A closer look at Azure Arc enabled servers

Published Sep 22 2020 10:00 AM 3,085 Views
Microsoft

Unified operations for hybrid IT

Azure Arc enabled servers is a powerful new technology that will help Microsoft customers and partners build seamless solutions for managing hybrid IT resources from a single pane of glass. Servers running outside of Azure such as AWS EC2 instances, on-premises VMware or physical machines, or devices in edge scenarios can now be projected into Azure as first-class resources. These resources can then be managed using Azure Policy, resource tags, and other Azure capabilities like update management, change tracking, monitoring, and more as if they were native Azure virtual machines. Azure Arc provides a unified governance and management strategy using Azure tools for our hybrid IT and multi-cloud environments.

 

architecture_white.png

 

Azure Arc Connected Machine agent

Azure Arc enabled servers interact with Azure via the Connected Machine agent. This agent interfaces with an Azure Resource Manager (ARM) resource provider which gives us the ability to perform management operations on the server via Azure Portal, Azure CLI, or Azure SDK. This agent contains logical components that control how an Azure Arc enabled server interfaces with various Azure services. The Hybrid Instance Metadata Service manages communication with Azure AD, while the Extension Manager service and Guest Configuration service allow the server to easily use Azure Virtual Machine extensions and to be governed using Azure Policy. The agent is configured with an Azure service principal and other parameters to manage scope and resource placement and it can be deployed manually or as part of scripted automation.

 

azcmagent_win.png

 

Azure Arc enabled servers in action

Let's take a closer look now at the above concepts in action. Imagine that we have a mature hybrid IT organization with server assets spread out over various public clouds and on-premises datacenters. We have standardized on using Azure Policy and other Azure governance tools (e.g., Log Analytics, Update Management, Backup, tagging). Because of the various hosting platforms for our virtual machines, we need an easy way to apply a common policy strategy across them all. To accomplish this, we will use Azure Arc enabled servers.

 

One of my requirements is that all virtual machines must send logs to Log Analytics to manage updates, change tracking, inventory, and monitoring. The onboarding of the Log Analytics agent must be done automatically via policy. To accomplish this, I have set up a Log Analytics workspace and enabled Update Management and Change Tracking, and I can deploy a built-in Azure Policy that checks for the presence of the Log Analytics agent and automatically deploys it if it is not found. Below you can see I have deployed this built-in policy. 

 

mma_policy.png

 

If you look closely at the JSON in the screenshot below you can see that this policy is scoped to the Microsoft.HybridCompute/machines resource type. Once this policy is in place, new Azure Arc enabled servers that I onboard by deploying the Connected Machine agent should automatically have the Log Analytics agent deployed by the policy.

 

mma_policy_scope_json.png

 

Onboarding a server

Our next step is to onboard some servers to Azure by deploying the Connected Machine agent. We can do this using our own Azure credentials, or we can use a service principal for automated scenarios. We can scope a service principal to the "Azure Connected Machine Onboarding" role to restrict actions using the service principal to onboarding Azure Arc enabled servers only.

 

Below, you can see I have deployed a virtual machine to AWS. This VM is running Ubuntu 18.04.

 

aws-vm.png

 

We can get the Connected Machine agent provisioned on this server by running some commands. First we will download the agent install script using wget and then install the agent by running the downloaded script.

 

#!/bin/bash
# Download the installation package
wget https://aka.ms/azcmagent -O ~/install_linux_azcmagent.sh

# Install the hybrid agent
sudo bash ~/install_linux_azcmagent.sh

 

 

The script will run and generate some output. When complete you should see something similar to the below screenshot.

 

ec2-installagent2.png

 

Next, I will run azcmagent connect to onboard the server. We can see in the example below that this command requires us to pass our service principal and secret, Azure tenant and subscription id, which I am injecting as environment variables. I also pass an Azure region and resource group.

 

sudo azcmagent connect \
   --service-principal-id $TF_VAR_client_id \
   --service-principal-secret $TF_VAR_client_secret \
   --tenant-id $TF_VAR_tenant_id \
   --subscription-id $TF_VAR_subscription_id \
   --location "westus2" \
   --resource-group "Arc-AWS-Demo" \

 

 

ec2-onboardagent.png

 

Now that the server has been onboarded I can open the Azure Portal and see it as a resource in the resource group I specified when running azcmagent connect

 

aws-vm-azure.png

 

If I look at the Extensions blade, I can also see that the Log Analytics agent (MMAExtension) is provisioned. This happened automatically as a result of the policy we configured.

 

ec2-mma.png

 

With the MMAExtension enabled and my server sending logs to my workspace, we can take advantage of many governance tools such as managing updates with Update Management, reviewing security posture with Azure Security Center, and proactively managing security and other incidents with Azure Sentinel.

 

Below we can see our server is missing some updates. With the Update Management solution we can apply the update automatically or generate an alert that creates an incident in Azure Sentinel if this is a critical security update.

 

ec2-updates.png

 

We can also use Kusto to query logs on the server for custom reports or other monitoring scenarios.

 

aws-la-sentinel.png

 

By using this workflow of deploying policies that are scoped to Azure Arc enabled servers, I can enable a large variety of governance scenarios. Some other examples of using Azure Arc enabled servers with Azure Policy include:

  • Automatically deploying Azure Security Center at scale on any server
  • Hardening servers for compliance scenarios using Guest Configuration
  • Applying inventory management tags for better organization of my diverse hybrid resources.
  • Enable multi-tenant or multi-customer service provider solutions by using Azure Lighthouse together with Azure Arc

Next steps

I hope this has been a helpful primer on Azure Arc enabled servers. For additional Azure Arc content visit the Azure Arc Jumpstart GitHub repository, where you can find more than 30 Azure Arc deployment guides and automation and visit the official Azure Arc documentation pageAdditionally, my colleagues have written some other articles on Azure Arc that you can read:

Enjoy the rest of Ignite 2020!

1 Comment
Senior Member

You have heard it here first - Azure Arc will change the world of IT! In fact, it already has :D

 

Happy Azure Stacking!!!

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Version history
Last update:
‎Oct 06 2020 09:58 AM
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