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Contoso.se

Welcome to contoso.se! My name is Anders Bengtsson and this is my blog about Azure infrastructure and system management. I am a senior engineer in the FastTrack for Azure team, part of Azure Engineering, at Microsoft.  Contoso.se has two main purposes, first as a platform to share information with the community and the second as a notebook for myself.

Everything you read here is my own personal opinion and any code is provided "AS-IS" with no warranties.

Anders Bengtsson

MVP
MVP awarded 2007,2008,2009,2010

My Books
Service Manager Unleashed
Service Manager Unleashed
Orchestrator Unleashed
Orchestrator 2012 Unleashed
OMS
Inside the Microsoft Operations Management Suite

Sending SMS notification of Azure Sentinel alerts, through Azure Monitor

In Azure Sentinel, all alert responses are driven by Playbooks. Playbooks are Azure Logic Apps, that allow everything automation from simple send e-mail to complex integration scenarios.
Last week we were working in a scenario where we needed to send alert notification as text messages (SMS). There are several 3rd party connectors available in Logic Apps, but Azure Monitor provides this capability out of the box, without the need for additional agreements. Without any experience, I would personally guess that the 3rd party connects have more features, for example, the possibility for engineers on duty to confirm alert notification by a test message. But in this example, we only need to send text messages.
All alerts raised within Azure Sentinel, as well as Azure Security Center, are written into the SecurityAlert table in the Azure Monitor Logs workspace. You can use the following query to view which products have raised alerts into this table in the last 60 days:


SecurityAlert
| where TimeGenerated between (ago(60d) .. ago(5m))
| summarize by ProductName

If you have connected products like Microsoft Cloud App Security or Microsoft Defender ATP, you may also see these listed as a product:

Alerts raised by the analytics rules in Azure Sentinel will have the ProductName property set to Azure Sentinel. As the alert data is stored in the SecurityAlert table in the Azure Monitor Logs workspace, it is possible to leverage built-in capabilities in Azure Monitor Alerts for responses.

In this example, we will use Azure Monitor to raise alerts from the Sentinel data for “Failed logon attempts within 10 mins”. This is a default rule in Azure Sentinel.

The following query show the alerts we want to be notified about. This query is executed in the workspace that Azure Sentinel is using. Once we test the query in Logs, we can use it to configure an alert rule in Azure Monitor.

SecurityAlert
| where ProductName == "Azure Sentinel"
| where ProviderName == "ASI Scheduled Alerts"
| where AlertName == "Failed logon attempts within 10 mins"

In this example we create a new action group to send out the notification, by text message.

Once the action group is configured, and the alert rule, the phone number we included will get a SMS saying welcome to the action group. When a new alert is raised a text message notification will be sent out, as shown in the image below.

Have you noticed the Export button?

Earlier this week, Vanessa and I were working with exporting data from Log Analytics to a CSV file. Previously, this has always been done with the API. But nowadays we have an Export button to direct export the result from the current query. On the Export drop down menu we also have the options to export to PowerBI.

From the Export menu, we can choose the CSV format direct. In the screenshot, you can see there is an option to export all columns or displayed columns. Displayed columns are the ones you project in the query. All columns are, in this example, all columns in the VMConnect table. We can then easily massage and format the data in Excel if needed. Very quick compared to writing a script exporting the data 😊

Azure Monitor Data Ingestion Workbook

Last couple of weeks Vanessa and I have been working with analyzing costs for a Log Analytics workspace. As part of this work, we built a workbook, and of course, we want to share this workbook with the community

The idea with the workbook is to help identify the top data ingestion sources, especially around Computers, to help with optimizing the costs of using Azure Monitor. The workbook has two tabs, one to look at cost based on computer and one to look at cost by data type.

The “By computer” tab visualizes the total amount of ingested data by the server and the estimated data ingestion cost for this data. The price is calculated on a parameter where you input cost per GB. If you select a server, in this example dc01, another table will be visualized to show the amount of data, for each data type, for the selected server. For instance, in the screenshot, we can see that dc01 has ingested 1.13 GB performance data.

The second tab, “By data type” tab, visualize the total amount of ingested data by data type, and the estimated data ingestion cost for this data.

