Always On VPN Multisite with Azure Traffic Manager

Always On VPN Multisite with Azure Traffic ManagerEliminating single points of failure is crucial to ensuring the highest levels of availability for any remote access solution. For Windows 10 Always On VPN deployments, the Windows Server 2016 Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) and Network Policy Server (NPS) servers can be load balanced to provide redundancy and high availability within a single datacenter. Additional RRAS and NPS servers can be deployed in another datacenter or in Azure to provide geographic redundancy if one datacenter is unavailable, or to provide access to VPN servers based on the location of the client.

Multisite Always On VPN

Unlike DirectAccess, Windows 10 Always On VPN does not natively include support for multisite. However, enabling multisite geographic redundancy can be implemented using Azure Traffic Manager.

Azure Traffic Manager

Traffic Manager is part of Microsoft’s Azure public cloud solution. It provides Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB) functionality by resolving DNS queries for the VPN public hostname to an IP address of the most optimal VPN server.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Using Azure Traffic manager has some benefits, but it is not with some drawbacks.

Advantages – Azure Traffic Manager is easy to configure and use. It requires no proprietary hardware to procure, manage, and support.

Disadvantages – Azure Traffic Manager offers only limited health check options. Azure Traffic Manager’s HTTPS health check only accepts HTTP 200 OK responses as valid. Most TLS-based VPNs will respond with an HTTP 401 Unauthorized, which Azure Traffic Manager considers “degraded”. The only option for endpoint monitoring is a simple TCP connection to port 443, which is a less accurate indicator of endpoint availability.

Note: This scenario assumes that RRAS with Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) or another third-party TLS-based VPN server is in use. If IKEv2 is to be supported exclusively, it will still be necessary to publish an HTTP or HTTPS-based service for Azure Traffic Manager to monitor site availability.

Traffic Routing Methods

Azure Traffic Manager provide four different methods for routing traffic.

Priority – Select this option to provide active/passive failover. A primary VPN server is defined to which all traffic is routed. If the primary server is unavailable, traffic will be routed to another backup server.

Weighted – Select this option to provide active/active failover. Traffic is routed to all VPN servers equally, or unequally if desired. The administrator defines the percentage of traffic routed to each server.

Performance – Select this option to route traffic to the VPN server with the lowest latency. This ensures VPN clients connect to the server that responds the quickest.

Geographic – Select this option to route traffic to a VPN server based on the VPN client’s physical location.

Configure Azure Traffic Manager

Open the Azure management portal and follow the steps below to configure Azure Traffic Manager for multisite Windows 10 Always On VPN.

Create a Traffic Manager Resource

  1. Click Create a resource.
  2. Click Networking.
  3. Click Traffic Manager profile.

Create a Traffic Manager Profile

  1. Enter a unique name for the Traffic Manager profile.
  2. Select an appropriate routing method (described above).
  3. Select a subscription.
  4. Create or select a resource group.
  5. Select a resource group location.
  6. Click Create.

Always On VPN Multisite with Azure Traffic Manager

Important Note: The name of the Traffic Manager profile cannot be used by VPN clients to connect to the VPN server, since a TLS certificate cannot be obtained for the trafficmanager.net domain. Instead, create a CNAME DNS record that points to the Traffic Manager FQDN and ensure that name matches the subject or a Subject Alternative Name (SAN) entry on the VPN server’s TLS and/or IKEv2 certificates.

Endpoint Monitoring

Open the newly created Traffic Manager profile and perform the following tasks to enable endpoint monitoring.

  1. Click Configuration.
  2. Select TCP from the Protocol drop-down list.
  3. Enter 443 in the Port field.
  4. Update any additional settings, such as DNS TTL, probing interval, tolerated number of failures, and probe timeout, as required.
  5. Click Save.

Always On VPN Multisite with Azure Traffic Manager

Endpoint Configuration

Follow the steps below to add VPN endpoints to the Traffic Manager profile.

  1. Click Endpoints.
  2. Click Add.
  3. Select External Endpoint from the Type drop-down list.
  4. Enter a descriptive name for the endpoint.
  5. Enter the Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) or the IP address of the first VPN server.
  6. Select a geography from the Location drop-down list.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Repeat the steps above for any additional datacenters where VPN servers are deployed.

Always On VPN Multisite with Azure Traffic Manager

Summary

Implementing multisite by placing VPN servers is multiple physical locations will ensure that VPN connections can be established successfully even when an entire datacenter is offline. In addition, active/active scenarios can be implemented, where VPN client connections can be routed to the most optimal datacenter based on a variety of parameters, including current server load or the client’s current location.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN Hands-On Training Classes

Deployment Considerations for DirectAccess on Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Organizations are rapidly deploying Windows server infrastructure with public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. With traditional on-premises infrastructure now hosted in the cloud, DirectAccess is also being deployed there more commonly.

