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  • 5 min read

Azure Automation 2020 recap and what’s new

If you are like many of our customers running a mix of machines and applications in your on-premises datacenters or in the cloud—be it Azure or any other platform of your choice, consistent management of these resources is likely to be top of mind for you.

This blog post was co-authored by Sanjay Satheesh, Product Marketing Manager for Azure Automation.

If you are like many of our customers running a mix of machines and applications in your on-premises datacenters or in the cloud, be it Azure or any other platform of your choice, consistent management of these resources is likely to be top of mind for you. Infrastructure Automation was one of the major investment areas for many companies in 2020 and with the global pandemic impacting every organization—large or small—their employees, and the customers they serve. We have seen the crucial role infrastructure automation plays in sustaining and running operations efficiently across the board, by giving you the ability to automate your day-to-day mundane IT tasks and other mission-critical operations.

Azure Automation brings in a rich feature set and integration capability with other platforms to configure infrastructure and orchestrate workflows in the cloud or on-premises through the hybrid worker role. Our team continues to expand this ecosystem offering more features and improvements. Customer feedback has been instrumental in shaping these features, and we hope you'll keep the feedback coming.

In this blog post, let’s go back on a retrospective journey and see the enhancements introduced in Azure Automation in 2020, an announcement from Forrester declaring Microsoft as a leader in the Infrastructure Automation Platform, and a sneak peek into our focus areas and initiatives in the coming years.

Process automation and state configuration

  • Azure Automation integration with GitHub. As TechNet Script Center is retiring and to enable crowdsourcing of runbooks, all runbooks hosted in the Runbook gallery have been moved to our Automation GitHub organization.
  • Support for process automation and state configuration declared general availability in Japan West, Switzerland West, UAE North, Germany West Central, Switzerland North, Brazil South East, and US Gov Arizona.
  • Azure Automation and Update Management Private Link announced general availability. Azure Automation enabled private link support to secure execution of a runbook on a hybrid worker role, using Azure Update Management to patch machines, invoking a runbook through a webhook, and using State Configuration service to keep your machines complaint.
  • Azure Automation classified as Grade-C certified on accessibility. Accessibility features of Microsoft products help agencies address global accessibility requirements.

On the blog announcement page, search for Azure Automation to read the accessibility conformance report for the Automation service.

  • Desired State Configuration (DSC) support announced for Oracle 6,7, and Ubuntu 18.04.
  • Preview for Python3 runbooks in Automation. Azure Automation now supports Python 3 cloud and hybrid runbook execution in preview in all regions in Azure global cloud.
  • Published the DSC extension to support Azure Arc. Use Azure Automation State Configuration to maintain the desired state of hybrid connected machines enabled through the Azure Arc enabled servers DSC Virtual Machine (VM) extension.
  • Start and Stop virtual machines during off-hours runbooks updated to use Azure Az modules. Start and Stop virtual machine runbooks have been updated to use Azure Az modules in place of Azure Resource Manager modules.
  • Hybrid Runbook Worker support for Windows Server 2008 R2 added to support automation scenarios on Server 2008 R2.
  • Automation diagnostic logs schema update. Introduced change in the schema of Azure Automation log data in the Log Analytics service.
  • Hybrid Runbook Worker onboarding script updated to use Azure Az modules. The New-OnPremiseHybridWorker runbook has been updated to support Azure Az modules.
  • Updated Automation service DNS records from region-specific to Automation account-specific URLs. Azure Automation DNS records have been updated to support Private Links.
  • Added capability to keep Automation runbooks and DSC scripts encrypted by default. In addition to improving the security of assets, runbooks and DSC scripts are also encrypted to enhance Azure Automation security.
  • Retirement of the Automation watcher task. Azure Logic Apps is now the recommended and supported way to monitor for events, schedule recurring tasks, and trigger actions.
  • Support for Impact Level 5 (IL5) compute isolation in Azure commercial and Azure Government cloud. Azure Automation Hybrid Runbook Worker can be used in Azure Government to support Impact Level 5 workloads.
  • Introduced support for Azure virtual network service tags. Automation support of service tags allow or deny the traffic for the Automation service, for a subset of scenarios.
  • Enable TLS 1.2 support for Azure Automation service. Azure Automation fully supports TLS 1.2 and all client calls (through webhooks, DSC nodes, and hybrid worker).
  • Introduced preview of customer-managed keys for Azure Automation. Customers can now manage and secure encryption of Azure Automation assets using their own managed keys.
  • Retirement of Azure Service Management (ASM) REST APIs for Azure Automation. Azure Service Management (ASM) REST APIs for Azure Automation will be retired and no longer supported after January 30, 2020.

Azure update management

  • Update Management availability in South Central US, China East 2, and US Gov Arizona region. Azure Automation region mapping updated to support Update Management feature in the said regions.
  • Update Management support for Windows Server 2008 R2. Update Management now supports assessing and patching the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system.
  • Azure Lighthouse supports Automation Update Management. Azure Lighthouse enables delegated resource management with Update Management for service providers and customers.

Change tracking

  • Support for Change Tracking declared general availability in Switzerland North. 

Microsoft has been named as a leader in The Forrester Wave(TM): Infrastructure Automation Platforms, Q3 2020

In a 26-criterion evaluation grouped into three high level categories; Current Offering, Strategy, and Market Presence. Forrester’s research uncovered a market of top vendors in which Microsoft is a leader.
The report states:

Microsoft continues to iterate at a swift pace, and its increasing adoption of open source has paid dividends. Microsoft is better than most of its competitors at DevOps integration, community engagement, and support of its products and services. Reference customers lauded Microsoft’s engagement model and end-to-end ecosystem but raised concerns about visibility of costs and where customers could ultimately save money. Microsoft’s solution is a good fit for firms that want a swiftly updated automation stack or for those with an established relationship with Microsoft.”
Read the full report to learn more.

What’s coming in next

We're committed to delivering what you've asked for. Our investments for this year and next would be targeted towards making Azure Automation even better by offering you a reliable platform for your mission-critical orchestration needs. Integration with Azure services like Policy for enforcing security, Azure Monitor for enhanced monitoring capabilities, making service more resilient—to failure through Availability Zone capability offering zone level redundancy. Also bringing in more regions to support Azure Automation and Update Management or change tracking. New features and platform level improvements for ease of use will be our focus areas. In addition to this, we're also committed to contribute and grow our GitHub library of scripts with new sample runbooks which you can tweak to your needs and use in your environment.

Additional resources