SQL Server 2017
  • Operations Manager and Service Manager console coexistence

For further details please visit the Microsoft official documentation:

System Center 1807 can be download from System Center Evaluation Center.

For all System Center products (DPM, SCORCH, SM, SCOM and VMM) you can now Update existing deployments going from SQL server 2016 to SQL server 2017.

Please remember that the release belonging to the Semi-Annual Channel have support for 18 months.

System Center Configuration Manager

Released the version 1807 for the branch Technical Preview of System Center Configuration Manager. The main novelty in this release is l & #8217; introduction of the new Community hub, through which you can share scripts, reports, configuration items and more, about Configuration Manager. Through the community hub, accessible from the SCCM console, you can introduce into your environment solutions provided by the community.

Among the new features in this release are also:

  • Improvements to third-party software updates
  • Co-managed device activity sync from Intune
  • Approve application requests via email
  • Repair applications
  • Admin defined offline operating system image servicing drive
  • Improvements to run scripts

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

In order to configure the connection between Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center Operations Manager you must import the following new management packs, version-specific:

This change to the MPs was made necessary to allow proper communication with new APIs of OMS Log Analytics, introduced after moving towards the Azure Portal of Log Analytics.

Figure 5 - SCOM Wizard for the OMS onboarding

It is reported the new wave of System Center Operations Manager management packs released for SQL Server, now lined up to version 7.0.7.0:

In July were also released the following Management Packs for the Open Source software, version 7.7.1129.0, which include the following news:

Apache HTTP Server

  • Supports Apache HTTP Server version 2.2 and 2.4
  • Provides monitoring of busy and idle workers
  • Provides monitoring of resource usage – memory and CPU
  • Provides statistics for virtual hosts such as “Requests per Minute” and “Errors per Minute”
  • Provides alerting for SSL Certificate expiration

MySQL Server

  • Supports MySQL Server version 5.0, 5.1, 5.5, 5.6, and 5.7
  • Supports MariaDB Server version 5.5, and 10.0
  • Provides monitoring of databases
  • Provides monitoring of disk space usage for server and databases
  • Provides statistics for Key Cache, Query Cache, and Table Cache
  • Provides alerting for slow queries, failed connections, and full table scans

The following new MPs have also been released by Microsoft:

  • MP for Active Directory Federation Services version 0.2.0
  • MP for Active Directory Federation Services 2012 R2 version 1.10172.1
  • MP for Microsoft Azure version 5.20.18

Please also note the new community version (1807) of the Azure Management Pack, issued by Daniele Grandini.

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 out the various components of System Center, you can access theEvaluation Center and after the registration you can start the trial period.

Azure Application Gateway: monitoring with Log Analytics

Azure Application Gateway is an application load balancer (OSI layer 7) for web traffic, available in Azure environment, that manages HTTP and HTTPS traffic of the applications. This article is discussed how to monitor of Azure Application Gateway using Log Analytics provides.

Figure 1 - Azure Application Gateway basic schema

Using the Azure Application Gateway you can take advantage of the following features:

  • URL-based routing
  • Redirection
  • Multiple-site hosting
  • Session affinity
  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) termination
  • Web application firewall (WAF)
  • Native support for WebSocket and HTTP/2 protocols

For more details on Azure Application Gateway can be found in the Microsoft's official documentation.

Configuring Diagnostics logs for the Application Gateway

The Azure Application Gateway can send diagnostic logs to a workspace of Log Analytics . This feature is very useful for checking the performance, to detect any errors and is essential for troubleshooting steps, in particular in the presence of the WAF module. To enable the diagnostic from the Azure portal you can select the Application Gateway resource and go to the "Diagnostics logs":

Figure 2 – Starting configuration of Diagnostics logs

Figure 3 – Configuring Diagnostics logs

After choosing your Log Analytics workspace where to send diagnostics data, in the Log section, you can select which type of log collecting among the following:

  • Access log (ApplicationGatewayAccessLog)
  • Performance log (ApplicationGatewayPerformanceLog)
  • Firewall log (ApplicationGatewayFirewallLog): these logs are generated only if the Web Application Firewall is configured on the Application Gateway.

In addition to these logs are also collected by default Activity Log generated by Azure. These logs are maintained for 90 days in the store of the Azure event logs. For more details you can refer this specific document.

