5th Book Published! Azure Stack Book!

The latest book project I have be a part of has completed and recently published. Back in August in this blog post (http://www.buchatech.com/2017/08/azure-stack-book-coming-soon-training) I mentioned this book was on its way. It is a book about Azure Stack that was officially published on December 21, 2017 by Pearson publishing. This book release has been very exciting as it is a part of the Unleashed series and this one marks the 5th book I have published. Here is a screenshot of all 5 from my Amazon author page:

In total I have published 2 books on System Center Data Protection Manager, 2 books on System Center Service Manager, and now this book covering Microsoft’s Hybrid Cloud with Azure and Azure Stack. This book also comes at the right time as I recently made a transition to a new company (Avanade) with a new focus on Cloud (Azure/Azure Stack) and DevOps. 2018 and beyond look to be exciting times as I “Hit Refresh” on my career focus.

Books like this require a team effort. On this book I was honored to work with an expert team of authors. All of the authors are fellow Microsoft MVP’s. The other authors are: Kerrie Meyler,‎ Mark Scholman,‎ Jakob Gottlieb Svendsen,‎ Janaka Rangama. Me and the other authors are pictured below + a former Microsoft MVP Nirmal.

A part of the books team also included some members of the Azure Stack product group and Azure CAT team. We lucked out having Daniel Savage Principal PM Manager from the Azure Stack team write the foreword and Marc van Eijk Senior Program Manager from the Azure CAT team serve as our technical reviewer keeping us authors in line. 🙂

Each of us authors had so much to contribute and added much value across a variety of topics for Azure Stack. In this book I focused on bringing the readers into the cloud journey, showing the value of ITIL applied to cloud as well as the value of DevOps and then bringing ITIL and DevOps together applying them to Hybrid Cloud, took a deep dive into resource providers and management of Azure Stack through a CloudOps perspective.

Other topics covered in the book consist of preparing for Azure Stack deployments both with the development kit and integrated system, deep dive into the architecture of Azure Stack including the development kit and integrated system, data center integration with Azure Stack, configuring Azure Stack including delegation and for tenants, provisioning in Azure Stack, using OMS/DSC/VM extensions with Azure Stack, Customizing Azure Stack, automating in Azure Stack, and much more.

This book gives you the information you need around Azure Stack single and multi-node. It is a great place to start as you venture into the world of Microsoft Hybrid Cloud. The plan is to update this book as Microsoft continues to mature Azure Stack so this book will continue to be relevant.

Here is the book cover:

Here is the official description for the book:

“Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Unleashed brings together comprehensive and practical insights into hybrid cloud technologies, complete CloudOps and DevOps implementation strategies, and detailed guidance for deploying Microsoft Azure Stack in your environment.

Written by five Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management MVPs, this book is built on real-world scenarios and the authors’ extraordinary hands-on experiences as early adopters. Step by step, the authors help you integrate your optimal mix of private and public cloud, with a unified management experience that lets you move workloads at will, achieving unprecedented flexibility.

The authors also guide you through all aspects of building your own secure, high-performance hybrid cloud infrastructure. You’ll discover how Azure Stack enables you to run data centers with the same scalability, redundancy, and reliability as Microsoft’s Azure data centers; how to integrate Azure infrastructure and platform services with internal operations; and how to manage crucial external dependencies. The book concludes with a deep dive into automating and customizing Azure Stack for maximum reliability, productivity, and cost savings.

Detailed information on how to

  •     Run a private/hybrid cloud on your hardware in your data center, using APIs and code identical to public Azure
  •     Apply ITIL and DevOps lifecycles to your hybrid cloud implementation
  •     Gain a deep understanding of Azure Stack architecture, components, and internals
  •     Install and configure Azure Stack and master the Azure Stack Portal
  •     Integrate and utilize infrastructure, core, and custom resource providers
  •     Effectively provision, secure, and manage tenants
  •     Manage, monitor, troubleshoot, and back up Azure Stack with CloudOps
  •     Automate resource provisioning with PowerShell, the Azure CLI, templates, and Azure Stack’s API
  •     Write your own Azure Resource Manager templates
  •     Centrally automate cloud management and complex tasks connected to external systems
  •     Develop customized, production-ready Azure Stack marketplace items”

Here is a link to the book:

https://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Hybrid-Cloud-Unleashed-Azure/dp/0672338505

Happy Azure Stacking!

