Application Security Groups to simplify your Azure VMs network security
Application Security Groups helps to manage the security of the Azure Virtual Machines by grouping them according the applications that runs on them. It is a feature that allows the application-centric use of Network Security Groups.
An example is always the best way to better understand a feature. So let’s say that in a Subnet we have some Web Servers and some Database Servers. The access rules of the Subnet’s Network Security Group to allow http, https & database access to those servers will be something like this:
Using only the Network Security Groups functionality we need to add the IP addresses of the servers to use them to the access lists. There are two major difficulties here:
- For every rule we need to add all the IPs of the servers that will be included.
- If there is an IP address change (e.g by adding or removing a server) then all the relative rules must change.
Use Application Security Groups
Now, lets see how we can bypass this complexity by using Application Security Groups, combined with Network Security Groups.
Create two Application Security Groups, one for the Web Servers and one for the Database Servers
At the Azure Portal, search for Application Security Groups
Provide a name and a Resource Group
Create one more with name Database Servers and at the Resource Group you will have those two Application Security Groups:
Then go each Virtual Machine and attach the relevant ASG.
Click the Virtual Machine and then go to the Networking settings blade, and press the “Configure the application security groups”
Select the relevant ASG and press save:
Do the same for all your servers. Finally open the Network Security Group. Open the https rule, at my example is the “https2WebServers” rule. Change the Destination to “Application Security Group” and for Destination application security group select the Web Servers.
Same way change the database access rule and for Source add the “Database Server” ASG and for destination the “Web Servers” ASG. Now the NSG will look like this:
Now on when removing a VM from the Web Servers farm of the Database servers cluster there is no need to change anything at the NSG. When adding a new VM, the only thing we need to do is to attach the VM to the relative Application Security Group.
A Virtual Machine can be attached to more than one Application Security Group. This helps in cases of multi-application servers.
There are only two requirements:
- All network interfaces used in an ASG must be within the same VNet
- If ASGs are used in the source and destination, they must be within the same VNet
Pantelis Apostolidis is a Cloud Solutions Architect at Microsoft and an ex Microsoft Azure MVP. For the last 15 years, Pantelis has been involved to major cloud projects in Greece and abroad, helping companies to adopt and deploy cloud technologies, driving business value. He is entitled to a lot of Microsoft Expert Certifications, demonstrating his proven experience in delivering high quality solutions. He is an author, blogger and he is acting as a spokesperson for conferences, workshops and webinars. He is also an active member of several communities as a moderator in azureheads.gr and autoexec.gr. Follow him on Twitter @papostolidis.