It has been almost a year since the last DSC Planning update. There has been a lot going on, many decisions being made, and it just didn’t make sense to post earlier in this calendar year. In this post we will review what has been shipped and the high-level direction we are heading.
I am accompanying this post with write-ups that are for the more technical audience. In two parts, I would like to explain the implementation of the Guest Configuration client/service and exactly how the new DSC engine functions.
If you take nothing else away, here are the top-level items:
- The new implementation of DSC is Azure Policy Guest Configuration
- The solution is GA for built-in content and is moving towards a preview for custom content
- Your skill set and your DSC scripts/modules can be used in a new way
Azure Policy Guest Configuration
What have we shipped?
The DSC codebase we have been working on is now fully GA as Azure Policy Guest Configuration but this is not the DSC you have known up to this point. It is best to think of Azure Policy Guest Configuration as based on the DSC syntax but functionally a new platform.
The intention for this service is to build confidence so application developers/owners are free to deploy servers when they need them without putting the organization at risk. Building this platform on a tool that was designed with operations in mind helps us to look beyond the types of settings that we thought about in platforms such as Group Policy. We can include operational requirements such as making sure all servers have a healthy monitoring agent, logging configuration, and the correct certificates in place to function in an enterprise environment.
DSC has been the basis for other Azure solutions such as the Azure DSC Extension and Azure Automation State Configuration, that help you to configure virtual machines. Azure Policy Guest Configuration currently provides an audit platform to validate settings inside virtual machines.
The full documentation for this service is available at the following short url.
If you would like to continue reading about how this service is technically implemented, the two technical write-ups are published to accompany this post.
High level direction forward
For the next semester (the second half of 2019 calendar year) we are focused on iterating upon our first release of this solution, introducing the ability for you to use your own content for auditing machines, and to enable you to also enforce settings inside virtual machines using Azure Policy.
It is important for many people to understand what the options will be to use DSC in disconnected scenarios going forward. We are considering our options in this area and taking the feedback seriously. I hope to have more to share on this area in the future.
Iterating upon our first release of the solution includes multiple areas where we believe we can make life easier for customers. One of the patterns we have observed is customers assigning an audit policy but forgetting to assign the policy that handles automatically onboarding servers. In the future we believe we can make this simpler. We have also heard from customers that they would like to have the option to bulk export data about virtual machine compliance so it can be used in other tools, and that they would like to use the solution to audit servers running outside of Azure.
We hope to enable customers to use their own content, and the tools of their choice, when auditing settings inside virtual machines. As an example, we have heard from Chef customers that they would like to be able to use InSpec to audit Windows Servers. As a result, we announced in our session at Chef Conference that we will be co-maintaining a Guest Configuration provider for InSpec as a collaborative open source project that customers can use in Azure Policy Guest Configuration. More information can be found here.
We are investing in getting the user experience right for developing custom content, cross platform for the developer workstation, and having a validation and troubleshooting experience that improves on lessons we learned with DSC. We will soon be moving into a public preview of custom content. In the meantime, you are welcome to give us feedback in our “request for comments” public GitHub repo here.
Finally, we are investigating the right approaches for enforcing settings inside virtual machines using Azure Policy. With this scope in mind, I would like to invite you to respond to a (an anonymous) survey to provide feedback on your top requirements.
Principal Program Manger