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Backup Strategy should include Security

Planning for protection as a part of an IT Service Continuity plan often takes into consideration backup of applications and data as well as restore. But what about security?

When planning for protection of applications and data in your environment security should right up there in the forefront. “Backup Security” should be a key part of the plan.

Security in the context of backup can be thought of #1 as securing the backups, and #2 backups being used as an added measure for security breach mitigation. Let me break this down further.

In regards to securing backups you want to do things like encrypt backup data as it travels offsite, encrypting backup data at rest, being able to protect encrypted data, requiring security pins or further authentication of admins and more.

In regards to backup as an added measure for security backup becomes a direct part of Security planning in organizations. Sometimes when security measures fail backups are the only thing that can save you as a last resort. Backups are commonly becoming a way to recover from ransomware attacks as an alternative to paying the hackers. Here is a real world example.

Recently an unnamed hosting providers entire data center became hostage to a ransomware attack. This hacker got in due to a mistake of one of the system admins (more on how to protect at this level later) and basically had full domain admin rights to everything. Keep in mind majority of the servers in this scenario are for customers.

In this case the hosting provider had two choices. Option #1 go to the dark web via a tor network and pay a ton of money in bitcoin for the decryption key. Option #2 Restore everything from offsite backups and pray.

This hosting provider went for option #2 and thank goodness it worked. In this case if it weren’t for a solid offsite backup solution this hosting provider would have been up a creek without a paddle.

It is becoming more common that ransomeware will actually target backups because these are a high target and hackers understand this is a last resort for companies to save themselves. If the backups are deleted there is no other choice but to pay the ransom. This raises the security level of the backups. Administrative actions on backups need an extra layer of security.

Microsoft Business Continuity products help with not only protection but also security. These products consist of System Centers Data Protection Manager (DPM) and Operations Management Suites Azure Backup (AB) and Azure Site Recovery (ASR). In this post I am only going to touch on DPM and AB.

Some exciting things have been happening with Azure Backup and Data Protection Manager to ensure security is front and center as a part of your enterprise backup solution. Microsoft’s goal with the backup security is to provide prevention, alerting, and recovery.

More about this including a video can be found here:
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/azure-backup-security-feature

Just yesterday DPM update rollup 12 for 2012 and update rollup 2 for 2016 was announced. Along with UR2 comes some enhanced security features for DPM. These will be called out later in this blog post. Microsoft has rolled out some great security features to both across hybrid clouds. I will go ahead and break these down.

– Azure Backup –

Encrypted backup data at rest
Described in DPM section.

Security PIN
With Azure Backup you can require a security pin for sensitive operations such as removing protection, deleting data, or changing other settings in Azure Backup itself such as changing a Passphrase.

Azure Backup also has some other security measures in place like a minimum retention range to ensure a certain amount of backup data is always available and notifications upon critical operations to subscription admins or others as specified.

NOTE: These security features are now also available in DPM with the UR’s (UR 12 for 2012 and UR2 for 2016) announced yesterday. When an administrator changes the passphrase, or delete backup data, you need to enter the PIN if you have Enhanced Security Enabled. Also, there is a minimum retention range of 14 days for cloud protected data that is deleted.

MFA
MFA is Multi-Factor Authentication. Microsoft has MFA available as a part of Azure Active Directory. Within Azure Backup you can configure it to require MFA of admins when performing critical operations. By enabling MFA you would then ensure via authentication from a second device usually physical to the user that they are who they say they are.

NOTE: When you enable security settings they cannot be disabled.

Ransomware attacks
Described in DPM section.

– Data Protection Manager –

Backup data encrypted during offsite transfer
When data is sent from DPM to Azure Backup it is encrypted before it even leaves your four walls. Data is encrypted on the on-premises server/client/SCDPM machine using AES256 and the data is sent over a secure HTTPS link.

Encrypted backup data at rest
Once backup data is on Azure it is encrypted at rest. Microsoft does not decrypt the backup data at any point. The customer is the only one with the encryption key that can decrypt the backup data. If this key is lost not even Microsoft can decrypt your backup data. This is very secure.

Protection and recovery of encrypted computers
The release of Hyper-V on Windows Server 2016 included a new feature known as Shielded virtual machines (VM’s). This feature essentially utilizes Virtual Trusted Platform Module (vTPM) technology and BitLocker to encrypt a VM to encrypt virtual machines at the virtual layer. This means if a VM is physically copied off a Hyper-V host whoever has the VM will not be able to get to the data on the virtual hard drive.

