Category Archives: Microsoft Azure

Azure IaaS and Azure Stack: announcements and updates (January 2020 – Weeks: 03 and 04)

This series of blog posts includes the most important announcements and major updates regarding Azure infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Azure Stack, officialized by Microsoft in the last two weeks.

Azure

Microsoft to launch new cloud datacenter region in Israel

Microsoft announced plans to establish the company’s first cloud region in Israel to deliver its intelligent, trusted cloud services through a local datacenter region. This investment expands the Microsoft global cloud infrastructure to 56 cloud regions in 21 countries, with the new Israel region anticipated to be available starting with Microsoft Azure in 2021, with Office 365 to follow. The new Israel region will adhere to Microsoft’s trusted cloud principles and become part of one of the largest cloud infrastructures in the world, already serving more than a billion customers and 20 million businesses.

Azure is now certified for the ISO/IEC 27701 privacy standard

zure is the first major US cloud provider to achieve certification as a data processor for the new international standard ISO/IEC 27701 Privacy Information Management System (PIMS). The PIMS certification demonstrates that Azure provides a comprehensive set of management and operational controls that can help your organization demonstrate compliance with privacy laws and regulations. Microsoft’s successful audit can also help enable Azure customers to build upon our certification and seek their own certification to more easily comply with an ever-increasing number of global privacy requirements.

New support for Network Security Group flow logs

Network Security Group (NSG) flow logs, a feature of Azure Network Watcher, allows you to view information about ingress and egress IP traffic. This feature now supports two new Azure Storage configurations:

  • Firewalled Storage accounts. Configuring Storage firewalls provides greater access control and security of your data. NSG flow logs can now be sent to storage accounts with a firewall enabled.
  • Service endpoints for Storage. Azure Virtual Network service endpoints allow you to control how your network interacts with Azure, ensuring that traffic from your virtual network to Azure services remains on the Azure backbone network. NSG Flow Logs can now be sent to Storage accounts accessible through virtual network service endpoints.

Microsoft Sustainability Calculator provides insights into IT carbon emissions

The Microsoft Sustainability Calculator is a Power BI application for Azure enterprise customers that provides new insight into carbon emissions data associated with their Azure services. For the first time, those responsible for reporting on and driving sustainability within their organizations will have the ability to quantify the carbon impact of each Azure subscription over a period of time and datacenter region, and to see estimated carbon savings from running those workloads in Azure versus on-premises datacenters. This data is crucial for reporting existing emissions and will help drive additional decarbonization efforts.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux gold images now available on Azure

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) bring-your-own-subscription images, also referred to as RHEL gold images, are now available in Azure with a simple, automated sign-up process.

Azure Stack

Azure App Service on Azure Stack Hub Update 8 Released

This release updates the resource provider and brings the following key capabilities and fixes:

  • Updates to App Service Tenant, Admin, Functions portals and Kudu tools. Consistent with Azure Stack Portal SDK version.
  • Managed disk support for all new deployments: all new deployments of Azure App Service on Azure Stack Hub will make use of managed disks for all Virtual Machines and Virtual Machine Scale Sets.  All existing deployments will continue to use unmanaged disks.
  • Updates to core service to improve reliability and error messaging enabling easier diagnosis of common issues.
  • TLS 1.2 Enforced by Front End load Balancers

All other fixes and updates are detailed in the App Service on Azure Stack Update Eight Release Notes.

Azure Hybrid Cloud: overview of the new Azure Stack portfolio

In a corporate reality the adoption of solutions totally based in the cloud is not always be a viable choice or the absolute best, hybrid solutions often need to be adopted, that, however, contemplate the possibility of using also the innovations introduced by cloud. Microsoft, aware of that, has recently announced several innovations in the proposition of its solutions in Hybryd Cloud extending its portfolio to make it more complete and more adaptable to the needs of customers. This article describes how the range of Microsoft solutions in Azure Stack has been expanded and changed.

