Azure enterprise scaffold: Prescriptive subscription governance
Azure enterprise scaffolding has been integrated into the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework. The content in this article is now represented in the Ready section of the new framework. This article will be deprecated in early 2020. To begin using the new process, see the Ready overview, creating your first landing zone, and/or landing zone considerations.
Enterprises are increasingly adopting the public cloud for its agility and flexibility. They rely on the cloud's strengths to generate revenue and optimize resource usage for the business. Microsoft Azure provides a multitude of services and capabilities that enterprises assemble like building blocks to address a wide array of workloads and applications.
Deciding to use Microsoft Azure is only the first step to achieving the benefit of the cloud. The second step is understanding how the enterprise can effectively use Azure and identify the baseline capabilities that need to be in place to address questions like:
- "I'm concerned about data sovereignty; how can I ensure that my data and systems meet our regulatory requirements?"
- "How do I know what each resource is supporting so I can account for it and bill it back accurately?"
- "I want to make sure that everything we deploy or do in the public cloud starts with the mindset of security first, how do I help facilitate that?"
The prospect of an empty subscription with no guardrails is daunting. This blank space can hamper your move to Azure.
This article provides a starting point for technical professionals to address the need for governance and balance it with the need for agility. It introduces the concept of an enterprise scaffold that guides organizations in implementing and managing their Azure environments in a secure way. It provides the framework to develop effective and efficient controls.
Need for governance
When moving to Azure, you must address the topic of governance early to ensure the successful use of the cloud within the enterprise. Unfortunately, the time and bureaucracy of creating a comprehensive governance system means some business groups go directly to providers without involving enterprise IT. This approach can leave the enterprise open to compromise if the resources are not properly managed. The characteristics of the public cloud—agility, flexibility, and consumption-based pricing—are important to business groups that need to quickly meet the demands of customers (both internal and external). But enterprise IT needs to ensure that data and systems are effectively protected.
When creating a building, scaffolding is used to create the basis of a structure. The scaffold guides the general outline and provides anchor points for more permanent systems to be mounted. An enterprise scaffold is the same: a set of flexible controls and Azure capabilities that provide structure to the environment, and anchors for services built on the public cloud. It provides the builders (IT and business groups) a foundation to create and attach new services keeping speed of delivery in mind.
The scaffold is based on practices we have gathered from many engagements with clients of various sizes. Those clients range from small organizations developing solutions in the cloud to large multinational enterprises and independent software vendors who are migrating workloads and developing cloud-native solutions. The enterprise scaffold is "purpose-built" to be flexible to support both traditional IT workloads and agile workloads, such as developers creating software as a service (SaaS) applications based on Azure platform capabilities.
The enterprise scaffold is intended to be the foundation of each new subscription within Azure. It enables administrators to ensure workloads meet the minimum governance requirements of an organization without preventing business groups and developers from quickly meeting their own goals. Our experience shows that this greatly speeds, rather than impedes, public cloud growth.
Microsoft has released into preview a new capability called Azure Blueprints that will enable you to package, manage, and deploy common images, templates, policies, and scripts across subscriptions and management groups. This capability is the bridge between the scaffold's purpose as reference model and deploying that model to your organization.
The following image shows the components of the scaffold. The foundation relies on a solid plan for the management hierarchy and subscriptions. The pillars consist of Resource Manager policies and strong naming standards. The rest of the scaffold are core Azure capabilities and features that enable and connect a secure and manageable environment.
Define your hierarchy
The foundation of the scaffold is the hierarchy and relationship of the Azure Enterprise Enrollment through to subscriptions and resource groups. The enterprise enrollment defines the shape and use of Azure services within your company from a contractual point of view. Within the Enterprise Agreement, you can further subdivide the environment into departments, accounts, subscriptions, and resource groups to match your organization's structure.
An Azure subscription is the basic unit where all resources are contained. It also defines several limits within Azure, such as number of cores, virtual networks and other resources. Resource groups are used to further refine the subscription model and enable a more natural grouping of resources.
Every enterprise is different and the hierarchy in the above image allows for significant flexibility in how Azure is organized within your company. Modeling your hierarchy to reflect your company's billing, resource management, and resource access needs is the first and most important decision you make when starting in the public cloud.