The “Azure Diagnostic” tab visualizes the total amount of ingested data by Azure Diagnostics, and the estimated data ingestion cost for this data.

The “Trends” tab compare data ingestion between two time periods. This tab visualize the ingestion difference between the two time periods and if the trend is decreased on increased.

The workbook is provided as a sample of what is possible. It does not replace current cost management tools or invoices from Microsoft. The costs in this workbook are estimated prices only and are not an official statement or invoice from Microsoft.

Download the workbook at GitHub.

Highlight a couple of workbook features

Workbooks provide a flexible canvas for data analysis and the creation of rich visual reports within the Azure portal. They allow you to tap into multiple data sources from across Azure and combine them into unified interactive experiences. Read more at the source, Microsoft Docs.

Vanessa and I have put together a workbook to visually report on computers missing updates. This can be done with Kusto queries in Log Analytics. Still, with workbooks, you can visualize it in a better way and make this visualization available to colleagues. It is also easier for someone without Kusto and Log Analytic knowledge to run a workbook.

In this example, we have to build a workbook that first lists all computers that are missing an update. We can see the computer name and the number of missing updates in the first view. If we select one of the servers, a new table is visualized, with detailed information for that computer, showing which updates that are missing. If we choose one of the updates, we get an additional table showing other computers missing the same update.

We would like to highlight some of the features used in the workbook that can be handy to know about when building workbooks.

To pass a value between queries inside the workbook, we can configure to export parameters per query item. This is set under Advanced Settings. In this example, the Computer column will be exported. To use this value in a query use {Computer}, for example

Update
| where TimeGenerated > now(-1d)
| where UpdateState == “Needed”
| where computer == “{Computer}”
| project TimeGenerated, Title, Classification, PublishedDate, Product, RebootBehavior, UpdateID
| sort by Product

Under Advanced Settings, you can also configure how to handle no data scenario. In this example, if no computers are missing updates, there will be a text saying, “Great! No servers missing updates!”.

Another handy setting is column settings. With column settings, you can, for example, rename a column in the workbook. In this example, we rename column “count_” to “# missing updates”.

The last feature we want to highlight is conditionally visible. Conditionally visible control when a query item is visible. In this example, the previous query item is not visualized until the user selects an update in the last query item. The UpdateID is exported as a parameter for the rest of the workbook.

Measure bandwidth with Azure Monitor

Today I want to quickly share a query that shows Mbit used for a specific network adapter.

Perf
| where ObjectName == “Network Adapter”
| where Computer == “DC20.NA.contosohotels.com”
| where CounterPath contains “Bytes Received” or CounterPath contains “Bytes Sent”
| where InstanceName == “Microsoft Hyper-V Network Adapter”
| summarize avg(CounterValue) by bin(TimeGenerated, 5m)
| extend Mbit = avg_CounterValue / 125000
| project TimeGenerated , Mbit

This query can, for example, be used in migration scenarios to estimate network connection required. The query will convert bytes to Mbit.

Sharing dashboards and workbooks in the Azure Portal

Sharing dashboards and workbooks can be a bit tricky the first time.  

A key thing to keep in mind when sharing workbooks and dashboards is that the user needs access to both the workbook or dashboard resource, and its data source.

Looking at the figure below, we have a dashboard named “Contoso Dashboard” that contains several tiles (colorful boxes). Each of these tiles has its data source (black cylinder). For example, the green tile can show recommendations for Active Directory. Active Directory assessment data comes from a table in the Log Analytics workspace.

The user of the “Contoso Dashboard” then needs access both to the dashboard itself and the Active Directory assessment data in the Log Analytics workspace.

Let’s do an example. In this example, we will share a dashboard and a workbook with a guest using a Microsoft account (contoso.guest@outlook.com). The Microsoft account is not a member of our Azure AD or have any other permissions in the Azure subscription.

Sharing Dashboards

First, we create a dashboard, with only a clock, and share it with the guest account.

The guest can now access the dashboard and see the clock. Essential to make sure the correct Azure AD directory is selected; else, the dashboard will not load in the Azure portal for the guest.

If we add two tiles from Log Analytics, we can see in the left part of the image below that the guest doesn’t have permission to load the Log Analytics data. On the right side of the image below, the portal is loaded with a contributor account.

