Top 5 DirectAccess Troubleshooting Tips

Top 5 DirectAccess Troubleshooting TipsDirectAccess is a thing of beauty when everything is working as it should. When it isn’t, troubleshooting can be quite challenging. DirectAccess relies on many Windows platform technologies such as Active Directory for authentication, PKI for certificate management, group policy for settings deployment, IPsec for encryption, and IPv6 for transport. With so many dependencies, locating the source of the problem can be a difficult and daunting task.

I’m frequently called upon to help organizations of all sizes with DirectAccess troubleshooting. While this post is not intended to be a detailed, prescriptive guide for DirectAccess troubleshooting, I did want to share some common troubleshooting tips based on many years of troubleshooting DirectAccess.

Here are my top 5 DirectAccess troubleshooting tips:

  1. Check Prerequisites – Before diving in and collecting network traces and scouring event logs for clues as to why DirectAccess isn’t working, it’s essential to start at the beginning. Often the source of trouble is missing or misconfigured prerequisites. For example, is the DirectAccess client running a supported operating system? Remember, clients must be running Windows 10 Enterprise or Education, Windows 8.x Enterprise, or Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate. Also, ensure that the Windows firewall is enabled on DirectAccess servers and clients, that certificates are installed and valid (trusted, correct EKU, etc.), and that the DirectAccess settings GPO has been applied to servers and clients.
  2. Validate External Connectivity – If you are following implementation and security best practices for DirectAccess, the DirectAccess server will be in a perimeter/DMZ network behind an edge firewall. The firewall must be configured to allow inbound TCP port 443 only. If the firewall is also performing Network Address Translation (NAT), the NAT rule must be configured to forward traffic to the DirectAccess server’s dedicated or virtual IP address (VIP), or the VIP of the load balancer. Watch for routing issues when using load balancers too. It’s a good idea to confirm external connectivity using the Test-NetConnection PowerShell command. Even better, use the open source tool Nmap for more thorough testing.
  3. Remove Third Party Software – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve resolved DirectAccess connectivity issues by removing (not just disabling!) third party software on the client and/or server. It’s not uncommon for third-party security software to interfere with IPsec and/or IPv6 communication, both of which are vital to DirectAccess. If your DirectAccess troubleshooting efforts reveal no underlying issues with prerequisites or external connectivity, I’d suggest removing (at least temporarily) any third-party software and testing again.
  4. Isolate Environmental Issues – Occasionally other settings applied manually or via Active Directory group policy will interfere with DirectAccess. Examples include IPv6 being disabled in the registry, IPv6 transition technologies required to support DirectAccess are turned off, essential firewall rules for DirectAccess are disabled, or manipulating local security settings such as Access this computer from the network. To assist with troubleshooting it might be necessary to temporarily place DirectAccess clients and servers in their own dedicated Organizational Units (OUs) and block inheritance to isolate the configuration as much as possible. In addition, if DirectAccess clients are servers are provisioned using images or templates, testing with a clean build straight from the installation source (ISO or DVD) can be helpful.
  5. Check for Unsupported Configurations – If DirectAccess isn’t working, it might be possible the configuration you are trying to use is not supported. Examples including strong user authentication with OTP when force tunneling is enabled, provisioning Windows 7 clients when using Kerberos Proxy authentication, or provisioning Windows 10 clients when Network Access Protection (NAP) integration is enabled. These configurations won’t work and are formally documented here.

This is by no means a comprehensive or exhaustive troubleshooting guide. For more information and additional DirectAccess troubleshooting guidance I would encourage you to purchase my book Implementing DirectAccess with Windows Server 2016, which has an entire chapter devoted just to troubleshooting. In addition, watch my DirectAccess video training courses on Pluralsight for details and information about DirectAccess installation, configuration, management, support, and troubleshooting. And if you’re still struggling to resolve a DirectAccess problem, use the form at the bottom of this page to contact me to inquire about additional troubleshooting help.

