New Free Data Courses on Pluralsight Available!

Over the past two months I’ve been busy on some Data in Azure courses for Microsoft and Pluralsight. These are free and you just need to sign-up for a free account on Pluralsight. These will shortly be available via Azure as well but are available now through Pluralsight.

Azure Stack Marketplace Management

Been doing some work with Azure Stack and wanted to easily update all the Microsoft provided extensions and a set of core images if there are new versions by running a simple script.

Script available at https://github.com/johnthebrit/AzureStack/blob/master/azurestackmarketplace.ps1. Simply run the script and after it downloads the assets it will check if there are older versions and prompt you if you want to delete the old ones.

Lots of new Azure Design and Identity free training available

I may have seemed to be very quiet over the past few months but that’s because I’ve been working pretty much every night and weekend on 11 new courses for azure.com that will shortly be available via the site but are immediately available for free via PluralSight. If you don’t have an account simply sign up for a free account and you can then access my (and other peoples tracks).

Planning Microsoft Azure Identity and Security

Planning Microsoft Azure Infrastructure

The identity track looks at identity management before diving into authentication, authorization, auditing, monitoring and risk. The infrastructure track looks at compute, storage, networking and monitoring.

I hope you find these courses useful and there are more to come.

On a side note I’m trying to raise money for Cure Childhood Cancer as part of my Ironman Chattanooga on 9/30/2018. This will be my 5th Ironman this year and 12th overall. If you can help even a little please head over to https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/john-savill/IM2018 and maybe your company matches so if they do that helps as well. I’ll be trackable on the day via https://bat.live/track/imchattanooga2018?bib=356.

Thank you!

Delivering a Customizable, Graphical Insight into Azure VM Security, Health and Connectivity Using Several Azure Services Together

In this blog I want to walkthrough a solution I recently architected and implemented along with a two other MTC architects to deliver a solution we needed for two reasons:

  1. To provide insight into the VMs hosted in Azure across the global Microsoft Technology Center environment
  2. Showcase the use of some key Microsoft cloud technologies

The Requirement

The global MTC organization is made up of around 30 offices which each have several Azure subscriptions to host the projects they are working on and environments used in customer activities. Additionally, there are several global, shared Azure subscriptions that host core infrastructure and experiences. These subscriptions are tied to various Azure AD tenants depending on requirements. The primary subscription for each MTC also hosts a virtual network that is part of a global IP space that is connected via one of four regional ExpressRoute circuits to the MTC worldwide VPN that provides connectivity between all MTC offices.

While there is a standard governance and process guide each MTC has control of their own subscriptions and resources however from a central MTC organization perspective insight into several key factors was required.

  • Are the VMs registered with the central Log Analytics instance to report inventory and patch state. Log Analytics is part of the Operations Management Suite and is used to accept log information from almost any sort and then provides power analytical capabilities to use that information to provide insight into the environment. A number of solutions are included that provide visibility into best practices, patch status, anti-malware status and much more. For OS instance visibility Log Analytics uses the Microsoft Monitoring Agent (MMS) which is the same agent used by System Center Operations Manager.
  • What is the current patch status of the VM. This is provided by information to Log Analytics and to Azure Security Center if registered. Azure Security Center (ASC) provides a central security posture location for Azure resources including VM health, network health, storage health and more.
  • Is the VM connected to ExpressRoute. This can be found by checking the virtual network a VM is attached to and if that virtual network has an ExpressRoute Gateway connected.
  • Does the VM have a public IP and is it health. Public IP existence can be found through the properties of VM IP configurations and the health which is based on use of Network Security Groups to lock down communication through ASC.
  • Is the VM older than 30 days. Object creations are logged in Azure. By default, these are kept for 60 days which enables a search of the logs for the VM creation. If not found it would mean the VM is older than 60 days and if found the exact age can be determined. The age is useful as short-term VMs do not have the same levels of reporting requirements, i.e. does not have to be registered to OMS.

The insight into the health needed to be in the form to provide easy overall insight while allowing detail to be exposed through drilling down into the data.