Departments and Accounts
The three common patterns for Azure Enrollments are:
The functional pattern:
The business unit pattern:
The geographic pattern:
Though each of these patterns has its place, the business unit pattern is increasingly being adopted for its flexibility in modeling an organization's cost model as well as reflecting span of control. Microsoft Core Engineering and Operations group has created an effective subset of the business unit pattern modeled on Federal, State, and Local. For more information, see Organizing subscriptions and resource groups within the Enterprise.
Azure management groups
Microsoft now provides another way to model your hierarchy: Azure management groups. Management groups are much more flexible than departments and accounts, and they can be nested up to six levels. Management groups let you create a hierarchy that is separate from your billing hierarchy, solely for efficient management of resources. Management groups can mirror your billing hierarchy and often enterprises start that way. However, the power of management groups is when you use them to model your organization, grouping together related subscriptions (regardless of their location in the billing hierarchy) and assigning common roles, policies, and initiatives. Some examples include:
- Production vs. nonproduction. Some enterprises create management groups to identify their production and nonproduction subscriptions. Management groups allow these customers to more easily manage roles and policies. For example, nonproduction subscription may allow developers "contributor" access, but in production, they have only "reader" access.
- Internal services vs. external services. Enterprises often have different requirements, policies, and roles for internal services versus customer-facing services.
Well-designed management groups are, along with Azure Policy and Initiatives, the backbone of efficient governance of Azure.
When deciding on your Departments and Accounts (or management groups), you are primarily looking at how you're dividing up your Azure environment to match your organization. However, subscriptions are where the real work happens, and your decisions here affect security, scalability, and billing. Many organizations look at the following patterns as their guides:
- Application/service: Subscriptions represent an application or a service (portfolio of applications)
- Lifecycle: Subscriptions represent a lifecycle of a service, such as Production or Development.
- Department: Subscriptions represent departments in the organization.
The first two patterns are the most commonly used, and both are highly recommended. The Lifecycle approach is appropriate for most organizations. In this case, the general recommendation is to use two base subscriptions,
Nonproduction, and then use resource groups to separate the environments further.
Azure Resource Manager enables you to put resources into meaningful groups for management, billing, or natural affinity. Resource groups are containers of resources that have a common lifecycle or share an attribute such as "all SQL servers" or "Application A".
Resource groups can't be nested, and resources can only belong to one resource group. Some actions can act on all resources in a resource group. For example, deleting a resource group removes all resources within the resource group. Like subscriptions, there are common patterns when creating resource groups and will vary from "Traditional IT" workloads to "Agile IT" workloads:
- "Traditional IT" workloads are most commonly grouped by items within the same lifecycle, such as an application. Grouping by application allows for individual application management.
- "Agile IT" workloads tend to focus on external customer-facing cloud applications. The resource groups often reflect the layers of deployment (such as a web tier or app tier) and management.
Understanding your workload helps you develop a resource group strategy. These patterns can be mixed and matched. For example, a shared services resource group in the same subscription as "Agile" resource groups.
The first pillar of the scaffold is a consistent naming standard. Well-designed naming standards enable you to identify resources in the portal, on a bill, and within scripts. You likely already have existing naming standards for on-premises infrastructure. When adding Azure to your environment, you should extend those naming standards to your Azure resources.
For naming conventions:
- Review and adopt where possible the Patterns and Practices guidance. This guidance helps you decide on a meaningful naming standard and provides extensive examples.
- Using Resource Manager Policies to help enforce naming standards.
Remember that it's difficult to change names later, so a few minutes now will save you trouble later.
Concentrate your naming standards on those resources that are more commonly used and searched for. For example, all resource groups should follow a strong standard for clarity.
Resource tags are tightly aligned with naming standards. As resources are added to subscriptions, it becomes increasingly important to logically categorize them for billing, management, and operational purposes. For more information, see Use tags to organize your Azure resources.
Tags can contain personal information and may fall under the regulations of GDPR. Plan for management of your tags carefully. If you're looking for general information about GDPR, see the GDPR section of the Service Trust Portal.
Tags are used in many ways beyond billing and management. They are often used as part of automation (see later section). This can cause conflicts if not considered up front. The recommended practice is to identify all the common tags at the enterprise level (such as ApplicationOwner and CostCenter) and apply them consistently when deploying resources using automation.