With the release of DPM 2016 it supports protecting Shielded VM’s. DPM can protect Shielded VM’s regardless if they are VHD or VHDX. This is great news because as a secure organization you should want to encrypt your virtual machines and DPM can protect them. This gives you an added layer of security on top of having backups.

Ransomware attacks
In today’s world ransomware attacks are a common thing. These type of attacks are targeted at small, medium, and large enterprise businesses. No company is too small or too big to be put in the crosshairs of ransomware attacks. A well-known attack is Cryptolocker.

As mentioned before in this blog post backups are an alternative to paying the ransom of a ransomware attack. They key here is to ensure you have a solid offsite backup in place such as Azure Backup. Having that offsite backup will ensure you can get your data back even if the ransomware attack get ahold of your onsite backup data.

I even go as far as to recommend sticking to the 3-2-1 rule (3 copies of backup data 2 offsite and 1 onsite). This way if something happens to one of your offsite copies of data you have another one. It may seem overkill to have 2 offsite copies but you would be surprised how often offsite backup data is accidently destroyed.

So there you have it. Security is a critical part of any backup solution. It is clear that Microsoft realizes this based on the security enhancements they have made to both Azure Backup and Data Protection Manager 2016. Their goal is to ensure both backup solutions are enterprise ready. I have been working with DPM for years and Azure Backup as soon as it came out. I know the team behind these products have a lot of new features and functionality planned for the future of these products and I am looking forward to it.

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Surviving the Future of IT as an IT Pro

At MMS 2015 we had some interesting discussions in the Ask the Data center experts session. One of the discussions was centered around how IT is changing and how to adapt. For a while there has been a paradigm shift happening in IT. It is hard hitting for those on the front line especially IT Pro’s.

With the advent of many technologies moving to XaaS (x as a Service) based and the challenges for IT pro’s to move from strictly the ops side of IT to more of a DevOps model as well as becoming an internal technology consultant to the business IT Pros can feel lost in the paradigm shift.

The goal of this blog post is twofold. 1. I want to expand on this discussion with my opinion of how an IT Pro can remain relevant in the future of IT. 2. My friends over at Savision asked me to write a blog post and I thought this would be a great topic for it because they have some tools that can help with this transition.

Here are key points and additionally skills/mindset needed as an IT Pro moving into the future of IT:

  • Accepting Shadow IT….. Ability to manage anyway.

Shadow IT is the practice of business units spinning up their own IT solutions without organizational approval. With the expansion of cloud Shadow IT is becoming easier for business units to undertake.

  • Technology Budgets are no longer 100% controlled within IT anymore. Many departments own their own technology budget.
  • For so long IT has had the reputation of being “No People” and a dinosaur that takes forever to get things done. Embracing Shadow IT is about enabling the business, moving faster from conception to solution. Embracing Shadow IT will also change the reputation IT to “Yes People”.
  • This will cause the business to come back to IT first as internal SME’s to help them select the right outside solutions bringing internal IT Pros back into the loop.
  • Instead of focusing on how to stop business units for spinning up the technology solutions they need, help them. At the same time look for solutions that can help put governance and management around Shadow IT. A good example of this are three solutions from Microsoft such as Cloud App discovery (Discovery of cloud applications used in an organization), Azure Active Directory (Single Sign On, Centralized log on to cloud based applications and much more), and OMS (Management of cross platform clouds i.e. Amazon, Azure, Rackspace etc.).

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Lock down shared computers using Steady State

Have you ever needed to lock down a computer for public or shared multiple user use? Have you Ever needed to lock down computers in a non server non centralized environment? I was recently tasked with locking computers down for public use in computer labs at a conference.

It is a challenge to know what users may or may not have changed after using a shared computer. My users needed permission to make changes to the hard drive and or applications during computer use. However I did not want these changes to be permanent.

Some of the problems I have seen from users of shared computers are: spy ware, viruses, the windows theme completely changed, downloaded programs installed, a corrupt OS and more. It takes time to reload an OS or re-image a machine. No one wants to spend time reloading or re-imaging multiple computers if they don’t have to. I discovered a free utility from Microsoft that was exactly what I needed for locking these computers down. It is called Steady State.

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