Azure Application Gateway analytics solution of Log Analytics

Microsoft offers the solution Azure Application Gateway analytics that can be added to the workspace of Log Analytics by following these simple steps:

Figure 4 - Launching the procedure of adding the solution to the OMS workspace

Figure 5 – Selection of the Azure Application Gateway analytics solution

Figure 6 - Addition of the solution in the selected workspace

After enabling the sending of diagnostics logs into the workspace of Log Analytics and adding the solution to the same, by selecting the tile Azure Application Gateway analytics in the Overview page, you can see an overview of the collected log data from the Application Gateway:

Figure 7 – Screen overview of the Azure Application Gateway analytics solution

You can also view the details for the following categories.

  • Application Gateway Access logs:
    • Client and server errors for Application Gateway access logs
    • Requests per hour for each Application Gateway
    • Failed requests per hour for each Application Gateway
    • Errors by user agent for Application Gateways

Figure 8 - Screenshot of the Application Gateway Access logs

  • Application Gateway performance:
    • Host health for Application Gateway
    • Maximum and 95th percentile for Application Gateway failed requests

Figure 9 – Screenshot of the Application Gateway performance

Customized dashboard of Log Analytics for the Application Gateway monitor

In addition to this solution can also be convenient to use a special dashboard of Log Analytics, specifically for the monitoring of the Application Gateway, available at this link. The deployment of the dashboard is via ARM template and requires also in this case the Diagnostics logs of the Application Gateway enabled, as described above. The various queries of Log Analytics, used by the dashboard, are documented in this blog. Thanks to these queries the dashboard shows several additional information exposed by the diagnostic of the Application Gateway.

Figure 10 – Custom dashboard of Log Analytics for Application Gateway monitoring

Query of Log Analytics to monitor the Firewall Log

Using the solution Azure Application Gateway analytics of Log Analytics or the custom dashboard (stated in the previous paragraph) are not contemplated at the time the Firewall log, generated when is active the Web Application Firewall (WAF) on the Application Gateway. The WAF is based on rules of OWASP Core Rule Set 3.0 or 2.2.9 to intercept attacks, for the web applications, that exploit the known vulnerabilities. To name a few, we find for example the SQL injection and attacks cross site scripting.

In this case, if you decide to check the Firewall log, you must directly query the Log Analytics, for example:

Figure 11 – The Query to retrieve blocked requests by the WAF module, over the past 7 days, for a specific URI, divided by RuleID

To see the list of rules of the WAF, by associating the RuleId to its description, you can consult this document.

The descriptive message of the rule is also listed within the results returned by the query:

Figure 12 – The Query to retrieve blocked requests by the WAF module, over the past 7 days, for a specific URI and for a specific RuleId

Conclusions

In my experience, in Azure architectures that require secure publishing of web services to Internet, is often used Azure Application Gateway service with the WAF module active. With the ability to send diagnostic logs of this component to Log Analytics you have the option of having a qualified monitor, that is fundamental to analyse any error conditions and to assess the state of the component in all its facets.

Microsoft Azure: network monitoring solutions overview

Microsoft Azure provides several solutions that allow you to monitor network resources, not only for cloud environments, but even in the presence of hybrid architectures. That are cloud-based features, to check the health of your network and connectivity to your applications. In addition, they give detailed information about network performance. This article will be made an overview of the various solutions such as the main features, needed to orient the use of the network monitor tools most appropriate for your needs.

Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is a suite that includes the following solutions:

  • Performance Monitor
  • ExpressRoute Monitor
  • Service Endpoint Monitor

In addition to the tools included in the Network Performance Monitor (NPM) you can use Traffic Analytics and DNS Analytics.

Performance Monitor

The most commonly used approach is to have hybrid environments with heterogeneous networking, that allows you to connect your own on-premises infrastructure with the environment implemented in the public cloud. In some cases you may also have different cloud providers, that make the network infrastructure even more complicated . These scenarios require the use of flexible monitor tools that can work across on-premises, in cloud (IaaS), and in hybrid environments. Performance Monitor has all of these characteristics and thanks to the use of synthetic transactions, provides the ability to monitor, almost in real time, the network parameters to get performance information, like packet loss and latency. In addition, this solution allows to easily locate the source of a problem in a specific network segment or identifying a particular device. The solution requires the presence of the OMS agent and keeping track of the retransmission packets and the roundtrip time, it is able to return a graph of easy and immediate interpretation.

Figure 1 - Hop-by-hop chart provided by Performance Monitor

Where to install the agents

The installation of the agent of Operations Management Suite (OMS) is necessary on at least one node connected to each subnet from which it intends to monitor the connectivity to other subnets. If you plan to monitor a specific network link you must install agents on both endpoints of the link. In cases where you do not know the exact network topology, one possible approach is to install agents on all servers that hold critical workloads and for which you need to monitor your network performance.

