Friday, July 7, 2023

Deploying Terraform in Azure using Github Actions workflow

 This article will summarise the steps I went through to set up Github Actions with a private repo to be able to push Terraform code from VS Code to Github and then to Azure.

It is based on a great article by Guillermo Musumeci and if you want to replicate this setup, that is the guide you should follow, see article.

The overall steps are as follows:

  • Create a Service Principal (SPN) with contributor permissions
  • Create a storage account and a container (this is used to hold the backend state and is created up front. I did this via AZ CLI but any method, such as via the Azure Portal, will do)
  • Create a Private Repo in Github
  • From VS Code, clone the repo to your local machine
  • Add 4 x secrets to Github under your private repo: Repo -> Settings -> Secrets -> Actions -> New Repo Secret (these secrets contain the SPN info so that Github Actions can authenticate towards Azure
  • Create,, files according to article mentioned above. And a file that just contains a resource group to get started
  • Create Github Actions workflow using a simple Terraform YAML pipeline file
These are the base steps. From now on when you create a pull request (PR), the workflow will start and will run terraform init, plan, and apply and if there are no issues the code will be pushed. It doesn't wait for you to complete the PR though but you can do that as the last step.

Under Actions, you can see the status of all the workflow runs (it looks quite similar to a push pipeline run in Azure DevOps):

In the repo I have just placed all the files in the root folder. This works but can likely be organised better as the amount of files grow, see below:

I ran into two minor issues, these were:

An error message saying the following:
"Error message: state blob is already locked" and "Terraform acquires a state lock to protect the state from being written by multiple users at the same time. Please resolve the issue above and try again. For most commands, you can disable locking with the "-lock=false" flag, but this is not recommended."

I tried updating the pipeline file to include the -lock=false under the "terraform plan" command but that didn't work. For some reason I had a lock on the state file in the storage account that was created earlier. From the Azure Portal, you can navigate to the file in the blob container and from there remove the lock (or break the lease, is the terminology, see screenshot below). After doing this, there has been no more issues with the lock.

The other issue I ran into was that when I tried to deploy the first resource, the workflow was hanging for a long time and it was unclear what was holding it up.

It turns out that it was waiting for the Microsoft.DocumentDB resource provider to be registered. This is a one time thing that is done on the under the subscription under Resource Providers (it specifies which resource types are allowed and not all resource types are allowed by default). I would recommend to just go and enable/register it manually before running the Actions workflow (it takes some time for it to register, maybe 30-40 mins).

Once this was in place the workflow has been running smoothly and any errors has been related to my code but the error messages have been pretty clear so it has been easy to address.

That's it. It may seem like a lot initially, but if you take step by step, it's not that bad. And the final setup is quite cool and useful.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Use Terraform to deploy a simple VM and a VNet to Azure

 I have had a look at deploying a simple VM that can be used for troubleshooting using Terraform. It is based on this Microsoft Quickstart guide. What I have done is to remove most of the resources from this file so it is only the minimum required resources that will be deployed. These are:

  • A resource group
  • A Windows 2022 Server
  • A vNIC
  • A public IP (so you can RDP to the box)
It requires that you already have a VNet and subnet running. Preferably, there is an NSG as well which is associated with the subnet which allows for port 3389 tcp inbound.

The files are here on Github in the Simple VM folder. There are some getting started instructions in the file as well. The four files in the folder are all part of the template, these are:
The template creates a random admin password and assigns it to the machine. The password itself can be read post deployment by running:

terraform output -json

In addition to this, I have also created a small template that creates a VNet and two subnets and place them in a separate resource group. Files are located here.

I personally prefer to start with smaller building blocks and then combine those later when required.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Azure: ARM template for simple Win2k22 VM with trusted launch

 It was recently announced that trusted launch is now enabled by default when deploying new Gen 2 VMs via the portal.

I have modified an ARM template for a simple Windows Server 2022 to include the Trusted Launch security features. The addition to the template is a "securityProfile" section under the virtual machine resource:

"securityProfile": {
  "securityType": "[parameters('securityType')]",
  "uefiSettings": {
  "secureBootEnabled": "[parameters('secureBoot')]",
  "vTpmEnabled": "[parameters('vTPM')]"

Where securityType is TrustedLaunch and the other two are bool types set to true.

You can verify that the settings are configured correctly on the Overview page of the VM, see below:

There is a bit more info on how the VM is configured here.

The ARM template is available on Github, link to files:

Minimum setup for private DNS zone infrastructure in Azure

 In this article we will look at what are the minimum requirements if you want to implement private DNS zone infrastructure and private link in a test setup to be able to use PaaS services with private endpoints. In this example we will use blob storage but it can be extended to most other PaaS services that support private endpoints.

The concept of Azure Private Link is a bit complicated and people often get confused around how it works. This article aims to break it down into its simplest setup.

The following components are required:

  • A VNet and a subnet
  • A default NSG (that should be associated with the subnet)
  • An inbound rule on the NSG that allows port 3389 from your external IP
  • A private DNS zone (
  • A VNet link between the private DNS zone and the VNet (it's a configuration on the private DNS zone)
  • A test VM running in the subnet (we need a source with a local IP to test connectivity towards the storage account with the private endpoint)
  • A public IP associated with the VM
  • AzCopy installed on the test VM
  • A storage account with a private endpoint (including an A record in the private DNS zone)
Once it is all set up, we will disable all public access on the storage account and verify that the VM is connecting to the storage account on its private IP address. Following this we will try to copy a file from the VM to the storage account and the other way around as well (using AzCopy) to prove that it works.