Currently, the solutions included in the Azure Stack portfolio are as follows::

  • Azure Stack Hub (previously called only "Azure Stack")
  • Azure Stack Edge (previously called "Azure Data Box Edge")
  • Azure Stack HCI

Figure 1 – Azure Stack product family

Azure Stack Hub

Azure Stack Hub and, prior to this product portfolio review, was known by the name Azure Stack continues to be the offering for enterprise customers and for the public sector customers, needing a cloud environment but disconnected from the Internet, or need to meet specific regulatory and compliance requirements. Azure Stack Hub It allows you to deliver the Azure services in the location you want. The solution continues to evolve to cover an increasingly broad range of services, including:

  • Kubernetes with Azure Kubernetes Service integration (AKS) to automate the creation, upgrading and scaling cluster environments.
  • Support for N-Series virtual machines that include GPU support.
  • Event Hubs (expected the preview this year)
  • Azure Stream Analytics (expected the preview this year)
  • Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) (expected the preview this year)
  • Azure Data Services with Azure Arc (expected the preview this year)

Azure Stack Edge

Azure Stack Edge, previously known as Azure Databox Edge, is an Azure managed appliance that can bring computational power, cloud storage and intelligence at a customer's remote edge. The customer can place the order and the provisioning of Azure Stack Edge direct from the Azure Portal, and then use the classic Azure management tools to monitor and update them. No upfront costs are required to obtain this appliance, but it will be covered monthly in the billing of Azure services. The big news about Azure Stack Edge is that new features will be supported, among the main ones we find:

  • Execution of virtual machines
  • Cluster Kubernetes
  • NVIDIA GPU support
  • High availability support

Azure Stack Edge will also be available in a "rugged" version, to withstand extreme environmental conditions, and in a battery-powered version, to be easily transported.

Azure Stack HCI

With the arrival of Windows Server 2019, Microsoft introduced the solution Azure Stack HCI, which allows the execution of virtual machines and a wide access to different services offered by Azure. This is a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), where different hardware components are removed, substitutes from the software, able to combine the layer of compute, storage and network in one solution. This is the evolution of the Windows Server Software-Defined solution (WSSD) available in the past with Windows Server 2016. Azure Stack HCI with Windows Server 2019, allows the use of Hyper-V, a solid and reliable hypervisor, along with Software Defined Storage and Software-Defined Networking solutions. To this is added Windows Admin Center, that allows you to fully manage and with a graphical interface the hyper-converged environment.

Azure Stack HCI shares the same software-defined technologies also used by Azure Stack Hub and requires the adoption of hardware tested and validated specifically for the solution. In order to obtain certification, the hardware is subjected to rigorous validation tests, that guarantee the reliability and stability of the solution. To see the different Azure Stack HCI solutions of the various hardware vendors, you can access this page. Azure Stack HCI can be used for smaller environments with a minimum of two nodes and can scale up to a maximum of 16 nodes. This makes it a suitable solution for different usage scenarios.

Conclusions

To better meet the needs of different clients in this area, Microsoft has revisited its product portfolio. The Azure Stack portfolio combined with Azure Arc, provides an environment where Azure services and management are reflected on validated and integrated infrastructure models, all in a complementary way.

How to activate an SFTP service in Azure based on Container

A communication protocol that is commonly used for transferring files between different business realities is certainly SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol or Secure File Transfer Protocol). To date, Azure does not have a fully managed platform service that allows you to provide access over the SFTP protocol. Activating a virtual machine in Azure that hosts the SFTP service incurs activation costs and a significant management effort. This article provides a solution that you can use to deliver the SFTP service to Azure in an Azure environment., Azure Container Instances (ACI) and Azure File Shares.

The proposed solution is based on the following components::

  • Azure Container Instances (ACI), It is the easiest and quickest way in Azure to run containers on-demand in a managed serverless environment. All this is made possible without having to activate specific virtual machines and the necessary maintenance is almost negligible. The solution Azure Container Instances is eligible in scenarios that require isolated containers, without the need to adopt an orchestration system. The service Azure Container Instances costs depend on the number of vCPUs and memory GBs used by the container group.. For more details on costs please visit the Microsoft official page.
  • Azure File, the managed Azure service that allows you to access file shares in the cloud through the Server Message Block (SMB).

Figure 1 – Azure architecture

You will then be activated Linux-based docker container to deliver the SFTP service through Azure Container Instance (ACI). In order to have a persistent storage access from the container it will be made the mount of an Azure Files Shares. Files transferred via the SFTP service will therefore also be accessible via SMB protocol, managing the appropriate permissions, also stopping the execution of the container created.

To deploy this solution, you can use the referenced templates as a starting point in this Microsoft's document. These are two templates, where the first also involves creating a storage account, but of type V1.