The Cost of the Solution

The cost of the feature Performance Monitor in NPM is calculated on the basis of the combination of these two elements:

  • Monitored Subnet link. To obtain the costs for monitoring of a single subnet link for one month, you can see Ping Mesh.
  • Data volume.

For more details please visit the Microsoft's official page.

ExpressRoute Monitor

Using ExpressRoute Monitor it is possible to monitor the end-to-end connectivity and verify the performance between on-premises environment and Azure, in the presence of ExpressRoute connectivity with Azure Private peering and Microsoft peering connections. The key features of this solution are:

  • Auto-detection of the circuit ExpressRoute associated with your subscription Azure.
  • Detection of network topology.
  • Capacity planning and bandwidth usage analysis.
  • Monitoring and alerting both the primary and the secondary path of the circuit ExpressRoute.
  • Monitoring connectivity towards the Azure services such as Office 365, Dynamics 365 using ExpressRoute as connectivity.
  • Detection of possible deterioration of connectivity with the various virtual network.

Figure 2 – Topology view of a VM on Azure (left) connected to a VM on-prem (right), via ExpressRoute

Figure 3 - Trend on the use of the bandwidth and latency on the ExpressRoute circuit

Where to install the agents

In order to use ExpressRoute Monitor you need to install an Operations Management Suite agent on a system that resides on Azure virtual network and at least one agent on a machine attested on the subnet on-premises, connected via private peering of ExpressRoute.

The Cost of the Solution

The cost of ExpressRoute Monitor solution is calculated based on the volume of data generated during the monitoring operations. For more details please visit the specific section in the cost page of NPM .

Service Endpoint Monitor

Using this solution, you have the ability to monitor and test the reachability of your services and your applications, almost in real time, simulating user access. You also have the ability to detect network side performance problems and identify the problematic network segment.

Here are reported the main features of the solution:

  • It does the monitor end-to-end of the network connections to your applications. The monitor can be done by any endpoint "TCP-capable" (HTTP, HTTPS, TCP, and ICMP), as websites, SaaS applications, PaaS applications, and SQL databases.
  • It correlates application availability with network performance, to precisely locate the degradation point on the network, starting from the user's request until the application.
  • It tests applications reachability from different geographical location .
  • It determines the network latencies and lost packets to reach the applications.
  • It detects hot spots on the network that can cause performance problems.
  • It does the monitor of the availability of applications Office 365, through specific built-in test for Microsoft Office 365, Dynamics 365, Skype for Business and other Microsoft services.

Figure 4 - Creating of a Service Connectivity Monitor test

Figure 5 – Diagram showing the topology of the network, generated by different nodes, for a Service Endpoint

Where to install the agents

To use Service Endpoint Monitor you must install the Operations Management Suite agent on each node where you want to monitor network connectivity to a specific service endpoint.

The Cost of the Solution

The cost for using Service Endpoint Monitor is based on these two items:

  • Number of connections, where the connection is understood as reachability test of a single endpoint, from a single agent, for the entire month. In this regard you can see Connection Monitoring in the cost page.
  • Volume of data generated by the monitor. The cost is obtained from cost page of Log Analytics, in the section Data Ingestion.

Traffic Analytics

Traffic Analytics is a totally cloud-based solution, allowing you to have an overall visibility on network activities that are undertaken in the cloud environment. In Azure to allow or deny network communication to the resources connected with Azure Virtual Networks (vNet) it uses the Network Security Group (NSG), containing a list of access rules. The NSGs are applied to network interfaces connected to the virtual machines, or directly to the subnet. The platform uses NSG flow logs to maintain the visibility of inbound and outbound network traffic from the Network Security Group. Traffic Analytics is based on the analysis of NSG flow logs and after an appropriate aggregation of data, inserting the necessary intelligence concerning security, topology and geographic map, can provide detailed information about the network traffic of your Azure cloud environment.

Using Traffic Analytics you can do the following:

  • View network activities cross Azure subscriptions and identify hotspots.
  • Intercept potential network security threats, in order to take the right remedial actions. This is made possible thanks to the information provided by the solution: which ports are open, what applications attempt to access to Internet and which virtual machines connect to unauthorized networks.
  • Understand network flows between different Azure regions and Internet, in order to optimize their deployment for network performance and capacity.
  • Identify incorrect network configurations that lead to having incorrect communication attempts.
  • Analysis of the VPN gateway capabilities or other services, to detect problems caused by over-provisioning and underutilization.

