Always On VPN and RRAS with Single NIC

Always On VPN and RRAS with Single NICI’m commonly asked “can Windows Server with Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) be configured with a single network interface?” This is likely because the official Microsoft documentation references only a multihomed dual NIC configuration, leading many to believe it is a strict requirement.

Single NIC

Deploying Windows Server RRAS with a single network interface is indeed supported and works without issue. There are no functional limitations imposed by using a single network interface. All features are fully supported in this scenario. The choice to use one or two network interfaces is purely a design choice, driven by several factors such as current network configuration and security requirements.

Dual NIC

Although a single NIC configuration is fully supported, there are some important advantages associated with mulithome dual NIC deployments. The following should be considered when deciding between single NIC and dual NIC VPN configurations.

Traffic Segmentation

Having separate internal and external network connections provides logical and physical separation of trusted and untrusted network traffic. Terminating connections from Always On VPN clients on the Internet in an isolated perimeter or DMZ network yields positive security benefits.

Firewall Configuration

Using two network interfaces allows for a more restrictive Windows Firewall policy to be applied to the external interface. This reduces the exposure of running services on the RRAS server to untrusted networks. This is especially critical if the VPN server is Windows Server RRAS and it is joined to a domain.

Network Performance

For very busy RRAS servers, having two network interfaces can improve network performance. With two network interfaces, network traffic is distributed between two network adapters, reducing utilization on each interface.

Dual NIC Best Practices

When deploying an RRAS server with dual NICs, the following recommendations for network interface configuration should be followed.

IP Addressing

Each network interface must be assigned an IP address from a unique subnet. Having both NICs on the same subnet is not supported.

Default Gateway

The default gateway should be configured on the external facing network interface only. The internal interface should not be configured with a gateway. Rather, static routes to any remote internal networks should be configured.

To add a static route on a Windows Server, open an elevated PowerShell command window and run the following command.

New-NetRoute -AddressFamily IPv4 -DestinationPrefix 10.0.0.0/8 -InterfaceAlias ‘Internal’ -NextHop 172.21.12.254

DNS

For domain-joined RRAS servers, corporate DNS servers should be configured on the Internal network interface only. No DNS servers should be configured on the external interface. If the server is not joined to a domain, DNS servers can be configured on whichever interface has connectivity to the defined DNS servers.

NAT

When the RRAS server is behind a device performing Network Address Translation (NAT), the NAT should be configured to translate only the destination address (DNAT). This allows the VPN server (or load balancer for multiserver deployments) to see the client’s original source IP address, which ensures efficient traffic distribution and meaningful log data.

Client, Service, and Protocol Bindings

All unnecessary clients, services, and protocols should be unbound from the external network interface. It is recommended that only the IPv4 and IPv6 protocols be enabled on the external interface, as shown here. Again, this reduces exposure for the server to the untrusted external network.

Always On VPN and RRAS with Single NIC

Summary

The dual NIC, multihomed configuration is generally recommended for most deployments as it offers security and performance advantages over the single NIC configuration. For organizations with less demanding security requirements, a single NIC deployment can be deployed safely without compromising functionality or supportability. In addition, a single NIC deployment may be the best option when multiple networks aren’t readily available.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN and Windows Server Routing and Remote Access (RRAS)

Windows 10 Always On VPN Protocol Recommendations for Windows Server RRAS

Windows 10 Always On VPN Options for Azure Deployments

Windows 10 Always On VPN Hands On Training

Deploying DirectAccess in Microsoft Azure

Introduction

DirectAccess Now a Supported Workload in Microsoft AzureMany organizations are preparing to implement DirectAccess on Microsoft’s public cloud infrastructure. Deploying DirectAccess in Azure is fundamentally no different than implementing it on premises, with a few important exceptions (see below). This article provides essential guidance for administrators to configure this unique workload in Azure.

Important Note: There has been much confusion regarding the supportability of DirectAccess in Azure. Historically it has not been supported. Recently, it appeared briefly that Microsoft reversed their earlier decision and was in fact going to support it. However, the Microsoft Server Software Suport for Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines document has once again been revised to indicate that DirectAccess is indeed no longer formally supported on Azure. More details can be found here.

Azure Configuration

The following is guidance for configuring network interfaces, IP address assignments, public DNS, and network security groups for deploying DirectAccess in Azure.

Virtual Machine

Deploy a virtual machine in Azure with sufficient resources to meet expected demand. A minimum of two CPU cores should be provisioned. A VM with 4 cores is recommended. Premium storage on SSD is optional, as DirectAccess is not a disk intensive workload.

