5 Steps to get started with Azure DSC

In our never ending quest to improve our production environment we are currently looking into the possibilities that Microsoft Azure can offer us. One of offerings that has our interest is state enforcement management with Windows PowerShell, also known as “Desired State Configuration”. I was already deeply impressed with the capabilities that are offered when running DSC on a local box, via PowerShell remoting or using the pull method on-premise. Only thing that was a bit challenging is deploying the configuration in a world wide, loosely connected, non domain environment, Microsoft Azure to the rescue.

Basically PowerShell DSC is a state enforcement platform, much like Group Polies are. With the increased usage of the cloud it’s become clear that group polices via Active Directory are not the way forward anymore, especially for non-domain type systems. We need a way to do remote state enforcement whenever we need it, on demand without the requirement to make use of a self-hosted on premise environment. Introducing Microsoft Azure Desired State Configuration. Follow the steps below to make your first DSC Configuration document, Create an Automation Account, Assign the Document and configure a server to use DSC.

On this page:

  1. Creating the Automation Account
  2. Import the Configuration
  3. On-boarding the target
  4. Apply the meta-data configuration file
  5. Assign the configuration
  6. Downloads
  7. Reference

Creating the Automation Account

Azure DSC makes use of an automation account. Follow these steps to first create that account.

  1. Login to the Azure portal at https://portal.azure.com
  2. Select “More Services
  3. Type “Automation”, click “Automation Accounts
  4. Click “Add” next to the large plus sign
  5. Add the appropriate data in the ‘Add Automation Account” page. Click “Create

automationaccount

Wait a few moments for the account to be created

Import the Configuration

Once the Automation Account has been created we can start to configure desired state. Click on your just created automation account. The blade for configuring the account will open. Click on the “DSC configurations”, located in the “Configuration Management” section. The DSC Configuration node is the store where your configuration documents are saved. These documents dictate the state of your machine. Click the “Add a configuration” on the top of the page. In the “Configuration file” click the folder icon and browse to your configuration file. In my case I’ve created a document that tells the system to install the default Web Server (IIS) role and remove SMBv1, but you can basically configure your entire system this way. Click “OK” to return to the previous blade.

Give it a second to import the file.

What we need to do next  is tell Azure to convert the configuration document to a .mof file that it can deploy. To accomplish that just click the configuration that you just imported. The blade that opens allows you to convert the ps1 script to a .mof file. Click on the “Compile” button on the top of the page. Read the message and click “Yes”.

ConfigurationFile

Close the blade after the compile action successfully completes .

On-boarding the target

Now that the main configuration is done we need to on-board the server that we want to target with DSC. Microsoft made that a really simple task with providing an on-boarding script. This script is available at:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/automation/automation-dsc-onboarding

Just in case that location ever changes, you can easily locate the url again by browsing to your “Automation Account” blade, clicking “DSC Nodes” in “Configuration Management” and click on “Add on-prem VM”. Browse to the “Generating DSC metaconfigurations” section and copy the script content.

The only basic things that needs to be changed in the script are the “RegistrationUrl”, “RegistrationKey” and the “Computername” value. Just for fun we’ll also change the state enforcement policy by setting the “ConfigurationMode”. You first need to get the values for “RegistrationUrl” and the “RegistrationKey”. These are located in the “Automation Account” blade, “Account Settings” select “Keys”. You can use either the primary or the secondary key.

Once updated the code in the script would look something like this:

ComputerName = @('localhost');
RegistrationUrl = 'https://we-agentservice-prod-1.azure-automation.net/accounts/5eb0794a-a035-406e-8181-ece99172d6fa';
RegistrationKey = 'qLVkKkhBe4+RfVEkuIl2TicZSvzUEj+1jPXvdd0SkDM662zwolUcyVx2KzvSoUsSHZpK7FvlzkF4WuxZh4G8CA==';
ConfigurationMode = 'ApplyAndAutoCorrect';

In the example above I apply the configuration to the localhost instead of an individual hostname. That’s just the situation I’m in. Your situation could be very different. Once the script is ready, it needs to be executed to generate the meta-data configuration .mof file.

Apply the meta-data configuration file

Applying the configuration meta-data file can be done multiple ways, by using PowerShell remoting or just apply it locally on the box. In this demo I’ll use the latter.
Copy the “DscMetaConfigs” folder to the local box. Open an elevated PowerShell ISE or PowerShell Command console and use the following command to configure the system.

Set-DscLocalConfigurationManager -Path .\DscMetaConfigs

In case you want to check the configuration that’s been applied, use:

Get-DscLocalConfigurationManager

Assign the configuration

Last step we need to take is assigning the appropriate DSC configuration to the server. Obviously we need to do this in Azure. Select your “Automation Account” and click on the “DSC Nodes” under “Configuration management”. The Server that we used the on-boarding script on should be listed here. Click the Server name, next click the “Assign node configuration” icon at the top of the screen. On the “Assign Node Configuration” blade that opens, click the generated configuration document (If you used my script it will show “MyFirstConfiguration.MyServerRole”). Click “OK”.

And that’s really all there is to it. After waiting for about 15 minutes the configuration will be applied on the selected server.

dsc-node

Tip! Just in case you don’t want to wait, use the cmdlet:

Update-DscConfiguration -Wait –Verbose

To force the consistency check on the target server.

Downloads


MyServerRole PowerShell Script

OnBoardComputerInAzureDSC

Reference


Windows PowerShell Desired State Configuration Overview

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/powershell/dsc/overview

Azure Automation DSC Overview

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/automation/automation-dsc-overview

Getting Started with PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC)

https://mva.microsoft.com/en-US/training-courses/getting-started-with-powershell-desired-state-configuration-dsc-8672?l=ZwHuclG1_2504984382

Hybrid IT Management Part 3: Automation

https://mva.microsoft.com/en-US/training-courses/hybrid-it-management-part-3-automation-16631?l=MQrdRCHrC_4406218965

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