Additional Resources

Microsoft Windows DirectAccess Client Troubleshooting Tool
DirectAccess and Windows 10 Professional
DirectAccess Troubleshooting with Nmap
DirectAccess Unsupported Configurations
Planning and Implementing DirectAccess with Windows Server 2016 Video Training Course on Pluralsight
Implementing DirectAccess with Windows Server 2016 Book

Need assistance with DirectAccess troubleshooting? Complete the form below and I’ll get in touch with you.

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

3 Important Things You Need to Know about Windows 10 and DirectAccess

DirectAccess and Windows 10 - Better TogetherDirectAccess has been with us for quite some time know, having been originally introduced with Windows Server 2008 R2, later enhanced with Forefront Unified Access Gateway (UAG) 2010, and finally integrated in to the base operating system in Windows Server 2012 R2. Client support for DirectAccess begins with Windows 7 (Enterprise or Ultimate), and also includes Windows 8.x (Enterprise) and Windows 10 (Enterprise or Education).

Although Windows 7 clients are supported for DirectAccess, Windows 10 is highly preferred. Here are three important things you need to know about using Windows 10 with DirectAccess.

  1. Windows 10 Provides Improved Performance and Scalability – Windows 10 includes support for null encryption when using the IP-HTTPS IPv6 transition protocol. This eliminates the needless double-encryption performed by Windows 7 clients, and dramatically reduces the protocol overhead for clients connecting behind port-restricted firewalls. DirectAccess servers can support many more concurrent IP-HTTPS sessions with Windows 10, and it has the added benefit of making the more secure perimeter/DMZ deployment behind an edge security device performing NAT much more attractive.
  2. Windows 10 Supports Geographic Redundancy – Windows 10 includes full support for DirectAccess multisite deployments. Where Windows 7 clients had to be assigned to a single entry point, Windows 10 clients are aware of all entry points in the organization. They are able to automatically select the nearest entry point on startup, and transparently failover to another site if the current site becomes unavailable.
  3. Windows 10 Features an Enhanced Management Experience – From a troubleshooting and support perspective, Windows 10 makes things much easier. The DirectAccess connectivity assistant, an optional component for Windows 7, is now fully integrated with the Windows 10 UI. PowerShell is greatly improved and now includes many native DirectAccess configuration and troubleshooting commands.

As you can see, there are a number of significant advantages for using Windows 10 with DirectAccess. Windows 10 now supports all of the enterprise features of DirectAccess, including geographic redundancy and performance and scalability improvements. Windows 10 is also easier to troubleshoot and manage. If you’re still supporting Windows 7, DirectAccess in Windows Server 2012 R2 can certainly support them. However, without a doubt the best experience, both from an administrator’s and the end user’s perspective, is with Windows 10. Just one more reason to begin planning your migration to Windows 10 with DirectAccess today!

Need assistance with implementing  DirectAccess with Windows 10? I can help! More details here.

Active Directory IP Subnets for DirectAccess Clients

Introduction

When deploying Windows Server 2012 R2 DirectAccess I’m often asked which Active Directory (AD) site a client is associated with when it establishes DirectAccess connectivity. The answer depends on the client’s operating system. Windows 8.x and later clients automatically associate themselves with the site to which the DirectAccess server they are connected to belongs. Windows 7 clients lack this capability, and depending on current AD configuration, Windows 7 clients may associate with an incorrect site. This can lead to potential problems such as slow logon times and mapped drive failures. To address this issue it is important to configure IP subnets in AD for DirectAccess clients to eliminate any potential problems. In this article I’ll demonstrate how to create IP subnets in AD and how to identify IPv6 subnets used by DirectAccess clients.

Active Directory IP Subnets

Configuring IP subnets in AD is relatively straightforward. In the Active Directory Sites and Services management console, right-click Subnets and choose New Subnet. Enter the IP subnet prefix and select the AD site where the DirectAccess server for this subnet resides.