Once we assign the guest Monitor Reader permissions on the Log Analytics workspace, the guest can load the tiles in the dashboard. The Monitor Reader gives the guest access to only monitoring data in the workspace.

Sharing Workbooks

If you pin tiles from a workbook to a dashboard, the guest doesn’t need to have access to the workbook itself, and the tile will still show data if the guest has access to the data source. If the guest clicks the tile, it is only the specific tile that will be loaded in a temporary workbook. In the example below, the guest only has access to data for one of the tiles.

It works very much the same as sharing dashboards. You need to share both data sources and the workbook resource itself. If you don’t share the workbook item itself, the following error might be shown.

Using only the “Share Report” feature at a workbook will not assign the necessary guest permissions, that must be done on the workbook resource item. In my examples I have used the Reader role on the workbook resource.

You can read more about the different role assignments for monitoring data here:

Scoping monitoring with Azure services

Introduction

Monitoring is key to all modern IT operations. It is the same if we are hosting all resources in a local data center or a public cloud. Looking back, we have used, for example, System Center Operations Manager for all applications and OS monitoring, then we often had one product to monitor our hardware and maybe one for our network. Even if the goal was to use one product, we often ended up with multiple ones without any connectivity between them.

In Azure, it will be a bit different from the beginning; we will already from the start use multiple services, and then connect them in the visualizing (dashboard) and reporting (workbook) layers. A significant difference compared to the local data center is that in Azure, all services and components are built to collaborate and work together. Another key difference compared with local datacentre is that in Azure, we quickly test new monitoring features, scale up and down, and immediately support the monitoring of new business services.

In this blog post, we will walk through how to get scope monitoring with Azure services. We will begin by setting the scope and expected outcome for the monitoring solution. Instead of saying we will monitor “everything,” we will create a scope based on what we need. Saying “we will monitor everything” often ends with an outdated, unnecessary complex solution that doesn’t fulfill our requirements and doesn’t give value.

Before starting setting the monitoring scope, we recommend you read the Introduction about Cloud monitoring guide in Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework.  

Setting the scope

To set the scope of monitoring, I often recommend to break it down per application, as it is applications that the business use, not hard disks or network segments. Often it is per application support case will be created, and the SLA is per business application. Once you have decided which application to focus on, ask the following questions;

  • What is it that you need to monitor?

For example, let us say that Contoso has a web application, including a SQL Server database, an application server, and two web servers. Those components are what we need to monitor. All servers are running Windows Server 2012, and the database server is SQL 2012. There are two critical services on the application server and four Windows events to look for in the Event Viewer. All servers also need standard performance monitoring. We also must make sure all servers can reach each other on the network and that the web application URL is available from the Internet.

  • What do you need to see/test to decide if the service is healthy?
    In general, Contoso needs to see that the web site is available from the Internet. They also need to know that the application server can do SQL queries against the SQL Server.
  • What data do you need to collect to present what you need?
    When talking about which data to collect, there are two different ways to look at monitoring, both business and technical.
    • Business Perspective is the perspective that the users of the service look at it. In this example, can users use web service from the Internet? The users don’t care if a hard disk is low on free space; they only care if they can access the web service and have a pleasant experience. For the business (or SLA) perspective, for this scenario, we only need to collect a URL check from the Internet.
    • Technical Perspective is for the engineers operating and hosting the service. They care about all the small components of the service, everything that can affect the availability and performance of the service, for example, network connectivity, proactive SQL risks, server performance, events, log files, disk space, and so on.
  • What are your reporting requirements?
    For the Contoso web application, the reporting requirements are the number of requests on the web site and also web site availability per month. These should be delivered by e-mail to service owners at the beginning of each month, showing the previous month.
  • Where do you need to see your monitoring?
    For example, Contoso needs to visualize the status in a dashboard and also get notification by e-mail if something is not working. There should also be integrated into the Contoso ITSM  system to generate incidents if there is a critical error in the application.
  • Do you need to integrate into any other systems?
    Contoso is running ServiceNow as the ITSM tool and wants to generate an incident if there are any errors. They are also using a SIEM tool to collect security events from different systems.

You should now have a clear scope of what you are going to monitor, the components in scope, how to visualize and report. The next step is to configure each component.

The “Cloud monitoring guide: Monitoring strategy for cloud deployment models” page will help you map your requirements to services in Azure.