Figure 2 – Deployment via custom template

In order to get a proper integration with existing Azure environments and to ensure a filtered access to the SFTP service you must deploy instances of containers inside an Azure virtual network. To do this, you need to enable a feature in preview, and as such has some limitations, between which does not support peering of virtual networks. In this scenario, if the SFTP service is required to be published to the internet, this will necessarily have to take place via Azure Firewall, as it is not supported directly assigning Public IP to Azure Container configured in Virtual Network. In order to improve the security postures of your Azure environment, it is also recommended that:

  • Take a micro-segmentation and granular perimeter definition approach in Azure network architecture. To do this, addition to the adoption of Azure Firewall, you need to plan for the use of the Network Security Groups (NSGs), the tool used to segregate network traffic internally with the Azure Virtual Network. Through deny and permit rules can be filtered communications between different subnets where different application workloads are attested.
  • Predicting the use of Virtual Network (VNet) service endpoints to increase the security level of the Storage Account, preventing unauthorized access. The vNet Service Endpoints allow you to isolate the Azure services, allowing access to them only by one or more subnets defined in the Virtual Network. This feature also ensures that all traffic generated from the VNet towards the Azure services will always remain within the Azure backbone network.

To complete this solution, you must also have a data protection strategy that is placed on the storage account through the SFTP service. Content transferred via SFTP service to Azure file shares can be backed up using the Azure Backup. Again, this is at the time of a feature in preview, so you can have a protection with a daily frequency.

To date, as an alternative to this solution, you can adopt third-party solutions available in the Azure marketplace to deliver the SFTP service. These are significantly more expensive solutions that typically require more effort to deploy and manage them.

Conclusions

Waiting for Microsoft to release a fully managed SFTP service in Azure, this solution enables this service quickly and easily, with reduced costs and without having to maintain and manage virtual machines. The adoption of this solution need integration with other Azure services platform to implement it effectively, without neglecting the safety aspect. At the time you may need to use services in preview, but not officially supported in a production environment.

Azure IaaS and Azure Stack: announcements and updates (January 2020 – Weeks: 01 and 02)

This series of blog posts includes the most important announcements and major updates regarding Azure infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Azure Stack, officialized by Microsoft in the last two weeks.

Azure

Azure Lab Services updates

Azure DevTest Labs recently released different updates:

  • Enables multiple owners to manage a lab.
  • Added the ability to automatically shut down virtual machines when a users’ remote desktop (RDP) session is disconnected (Windows).
  • Integration with Azure Bastion, enabling you to connect to your lab virtual machines through a web browser.
  • It automatically installs the necessary GPU drivers for you when you create a lab with GPU machines. You no longer have to figure out which GPU driver to use on your own.

Azure File Sync agent version 5.x will expire on February 12th

To continuously improve Azure File Sync, Microsoft can only support old versions of the agent for a limited time. On February 12, 2020, Azure File Sync agent version 5.x will be expired and stop syncing. If you have servers with agent version 5.x, update to a supported agent version (6.x or later). If you don’t update your servers before February 12, 2020, they will stop syncing. To resume syncing, the agent must be updated to a supported version.

Azure IaaS and Azure Stack: announcements and updates (December 2019 – Weeks: 51 and 52)

This series of blog posts includes the most important announcements and major updates regarding Azure infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Azure Stack, officialized by Microsoft in the last two weeks.

Azure

Serial console for Azure Virual Machines available in US Government Cloud

Serial console is available in preview in the Azure US Government Cloud, allowing customers in the government-only clouds to access the serial console of their VMs or virtual machine scale set instances.

Azure Data Box Disk is available in the East Asia

Data Box Disk is an SSD-disk-based option for offline data transfer to Azure. It’s ideal for a recurring or one-time data migration of up to 40 TB to Azure and is especially well suited for data migration from multiple remote or branch offices. Azure Data Box Disk is now available in the East Asia (Hong Kong) region. This is in addition to the other Azure regions where Data Box Disk is already available: US, EU, Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Azure Government (US).

Azure Bastion generally available in East US 2 and West US 2

Azure Bastion is generally available in two more Azure public cloud regions, East US 2 and West US 2. Azure Bastion is a managed PaaS service that provides secure and seamless RDP/SSH connectivity to your virtual machines directly in the Azure portal over SSL and without any public IPs on your virtual machines.

Azure management services and System Center: What's New in December 2019

In December have been announced, by Microsoft, a significant number of news regarding Azure management services 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 news and have the necessary references to conduct further study.

Azure Monitor

Improvements in Azure Monitor for containers

The new Azure Monitor agent for containers, introduces several improvements in resource utilization and data volume optimization, thus helping to reduce costs. This update also changes some tables where data is consolidated and you may need some changes to existing queries if they use these fields: Name and Image in the table ContainerLog.