Active Directory IP Subnets for DirectAccess Clients

IPv6 Subnets for DirectAccess Clients

To configure AD IP subnets for DirectAccess clients, it will be necessary to identify all potential IP subnets that may be in use. IP subnets used by DirectAccess clients depend on the IPv6 transition protocols supported by the DirectAccess configuration. DirectAccess supports 6to4, Teredo, and IP-HTTPS for client to server communication, and the Intrasite Automatic Tunnel Addressing Protocol (ISATAP) for manage-out connectivity. Any or all of these protocols may be used for a particular DirectAccess configuration.

  • 6to4 – Supported if the DirectAccess server is edge-facing with a public IPv4 address assigned to its external network interface.
  • Teredo – Supported if the DirectAccess server is edge-facing with two consecutive public IPv4 addresses assigned to its external network interface.
  • IP-HTTPS – Supported in all deployment scenarios, and is used exclusively if the DirectAccess server is located behind a NAT device in a perimeter or DMZ network.
  • ISATAP – Optionally used when manage out is enabled and configured.

IP subnets should be configured in AD for all IPv6 transition protocols supported for the DirectAccess deployment.

Identify the 6to4 IPv6 Subnet

Note: Information for the 6to4 protocol is provided here for completeness. However, it is generally recommended that 6to4 be disabled for DirectAccess deployments, making this configuration unnecessary. More information about disabling 6to4 can be found here.

The 6to4 IPv6 transition protocol is only supported when the DirectAccess server is edge-facing with a public IPv4 address assigned to its external network interface. 6to4 IPv6 addresses are assigned using the 2002::/16 prefix. For single site DirectAccess deployments, an administrator should create an IP subnet in AD using this prefix and assign it to the AD site where the DirectAccess server resides. If public IPv4 addressing is used internally and the 6to4 transition protocol has not been disabled, it is essential that more specific IP subnets for internal 6to4 clients also be configured.

6to4 and DirectAccess Multisite Challenges

The 6to4 IPv6 transition protocol presents a challenge for multisite DirectAccess deployments. When a client creates a 6to4 IPv6 address, it appends the 2002::/16 prefix with its public IPv4 address represented in hexadecimal using the form WWXX:YYZZ::WWXX:YYZZ. For example, if the DirectAccess client’s public IPv4 address is 198.51.100.83, its 6to4 address would be 2002:c633:6453::c633:6453. Since this IPv6 address is created using only the client’s IPv4 address, there is no way to associate the client to a specific entry point. This is one of the reasons why 6to4 is not recommended for use in DirectAccess deployments. If you must support the 6to4 IPv6 transition protocol in a multisite configuration, assign the 2002::/16 IP subnet to the most centrally located AD site.

Identify the Teredo IPv6 Subnet

The Teredo IPv6 transition protocol is only supported when the DirectAccess server is edge facing with two consecutive public IPv4 addresses assigned to its external network interface. Teredo IPv6 addresses begin with 2001: followed by the primary public IPv4 address (represented in hexadecimal) of the DirectAccess server. For example, if the DirectAccess server’s primary public IPv4 address is 203.0.113.240, the DirectAccess client will be assigned a Teredo IPv6 address using the 2001:cb00:71f0::/48 prefix. An administrator should create an IP subnet in AD using this prefix and assign it to the AD site where the DirectAccess server resides. For multisite deployments, repeat these steps for each DirectAccess entry point.

Identify the IP-HTTPS IPv6 Subnet

The IP-HTTPS IPv6 transition protocol is supported in all DirectAccess configurations and its IPv6 subnet should always be assigned to an AD site. The IP-HTTPS IPv6 prefix assignment differs between single site and multisite deployments.