Azure Policy and Initiatives
The second pillar of the scaffold involves using Azure Policy and initiatives to manage risk by enforcing rules (with effects) over the resources and services in your subscriptions. Azure Initiatives are collections of policies that are designed to achieve a single goal. Policies and initiatives are then assigned to a resource scope to begin enforcement of those policies.
Policies and initiatives are even more powerful when used with the management groups mentioned earlier. Management groups enable the assignment of an initiative or policy to an entire set of subscriptions.
Common uses of Resource Manager policies
Policies and initiatives are a powerful tool in the Azure toolkit. Policies allow companies to provide controls for "Traditional IT" workloads that enable the stability that is needed for line-of-business applications while also allowing "Agile" workloads—for example, developing customer applications without exposing the enterprise to additional risk. The most common patterns for policies are:
- Geo compliance and data sovereignty. Azure has an ever-growing list of regions across the world. Enterprises often need to ensure that resources in a specific scope remain in a geographic region to address regulatory requirements.
- Avoid exposing servers publicly. Azure Policy can prohibit the deployment of certain resource types. It's common to create a policy to deny the creation of a public IP within a specific scope, avoiding unintended exposure of a server to the internet.
- Cost management and metadata. Resource tags are often used to add important billing data to resources and resource groups such as CostCenter, Owner, and more. These tags are invaluable for accurate billing and management of resources. Policies can enforce the application of resources tags to all deployed resource, making it easier to manage.
Common uses of initiatives
Initiatives provide enterprises the ability to group logical policies and track them as a single entity. Initiatives help the enterprise address the needs of both agile and traditional workloads. Common uses of initiatives include:
- Enable monitoring in Azure Security Center. This is a default initiative in the Azure Policy and an excellent example of what initiatives are. It enables policies that identify unencrypted SQL databases, virtual machine (VM) vulnerabilities, and more common security-related needs.
- Regulatory-specific initiative. Enterprises often group policies common to a regulatory requirement (such as HIPAA) so that controls and compliancy to those controls are tracked efficiently.
- Resource types and SKUs. Creating an initiative that restricts the types of resources that can be deployed as well as the SKUs that can be deployed can help to control costs and ensure your organization is only deploying resources that your team has the skill set and procedures to support.
We recommend you always use initiative definitions instead of policy definitions. After assigning an initiative to a scope, such as subscription or management group, you can easily add another policy to the initiative without having to change any assignments. This makes understanding what is applied and tracking compliance far easier.
Policy and Initiative assignments
After the creation of policies and grouping them into logical initiatives you must assign the policy to a scope, whether it is a management group, a subscription or even a resource group. Assignments allow you to also exclude a subscope from the assignment of a policy. For example, if you deny the creation of public IPs within a subscription, you could create an assignment with an exclusion for a resource group connected to your protected DMZ.
You will find several Policy examples that show how Policy and Initiatives can be applied to various resources within Azure on this GitHub repository.
Identity and access management
One of the first, and most crucial, questions you ask yourself when starting with the public cloud is "who should have access to resources?" and "how do I control this access?" Controlling access to the Azure portal and resources in the portal is critical to the long-term safety of your assets in the cloud.
To secure access to your resources you will first configure your identity provider and then configure Roles and access. Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), connected to your on-premises Active Directory, is the foundation of Azure Identity. That said, Azure AD is not the same as on-premises Active Directory, and it's important to understand what an Azure AD tenant is and how it relates to your Azure enrollment. Review the available information to gain a solid foundation on Azure AD and on-premises Active Directory. To connect and synchronize your Active Directory to Azure AD, install and configure the Azure AD Connect tool on-premises.
When Azure was initially released, access controls to a subscription were basic: Administrator or Co-Administrator. Access to a subscription in the Classic model implied access to all the resources in the portal. This lack of fine-grained control led to the proliferation of subscriptions to provide a level of reasonable access control for an Azure Enrollment. This proliferation of subscriptions is no longer needed. With role-based access control (RBAC), you can assign users to standard roles that provide common access such as "owner", "contributor" or "reader" or even create your own roles.
When implementing role-based access, the following are highly recommended:
- Control the Administrator/Co-Administrator of a subscription as these roles have extensive permissions. You only need to add the Subscription Owner as a Co-administrator if they need to managed Azure Classic deployments.
- Use management groups to assign roles across multiple subscriptions and reduce the burden of managing them at the subscription level.