New features in Azure Monitor Metrics Explorer

For Azure Monitor, the Metrics Explorer component has seen the release of the following new features:

  • More flexibility in chart generation.
  • The resource selector supports the ability to choose multiple resources in scoping.
  • More granular charts such as number of data points.
  • Improved Chart Legends.

For more details you can refer this article.

Azure Backup

Azure Backup: resource group management for virtual machines

Azure Backup introduces the ability to customize the name of the resource group created by the service, acting on the backup policy for protecting virtual machines. Azure Backup creates a specific resource group where restore point collections are placed, hosting the instant recovery points of the managed VMs. Of dafault the naming of this resource group is as follows: AzureBackupRG_Geo_n, but now you get the ability to customize it.

Support for encrypted VMs larger than 4TB

The ability to back up and restore encrypted virtual machines larger than 4 TB has been extended to all Azure regions. In this way, the experience and capabilities provided by Azure Backup to protect these machines is the same, regardless of size.

Microsoft Endpoint Manager

New Update for Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager (current branch)

Configuration Manager has officially released the update 1910 that formalizes that Configuration Manager is now part ofMicrosoft Endpoint Manager. The new version also introduces several changes aimed at enriching and improving different features of the solution.

To verify the details about what's new in this update you can see this document.

New release for the Technical Preview Branch

For Configuration Manager was released in the Technical Preview Branch the update 1912 and one of the main innovations allows a device to upload its client logs to the site server. All this is possible by sending a client notification action from the Configuration Manager console.

To check the details of what's included in these updates, you can see this document.

Please note that Releases in the Technical Preview Branch allow you to preview new Configuration Manager features, and it is recommended that you apply these updates only in test environments.

Evaluation of Azure and System Center

To test for free and evaluate the services provided by Azure you can access this page, while to try the various System Center components you must access theEvaluation Center and, after registering, you can start the trial period.

Azure Arc: a new approach to hybrid environments

The use of hybrid architectures in enterprise reality is more and more predominant, they allow you to continue to benefit from investments made in your on-premises environment and, at the same time, use the innovation introduced by the cloud. The adoption of hybrid solutions is a winner if it takes into account a shared policy for distribution, component management and security. Without consistency in the management of different environments, the costs and complexities are likely to grow exponentially. Microsoft has decided to respond to this need with the solution Azure Arc, involving a range of technologies with the aim of developing new hybrid scenarios, where Azure management services and principles are extended to any infrastructure. This article presents the approach adopted by Azure Arc for hybrid environments.

The complexity of IT environments is constantly expanding to the point where we find reality with applications based on different technologies, active on heterogeneous infrastructures and maybe that adopt solutions in different public cloud. The need for customers is to be able to adopt a solution that centrally allows them to inventory, organize and enforce control policies on their IT resources wherever they are.

The principle behind Azure Arc is to extend Azure management and governance practices to different environments and to adopt typically cloud solutions, how DevOps techniques (infrastructure as code), even for on-premises environments.

Figure 1 – Azure Arc overview

To achieve this, Microsoft has decided to extend the model Azure Resource Manager so that we can also support hybrid environments, this makes it easier to implement the security features in Azure on all infrastructure components.

Figure 2 – Azure Management for all resources

Azure Arc consists of a set of different technologies and components that allows you to:

  • Manage applications in Kubernetes environments: it provides the ability to deploy and configure Kubernetes applications in a consistent manner across all environments, adopting modern DevOps techniques.
  • Allow Azure data services to run on any infrastructure: everything is based on the adoption of kubernetes and allows achieving more easily meet compliance criteria, to improve the security of data and to have considerable flexibility in deployment time. At the time the services covered are Azure SQL Database and Azure Database for PostgreSQL.
  • Organize, manage and govern all server systems: Azure Arc extends Azure governance and management capabilities to physical machines and virtual systems in different environments. This solution is specifically called Azure Arc for servers.

Figure 3 – Azure Arc Technologies

Azure Arc involves the use of specific Resource Provider for Azure Resource Manager and the installation of Azure Arc agents is required.

By logging in to the portal, you can see that Azure Arc for Servers is already currently available in public preview, while you need to register to manage Kubernetes environments and data services in preview.