Supportability

Interestingly, Microsoft has expressly stated that DirectAccess is not formally supported on their own public cloud platform, Azure. However, there is no formal statement of non-support for DirectAccess hosted on other non-Microsoft public cloud platforms. With supportability for DirectAccess on AWS unclear, many companies are taking the approach that if it isn’t unsupported, then it must be supported. I’d suggest proceeding with caution, as Microsoft could issue formal guidance to the contrary in the future.

DirectAccess on AWS

Deploying DirectAccess on AWS is similar to deploying on premises, with a few notable exceptions, outlined below.

IP Addressing

It is recommended that an IP address be exclusively assigned to the DirectAccess server in AWS, as shown here.

Deployment Considerations for DirectAccess on Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Prerequisites Check

When first configuring DirectAccess, the administrator will encounter the following warning message.

“The server does not comply with some DirectAccess prerequisites. Resolve all issues before proceed with DirectAccess deployment.”

The warning message itself states that “One or more network adapters should be configured with a static IP address. Obtain a static address and assign it to the adapter.

Deployment Considerations for DirectAccess on Amazon Web Services (AWS)

IP addressing for virtual machines are managed entirely by AWS. This means the DirectAccess server will have a DHCP-assigned address, even when an IP address is specified in AWS. Assigning static IP addresses in the guest virtual machine itself is also not supported. However, this warning message can safely be ignored.

No Support for Load Balancing

It is not possible to create load-balanced clusters of DirectAccess servers for redundancy or scalability on AWS. This is because enabling load balancing for DirectAccess requires the IP address of the DirectAccess server be changed in the operating system, which is not supported on AWS. To eliminate single points of failure in the DirectAccess architecture or to add additional capacity, multisite must be enabled. Each additional DirectAccess server must be provisioned as an individual entry point.

Network Topology

DirectAccess servers on AWS can be provisioned with one or two network interfaces. Using two network interfaces is recommended, with the external network interface of the DirectAccess server residing in a dedicated perimeter/DMZ network. The external network interface must use either the Public or Private Windows firewall profile. DirectAccess will not work if the external interface uses the Domain profile. For the Public and Private profile to be enabled, domain controllers must not be reachable from the perimeter/DMZ network. Ensure the perimeter/DMZ network cannot access the internal network by restricting network access in EC2 using a Security Group, or on the VPC using a Network Access Control List (ACL) or custom route table settings.

External Connectivity

A public IPv4 address must be associated with the DirectAccess server in AWS. There are several ways to accomplish this. The simplest way is to assign a public IPv4 address to the virtual machine (VM). However, a public IP address can only be assigned to the VM when it is deployed initially and cannot be added later. Alternatively, an Elastic IP can be provisioned and assigned to the DirectAccess server at any time.

An ACL must also be configured for the public IP that restricts access from the Internet to only inbound TCP port 443. To provide additional protection, consider deploying an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) appliance like the Citrix NetScaler or F5 BIG-IP to enforce client certificate authentication for DirectAccess clients.

Network Location Server (NLS)

If an organization is hosting all of its Windows infrastructure in AWS and all clients will be remote, Network Location Server (NLS) availability becomes much less critical than with traditional on-premises deployments. For cloud-only deployments, hosting the NLS on the DirectAccess server is a viable option. It eliminates the need for dedicated NLS, reducing costs and administrative overhead. If multisite is configured, ensure that the NLS is not using a self-signed certificate, as this is unsupported.

Deployment Considerations for DirectAccess on Amazon Web Services (AWS)

However, for hybrid cloud deployments where on-premises DirectAccess clients share the same internal network with cloud-hosted DirectAccess servers, it is recommended that the NLS be deployed on dedicated, highly available servers following the guidance outlined here and here.

Client Provisioning

All supported DirectAccess clients will work with DirectAccess on AWS. If the domain infrastructure is hosted exclusively in AWS, provisioning clients can be performed using Offline Domain Join (ODJ). Provisioning DirectAccess clients using ODJ is only supported in Windows 8.x/10. Windows 7 clients cannot be provisioned using ODJ and must be joined to the domain using another form of remote network connectivity such as VPN.

Additional Resources

DirectAccess No Longer Supported in Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Server Software Support for Azure Virtual Machines

DirectAccess Network Location Server (NLS) Guidance

DirectAccess Network Location Server (NLS) Deployment Considerations for Large Enterprises

Provisioning DirectAccess Clients using Offline Domain Join (ODJ)

DirectAccess SSL Offload and IP-HTTPS Preauthentication with Citrix NetScaler

DirectAccess SSL Offload and IP-HTTPS Preauthentication with F5 BIG-IP

Planning and Implementing DirectAccess with Windows Server 2016 Video Training Course

Implementing DirectAccess with Windows Server 2016 Book

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