Connect securely to back end resources from an App Service environment

Since an App Service Environment is always created in either an Azure Resource Manager virtual network, or a classic deployment model virtual network, outbound connections from an App Service Environment to other backend resources can flow exclusively over the virtual network. As of June 2016, ASEs can also be deployed into virtual networks that use either public address ranges or RFC1918 address spaces (private addresses).

For example, there may be a SQL Server running on a cluster of virtual machines with port 1433 locked down. The endpoint may be ACLd to only allow access from other resources on the same virtual network.

As another example, sensitive endpoints may run on-premises and be connected to Azure via either Site-to-Site or Azure ExpressRoute connections. As a result, only resources in virtual networks connected to the Site-to-Site or ExpressRoute tunnels may access on-premises endpoints.

For all of these scenarios, apps running on an App Service Environment may securely connect to the various servers and resources. If outbound traffic from apps runs in an App Service Environment to private endpoints in the same virtual network or connected to the same virtual network, it'll only flow over the virtual network. Outbound traffic to private endpoints won't flow over the public Internet.

One issue applies to outbound traffic from an App Service Environment to endpoints within a virtual network. App Service Environments can't reach endpoints of virtual machines that are located in the same subnet as the App Service Environment. This limitation normally shouldn't be a problem, if App Service Environments are deployed into a subnet that's reserved for use exclusively by the App Service Environment.

Note

Although this article refers to web apps, it also applies to API apps and mobile apps.

Outbound Connectivity and DNS Requirements

For an App Service Environment to function properly, it requires outbound access to various endpoints. A full list of the external endpoints used by an ASE is in the "Required Network Connectivity" section of the Network Configuration for ExpressRoute article.

App Service Environments require a valid DNS infrastructure configured for the virtual network. If the DNS configuration is changed after the creation of an App Service Environment, developers can force an App Service Environment to pick up the new DNS configuration. At the top of the App Service Environment management blade in the portal, select the Restart icon to trigger a rolling environment reboot, which causes the environment to pick up the new DNS configuration.

It's also recommended that any custom DNS servers on the vnet be set up ahead of time before creating an App Service Environment. If a virtual network's DNS configuration is changed during the creation of an App Service Environment, that will result in the App Service Environment creation process failing. On the other end of a VPN gateway, if there's a custom DNS server that's unreachable or unavailable, the App Service Environment creation process will also fail.

Connecting to a SQL Server

A common SQL Server configuration has an endpoint listening on port 1433:

SQL Server Endpoint

There are two approaches for restricting traffic to this endpoint:

Restricting Access With a Network ACL

Port 1433 can be secured using a network access control list. The example below adds to assignment permissions the client addresses originating from within a virtual network, and blocks access to all other clients.

Network Access Control List Example

Any applications that run in App Service Environment, in the same virtual network as the SQL Server, may connect to the SQL Server instance. Use the VNet internal IP address for the SQL Server virtual machine.

The example connection string below references the SQL Server using its private IP address.

Server=tcp:10.0.1.6;Database=MyDatabase;User ID=MyUser;Password=PasswordHere;provider=System.Data.SqlClient

Although the virtual machine has a public endpoint as well, connection attempts to use the public IP address will be rejected because of the network ACL.

Restricting Access With a Network Security Group

An alternative approach for securing access is with a network security group. Network security groups can be applied to individual virtual machines, or to a subnet containing virtual machines.

First, you'll need to create a network security group:

New-AzureNetworkSecurityGroup -Name "testNSGexample" -Location "South Central US" -Label "Example network security group for an app service environment"

Restricting access to only VNet internal traffic is simple with a network security group. The default rules in a network security group only allow access from other network clients in the same virtual network.

As a result, locking down access to SQL Server is simple. Just apply a network security group with its default rules to either the virtual machines running SQL Server, or the subnet containing the virtual machines.

The sample below applies a network security group to the containing subnet:

Get-AzureNetworkSecurityGroup -Name "testNSGExample" | Set-AzureNetworkSecurityGroupToSubnet -VirtualNetworkName 'testVNet' -SubnetName 'Subnet-1'

The final result is a set of security rules that block external access, while allowing VNet internal access:

Default Network Security Rules

Getting started

To get started with App Service Environments, see Introduction to App Service Environment

For details around controlling inbound traffic to your App Service Environment, see Controlling inbound traffic to an App Service Environment

Note

If you want to get started with Azure App Service before signing up for an Azure account, go to Try App Service, where you can immediately create a short-lived starter web app in App Service. No credit cards required; no commitments.