Figure 4 – Azure Arc in the Azure portal

Thanks to the adoption of Azure Arc which introduces an overall view, you can reach, for hybrid architectures, the following objectives, difficult to achieve otherwise:

  • Standardization of operations
  • Organization of resources
  • Security
  • Cost Control
  • Business Continuity
  • Regulatory and corporate compliance

Figure 5 – Cloud-native governance with Azure Arc

Conclusions

Azure Arc was recently announced and although still in an embryonic phase, I think that will evolve significantly enough to revolutionize the management and development of hybrid environments. To keep up to date on how this solution will develop you can register at this page.

Data encryption in Azure

One of the areas related to the improvement of Security Posture of the corporate information system is certainly encryption, through the adoption of specific techniques, that makes the data readable only to those who have the solution to decrypt it. This article provides an overview of how encryption is used in Azure and provides references to further studies.

To protect your data in the cloud, you must first consider the possible states in which the data can be located and evaluate the related controls that can be implemented. Best practices for data security and encryption, particularly in Azure, concern the following states:

  • At rest: includes all information that statically resides on physical storage media, both magnetic and optical.
  • In transit: when data is transferred between components, locations or services, are defined in transit. For example,, transferring data across the network, service bus or during processes of input / output.

Encryption at Rest

Encryption at Rest is a highly recommended technique and is a priority requirement for many organizations to comply with data governance and compliance policies. Different industry-specific and government-specific regulations, require the presence of data protection and encryption measures. Encryption at Rest encrypts the data when it is persistent and is used, in addition to meeting compliance and regulatory requirements, also to have a high level of protection for data. The Azure platform natively involves the adoption of advanced physical security mechanisms, data access control and auditing. However, It is important to take overlapping security measures to deal with potential bankruptcies, and encryption at Rest is a great way to ensure confidentiality, compliance and data sovereignty.

Server-Side Data Encryption Models

Server-side data encryption models refer to encryption performed by Azure services. In this model, it is the Azure Resource Provider that performs encryption and decryption. There are several Encryption at Rest templates at Server Side available in Azure, each of which has different characteristics in key management, these can be applied to different Azure resources:

  • Server-Side Encryption using Service-Managed Keys. In this scenario, the encryption keys are managed by Microsoft and proves to be a good combination of control and convenience.
  • Server-side encryption using customer-managed keys in Azure Key Vault. In this mode, the encryption keys are controlled by the customer through Azure Key Vault, and includes support for using your keys (BYOK).
  • Server-side encryption that uses customer-managed keys on customer-controlled hardware. This methodology allows the customer to check the keys that reside on a repository controlled by the customer, outside of Microsoft's control. This feature is called Host Your Own Key (HYOK). However, configuration is articulated and most Azure services do not support this model at this time.

Figure 1 – Server-side encryption model

Client-side data encryption models

The client-side data encryption model refers to encryption performed outside Azure and is performed directly by the calling service or application. When you use this encryption model, the Resource Provider in Azure receives encrypted data without the ability to decrypt it or access the encryption keys. In this model, key management is performed by the calling service or application and is obscure for the Azure service.

Figure 2 – Client-side encryption model

Encryption at Rest for top Azure services

Azure Storage

Azure Storage provides on automatically encrypts the data when they are made persistent in the cloud environment. In fact, all Azure Storage services (Blob storage, Queue storage, Table storage, and Azure Files) support server side encryption of data at rest and some of them also support encryption client-side of data and encryption keys managed by the customer.

  • Server-side: all default Azure storage services have enabled by default the server-side encryption using keys managed by the service. For Azure Blob storage and Azure Files is also supported using encryption keys managed by the customer in Azure Key Vault. The technology used is called Azure Storage Service Encryption, in automatically able to encrypt the data before being stored and decode them when they are accessed. This process is completely transparent to the user and involves the use of AES encryption 256 bit, one of the most powerful block ciphers currently available. Azure Storage encryption is similar to BitLocker encryption in a Windows environment. Azure Storage encryption is enabled by default for all new storage accounts and cannot be disabled. Storage accounts are encrypted regardless of performance level (standard or premium) or from the deployment model (Azure Resource Manager or classic). All redundancy options provided for storage accounts support encryption and all copies of a storage account are always encrypted. Encryption does not affect the performance of storage accounts and there is no additional cost.
  • Client-side: this encryption is currently supported by Azure Blobs, Tables, and Queues. When used the data is encrypted by the customer managing their keys and is uploaded as an encrypted blob.