Network Interfaces

It is recommended that an Azure VM with a single network interface be provisioned for the DirectAccess role. This differs from on-premises deployments where two network interfaces are preferred because deploying VMs in Azure with two NICs is prohibitively difficult. At the time of this writing, Azure VMs with multiple network interfaces can only be provisioned using PowerShell, Azure CLI, or resource manager templates. In addition, Azure VMs with multiple NICs cannot belong to the same resource group as other VMs. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, not all Azure VMs support multiple NICs.

Internal IP Address

Static IP address assignment is recommended for the DirectAccess VM in Azure. By default, Azure VMs are initially provisioned using dynamic IP addresses, so this change must be made after the VM has been provisioned. To assign a static internal IP address to an Azure VM, open the Azure management portal and perform the following steps:

  1. Click Virtual machines.
  2. Select the DirectAccess server VM.
  3. Click Network Interfaces.
  4. Click on the network interface assigned to the VM.
  5. Under Settings click IP configurations.
  6. Click Ipconfig1.
  7. In the Private IP address settings section choose Static for the assignment method.
  8. Enter an IP address for the VM.
  9. Click Save.

Deploying DirectAccess in Microsoft Azure

Public IP Address

The DirectAccess VM in Azure must have a public IP address assigned to it to allow remote client connectivity. To assign a public IP address to an Azure VM, open the Azure management portal and perform the following steps:

  1. Click Virtual machines.
  2. Select the DirectAccess server VM.
  3. Click Network Interfaces.
  4. Click on the network interface assigned to the VM.
  5. Under Settings click IP configurations.
  6. Click Ipconfig1.
  7. In the Public IP address settings section click Enabled.
  8. Click Configure required settings.
  9. Click Create New and provide a descriptive name for the public IP address.
  10. Choose an address assignment method.
  11. Click Ok and Save.

Deploying DirectAccess in Microsoft Azure

Deploying DirectAccess in Microsoft Azure

Public DNS

If the static IP address assignment method was chosen for the public IP address, create an A resource record in public DNS that resolves to this address. If the dynamic IP address assignment method was chosen, create a CNAME record in public DNS that maps to the public hostname for the DirectAccess server. To assign a public hostname to the VM in Azure, open the Azure management portal and perform the following steps:

  1. Click Virtual machines.
  2. Select the DirectAccess server VM.
  3. Click Overview.
  4. Click Public IP address/DNS name label.Deploying DirectAccess in Microsoft Azure
  5. Under Settings click Configuration.
  6. Choose an assignment method (static or dynamic).
  7. Enter a DNS name label.
  8. Click Save.

Deploying DirectAccess in Microsoft Azure

Note: The subject of the SSL certificate used for the DirectAccess IP-HTTPS listener must match the name of the public DNS record (A or CNAME) entered previously. The SSL certificate does not need to match the Azure DNS name label entered here.

Network Security Group

A network security group must be configured to allow IP-HTTPS traffic inbound to the DirectAccess server on the public IP address. To make the required changes to the network security group, open the Azure management portal and perform the following steps:

  1. Click Virtual machines.
  2. Select the DirectAccess server VM.
  3. Click Network interfaces.
  4. Click on the network interface assigned to the VM.
  5. Under Settings click Network security group.
  6. Click the network security group assigned to the network interface.
  7. Click Inbound security rules.
  8. Click Add and provide a descriptive name for the new rule.
  9. Click Any for Source.
  10. From the Service drop-down list choose HTTPS.
  11. Click Allow for Action.
  12. Click Ok.

Deploying DirectAccess in Microsoft Azure

Note: It is recommended that the default-allow-rdp rule be removed if it is not needed. At a minimum, scope the rule to allow RDP only from trusted hosts and/or networks.

DirectAccess Configuration

When performing the initial configuration of DirectAccess using the Remote Access Management console, the administrator will encounter the following warning message.

“One or more network adapters should be configured with a static IP address. Obtain a static address and assign it to the adapter.”

Deploying DirectAccess in Microsoft Azure

This message can safely be ignored because Azure infrastructure handles all IP address assignment for hosted VMs.

The public name of the DirectAccess server entered in the Remote Access Management console must resolve to the public IP address assigned to the Azure VM, as described previously.

Deploying DirectAccess in Microsoft Azure

Additional Considerations

When deploying DirectAccess in Azure, the following limitations should be considered.

Load Balancing

It is not possible to enable load balancing using Windows Network Load Balancing (NLB) or an external load balancer. Enabling load balancing for DirectAccess requires changing static IP address assignments in the Windows operating system directly, which is not supported in Azure. This is because IP addresses are assigned dynamically in Azure, even when the option to use static IP address assignment is chosen in the Azure management portal. Static IP address assignment for Azure virtual machines are functionally similar to using DHCP reservations on premises.

