Manage Multi-Cloud & Hybrid-Platform Server Resources With Azure Arc + Automanage
By Gabriel Taylor
Published October 16, 2023
Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

Azure Arc and Automanage are two services Microsoft has developed to address common challenges faced by IT infrastructure professionals related to multi-cloud and hybrid-platform server management.

In this post, we will list the many features and advantages of implementing these two services together in your environment.

Key Challenges of Server & Cybersecurity Professionals

Administrative overhead, especially labor-intensive management of diverse server resources, can be tedious work for server administrators and cybersecurity professionals. Manually managing servers can also divert your team’s valuable time and attention away from strategic and value-added projects that improve profitability and user experience.

Cybersecurity is also a large concern. Leaving your infrastructure unpatched is a low hanging fruit that malicious actors will easily exploit, and the process of distributing updates, security applications, and baseline configurations to on-premises and cloud environments is labor-intensive.

Intune is a useful tool, but it has limitations in server support, especially when compared to Microsoft Configuration Manager (MCM), formerly known as SCCM. Because of this, many organizations are hesitant to migrate their management to the cloud, and so there is an extensive ecosystem of on-premises servers that are unlikely to be migrated anytime soon, all of which still need to be monitored and secured.

Also, keeping pace with cloud automation is like trying to outrun a bear: You can’t outpace it, and yet there are consequences if you get behind. Microsoft’s Azure platform continues to grow, its services expand, and new features are frequently introduced. As services grow more intricate, managing servers becomes like Sisyphus’ endless slogging up the hill: No matter how hard you work, you never get ahead.

Azure Arc + Automanage: Your Multi-Cloud & Hybrid Servers Centralized and Standardized

To solve these problems, Azure Arc + Automanage provide centralized standardization and management for your server resources.

Azure Automanage automates best practices and security configurations for both cloud and Azure Arc-enabled Windows and Linux Virtual Machines (VMs). It allows you to deploy standard and custom configurations at scale while rectifying discrepancies that may arise due to unforeseen situations.

However, Automanage natively supports Azure based Windows and Linux VMs. Azure Arc extends much of this functionality to on-premises infrastructure and multi-cloud VMs from non-Microsoft providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Key Features and Benefits of Azure Arc + Automanage

These two services, when harnessed together, offer a streamlined solution to manage, monitor, and safeguard your servers through a unified interface.

Leveraging these services can provide many benefits for your organization.

Universal Deployment of Cloud Capabilities

Arc + Automanage allows for the deployment of Azure policies, features, and services such as Windows Malware protection, Windows Admin Center, update management, change tracking, software inventory, and more across on-premises Arc-enabled servers and multiple cloud platforms (e.g., AWS, GCP).

App and Patch Tracking – Track every app and patch installed on your machines

Never before has deploying Azure management services uniformly across non-native Azure servers been so efficient. Using Arc + Automanage in-tandem improves security, ensures compliance with Microsoft’s Cloud Adoption Framework best practices, and significantly reduces the time spent manually configuring and updating servers.

Standardized Server Configurations

Automanage allows you to apply both standard and custom configuration profiles to Windows and Linux machines, while Azure Arc extends this functionality to on-premises and multi-cloud server resources from non-Microsoft providers. These configuration profiles are tailored with specific Azure policies and features, modifying the server’s configuration to your company’s needs and requirements.

There are two standard configuration profiles, Production and Dev/Test, each designed with the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework in mind.

These profiles are continually updated by Microsoft to make sure your servers remain securely aligned with minimal manual intervention.

Server configurations are also safeguarded against drift. If an unwanted change is made to a local configuration, it is quickly and automatically corrected based on predefined custom remediation policies.

Centralized Update Management and Compliance

Arc + Automanage allow for the seamless distribution of updates and patches to servers, regardless of their platform or provider. Utilizing Azure policy you can apply server compliance baselines for various standards such as NIST, CIS, and GDPR from Microsoft, deploying them at scale to your servers. Compliance packs tailored to different national standards are also available.

Centralized Compliance Management: Push policies to both on-premises and cloud servers through assigning to a scope within your Microsoft tenant.
Compliance Reporting: Build trust with clients and auditors by monitoring and exporting reports about your servers’ state of compliance.

These robust features are now able to be quickly extended to your on-premises and non-Microsoft resources through Azure Arc, simplifying server security and compliance management.

