Heterogeneous infrastructures, applications based on different technologies and solutions located on different public clouds are increasingly common elements in corporate IT environments. These complexities, combined with a continuous evolution of their datacenters bring out more and more the need to visualize, govern and protect IT assets, regardless of where they are running. In Microsoft, this customer need was addressed by designing a solution that allows you to manage complex realities, also offering the possibility of bringing cloud innovation even using existing infrastructures: this solution is called Azure Arc. In particular, Azure Arc for servers extends the possibilities offered by Azure in governance and management also to physical machines and virtual systems that reside in environments other than Azure. In this article we will explore the main benefits and implementation scenarios that can be contemplated by adopting Azure Arc in the management of server systems.
Enabling Azure Arc servers allows you to manage physical servers and virtual machines residing outside Azure, on the on-premises corporate network or at other cloud providers. This management experience, valid for both Windows and Linux systems, is designed to provide consistency with the management methodologies of native virtual machines residing in the Azure environment. In fact, connecting a machine to Azure through Arc is considered in all respects as an Azure resource. Each connected machine has a specific ID, it is included in a resource group and benefits from standard Azure constructs.
Main usage scenarios
The projection of server resources in Azure using Arc is a useful step to take advantage of the management and monitoring solutions described below.
Visibility and organization
In hybrid and multicloud environments, it can be particularly challenging to get a centralized view of all available resources. Some of these resources are running on Azure, some in a local environment, at branch offices or other cloud providers. By connecting resources to Azure Resource Manager via Azure Arc, it is possible to organize, centrally inventory and manage a wide range of resources, include Windows and Linux servers, server SQL, Kubernetes clusters and Azure services running in Azure and outside Azure. This visibility can be obtained directly from the Azure portal and specific queries can be performed using Azure Resource Graph.
With Azure Arc for servers it is possible to provide access to systems through Azure role-based access control (Azure RBAC). Furthermore, in the presence of different environments and tenants, Azure Arc also integrates with Azure Lighthouse. This scenario can be of particular interest to providers that offer managed services to multiple customers.
Through VM Insights it is possible to consult the main performance data, from the guest operating system. Thanks to the powerful data aggregation and filtering functions, it is possible to easily monitor the performance for a very large number of systems and easily identify those that have performance problems. Furthermore, it is possible to generate a map with the interconnections present between the various components residing on different systems. Maps show how VMs and processes interact with each other and can identify dependencies on third-party services. The solution also allows you to check for connection errors, count connections in real time, network bytes sent and received by processes and latencies encountered at the service level.
Azure Policy guest configurations
Guest Configuration Policies allow you to control settings within a system, both for virtual machines running in Azure environment and for "Arc Connected" machines. Validation is performed by the client and by the Guest Configuration extension as regards:
- Operating system configuration
- Configuration or presence of applications
- Environment settings
At the moment, most of the Azure Guest Configuration Policies only allow you to make checks on the settings inside the machine, but they don't apply configurations. For more information on this scenario, you can consult the article Azure Governance: how to control system configurations in hybrid and multicloud environments.
This feature allows you to retrieve inventory information relating to: installed software, files, Registry keys in a Windows environment, Windows Services and Linux Daemons. All this can easily be accessed directly from the portal Azure.
The functionality ofChange Tracking monitors changes made to systems relatively to Daemons, File, Registry, software and services on Windows . This feature can be very useful in particular for diagnosing specific problems and for enabling alerts in the face of unexpected changes.
The solution ofUpdate Management allows you to have an overall visibility on the compliance of updates for both Windows and Linux systems. The solution is not only useful for consultation purposes, but it also allows you to schedule deployments for installing updates within specific maintenance windows.
The projection of server resources in Azure using Arc is a useful step to ensure that all the machines in the infrastructure are protected by Azure Defender for Server. Similar to an Azure VM, it will also be necessary to deploy the Log Analytics agent on the target system. To simplify the onboarding process this agent is deployed using the VM extension, and this is one of the advantages of using Arc.
Once the Log Analytics agent has been installed and connected to a workspace used by ASC, the machine will be ready to use and benefit from the various security features offered in the Azure Defender for Servers plan.
Deployments can be simplified thanks to the use of Azure Automation State Configuration and of Azure VM extensions. This allows you to contemplate post-deployment configurations or software installation using the Custom Script Extension.
Maintain control and manage the security of workloads running on-premises, in Azure and on other cloud platforms it can be particularly challenging. Thanks to Azure Arc for Servers it is possible to easily extend the typical Azure management and monitoring services to workloads residing outside the Azure environment. Furthermore, Azure Arc allows you to obtain detailed information and organize various IT resources in a single centralized console, useful for effectively managing and controlling your entire IT environment.