- Add Azure users to a group (for example, Application X Owners) in Active Directory. Use the synced group to provide group members the appropriate rights to manage the resource group containing the application.
- Follow the principle of granting the least privilege required to do the expected work.
Consider using Azure AD Privileged Identity Management, Azure Multi-Factor Authentication and Conditional Access capabilities to provide better security and more visibility to administrative actions across your Azure subscriptions. These capabilities come from a valid Azure AD Premium license (depending on the feature) to further secure and manage your identity. Azure AD PIM enables "Just-in-Time" administrative access with approval workflow, as well as a full audit of administrator activations and activities. Azure Multi-Factor Authentication is another critical capability and enables two-step verification for login to the Azure portal. When combined with Conditional Access Controls you can effectively manage your risk of compromise.
Planning and preparing for your identity and access controls and following Azure Identity Management best practice (link) is one of the best risk mitigation strategies that you can employ and should be considered mandatory for every deployment.
One of the biggest blockers to cloud adoption traditionally has been concerns over security. IT risk managers and security departments need to ensure that resources in Azure are protected and secure by default. Azure provides capabilities you can use to protect resources while detecting and eliminating threats against those resources.
Azure Security Center
The Azure Security Center provides a unified view of the security status of resources across your environment in addition to advanced threat protection. Azure Security Center is an open platform that enables Microsoft partners to create software that plugs into and enhance its capabilities. The baseline capabilities of Azure Security Center (free tier) provide assessment and recommendations that will enhance your security posture. Its paid tiers enable additional and valuable capabilities such as just-in-time admin access and adaptive application controls (whitelisting).
Azure Security Center is a powerful tool that is regularly improved with new capabilities you can use to detect threats and protect your enterprise. It is highly recommended to always enable Azure Security Center.
Azure resource locks
As your organization adds core services to subscriptions, it becomes increasingly important to avoid business disruption. One type of disruption that we often see is unintended consequences of scripts and tools working against an Azure subscription deleting resources mistakenly. Resource Locks enable you to restrict operations on high-value resources where modifying or deleting them would have a significant impact. Locks are applied to a subscription, resource group, or even individual resources. The common use case is to apply locks to foundational resources such as virtual networks, gateways, network security groups, and key storage accounts.
Secure DevOps Toolkit
The Secure DevOps Kit for Azure (AzSK) is a collection of scripts, tools, extensions, and automation capabilities originally created by Microsoft's own IT team and released as open source via GitHub. AzSK caters to the end-to-end Azure subscription and resource security needs for teams using extensive automation and smoothly integrating security into native DevOps workflows helping accomplish secure DevOps with these six focus areas:
- Secure the subscription
- Enable secure development
- Integrate security into CI/CD
- Continuous assurance
- Alerting and monitoring
- Cloud risk governance
The AzSK is a rich set of tools, scripts, and information that are an important part of a full Azure governance plan and incorporating this into your scaffold is crucial to supporting your organizations risk management goals.
Azure Update Management
One of the key tasks you can do to keep your environment safe is ensure that your servers are patched with the latest updates. While there are many tools to accomplish this, Azure provides the Azure Update Management solution to address the identification and rollout of critical OS patches. It uses Azure Automation, covered in the Automate section later in this guide.
Monitor and alerts
Collecting and analyzing telemetry that provides line of sight into the activities, performance metrics, health, and availability of the services you are using across your Azure subscriptions is critical to proactively manage your applications and infrastructure and is a foundational need of every Azure subscription. Every Azure service emits telemetry in the form of activity logs, metrics, and diagnostic logs.
- Activity logs describe all operations performed on resources in your subscriptions.
- Metrics are numerical information emitted by a resource that describe the performance and health of a resource.
- Diagnostic logs are emitted by an Azure service and provide rich, frequent data about the operation of that service.
This information can be viewed and acted on at multiple levels and are continually being improved. Azure provides shared, core, and deep monitoring capabilities of Azure resources through the services outlined in the diagram below.
Alerts: You can collect every log, event, and metric from Azure resources, but without the ability to be notified of critical conditions and act, this data is only useful for historic purposes and forensics. Azure Alerts proactively notify you of conditions you define across all your applications and infrastructure. You create alert rules across logs, events, and metrics that use action groups to notify sets of recipients. Action groups also provide the ability to automate remediation using external actions such as webhooks to run Azure Automation runbooks and Azure Functions.
