Azure Lighthouse: The managed service provider perspective

This blog post was co-authored by Nikhil Jethava, Senior Program Manager, Azure Lighthouse.

Azure Lighthouse became generally available in July this year and we have seen a tremendous response from Azure managed service provider communities who are excited about the scale and precision of management that the Azure platform now enables with cross tenant management. Similarly, customers are empowered with architecting precise and just enough access levels to service providers for their Azure environments. Both customers and partners can decide on the precise scope of the projection.

Azure Lighthouse enables partners to manage multiple customer tenants from within a single control plane, which is their environment. This enables consistent application of management and automation across hundreds of customers and monitoring and analytics to a degree that was unavailable before. The capability works across Azure services (that are Azure Resource Manager enabled) and across licensing motion. Context switching is a thing of the past now.

In this article, we will answer some of the most commonly asked questions:

  • How can MSPs perform daily administration tasks across different customers in their Azure tenant from a single control plane?
  • How can MSPs secure their intellectual property in the form of code?

Let us deep dive into a few scenarios from the perspective of a managed service provider.

Azure Automation

Your intellectual property is only yours. Service providers, using Azure delegated resource management, are no longer required to create Microsoft Azure Automation runbooks under customers’ subscription or keep their IP in the form of runbooks in someone else’s subscription. Using this functionality, Automation runbooks can now be stored in a service provider’s subscription while the effect of the runbooks will be reflected on the customer’s subscription. All you need to do is ensure the Automation account’s service principal has the required delegated built-in role-based access control (RBAC) role to perform the Automation tasks. Service providers can create Azure Monitor action groups in customer’s subscriptions that trigger Azure Automation runbooks residing in a service provider’s subscription.
    Runbook in MSP subscription

Azure Monitor alerts

Azure Lighthouse allows you to monitor the alerts across different tenants under the same roof. Why go through the hassle of storing the logs ingested by different customer’s resources in a centralized log analytics workspace? This helps your customers stay compliant by allowing them to keep their application logs under their own subscription while empowering you to have a helicopter view of all customers.

Azure Monitor Alerts across tenants

Azure Resource Graph Explorer

With Azure delegated resource management, you can query Azure resources from Azure Resource Graph Explorer across tenants. Imagine a scenario where your boss has asked you for a CSV file that would list the existing Azure Virtual Machines across all the customers’ tenants. The results of the Azure Resource Graph Explorer query now include the tenant ID, which makes it easier for you to identify which Virtual Machine belongs to which customer.

 

Querying Azure resources across tenants 
 

Azure Security Center

Azure Lighthouse provides you with cross-tenant visibility of your current security state. You can now monitor compliance to security policies, take actions on security recommendations, monitor the secure score, detect threats, execute file integrity monitoring (FIM), and more, across the tenants.
Detecting threats across tenants
    Exploring Resource Menu of Cross Tenant VMs

Azure Virtual Machines

Service providers can perform post-deployment tasks on different Azure Virtual Machines from different customer’s tenants using Azure Virtual Machine extensions, Azure Virtual Machine Serial Console, run PowerShell commands using Run command option, and more in the Azure Portal. Most administrative tasks on Azure Virtual Machines across the tenants can now be performed quickly since the dependency on taking remote desktop protocol (RDP) access to the Virtual Machines lessens. This also solves a big challenge since admins now do not require to log on to different Azure Subscriptions in multiple browser tabs just to get to the Virtual Machine’s resource menu.
Exploring Resource Menu of Cross Tenant VMs

Managing user access

Using Azure delegated resource management, MSPs no longer need to create administrator accounts (including contributor, security administrator, backup administrator, and more) in their customer tenants. This allows them to manage the lifecycle of delegated administrators right within their own Microsoft Azure Active Directory (AD) tenant. Moreover, MSPs can add user accounts to the user group in their Azure Active Directory (AD) tenant, while customers make sure those groups have the required access to manage their resources. To revoke access when an employee leaves the MSP’s organization, it can simply be removed from the specific group the access has been delegated to.

Added advantages for Cloud Solution Providers

Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs) can now save on administration time. Once you’ve set up the Azure delegated resource management for your users, there is absolutely no need for them to log in to the Partner Center (found by accessing Customers, Contoso, and finally All Resources) to administer customers’ Azure resources.

Also, Azure delegated resource management happens outside the boundaries of the Partner Center portal. Instead, the delegated user access is managed directly under Azure Active Directory. This means subscription and resource administrators in Cloud Solution Providers are no longer required to have the ‘admin agent’ role in the Partner Center. Therefore, Cloud Solutions Providers can now decide which users in their Azure Active Directory tenant will have access to which customer and to what extent.

More information

This is not all. There is a full feature list available for supported services and scenarios in Azure Lighthouse documentation. Check out Azure Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich’s blog for a deep under-the-hood view.

So, what are you waiting for? Get started with Azure Lighthouse today.