The Solution

I started off crafting a solution in PowerShell through which I can access the full knowledge of the Azure Resource Manager via the AzureRM module and also other solutions such as Log Analytics, Azure Security Center and Azure Storage.

If you like to read the end of the book below is the final solution and what I will walk through is some of the detail you see in the picture.

The first challenge was the context to run the script under since multiple Azure AD tenants were utilized and I didn’t want to have to manage multiple credentials. Therefore, Azure AD B2B (business to business) was utilized. A single identity in the main Azure AD tenant was created and then a communication sent to each MTC to add that identity via Azure AD B2B to any local Azure AD tenant instances and then to give that account Read permissions to all subscriptions. This enabled a single credential to be used across every subscription, regardless of the Azure AD tenant the subscription was tied to. This same credential was also give rights to the Log Analytics instance all VMs reported to which enables queries to be run.

Now the access was available the next step was the actual PowerShell to gather the required information. A storage account was created that would be used to store the output of the execution which would be a basic execution report and two JSON files that contained custom objects representing the VM state and Azure subscription information.

The basic PowerShell flow is as follows:

  • Import the ASC and Log Analytics PowerShell modules
  • Access the credential that will be used
  • Connect to Azure using the credential
  • Store a list of every subscription associated to the credential in an array
  • Connect to the Azure Storage account to create a context for BLOB storage
  • Connect to the Log Analytics workspace and trigger two queries whose results were stored in two arrays
    • List of all machines that report to the instance that are stored in Azure
    • List of all machines that are missing patches that are stored in Azure
  • Create three files that contained todays date; log files, VM JSON files and subscription JSON file
  • Create two empty arrays that will store custom objects for VM state and subscription information
  • For every subscription perform the following:
    • List the administrators and write to the log
    • Retrieve the ASC status for the subscription and store in an array
    • For every Resource Group
      • Find the virtual networks connected to ExpressRoute gateway and store in an array
      • For every VM in the Resource Group
        • Find the creation time by scanning the operational log of Azure. Save the creation time if found and if older than 30 days or report older than 30 days if no log found
        • For each NIC inspect the IP configurations
          • Is it connected to a virtual network that has ExpressRoute connectivity
          • Does it have a public IP address and if so what is the health of that public IP based on information previously saved from ASC
        • Is the VM registered in OMS
        • Is the VM missing patches based on information from OMS or ASC
        • Create a custom object using a hash table with all desired information about the VM and add to the VM object array
    • Add a subscription information custom object to the subscription array
  • Upload the three data files generated to the Azure storage account as BLOBs

To actually run the PowerShell I used Azure Automation which not only provided a resilient engine to run the code but capabilities such as credentials which could securely store the identity that was used removing any need to hardcode it in the script itself. The schedule capability was used to trigger the runbook (the container for the PowerShell in Azure Automation) to right daily at 11pm.

At this point in an Azure Storage account was a report and two JSON files with one of them, the VM state JSON file, the most useful which enabled all information to be queried easily however the goal was to have it more easily digestible which meant PowerBI and ideally getting the data more easily available to everyone, e.g. Teams along with a notification that the nights execution was successful.

The solution was to use a Logic App (created by Ali Mazaheri, https://blogs.msdn.com/alimaz) which enables activities to be chained together using various connectors which include Azure Storage, Teams and SharePoint. The Logic App was designed with a recurrence trigger (but could also trigger based on object creations and other triggers) and to then perform the following:

  • List the blobs in the azurescan container (a container is like a folder in Azure Store)
  • For each object that is not empty
    • Get the BLOB content
    • Create a file containing that content in SharePoint
    • Copy the BLOB to an archive BLOB
    • Delete the original BLOB

 

  • Write a message to a team’s channel that the log migration was completed (Or send an email, notification to phone, etc.)

A great feature of Logic Apps is that they are implemented by adding the built-in connectors or your own API apps, Azure Functions and then graphically laying out the flow using conditions, branches and those connectors by passing output as an input for next connectors and in this case some custom expressions. Below is the key content of the Logic App (as an alternative we could have also used Azure Functions and EventGrid to achieve the same goal).