Dashboards: Dashboards enable you to aggregate monitoring views and combine data across resources and subscriptions to give you an enterprise-wide view into the telemetry of Azure resources. You can create and configure your own views and share them with others. For example, you could create a dashboard consisting of various tiles for database administrators to provide information across all Azure database services, including Azure SQL DB, Azure DB for PostgreSQL and Azure DB for MySQL.
Metrics Explorer: Metrics are numerical values generated by Azure resources (such as % CPU or Disk I/O) that provide insight into the operation and performance of your resources. Using Metrics Explorer, you can define and send the metrics that interest you to Log Analytics for aggregation and analysis.
Azure Monitor: Azure Monitor is the core platform service that provides a single source for monitoring Azure resources. The Azure portal interface of Azure Monitor provides a centralized jump off point for all the monitoring features across Azure including the deep monitoring capabilities of Application Insights, Log Analytics, Network Monitoring, Management Solutions and Service Maps. With Azure Monitor you can visualize, query, route, archive, and act on the metrics and logs coming from Azure resources across your entire cloud estate. In addition to the portal you can retrieve data through the Monitor PowerShell cmdlets, cross-platform CLI, or the Azure Monitor REST APIs.
Azure Advisor: Azure Advisor constantly monitors telemetry across your subscriptions and environments and provides recommendations on best practices on how to optimize your Azure resources to save money and improve performance, security, and availability of the resources that make up your applications.
Service Health: Azure Service Health identifies any issues with Azure Services that may affect your applications as well as assists you in planning for scheduled maintenance windows.
Activity log: The activity log describes all operations on resources in your subscriptions. It provides an audit trail to determine the 'what', 'who', and 'when' of any create, update, delete operation on resources. Activity log events are stored in the platform and are available to query for 90 days. You can ingest activity logs into Log Analytics for longer retention periods and deeper querying and analysis across multiple resources.
Deep application monitoring
Deep infrastructure monitoring
Log Analytics: Log Analytics plays a central role in Azure monitoring by collecting telemetry and other data from a variety of sources and providing a query language and analytics engine that gives you insights into the operation of your applications and resources. You can either interact directly with Log Analytics data through fast log searches and views, or you may use analysis tools in other Azure services that store their data in Log Analytics such as Application Insights or Azure Security Center.
Network monitoring: Azure's network monitoring services enable you to gain insight into network traffic flow, performance, security, connectivity, and bottlenecks. A well-planned network design should include configuring Azure network monitoring services such as Network Watcher and ExpressRoute Monitor.
Management solutions: Management solutions are packaged sets of logic, insights, and predefined Log Analytics queries for an application or service. They rely on Log Analytics as the foundation to store and analyze event data. Sample management solutions include monitoring containers and Azure SQL Database analytics.
Service Map: Service Map provides a graphical view into your infrastructure components, their processes, and interdependencies on other computers and external processes. It integrates events, performance data, and management solutions in Log Analytics.
Before creating individual alerts, create and maintain a set of shared Action Groups that can be used across Azure Alerts. This will enable you to centrally maintain the lifecycle of your recipient lists, notification delivery methods (email, SMS phone numbers) and webhooks to external actions (Azure Automation runbooks, Azure Functions / Logic Apps, ITSM).
One of the major changes that you will face when you move from on-premises cloud to the public cloud is the switch from capital expenditure (buying hardware) to operating expenditure (paying for service as you use it). This switch also requires more careful management of your costs. The benefit of the cloud is that you can fundamentally and positively affect the cost of a service you use by merely shutting down or resizing it when it's not needed. Deliberately managing your costs in the cloud is a recommended practice and one that mature customers do daily.
Microsoft provides several tools for you to be able to visualize, track, and manage your costs. We also provide a full set of APIs to enable you to customize and integrate cost management into your own tools and dashboards. These tools are loosely grouped into Azure portal capabilities and external capabilities.
Azure portal capabilities
These are tools to provide you instant information on cost as well as the ability to take actions.
- Subscription resource cost: Located in the portal, the Azure Cost Analysis view provides a quick look at your costs and information on daily spend by resource or resource group.
- Azure Cost Management: This product is the result of the purchase of Cloudyn by Microsoft and allows you to manage and analyze your Azure spending as well as what you spend on other public cloud providers. There are both free and paid tiers, with a great wealth of capabilities as seen in the overview.