First deploy a VNet and one subnet, see example below. There are no specific requirements to this part.

Then create a default NSG and associate it with the subnet (this is not strictly required, but it is good practice and will come in handy later):

Create a private DNS zone named:

Create a VNet link between the private DNS zone and the VNet. Go to the private DNS zone -> -> Virtual Network Links -> click Add

Give the link a name and choose the VNet you just deployed. Don't check the box around auto registration, this is for VMs and not in scope for this test.

Deploy a virtual machine with a public IP (so that you can RDP to it). You can do that via the portal or you can use a test Windows Server 2022 VM ARM template, see more info here (note that this VM does not have a public IP so it will have to be created separately and associated with the NIC post deployment).

Add a rule to the NSG that allows traffic on port 3389 tcp from your external IP address. This is so that you can RDP to the test VM:

RDP to the test VM and download AzCopy v10 and verify that it can run with the command: .\azcopy (this will show the version and some help info).

Create a storage account and under Networking -> Firewalls and virtual networks -> Choose the "Enabled from selected virtual networks and IP addresses" and add your external IP address. We will change this later to 'Disabled' but for now we need it to be able to create a blob container and add a file from the Azure portal. In addition this will let us browse the content of the blob containers.

Still under Networking, choose the Private Endpoint connections tab and add a private endpoint.
Give the private endpoint a name e.g. pe-<name of storage account> and choose the VNet and subnet that was created earlier. When it asks around integration with a private DNS zone, choose "No". If you choose yes it will create a new Private DNS zone but we have already created a zone in a previous step.

What adding a private endpoint does is that it creates a vNIC and attaches a local IP address from the subnet via DHCP and then it associates that vNIC with the storage account so that it can be accessed internally.

Once the private endpoint is created it can be seen in the private endpoint connections tab, see above. We need to take a note of assigned local IP address. To do this, click on the private endpoint link and then going to DNS Configuration, see below:

Now we need to create an A record in the private DNS zone we created earlier that points to the IP address we just noted. Go to Private DNS Zones -> -> Click "+ Record set". Under name, add the storage account name and under IP address, add the IP address that was recorded in the previous step, see below.

Now we will verify that from the test VM can resolve the local IP of the storage account by using the regular storage account FQDN (if this doesn't work it will resolve with a public IP address and you will know that something went wrong).

Jump to the test VM and start a command prompt:

Run: nslookup <storageaccountname>

The result should be the local IP, see below (the red box in the screenshot shows the result without a private endpoint and the green box shows the result after the private endpoint has been added. In the green box, the local IP correctly shows):

To verify that we can copy a file from the test VM to a blob container and vice versa, first we will create a dummy file on the VM and then a dummy file in the storage account (any txt file will do).

Go to the storage account and create a new container (in this example I call it webcontent, any name will do):

Then go into the container and click Upload to a file (in this example it's called getmefile.txt):

For the VM to be able to access files in the storage account, we need a SAS token which will be used with the AzCopy command. Go to the storage account -> Shared access signature -> check Blob and check all three resource types (basically just allow all if you're in doubt as this is only for testing) -> click Generate SAS and connection string.

Then copy or take a note of the 'Blob service SAS URL' value at the bottom of the page:

Then jump back to the test VM.

I created a dummy file called index.html and placed in C:\users\localadmin folder. I also have AzCopy located in the same folder.

To test that we can copy a file from the VM to the storage account, start a PowerShell window (will also work from a regular command prompt) and run the following command:

.\azcopy copy ".\index.html" "https://<storage account name><link has been shortened>U%3D"

So you use the copy function and then choose a source and destination.  For the source we choose the index.html file in the current folder. For the destination, we use the Blob service SAS URL but we modify it by adding the blob folder name and a '/' at the end of the FQDN and before the SAS token info (marked above in bold), also see below:

For the next test, we copy the content of the blob container we created earlier including the file we added and place it on the local test VM:

It is basically just changing the source and destination in the AzCopy command (again adding the blob container name after the FQDN):

.\azcopy copy "https://<storage account name><link has been shortened>2BU%3D" "C:\Users\localadmin\" --recursive

To ensure that public access is entirely disabled, you can now go to the storage account under Networking -> Firewalls and virtual networks -> Choose Disabled and Save.

With this change you can no longer browse content in the blob containers via the portal.

However, you can re-run the two AzCopy commands above and it will still work.

If you want to verify that the files are available in the blob container, you can access them via the browser (from the test VM) by using the 'Blob service SAS URL' and then modifying it by appending the container name and file name after the FQDN:

https://<storage account name><link has been shortened>2BU%3D

Another way to represent the same URL is:

https://<storage account name><blob container>/<file name><SAS Token>

The reason you cannot just use the FQDN + the folder and file name is that even if you can technically access the content of the storage account i.e. there is no firewall on the storage account blocking access, you still need to present the required credentials to view the content of the storage account which in this case is the SAS token that is added to the URL.

If you want to get just the SAS token and not the full Blob service SAS URL, it is available under the storage account -> 'Shared access signature' in the same location as the Blob service SAS URL, see below:

With this we have a proven setup where traffic between a VM and a storage account only runs over the Private Link and all traffic is handled via the internal network using only local IP addresses.