DirectAccess Manage Out and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)

The seamless and transparent nature of DirectAccess makes it wonderfully easy to use. In most cases, it requires no user interaction at all to access internal corporate resources while away from the office. This enables users to be more productive. At the same time, it offers important connectivity benefits for IT administrators and systems management engineers as well.

Always Managed

DirectAccess Manage Out and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)DirectAccess clients are automatically connected to the corporate network any time they have a working Internet connection. Having consistent corporate network connectivity means they receive Active Directory group policy updates on a regular basis, just as on-premises systems do. Importantly, they check in with internal management systems such as System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) servers, enabling them to receive updates in a timely manner. Thus, DirectAccess clients are better managed, allowing administrators to more effectively maintain the configuration state and security posture for all their managed systems, including those that are predominantly field-based. This is especially crucial considering the prevalence WannaCry, Cryptolocker, and a variety of other types of ransomware.

DirectAccess Manage Out

DirectAccess Manage Out and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)When manage out is configured with DirectAccess, hosts on the internal network can initiate connections outbound to remote connected DirectAccess clients. SCCM Remote Control and Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) are commonly used to remotely connect to systems for troubleshooting and support. With DirectAccess manage out enabled, these and other popular administrative tools such as VNC, Windows Remote Assistance, and PowerShell remoting can also be used to manage remote DirectAccess clients in the field. In addition, enabling manage out allows for the proactive installation of agents and other software on remote clients, such as the SCCM and System Center Operation Manager (SCOM) agents, third-party management agents, antivirus and antimalware software, and more. A user does not have to be logged on to their machine for manage out to work.

IPv6

DirectAccess manage out requires that connections initiated by machines on the internal network to remote-connected DirectAccess clients must be made using IPv6. This is because DirectAccess clients use IPv6 exclusively to connect to the DirectAccess server. To enable connectivity over the public IPv4 Internet, clients use IPv6 transition technologies (6to4, Teredo, IP-HTTPS), and IPv6 translation components on the server (DNS64 and NAT64) enable clients to communicate with internal IPv4 resources. However, DNS64 and NAT64 only translate IPv6 to IPv4 inbound. They do not work in reverse.

Native or Transition?

It is recommended that IPv6 be deployed on the internal network to enable DirectAccess manage out. This is not a trivial task, and many organizations can’t justify the deployment for just this one specific use case. As an alternative, IPv6 can be configured with an IPv6 transition technology, specifically the Intrasite Automatic Tunnel Addressing Protocol (ISATAP). ISATAP functions as an IPv6 overlay network, allowing internal hosts to obtain IPv6 addresses and routing information from an ISATAP router to support manage out for DirectAccess clients.

ISATAP

When DirectAccess is installed, the server is automatically configured as an ISATAP router. Guidance for configuring ISATAP clients can be found here. Using ISATAP can be an effective approach to enabling DirectAccess manage out for SCCM when native IPv6 is not available, but it is not without its drawbacks.

• Using the DirectAccess server for ISATAP is only supported with single server DirectAccess deployments.
• Using the DirectAccess server for ISATAP does work when using Network Load Balancing (NLB) with some additional configuration, but it is not supported.
• Using the DirectAccess server for ISATAP does not work when an external load balancer is used, or if multisite is enabled.

ISATAP with Load Balancing and Multisite

It is technically possible to enable DirectAccess manage out for SCCM using ISATAP in load-balanced and multisite DirectAccess deployments, however. It involves deploying a separate ISATAP router and some custom configuration, but once in place it works perfectly. I offer this service to my customers as part of a consulting engagement. If you’re interested in restoring DirectAccess manage out functionality to support SCCM remote control, RDC, or VNC in load-balanced or multisite DirectAccess deployments, fill out the form below and I’ll provide you with more information.

Additional Resources

ISATAP Recommendations for DirectAccess Deployments
DirectAccess Manage Out with ISATAP Fails on Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016
DirectAccess Client Firewall Rule Configuration for ISATAP Manage Out
Video: Windows 10 DirectAccess in action (includes manage out demonstration)

DirectAccess and Windows 10 in Action

DirectAccess and Windows 10 in ActionRecently I recorded a short video to outline some of the benefits of using Windows 10 and DirectAccess. The video highlights common uses cases and includes a working demonstration of DirectAccess and Windows 10, both from the user’s and the administrator’s perspective.

The video shows how users transparently connect to the network and seamlessly access corporate resources over the DirectAccess connection. It also shows how administrators can leverage existing system management tools such as the Computer Management MMC, PowerShell remoting, and the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to manage remote connected Windows 10 DirectAccess clients.

If you have any questions about implementing DirectAccess, integrating Windows 10 clients, or enabling outbound management, click here.

DirectAccess Client Firewall Rule Configuration for ISATAP Manage Out

For DirectAccess manage out scenarios, it is necessary to configure the Windows firewall on the DirectAccess client to allow any required inbound communication from the corporate network. For example, if management hosts on the internal network need to initiate Remote Desktop sessions with remote connected DirectAccess clients, the Remote Desktop – User Mode (TCP-In) Windows firewall rule will need to be enabled for the Public and Private profiles.

DirectAccess Client Firewall Rule Configuration for ISATAP Manage Out

While enabling this rule will allow remote desktop connections to be made from the corporate network, its default configuration will also accept remote desktop connections from any network. From a security perspective this is not desirable.

DirectAccess Client Firewall Rule Configuration for ISATAP Manage Out

A better solution is to restrict access to connections originating only from the corporate network. To do this it will be necessary to identify the ISATAP prefix used internally. To determine the corporate ISATAP prefix, run the ipconfig command on a management workstation that is configured for ISATAP. The ISATAP prefix will be the first 96 bits of the IPv6 address assigned to the ISATAP tunnel adapter (essentially everything with the exception of the embedded IPv4 address).

DirectAccess Client Firewall Rule Configuration for ISATAP Manage Out

On the DirectAccess client, right-click the firewall rule and choose Properties. Choose the Scope tab and then select These IP addresses . Click Add and then enter the ISATAP prefix as shown here.

DirectAccess Client Firewall Rule Configuration for ISATAP Manage Out

Once the firewall rule is configured to restrict access to the ISATAP prefix, only corporate management workstations on the internal network will have access to remote DirectAccess clients.

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