- Azure budgets and action groups: Knowing what something costs and doing something about it until recently has been more of a manual exercise. With the introduction of Azure Budgets and its APIs, it's now possible to create actions (as seen in this example) when costs hit a threshold. For example, shutting down a "test" resource group when it hits 100% of its budget, or [another example].
- Azure Advisor Knowing what something costs is only half the battle; the other half is knowing what to do with that information. Azure Advisor provides you recommendations on actions to take to save money, improve reliability or even increase security.
External cost management tools
Power BI Azure Consumption Insights: Do you want to create your own visualizations for your organization? If so, then the Azure Consumption Insights content pack for Power BI is your tool of choice. Using this content pack and Power BI you can create custom visualizations to represent your organization, do deeper analysis on costs and add in other data sources for further enrichment.
Consumption API: The consumption APIs give you programmatic access to cost and usage data in addition to information on budgets, reserved instances, and marketplace charges. These APIs are accessible only for Enterprise Enrollments and some Web Direct subscriptions however they give you the ability to integrate your cost data into your own tools and data warehouses. You can also access these APIs via the Azure CLI.
Customers who are long-term and mature cloud users follow some highly recommended practices:
- Actively monitor costs. Organizations that are mature Azure users constantly monitor costs and take actions when needed. Some organizations even dedicate people to do analysis and suggest changes to usage, and these people more than pay for themselves the first time they find an unused HDInsight cluster that's been running for months.
- Use Reserved VM Instances. Another key tenet for managing costs in the cloud is to use the right tool for the job. If you have an IaaS VM that must stay on 24x7, then using a Reserved VM Instance will save you significant money. Finding the right balance between automating the shutdown of VMs and using Reserved VM Instances takes experience and analysis.
- Use automation effectively. Many workloads don't need to run every day. Turning off a VM for a four-hour period every day can save you 15% of your cost. Automation will pay for itself quickly.
- Use resource tags for visibility. As mentioned elsewhere in this document, using resource tags will allow for better analysis of costs.
Cost management is a discipline that is core to the effective and efficient running of a public cloud. Enterprises that achieve success can control their costs and match them to their actual demand, rather than overbuying and hoping demand comes.
One of the many capabilities that differentiates the maturity of organizations using cloud providers is the level of automation that they have incorporated. Automation is a never-ending process and as your organization moves to the cloud it is any area that you need to invest resources and time in building. Automation serves many purposes including consistent rollout of resources (where it ties directly to another core scaffold concept, templates and DevOps) to the remediation of issues. Automation is the "connective tissue" of the Azure scaffold and links each area together.
Several tools can help you build out this capability, from first-party tools such as Azure Automation, Event Grid, and the Azure CLI, to an extensive number of third-party tools such as Terraform, Jenkins, Chef, and Puppet. Core automation tools include Azure Automation, Event Grid, and the Azure Cloud Shell.
- Azure Automation Is a cloud-based capability that allows you to author runbooks (in either PowerShell or Python) and allows you automate processes, configure resources, and even apply patches. Azure Automation has an extensive set of cross platform capabilities that are integral to your deployment but are too extensive to be covered in depth here.
- Event Grid is a fully managed event routing system that allows you to react to events within your Azure environment. Just as Azure Automation is the connective tissue of mature cloud organizations, Event Grid is the connective tissue of good automation. Using Event Grid, you can create a simple serverless action to send an email to an administrator whenever a new resource is created and log that resource to a database. That same Event Grid can notify when a resource is deleted and remove the item from the database.
- Azure Cloud Shell is an interactive, browser-based shell for managing resources in Azure. It provides a complete environment for either PowerShell or Bash that is launched as needed (and maintained for you) so that you have a consistent environment from which to run your scripts. The Azure Cloud Shell provides access to additional key tools -already installed-- to automate your environment including Azure CLI, Terraform and a growing list of additional tools to manage containers, databases (sqlcmd), and more.
Automation is a full-time job, and it will rapidly become one of the most important operational tasks within your cloud team. Organizations that take the approach of "automate first" have greater success in using Azure:
- Managing costs: Actively seeking opportunities and creating automation to resize resources, scale up or down, and turn off unused resources.
- Operational flexibility: With automation (along with templates and DevOps), you gain a level of repeatability that increases availability, increases security, and enables your team to focus on solving business problems.