What if we already have System Center Operations Manager (SCOM)?

If you already have System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) in place and it is working well, continue to use it, but add value with Azure services. SCOM has excellent capabilities, but it can be complicated to consolidate the information into easy to use dashboards. Azure Monitor also provides some additional capabilities that are not covered by SCOM today, such as tracking changes across your virtual machines or viewing the status of the updates.

The long-term vision can be to move all monitoring to native Azure services but review each monitoring requirements separately. For example, if you must collect and analyze security logs, for that Security Center and Azure Monitor is often a better solution than SCOM. If you take a structured approach to move each monitoring component separate to Azure Monitor as the capabilities match your requirements, one day it will all be in Azure. During the hybrid-monitoring, you will still fulfill all your monitoring requirements and use the best of both worlds for your monitoring solution.  

Visualize Service Map data in Microsoft Visio

A common question in data center migration scenarios is dependencies between servers. Service Map can be very valuable in this scenario, visualizing TCP communication between processes on different servers.

Even if Service Map provides a great value we often hear a couple of questions, for example, visualize data for more than one hour and include more resources/servers in one image. Today this is not possible with the current feature set. But all the data needed is in the Log Analytics workspace, and we can access the data through the REST API 🙂

In this blog post, we want to show you how to visualize this data in Visio. We have built a PowerShell script that export data from the Log Analytics workspace and then builds a Visio drawing based on the information. The PowerShell script connects to Log Analytics, runs a query and saves the result in a text file. The query in our example lists all connections inbound and outbound for a server last week. The PowerShell script then reads the text file and for each connection, it draws it in the Visio file.

In the image below you see an example of the output in Visio. The example in the example we ran the script for a domain controller with a large number of connected servers, most likely more than the average server in a LOB application. In the example you can also see that for all connections to Azure services, we replace the server icon with a cloud icon.

Of course, you can use any query you want and visualize the data any way you want in Visio. Maybe you want to use different server shapes depending on communication type, or maybe you want to make some connections red if they have transferred a large about data.

In the PowerShell script, you can see that we use server_m.vssx and networklocations.vssx stencil files to find servers and cloud icons. These files and included in the Microsoft Visio installation. For more information about the PowerShell module used, please see VisioBot3000.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS”, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE
SOFTWARE.

From Service Map to Network Security Group

Many data center migration scenarios include moving from a central firewall to multiple smaller firewalls and network security groups. A common challenge is how to configure each network security group (NSG). What should be allowed?

One way to map out which traffic to allow is using Service Map, as shown in previous blog posts. It is also possible to take it one step further, by automatically reading Service Map data from Log Analytics and building NSG rules based on the collected data.

To show an example of this, we have put together a PowerShell script. The script reads Service Map data for a specific server and builds an NSG and NSG rules based on the read data. The NSG is then attached to the server’s network adapter. Download the script here.

Of course, there are some risks with this; for example, if there is an “evil process” running on the server and communicating on the network, then there will be an NSG rule for this too. Also, the Service Map will only collect data for TCP traffic, not UDP, and the script expects the server to already exist in Azure. You will not be able to use this script to create NSG rules for servers that have not been migrated.

Thanks to Vanessa for good conversation and ideas 🙂

Disclaimer: Cloud is a very fast-moving target. It means that by the time you’re reading this post, everything described here could have been changed completely. The blog post is provided “AS-IS” with no warranties.

Return data only during office hours and workdays

Today I want to share a log query that only returns logs generated between 09 and 18, during workdays. The example is working with security events, without any filters. To improve query performances it is strongly recommended to add more filters, for example, event ID or account.

6.00:00:00 means Saturday and 7.00:00:00 means Sunday 🙂

let startDateOfAlert = startofday(now());
let StartAlertTime = startDateOfAlert + 9hours;
let StopAlertTime = startDateOfAlert + 18hours;
SecurityEvent
| extend localTimestamp = TimeGenerated + 2h
| extend ByPassDays = dayofweek(localTimestamp)
| where ByPassDays <> ‘6.00:00:00’
| where ByPassDays <> ‘7.00:00:00’
| where localTimestamp > StartAlertTime
| where localTimestamp < StopAlertTime
| order by localTimestamp asc