Virtual Machines

All Managed Disks, Snapshots and virtual machine images in Azure are encrypted using Storage Service Encryption via keys managed by the service. When processing data on a virtual machine, data can be kept in the Windows paging file or in the Linux swap file, in a crash dump or an application log. Therefore, to obtain a solution of Encryption at Rest more complete on IaaS virtual machines and virtual disks, which ensures that data is never kept in an unencrypted form, you need to use Azure Disk Encryption . This feature helps you protect Windows virtual machines, using the technology Windows BitLocker, and Linux virtual machines through DM-Crypt. Relying on Azure Disk Encryption you get a full protection of the operating system disks and data volumes. The Encryption keys and the secrets are protected within their own Azure Key Vault. Encrypted virtual machine protection is supported by the Azure Backup service. For more information about Azure Disk Encryption you can see the Microsoft's official documentation.

Azure SQL Database

Azure SQL Database currently supports encryption at rest in the following ways:

  • Server-side: server-side encryption is guaranteed through a SQL feature named Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) and it can be activated either at the database server level. Starting in June 2017 this feature is on by default for all new database. TDE protects SQL data and log files, using AES encryption algorithms and Triple Data Encryption Standard (3DES). Database files are encrypted at the page level, they are encrypted before being written to disk and de-encrypted when read into memory.
  • Client-side: client-side encryption of data to SQL Azure Database is supported through the functionality Always Encrypted, that uses keys that are generated and stored on the client side. By adopting this technology it is possible to encrypt data within the client applications before storing in the Azure SQL database.

As with Azure Storage and Azure SQL Database, also for many other Azure services (Azure Cosmos DB, Azure Data Lake, etc.) the data encryption at rest occurs by default, but for other services it can be optionally activated.

Encryption in Transit in Azure

The protection of data in transit must be an essential element to be considered in your data protection strategy. It is generally recommended to protect the movement and exchange of data always using SSL protocols / TLS. Under certain circumstances, it may be appropriate to isolate the entire channel of communication between the on-premises environment and the cloud using a VPN. Microsoft uses the TLS protocol (Transport Layer Security) to protect data when traveling between cloud services and customers. In fact, a TLS connection is negotiated between the Microsoft datacenter and client systems that connect to the Azure Services. The TLS protocol provides strong authentication, privacy and message integrity (allows detection of tampering, interception and message forgery).

Conclusions

The issue of protection through encryption of the data stored in Azure environment is seen as very important for those who decide to rely on the services in the cloud. Knowing that all Azure services provide encryption at rest options and that basic services encryption is enabled by default, is certainly very comforting. Some services also support the control of the encryption keys from the customer and the client side encryption to provide a greater level of control and flexibility. Microsoft is constantly improving its services to ensure greater control of the encryption at rest options and aims to enable encryption at rest as the default for all customer data.

Azure IaaS and Azure Stack: announcements and updates (December 2019 – Weeks: 49 and 50)

This series of blog posts includes the most important announcements and major updates regarding Azure infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Azure Stack, officialized by Microsoft in the last two weeks.

Azure

Azure Dedicated Hosts now generally available

Azure Dedicated Host provides a single-tenant physical server to host your Azure virtual machines for Windows and Linux. The server capacity is not shared with other customers. As a result, you can run general purpose, memory intensive or compute intensive workloads in a hardware-isolated and virtualized server environment dedicated to your organization. With Azure Dedicated Host, you can address specific compliance requirements while increasing visibility and control over your underlying infrastructure.

General Availability of Proximity Placement Groups

Azure proximity placement groups, now in General Availability,  enable customers to achieve co-location of Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) resources with low network latency.

Azure Spot VMs in Preview

Azure Spot VMs let you access unused Azure compute capacity at deep discounts compared to pay-as-you-go VM prices. Spot VMs are ideal for workloads that can be interrupted, providing scalability while reducing costs. You get unique Azure pricing and benefits when running Windows Server workloads on Spot VMs.
You can take advantage of Spot VM pricing for Azure VMs or VM scale sets (VMSS). Select the right deployment model based on your preferences and the characteristics of your application. Like their low-priority VMs predecessors, Spot VMs are engineered to run workloads that don’t need to be completed within a specific timeframe.

New bot protection rule in preview for Web Application Firewall with Azure Front Door service

A new bot protection ruleset is in preview for Azure Web Application Firewall with Azure Front Door service. Adding to this updated ruleset are three bot categories: good, bad, and unknown. There are multiple bot groups within each category. Bot signatures are managed and dynamically updated by Web Application Firewall service. The default action for bad bot groups is set to Block, for the verified search engine crawlers group it’s set to Allow, and for the unknown bot category it’s set to Log. Customers may overwrite the default action with Allow, Block, Log, or Redirect for any type of bot groups. 