Templates and DevOps
As highlighted in the Automate section, your goal as an organization should be to provision resources through source-controlled templates and scripts and to minimize interactive configuration of your environments. This approach of "infrastructure as code" along with a disciplined DevOps process for continuous deployment can ensure consistency and reduce drift across your environments. Almost every Azure resource is deployable through Azure Resource Manager JSON templates in conjunction with PowerShell or the Azure cross platform CLI and tools such as Terraform from Hashicorp (which has first class support and integrated into the Azure Cloud Shell).
Article such as Best practices for using Azure Resource Manager templates provide an excellent discussion of best practices and lessons learned for applying a DevOps approach to Azure Resource Manager templates with the Azure DevOps toolchain. Take the time and effort to develop a core set of templates specific to your organization's requirements, and to develop continuous delivery pipelines with DevOps toolchains (such as Azure DevOps, Jenkins, Bamboo, TeamCity, and Concourse), especially for your production and QA environments. There is a large library of Azure Quickstart templates on GitHub that you can use as a starting point for templates, and you can quickly create cloud-based delivery pipelines with Azure DevOps.
As a best practice for production subscriptions or resource groups, your goal should be using RBAC security to disallow interactive users by default and using automated continuous delivery pipelines based on service principals to provision all resources and deliver all application code. No admin or developer should touch the Azure portal to interactively configure resources. This level of DevOps takes a concerted effort and uses all the concepts of the Azure scaffold, providing a consistent and more secure environment that will meet your organization's need to scale.
When designing and developing complex Azure Resource Manager templates, use linked templates to organize and refactor complex resource relationships from monolithic JSON files. This will enable you to manage resources individually and make your templates more readable, testable, and reusable.
Azure is a hyperscale cloud provider. As you move your organization from on-premises servers to the cloud, relying on the same concepts that cloud providers and SaaS applications use will help your organization react to the needs of the business much more efficiently.
The final component of the Azure scaffold reference model is core to how your organization accesses Azure, in a secure manner. Access to resources can be either internal (within the corporation's network) or external (through the internet). It is easy for users in your organization to inadvertently put resources in the wrong spot, and potentially open them to malicious access. As with on-premises devices, enterprises must add appropriate controls to ensure that Azure users make the right decisions. For subscription governance, we identify core resources that provide basic control of access. The core resources consist of:
- Virtual networks are container objects for subnets. Though not strictly necessary, it is often used when connecting applications to internal corporate resources.
- User-defined routes allow you to manipulate the route table within a subnet enabling you to send traffic through a network virtual appliance or to a remote gateway on a peered virtual network.
- Virtual network peering enables you to seamlessly connect two or more Azure virtual networks, creating more complex hub and spoke designs or shared services networks.
- Service endpoints. In the past, PaaS services relied on different methods to secure access to those resources from your virtual networks. Service endpoints allow you to secure access to enabled PaaS services from only connected endpoints, increasing overall security.
- Security groups are an extensive set of rules that provide the ability to allow or deny inbound and outbound traffic to/from Azure resources. Security groups consist of security rules that can be augmented with service tags (which define common Azure services such as Azure Key Vault or Azure SQL Database) and application security groups (which define and application structure, such as web servers or app servers).
Use service tags and application security groups in your network security groups not only to enhance the readability of your rules—which is crucial to understanding impact—but also to enable effective microsegmentation within a larger subnet, reducing sprawl and increasing flexibility.
Azure Virtual Datacenter
Azure provides you both internal capabilities and third-party capabilities from our extensive partner network that enable you to have an effective security stance. More importantly, Microsoft provides best practices and guidance in the form of the Azure Virtual Datacenter (VDC). As you move from a single workload to multiple workloads that use hybrid capabilities, the VDC guidance will provide you with "recipes" to enable a flexible, network that will grow as your workloads in Azure grow.
Governance is crucial to the success of Azure. This article targets the technical implementation of an enterprise scaffold but only touches on the broader process and relationships between the components. Policy governance flows from the top down and is determined by what the business wants to achieve. Naturally, the creation of a governance model for Azure includes representatives from IT, but more importantly it should have strong representation from business group leaders, and security and risk management. In the end, an enterprise scaffold is about mitigating business risk to facilitate an organization's mission and objectives.
Now that you have learned about subscription governance, it's time to see these recommendations in practice. See Examples of implementing Azure subscription governance.