Deploying DirectAccess in Microsoft Azure

Note: Technically speaking, the DirectAccess server in Azure could be placed behind a third-party external load balancer for the purposes of performing SSL offload or IP-HTTPS preauthentication, as outlined here and here. However, load balancing cannot be enabled in the Remote Access Management console and only a single DirectAccess server per entry point can be deployed.

Manage Out

DirectAccess manage out using native IPv6 or ISATAP is not supported in Azure. At the time of this writing, Azure does not support IPv6 addressing for Azure VMs. In addition, ISATAP does not work due to limitations imposed by the underlying Azure network infrastructure.

Summary

For organizations moving infrastructure to Microsoft’s public cloud, formal support for the DirectAccess workload in Azure is welcome news. Implementing DirectAccess in Azure is similar to on-premises with a few crucial limitations. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, administrators can configure DirectAccess in Azure to meet their secure remote access needs with a minimum of trouble.

Additional Resources

Implementing DirectAccess in Windows Server 2016
Fundamentals of Microsoft Azure 2nd Edition
Microsoft Azure Security Infrastructure
DirectAccess Multisite with Azure Traffic Manager
DirectAccess Consulting Services

Network Interface Configuration for Multihomed Windows Server 2012 DirectAccess Servers

When preparing a Windows Server 2012 DirectAccess server with two network interfaces, proper configuration of the network interfaces is vital to the operation and security of the remote access solution, especially in edge-facing scenarios. Preparing a server with two network interfaces might seem trivial, but there are some important and often overlooked settings that may lead to trouble. In this post I’d like to outline the proper network interface configuration for a Windows Server 2012 DirectAccess server in an edge-facing deployment scenario. It is important to note that you should configure your network interfaces prior to installing and configuring DirectAccess.

The first step is to rename the network interfaces with intuitive names that identify their role. Typically I use Internal and External. This will make DirectAccess configuration much easier, as you will see when you are configuring DirectAccess using the deployment wizards. To rename the network interfaces, open the Networking and Sharing Center from the Control Panel and choose the option to Change adapter settings. Optionally you can simply highlight the network interface you wish to rename and hit F2. Assign new names to the network interfaces as appropriate.

direct_access_multihome_01

Next, right-click the Internal network interface and choose Properties. Enter an IPv4 address, subnet mask, and DNS servers as required. Notice that I have not entered a default gateway here. This is absolutely critical and one of the most common mistakes made when configuring a multihomed DirectAccess server. On a server with multilple network interfaces there can be only one default gateway, and the gateway must reside on the External network interface.

direct_access_multihome_02

In the absence of a default gateway on the Internal network interface, static routes will be required to reach any remote internal subnets. To add a static route, open an elevated PowerShell command prompt and add any necessary routes using the following syntax:

New-NetRoute -InterfaceAlias <Interface_Name> -DestinationPrefix <SubnetID/Mask> -NextHop <Gateway_Address>

For example, my lab network has a remote subnet of 172.16.2.0/24 that is reachable through a router interface of 172.16.1.254.

New-NetRoute -InterfaceAlias Internal -DestinationPrefix 172.16.2.0/24 -NextHop 172.16.1.254

It’s also a good idea to unbind any protocols that are not required. For example, in my implementation I will not be leveraging QoS or NIC teaming, nor will I require the Link-Layer Topology Discovery services so I’ve unchecked those boxes accordingly.

direct_access_multihome_03

Perform this same exercise for the External network interface. Enter an IPv4 address and subnet mask, and this time be sure to include the default gateway for the External network. Notice that I have not entered any DNS servers here. Resist the urge to enter the DNS servers provided by your ISP. They are not required here.

direct_access_multihome_04

Since this DirectAccess server will be edge-facing and connected directly to the public Internet, it is a good idea to unbind all protocols from the network interface with the exception of IPv4 and IPv6.

direct_access_multihome_05

In addition, uncheck the option to Enable LMHOSTS lookup and also chooseDisable NetBIOS over TCP/IP.

direct_access_multihome_08

One last change that needs to be made, and perhaps the most critical and often overlooked setting, is the network interface binding order. This change can be made by pressing the Alt key on the keyboard to display the drop-down menu and choosing Advanced Settings.

Important Note:  Beginning with Windows Server 2016, making changes to the network interface binding order is no longer required, and this option has been removed from the UI.

direct_access_multihome_06

Make certain that the Internal network interface is listed first in the list of connections.

direct_access_multihome_07

So that’s it! You can now proceed with installing and configuring DirectAccess in full confidence that your network interfaces are configured properly!

Additional Resources

Always On VPN and the Future of DirectAccess

5 Things DirectAccess Administrators Should Know about Always On VPN

3 Important Advantages of Always On VPN over DirectAccess

Always On VPN Hands-On Training Classes

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