The final step was the Power BI portion to read in the file from SharePoint and provide a visualization of the data contained in the JSON. David Browne created this powerful dashboard that enabled various visualizations of the data and easy access to change the criteria of the data contained.

The Power BI Service can connect directly to SharePoint Online to read the files.  Power Query in Power BI is used to identify the latest data files, convert them from JSON to a tabular format and to clean the data.  The data is then loaded into an in-memory Tabular Model hosted by Power BI and configured for daily refresh.

Using the Azure PS Drive

If you leverage the Azure Cloud Shell in the Azure portal its a very convenient way to manage Azure resources using PowerShell and the CLI but you may have also noticed an actual Azure drive, i.e. Set-Location azure: and you can navigate around your Azure resources (this is actually the default location when the cloud shell opens). At the top level are subscriptions and you can then navigate to resource groups, VMs, WebApps and more.

The Azure drive is provided via the Simple Hierarchy in PowerShell (SHiPS) provider which you can see via Get-PSProvider.

The actual functionality is evolving, its a project on GitHub at https://github.com/PowerShell/SHiPS but this also means you can run this same provider outside of the Azure Cloud Shell.

You need to ensure you are running the latest version of the AzureRM module then download, install, add an Azure account and add the provider:

You can now navigate to Azure: and enjoy the same feature as when in the Azure Cloud Shell.

Note this is completely different from the Azure Cloud Drive which is the persistent file storage you have in the Azure Cloud Shell that is backed by Azure Files and enables data to be saved and used between sessions. Use Get-CloudDrive to see the current configuration and if you wish to change it simply run Dismount-CloudDrive and then restart the shell and select Advanced options to customize the location.

Writing to files with Azure Automation

Azure Automation enables PowerShell (and more) to be executed as runbooks by runbook workers hosted in Azure. Additionally Azure Automation accounts bring capabilities such as credential objects to securely store credentials, variables, scheduling and more. When a runbook executes it runs in a temporary environment that does not have any persistent state and so if you want to work with files you need to save them somewhere, for example to an Azure storage account as a blob, before the runbook completes.

You can actually create and use files as normal using the default path within PowerShell during execution, just remember to save the files externally before the script completes.

For example create a file as usual:

Then before ending the PowerShell, copy it to a blob (as an example storage place):

 

 

Easily create multiple subnets in an Azure Virtual Network

I recently needed to create a whole set of subnets in a large number of virtual networks of various sizes. I thought some variables would be a great way to quickly create the set of subnets in each virtual network which were each /20 networks in a shared class B IP which enabled 16 virtual networks per Class B IP space. The goal was to show that each subnet didn’t need to be a full class C (/24) in instead we could use smaller subnets based on the number of hosts actually required. I’ve included the comments which explains the subnets created and the number of hosts supported in each.

 

 

Use an Application Image from the Azure Marketplace using PowerShell

I recently needed to deploy a special type of VM from the Azure Marketplace using PowerShell and the deployment was not the same as regular Windows or Linux VM.

First I knew the app I wanted to use, e.g. https://azuremarketplace.microsoft.com/en-us/marketplace/apps/microsoft-ads.windows-data-science-vm but wasn’t sure of the publisher or offer. With hindsight it shows you right in the URL, Microsoft-ads is the publisher and windows-data-science-vm is the offer but I initially just searched for what I wanted using the following and looked for it (first part of the code), then got the detail as usual (last two lines):

Now I knew the publisher, offer and SKU I could add that configuration to my VM.

However, when using the application there are a few other steps. You need to set a plan and also accept the terms of the app. Fortunately it’s easy to do.

That was it. Basically the only additional work is setting the plan and accepting the marketplace terms and the data needed for those commands are the same values used for the source image, just PublisherName > Publisher, Offer > Product and SKUs > Name. The exact same would apply if using JSON. Easy!

Deploying an Azure IaaS VM using PowerShell

I recently had to deploy some new VMs and wanted to use PowerShell and also join them to a domain and get the anti-malware extension used. Below is the PowerShell I used. You would need to modify the variables in the below to match your own domains.