Figure 6 – Traffic Analytics overview

Figure 7 - Map of Active Azure Regions on the subscription

DNS Analytics

DNS Analytics solution is able to collect, analyze and correlate logs of DNS and provides administrators the following features:

  • Identifies clients that try to resolve domains considered malevolent.
  • Finds records that belong to obsolete resources.
  • It highlights domain names frequently questioned.
  • View the load of requests received by the DNS server.
  • It does the monitor of dynamic DNS registrations failed.

Figure 8 – Overview of DNS Analytics solution

Where to install the agents

The solution requires the presence of the OMS agent or the Operations Manager agent installed on each DNS server to be monitored.

Conclusions

With increasing complexity of network architectures in hybrid environments, consequently increases the need to be able to use tools able to contemplate different network topologies. Azure provides several cloud based tools and integrated into the fabric, such as those described in this article, that allow you to fully and effectively monitor the networking of these environments. Remember to test and evaluate free Operations Management Suite (OMS) you can access this page and select the mode that is most appropriate for your needs.

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.

The management of Log Analytics from the Azure portal

For some time, Microsoft has started a process that led to bundle several features and settings of OMS Log Analytics in the Azure portal. Recently it was officially announced that the OMS portal will be deprecated, in favour of the Azure Portal. This article will examine aspects related to this change and what you should know to avoid being caught unprepared.

The choice to leave the OMS portal, in favour of the Azure Portal, was made in order to provide a unique user experience to monitor and manage the systems, regardless of their location (on-premises or on Azure). Thanks to the Azure portal you can browse and manage all Azure services and soon you will also have complete control over OMS Log Analytics. The expectation is that the gap currently present between the two portals is finally filled by the end of summer and short Microsoft will announce the date for the final disposal of the OMS portal.

Figure 1 - Notifications in the OMS portal

Figure 2 – Overview of Log Analytics in the Azure Portal

What does this change?

The disposal of the OMS portal, in addition to a noticeable change in user experience, also entails a change in the use of Log Analytics to aspects reported below.

Management of alerts

Instead of using the Alert management solution of Log Analytics you must use Azure Monitor, in addition to allowing you to monitor all Azure borne resources, also holds the "alerting" engine for the entire cloud platform. The article "The extension of Log Analytics Alerts in Azure Monitor"introduces the new management of the Alerts in Log Analytics and the benefits introduced by this evolution.

Access Permissions for the portal

Access management in the Azure Portal, based on role-based access control (RBAC), is definitely more flexible and powerful than the one in the OMS portal. Azure provides these two default built-in user roles for Log Analytics:

  • Log Analytics Reader
  • Log Analytics Contributor

For details regarding access management of Log Analytics from the Azure portal you can consult this documentation. Starting from 25 June will start the automatic conversion process, during which each user or security group present in the OMS portal will be reported with the appropriate role in the Azure Portal, according to the following association:

Figure 3 - Association between OMS portal permissions and Azure roles

Mobile App

As for the portal OMS, even the OMS mobile app will be deprecated. In its place you can access to the Azure portal directly from the mobile browser, waiting for future extensions of the Azure Mobile App. To receive notifications on mobile devices, when alerts are generated, you can use Azure Action Groups.

Application Insights Connector

TheApplication Insights Connector is used to return the data of Application Insights inside the workspace of Log Analytics. This connector is no longer needed and will be deprecated, from November of this year, given that the same functionality can be achieved using cross-resource queries.

Azure Network Security Group Analytics

The solution Azure Network Security Group Analytics will be replaced by Traffic Analytics, accessible only from the Azure Portal. For more details on this new tool you can refer to the article "How to monitor network activities in Azure with Traffic Analytics"

 

Current gap in the Azure portal

To date it is imposed the use the OMS portal, for who uses the following solutions, as they are not totally usable in the Azure Portal:

Microsoft is working to update this solutions and make them available using the Azure Portal. To stay up to date on changes about this you can refer to the page Azure Updates.

 

Considerations

To manage Log Analytics should be used the Azure portal since today, which enables new tools, to benefit from the better experience offered, and to take advantage of the portal's features, as the dashboards, searches, and tagging for resource management. The OMS portal will be disposed soon, but it can still be required if you need to use the solutions not yet compatible (above reported), waiting for their upcoming update that will make them fully functioning with the Azure Portal.

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.