Panoramic View of Multi-Cloud & Hybrid Platform Resources

Azure Arc gives access to additional cloud-native features, including Azure Sentinel, Log Analytics, and Power BI, for both cloud and on-premises server resources. These features provide insights, actionable reports, and crucial alerts about your infrastructure.

Custom Alerts: Reduce response time with custom alerts that are sent to your team in the instance of security events.
Update and Change Tracking: Chart problems, patterns, and progress by monitoring changes of events, file registry, software, services, and updates.
Patching Awareness: Improve your cybersecurity with granular insights into the patching status of your servers and the ability to push patches to hybrid servers.
Decrease troubleshooting and remediation times through a single-pane-of-glass view of the status of your servers.

Once deployed, these services can help you to make informed decisions, address issues, track changes, and easily manage patches whether you house your servers in a room or in the cloud.

Who Can Benefit from Azure Arc + Automanage Functionality?

Azure Arc + Automanage offers benefits to both system administrators and strategic leaders in IT:

Administrators and Engineers: Administrators and engineers can particularly benefit from Arc + Automanage’s predefined baselines and best practices. These server configuration tools simplify configuration processes, making modern server management more accessible, even for teams with limited resources and without specialized staff.

C-Suite and Strategic IT Leaders: Strategic leaders can leverage Arc + Automanage for a comprehensive view of security and compliance, eliminating the need to navigate multiple cloud platforms. This kind of “single-pane-of-glass” solution improves your company’s security baseline and enables you to make data-driven decisions based on real-time insights.

Setting Up Azure Arc + Automanage In Your Environment

Want to enable both Arc + Automanage in your environment today? Download our Arc + Automanage Quick-Start Guide to help you to:

  • Budget sufficient resources for the project by identifying potential costs associated with deploying these services
  • Save time and labor with a step-by-step walkthrough to enable them in your environment
  • If needed, save time, money, and get more functionality by enlisting support for deploying and managing these services

You can download the Quick-Start Guide using the form on the right of this post.

Addressing Potential Concerns To Arc + Automanage

There are several reservations you may have about setting up Arc + Automanage.

I’m Reluctant To Upgrade from MCM

MCM has been a reliable tool for server configuration management for years. It’s understandable that you may be hesitant to transition to a “modern” cloud-based solution.

However, it’s essential to recognize that these new cloud-first services will outweigh the CAPex and OPex cost of MCM support. CAPex has the hardware, electicity, extra personal, space, licensing to get MCM going, and the cloud solution moves this to an Opex expenditure of the IaaS, SaaS, and storage of logs.

Arc + Automanage gives much of the same functionality of MCM plus powerful cloud-native features not available without. Because of this, there has never been a better time to step into a new solution for infrastructure server management.

I’m Reluctant To Be an Early Adopter

Many IT professionals prefer to wait until any potential software glitches are ironed out before adoption.

Azure Arc has been in practical use since 2019 and has accrued years of documentation, verified implementation, and updates. There’s no reason to delay pairing your on-premises and hybrid-cloud servers with this service.

Also, Automanage is currently available for free for implementation at scale, so the risk of exploring the benefits to your organization is comparatively low, and the costs of not deploying it are high:

  • Increased attack surface and vulnerabilities
  • Slower response times due to a lack of custom alerts and policies
  • Diverted resources from strategic projects to server management
  • System inefficiencies, resulting in loss of time, resource, and quality of life

Conclusion: Embracing a New Era of Infrastructure Server Management

Forbes Magazine has aptly described Azure Arc as a “game changer” in the realm of infrastructure server management. When paired with Automanage’s potent standardization capabilities, these tools provide an efficient and effective way to move to a modernized management solution for both small teams with limited resources and larger enterprises with diverse server platforms and providers.

The adoption to cloud services are an inevitability. Microsoft has provided an accessible, cost-effective solution to harness the full spectrum of cloud-native functionality, security, and efficiency for your servers, no matter what platform or cloud they’re hosted on.

Article By Gabriel Taylor
With over 12 years of experience in the IT industry, Gabriel brings a focus on repeatable processes, solution design, and quality execution to Model’s Project Services practice. He believes the true value of technology is how it enables businesses to gain efficiencies, increase productivity, and achieve their goals. He is proud to work with Model’s team of experts to bring those benefits to Model’s clients.

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