Single Site Deployment

For single site deployments, a /64 IPv6 prefix is assigned for DirectAccess clients. To identify this subnet, run the Get-RemoteAccess PowerShell command on the DirectAccess server and locate the value of ClientIPv6Prefix

Active Directory IP Subnets for DirectAccess Clients

Multisite Deployment

For multisite deployments, a unique /64  IPv6 subnet is assigned to single node entry points. If load balancing is enabled, a /59 IPv6 subnet is assigned to the entry point, and each server within the entry point is assigned a /64 prefix for DirectAccess clients. To identify the IPv6 prefixes for each entry point, highlight DirectAccess and VPN below the Configuration node in the Remote Access Management console, and then select the DirectAccess entry point.

Active Directory IP Subnets for DirectAccess Clients

For edge facing deployments with a public IPv4 address assigned to the external network interface, the IPv6 prefix assigned to DirectAccess clients is from the 2002::/16 globally unique address (GUA) range. If the DirectAccess server is configured using a private IPv4 address with a single network interface or with two network interfaces behind a NAT, the IPv6 prefix assigned to DirectAccess clients will be from the fd00::/8 unique local address (ULA) range. An administrator should create an IP subnet in AD using this prefix and assign it to the AD site where the DirectAccess server resides.

Note: Uninstalling and reinstalling DirectAccess will result in a new IP-HTTPS network ID being created. If these changes are made, be sure to update AD IP subnets accordingly.

Identify the ISATAP IPv6 Subnet

Although this article focuses primarily on the IPv6 subnets used by remote DirectAccess clients, it is also important not to overlook AD IP subnet configuration for internal clients if ISATAP is configured for manage out. IP subnets used by ISATAP clients vary depending on the network configuration of the DirectAccess server.

Edge Deployment

For edge deployments, ISATAP addresses are assigned from the 2002::/16 GUA range. This is appended with the public IPv4 address of the DirectAccess server in hexadecimal using the form WWXX:YYZZ:1:0:5efe and the IPv4 address of the ISTAP client in familiar dotted-decimal notation. For example, if the DirectAccess server’s primary public IPv4 address is 203.0.113.240 and the client’s IP address is 172.16.1.77, the DirectAccess client will be assigned the ISATAP address 2002:cb00:71f0:1:0:5efe:172.16.1.77. The subnet to be created by the administrator in AD will then be 2002:cb00:71f0:1:0:5efe::/96 plus the IPv4 network prefix. For example, if the client’s IP address uses a /24 prefix, the AD IP subnet would be configured using 2002:cb00:71f0:1:0:5efe:172.16.1.0/120. This IP subnet should be assigned to the same site where the corresponding IPv4 subnet is assigned.

Perimeter/DMZ Deployment

For perimeter/DMZ deployments, ISATAP addresses are assigned randomly from the fd00::/8 ULA range and begin with fdXX:XXXX:XXXX:1:0:5efe followed by the IPv4 address of the ISTAP client in dotted-decimal notation. For example, if the DirectAccess client’s IP address is 172.16.1.77, its ISATAP address might look like fdca:3ce5:b0a:1:0:5efe:172.16.1.77. The subnet to be created by the administrator in AD will then be fdca:3ce5:b0a:1:0:5efe::/96 plus the IPv4 network prefix. If the clients’ IP address uses a /24 prefix, the AD IP subnet would be configured using fdca:3ce5:b0a:1:0:5efe:172.16.1.0/120. This IP subnet should be assigned to the same site where the corresponding IPv4 subnet is assigned.

Summary

The configuration of Active Directory IP subnets for DirectAccess clients is an often overlooked aspect of DirectAccess deployments. Proper IP subnet mapping to AD sites is critical, especially for large enterprise deployments with complex networks spanning multiple physical locations. It ensures that Windows 7 DirectAccess clients communicate with the closest AD domain controller when they establish a DirectAccess connection, which can eliminate potential issues. In addition, it is recommended to disable 6to4 for DirectAccess clients to avoid the pitfalls that come with the use of this IPv6 transition protocol. Also, don’t forget to configure IP subnets for any internal clients that use ISATAP for manage out.

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