Category Archives: Automation

Azure PowerShell vs. Azure RM PowerShell

In 2014, Microsoft announced the Azure Preview Portal, which was going GA in December 2015. Since January 8, 2018, the classic Azure Portal is turned off. The “Preview Portal” was more than a facelift. The classic Azure Portal was based on the Service Management mode, often called the “classic deployment model”, whereas the new Azure Portal uses the Resource Manager model. Azure Service Management (ASM) and Azure Resource Management are both deployment models. The Resource Manager model eases the deployment of complex setups by using templates to deploy, update and manage resources within a resource group as a single operation. read more

Using WP fail2ban with the CloudFlare API to protect your website

The downside of using WordPress is that many people use it. That makes WordPress a perfect target for attacks. I have some trouble with attacks, and one of the consequences is, that my web server crashes under load. The easiest way to solve this issue would be to ban those IP addresses. I use Fail2ban to protect some other services. So the idea of using Fail2ban to ban IP addresses, that are used for attacks, was obvious.

From the Fail2ban wiki:

Fail2ban scans log files (e.g. /var/log/apache/error_log) and bans IPs that show the malicious signs — too many password failures, seeking for exploits, etc. Generally Fail2Ban is then used to update firewall rules to reject the IP addresses for a specified amount of time, although any arbitrary other action (e.g. sending an email) could also be configured. Out of the box Fail2Ban comes with filters for various services (apache, courier, ssh, etc). read more

HPE ProLiant PowerShell SDK

Some days ago, my colleague Claudia and I started to work on a new project: A greenfield deployment consisting of some well known building blocks: HPE ProLiant, HPE MSA, HPE Networking (now Aruba) and VMware vSphere. Nothing new for us, because we did this a couple times together. But this led us to the idea, to automate some tasks. Especially the configuration of the HPE ProLiants: Changing BIOS settings and configuring the iLO.

Do not automate what you have not fully understood

Some of the wisest words I have ever said to a customer. Modifying the BIOS and iLO settings is a well understood task. But if you have to deploy a bunch of ProLiants, this is a monotonous, and therefore error prone process. Perfect for automation! read more

PowerCLI: Get-LunPathState

Careful preparation is a key element to success. If you restart a storage controller, or even the whole storage, you should be very sure that all ESXi hosts have enough paths to every datstore. Sure, you can use the VMware vSphere C# client or the Web Client to check every host and every datastore. But if you have a large cluster with a dozen datastores and some Raw Device Mappings (RDMs), this can take a looooong time. Checking the path state of each LUN is a task, which can be perfectly automated. Get a list of all hosts, loop through every host and every LUN, output a list of all hosts with all LUNs and all paths for each LUN. Sounds easy, right? read more

Certificate-based authentication of Azure Automation accounts

Before you can manage Azure services with Azure Automation, you need to authenticate the Automation account against a subscription. This authentication process is part of each runbook. There are two different ways to authenticate against an Azure subscription:

  • Active Directory user
  • Certificate

If you want to use an Active Directory account, you have to create a credential asset in the Automation account and provide username and password for that Active Directory account. You can retrieve the credentials using the Get-AzureAutomationCredential cmdlet. This cmdlet returns a System.Management.Automation.PSCredential object, which can be used with Add-AzureAccount to connect to a subscription. If you want to use a certificate, you need four assets in the Automation account: A certificate and variables with the certificate name, the subscription ID and the subscription name. The values of these assets can be retrieved with Get-AutomationVariable and Get-AutomationCertificate. read more

A brief introduction into Azure Automation

Automation is essential to reduce friction and to streamline operational processes. It’s indispensable when it comes to the automation of manual, error-prone and frequently repeated tasks in a cloud or enterprise environment. Automation is the key to IT industrialization. Azure Automation is used to automate operational processes withing Microsoft Azure.

Automation account

The very first thing you have to create is an Automation account. You can have multiple Automation accounts per subscription. An Automation account allows you so separate automation resources from other Automation accounts. Automation resources are runbooks and assets (credentials, certificates, connection strings, variables, scheudles etc.). So each Automation account has its own set of runbooks and assets. This is perfect to separate production from development. An Automation account is associated with an Azure region, but the Automation account can manage Azure services in all regions. read more

Starting and stopping Azure VMs with Azure PowerShell

To be honest: I’m lazy and I have a wife and two kids. Therefore I have to minimize the costs of my lab. I have a physical lab at the office and some VMs running on Microsoft Azure. Azure is nice, because I only have to pay what I really use. And because I’m only paying the actual use, I start the VMs only when I need them. Inspired by this very handy Azure VM wakeup & shutdown script, I decided to write my own script (yes, I invented a wheel again…). Very simple, nothing fancy. Feel free to use and modify the script according to your needs. read more

How to shrink thin-provisioned disks

Get the latest version: Reclaim-ThinVMDK.ps1

Disk space is rare. I only have about 1 TB of SSD storage in my lab and I don’t like to waste too much of it. My hosts use NFS to connect to my Synology NAS, and even if I use the VAAI-NAS plugin, I use thin-provisioned disks only. Thin-provisioned disks tend to grow over time. If you copy a 1 GB file into a VM and you delete this file immediately, you will find that the VMDK is increased by 1 GB. This is caused by the guest filesystem. It marks the blocks of deleted files as free, even if it only deletes metadata and not the data itself. Later, the data is overwritten with new data, since the blocks are marked as free and the new data is written in there. VMware ESXi doesn’t know that the guest has marked blocks as free. So ESXi can’t shrink the thin-provisioned VMDK. read more

Automating updates during MDT 2013 Lite-Touch deployments

I use Microsofts Deployment Toolkit (MDT) in my lab to deploy Windows VMs with Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012. I described the installation and configuration of MDT in a small blog post series. Take a look into the intro post, if you’re a new to MDT. But the OS installation isn’t the time consuming part of a deployment: It’s the installation of patches. Because of this, I decided to automate the patch installation and make it part of the OS installation.

The requirements read more

Power on HP ProLiant servers with iLO, SSH & Plink

Some weeks ago, Frank Denneman wrote a short blog post about accessing his Supermicro IPMI with SSH. He used this access to power on his lab servers.I don’t use Supermicro boards in my lab, but I have four HP ProLiants with iLO and iLO has a also a SSH interface. This way to power on my servers seemed very practical, especially because the iLO web interface isn’t the fastest. But I wanted it a bit more automated, so I decided to use Plink to send commands via SSH.

Create a new user account read more