Maintenance control for platform updates in preview

The preview of a maintenance control feature for Azure Virtual Machines gives more control to customers with highly sensitive workloads for platform maintenance, running on an Azure Dedicated Host or an Isolated VM, where the underlying physical server runs a single customer’s workload. This feature is not supported for VMs deployed in hosts shared with other customers. Using this feature, customers can control all impactful host updates, including rebootless updates, for up to 35 days.

Azure Private Link support in AKS is in preview

AKS now supports Azure Private Link in public preview. With Azure Private Link in AKS, customers can interact with the Kubernetes API server as a private endpoint in their virtual network, ensuring that all Kubernetes management operations remain completely isolated. Because Private Link provides private connectivity from the customer’s virtual network to the Azure-managed Kubernetes control plane, customers can still get all the benefits of AKS but in an even more secure configuration.

Application Gateway Ingress Controller for Azure Kubernetes Service

A new solution to bind Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Application Gateway. This new solution provides an open source Application Gateway Ingress Controller (AGIC) for Kubernetes, which makes it possible for AKS customers to leverage Application Gateway to expose their cloud software to the Internet. Bringing together the benefits of the Azure Kubernetes Service, our managed Kubernetes service, which makes it easy to operate advanced Kubernetes environments and Azure Application Gateway, our native, scalable, and highly available, L7 load balancer has been highly requested by our customers.

HC-Series VMs are now available in South Central US

HC-Series Hi Performance Computing VMs now available in South Central US

Azure Cost Management updates

New updates to Azure Cost Management help you manage costs for cloud solution provider (CSP) subscriptions, build better dashboards by customizing tile names, save money with Azure reservations for 16 different services, along with additional enhancements.

Azure Migrate: Agentless dependency analysis is now available in preview

Azure Migrate now supports agentless dependency analysis in a limited preview. The dependency data is discovered remotely by the Azure Migrate appliance without the installation of any agent or script on virtual machines. This feature is currently available only for VMware servers.

Microsoft plans to establish new cloud datacenter region in Qatar

Microsoft recently announced plans to establish a new cloud datacenter region in Qatar to deliver its intelligent, trusted cloud services and expand the Microsoft global cloud infrastructure to 55 cloud regions in 20 countries. he new region is anticipated to be available starting with Microsoft Azure in 2021, and Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform to follow.

Azure File Sync agent v9.1

Improvements and issues that are fixed:

  • Self-service restore support: users can now restore their files by using the previous version feature. Prior to the v9 release, the previous version feature was not supported on volumes that had cloud tiering enabled. This feature must be enabled for each volume separately, on which an endpoint with cloud tiering enabled exists. 
  • Support for larger file share sizes: Azure File Sync now supports up to 64TiB and 100 million files in a single, syncing namespace.
  • Data Deduplication support on Server 2019: Data Deduplication is now supported with cloud tiering enabled on Windows Server 2019. To support Data Deduplication on volumes with cloud tiering, Windows update KB4520062 must be installed.
  • Improved minimum file size for a file to tier: The minimum file size for a file to tier is now based on the file system cluster size (double the file system cluster size). For example, by default, the NTFS file system cluster size is 4KB, the resulting minimum file size for a file to tier is 8KB.
  • Network connectivity test cmdlet: As part of Azure File Sync configuration, multiple service endpoints must be contacted. They each have their own DNS name that needs to be accessible to the server. These URLs are also specific to the region a server is registered to. Once a server is registered, the connectivity test cmdlet (PowerShell and Server Registration Utility) can be used to test communications with all URLs specific to this server. This cmdlet can help troubleshoot when incomplete communication prevents the server from fully working with Azure File Sync and it can be used to fine tune proxy and firewall configurations.
    • To run the network connectivity test, run the following PowerShell commands:
      • Import-Module “<SyncAgentInstallPath>\StorageSync.Management.ServerCmdlets.dll”
      • Test-StorageSyncNetworkConnectivity
  • Remove server endpoint improvement when cloud tiering is enabled: As before, removing a server endpoint does not result in removing files in the Azure file share. However, behavior for reparse points on the local server has changed. Reparse points (pointers to files that are not local on the server) are now deleted when removing a server endpoint. The fully cached files will remain on the server. This improvement was made to prevent orphaned tiered files when removing a server endpoint. If the server endpoint is recreated, the reparse points for the tiered files will be recreated on the server.
  • Performance and reliability improvements
    • Reduced recall failures. Recall size is now automatically adjusted based on network bandwidth.
    • Improved download performance when adding a new server to a sync group.
    • Reduced files not syncing due to constraint conflicts.

