Tag: Azure Generation 2 VMs

Azure Generation 2 Virtual machine

Generation 2 VM support on Azure – and why should I care?

A couple of days ago Microsoft announced the public preview of Generation 2 virtual machines on Azure. Generation 2 virtual machines support a bunch of new technologies like increased memory, Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX), and virtual persistent memory (vPMEM), which are not supported on generation 1 VMs. But more on that later.

What are Hyper-V Virtual Machine Generations

Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V introduced the concept of virtual machine generations. Not to be confused with Hyper-V configuration versions. The generation of a virtual machine defines the virtual hardware of a virtual machine and adds some additional and modern functionality. In Hyper-V, there are two virtual machine generations, generation 1 and generation 2. Generation 2 virtual machines support Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware instead of BIOS-based firmware. The Hyper-V team also removed a lot of the legacy devices and replaced them with a simplified virtual machine model.

On Windows Server Hyper-V Generation 2 VMs support features and improvements like

  • PXE boot by using a standard network adapter
  • Boot from a SCSI virtual hard disk
  • Boot from a SCSI virtual DVD
  • Secure Boot (enabled by default)
  • UEFI firmware support
  • OS disk > 2 TB
  • improved boot and installation times

However, an important note here, not all of these features are currently available on Azure Generation 2 virtual machines, and not all operating systems are supported in Generation 2 VMs. For example, in Windows7, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and 32-bit Windows systems are not supported. You can find more information about Hyper-V Generation 2 VMs here.

Azure Generation 2 Virtual Machines Overview

Azure Generation 2 Virtual Machines are currently in public preview. To be honest, Generation 2 VMs in Azure aren’t that new, with the public preview of Azure Confidential Computing, we already used Generation 2 VMs. However, now we can start using it for other workloads as well. This means that you can now upload and use your local VHD (not VHDX) files based on Hyper-V Generation 2 virtual machines. Before you had to use Azure Site Recovery to replicate and convert your Hyper-V Generation 2 VMs to Azure Generation 1 VMs.

Azure Generation 1 vs. Generation 2 capabilities

Azure Generation 1 vs Generation 2 VM

Currently, Generation 2 VMs are in public preview, and that means next to not having a service level agreement (SLA), the features which are available can and are limited. If you look at features like ASR or Azure Backup, which are currently not supporting Generation 2 VMs.

CapabilityGeneration 1Generation 2
OS disk > 2 TB
Custom Disk/Image/Swap OS
Virtual machine scale set support
ASR/Backup
Shared Image Gallery
Azure Disk Encryption

You can find more information about Azure Generation 2 virtual machines with an updated list of capabilities on Microsoft Docs.

Hyper-V vs. Azure Generation 2 VMs

There are also differences between Hyper-V Generation 2 VMs and Azure Generation 2 VMs. Not all of the features provided in Hyper-V are currently present in the public preview version on Azure.

FeatureOn-prem Hyper-VAzure
Secure Boot
Shielded VM
vTPM
Virtualization-Based Security (VBS)
VHDX format

Again, you can find an up-to-date list on Microsoft Docs.

Getting started

You can get started using the Generation 2 VMs on the following VM Sizes on Azure Premium Storage and Ultra SSD:

Windows Server Azure Generation 2 Virtual Machine

In public preview, you can now also use the following Azure Marketplace images from the “windowsserver-gen2preview” offer.

  • Windows Server 2019 Datacenter (2019-datacenter-gen2)
  • Windows Server 2016 Datacenter (2016-datacenter-gen2)
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter (2012-r2-datacenter-gen2)
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter (2012-datacenter-gen2)

Create a virtual machine

You can use the Azure Portal to create a new VM or the Azure CLI using the following commands:

 
az group create --name myGen2ResourceGroupVM --location eastus
az vm create \
--resource-group myGen2ResourceGroupVM \
--name myVM \
--image MicrosoftWindowsServer:windowsserver-gen2preview:2019-datacenter-gen2:latest \
--admin-username thomas \
--admin-password myPassword12

Conclusion

I hope this gives you an overview of the benefits and how you can run Generation 2 VMs on Azure. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments.



Azure Confidential Compute VM Deployment

Protect Workloads with Azure Confidential Computing

A year ago Microsoft announced that they were working on a new technology in Azure to protect and encrypt data in use, called Azure Confidential Computing. If you are moving sensitive data to the cloud, you also want to encrypt it. Today, you can do this for data in transit and data at rest. However, data in use is a challenge. Azure Confidential Computing addresses precisely that scenario and helps you to encrypt data in use. Microsoft was running a private preview program in the last year, and at Microsoft Ignite this year, Microsoft opened up a public preview.

What is Azure Confidential Computing

Azure Confidential Computing together with Intel SGX technology, addresses the following threads:

  • Malicious insiders with administrative privilege or direct access to hardware on which it is being processed
  • Hackers and malware that exploit bugs in the operating system, application, or hypervisor
  • Third parties accessing it without their consent

There are ways to secure data at rest and in transit, but you need to protect your data from threats as it’s being processed. Now you can. Confidential computing adds new data security capabilities using trusted execution environments (TEEs) or encryption mechanisms to protect your data while in use. TEEs are hardware or software implementations that safeguard data being processed from access outside the TEE. The hardware provides a protected container by securing a portion of the processor and memory. Only authorized code is permitted to run and to access data, so code and data are protected against viewing and modification from outside of TEE.