Azure Stack Update 1.1905.0.40 Released with Windows Server 2019 Support

So this week Azure Stack 1.1905.0.40 was released with a few big changes internally. I will be transparent and say this was one of the longest updates to date. However, there are some very good reasons why it is one of the longest. A few updates ago Microsoft release a new PNU processes. I mentioned it very briefly in my blog Azure Stack: Update 1.1904.0.36 and Changes in Update Processes. With 1903 and 1904 the PNU packages where smaller and faster. There was no need for the PNU process to re-image the host. However, with 1905 this one will require the host to be re-imaged, which in turn will lengthen the overall time for the PNU. That and some internal changes, some new roles, etc will cause this update to run a lot longer than normal. For instance, my 4 node stamp for 1903 and 1904 took just over 12 hours to update. With 1905, it took over 26 hours to update. So plan accordingly for your maintenance windows.

So what is new? Why is this update taking so much longer? I want to highlight a few important changes with this update. One of which we all have been waiting to come to Azure Stack for a while now.

Windows Server 2019 Support

With the installation of 1.1905.0.40, Azure Stack now supports Windows Server 2019. Windows Server 2019 will be available to syndicate via the Azure Stack Marketplace.

OEM Firmware within the PNU Processes

With the 1905 update, you can now include OEM firmware updates during the PNU processes. This will require a package from your OEM. Contact your OEM for availability. This will help a lot with maintenance windows, since now you are possibly only having to drain each node once now. This does not include drivers at the OS layer. This will still need to be done using your OEM’s tools and processes.


Release notes

https://docs.microsoft.com/azure-stack/operator/azure-stack-release-notes-1905

Improvements

  • As a part of enforcing TLS 1.2 on Azure Stack, the following extensions have been updated to these versions:
    • microsoft.customscriptextension-arm-1.9.3
    • microsoft.iaasdiagnostics-1.12.2.2
    • microsoft.antimalware-windows-arm-1.5.5.9
    • microsoft.dsc-arm-2.77.0.0
    • microsoft.vmaccessforlinux-1.5.2

Please download these versions of the extensions immediately, so that new deployments of the extension do not fail when TLS 1.2 is enforced in a future release. Always set autoupdateminorversion=true so that minor version updates to extensions (for example, 1.8 to 1.9) are automatically performed.

  • A new Help + support option in the Azure Stack portal makes it easier for operators to check their support options, get expert help, and learn more about Azure Stack. For more information, see Azure Stack help and support.
  • When multiple Azure Active Directories are onboarded (through this process), it is possible to neglect rerunning the script when certain updates occur, or when changes to the AAD Service Principal authorization cause rights to be missing. This can cause various issues, from blocked access for certain features, to more discrete failures which are hard to trace back to the original issue. To prevent this, 1905 introduces a new feature that checks for these permissions and creates an alert when certain configuration issues are found. This validation runs every hour, and displays the remediation actions required to fix the issue. The alert closes once all the tenants are in a healthy state.
  • Improved reliability of infrastructure backup operations during service failover.
  • A new version of the Azure Stack Nagios plugin is available that uses the Azure Active Directory authentication libraries (ADAL) for authentication. The plugin now also supports Azure Active Directory (AAD) and Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) deployments of Azure Stack. For more information, see the Nagios plugin exchange site.
  • A new hybrid profile 2019-03-01-Hybrid was released that supports all the latest features in Azure Stack. Both Azure PowerShell and Azure CLI support the 2019-03-01-Hybrid profile. The .NET, Ruby, Node.js, Go, and Python SDKs have published packages that support the 2019-03-01-Hybrid profile. The respective documentation and some samples have been updated to reflect the changes.
  • The Node.js SDK now supports API profiles. Packages that support the 2019-03-01-Hybrid profile are published.
  • With build 1904, Azure Stack introduced an extension that works on Visual Studio Code. Using the Azure Account extension, developers can now target Azure Stack by logging in and viewing subscriptions, as well as a number of other services. The Azure Account extension works on both AAD environments as well as ADFS environments and only requires a small change in the user settings of Visual Studio Code to input Azure Stack metadata values. For more information, see the documentation here.

Changes

  • To increase reliability and availability during planned and unplanned maintenance scenarios, Azure Stack adds an additional infrastructure role instance for domain services.
  • With this update, during repair and add node operations, the hardware is validated to ensure homogenous scale unit nodes within a scale unit.
  • If scheduled backups are failing to complete and the defined retention period is exceeded, the infrastructure backup controller will ensure at least one successful backup is retained.

Fixes

  • Fixed an issue in which a Compute host agent warning appeared after restarting a node in the scale unit.
  • Fixed issues in marketplace management in the administrator portal which showed incorrect results when filters were applied, and showed duplicate publisher names in the publisher filter. Also made performance improvements to display results faster.
  • Fixed issue in the available backup blade that listed a new available backup before it completed upload to the external storage location. Now the available backup will show in the list after it is successfully uploaded to the storage location.
  • Fixed issue with retrieving recovery keys during backup operation.
  • Fixed issue with OEM update displaying version as ‘undefined’ in operator portal.

Final Thoughts

With the introduction of Windows Server 2019 support on Azure Stack this can only mean a few more exciting things may be coming down the road for Azure Stack. I am glad that the product team has made some very important updates these past few months focusing on stabilization of the platform. This next Microsoft release semester should be very interesting for new features and updates on Azure Stack. I am looking forward to what will be coming soon.

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