Installation instructions are documented in KB4522360.

Azure Stack

Microsoft has validated the Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 edge server for Azure Stack HCI

Microsoft and Lenovo have teamed up to validate the Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 for Microsoft’s Azure Stack HCI program. The ThinkSystem SE350 was designed and built with the unique requirements of edge servers in mind. It is versatile enough to stretch the limitations of server locations, providing a variety of connectivity and security options and can be easily managed with Lenovo XClarity Controller. The ThinkSystem SE350 solution has a focus on smart connectivity, business security, and manageability for the harsh environment.

Azure Networking: managing micro-perimeters with Azure Firewall Manager

Microsoft's public cloud introduces the new management service Azure Firewall Manager that allows you to centrally manage security policies and routing rules. With this solution, you can better govern the security perimeters of your cloud environments and help you protect your business ecosystem. This article lists the key features of the new service, highlighting the benefits that can be gained by using it.

The security model, defined Zero trust by Forrester Research analysts, and in contrast with the conventional models based on perimeter security, directs us to adopt an approach related to micro-segmentation and the definition of granular perimeters in the network architecture. To facilitate this approach, Microsoft has released this tool that, providing a single centralized control panel, , it is able to simplify the configuration and management of network security policy, often deployed across multiple instances of Azure Firewall.

Azure Firewall Manager at the moment is integrated with Azure Virtual WAN, the service that allows you to implement network architectures that are managed according to the hub and spoke model. Azure Firewall can now be enabled in Virtual WAN Hub networks, and when security and routing policies are associated by Azure Firewall Manager the Hub network is defined as a Secured Virtual Hub.

Figure 1 – Overview of Azure Firewall Manager

Adopting Azure Firewall Manager you can get the following benefits:

  • Centralized configurations and deployments: deploying and configuring multiple instances of Azure Firewall, in Virtual WAN Hub networks, can be done centrally. These Azure Firewall instances can reside in different Azure regions and on different subscriptions. In addition, you can organize a hierarchy of DevOps-optimized Azure Firewall policies, where Global firewall policies are managed by central IT and local policy firewalls are delegated to DevOps to promote better agility in processes.
  • Automated routing: comes the ability to easily route traffic in a centralized manner from the spoke networks to the Secure Virtual Hub, all without having to manipulate the User Defined Routes of spoke networks.
  • Integration with Partners Security as a Service (SECaaS) Third Party: to further enhance the security features it can be integrated with SECaaS partners, today Zscaler and iBoss, but soon it will be possible even with CheckPoint.

Figure 2 – Central security e route policy management

In detail the steps to adopt the solution are as follows:

  1. Creating the hub-and-spoke network architecture, using the Azure Virtual WAN service and activating an Azure Firewall instance in the Hub network. To do this, you can do by using two separate modes:
    1. Creating a new one Secured Virtual Hub by Azure Firewall Manager and adding virtual network connections;
    2. Transforming an existing Virtual WAN Hub, activating the Azure Firewall service on the Hub network.

Figure 3 – Start the process using Azure Firewall Manager

  1. Selecting security providers (Optional). This can be done either during the process of creating a Secure Virtual Hub or during the conversion of a Virtual WAN Hub in a Secure Virtual Hub.

Figure 4 – Choosing the Trusted Security Partner

  1. Creating a firewall policy and association with the Network Hub. This is only possible for Azure Firewall Policies, while for Security as a Service solutions policies (SECaaS) provided by partners, you need to use their management tools.
  1. Configuring routing settings on the Secured Hub to attract the traffic of the spoke networks and make it filtered according to the defined policies.

At the moment Azure Firewall Manager is supported only for managing Hub and Spoke architectures created through the Azure Virtual WAN service. Support for managing Azure Firewall instances enabled in Virtual Networks is expected in the first half of next year.

Conclusions

Azure Firewall Manager is a tool that is very useful for managing complex environments composed of different network architectures that adopt the Hub and Spoke model over Azure Virtual WAN. This additional management service despite the dawn, and destined to get rich soon with new features, is essential to manage more easily and effectively the Azure network architecture. At the moment the service is Public Preview, so are not guaranteed SLA (Service-Level Agreements) and it should not be used in production environments.