Playing around with Azure Stack HCI

Decided to have some fun with (nested) Microsoft Azure Stack HCI in my lab.

If you want to do the same, I’ve scripted most the stuff you need, so… maybe it will be useful.

Steps to prepare a brand new, shiny, nested Azure Stack HCI lab are (roughly):

  • prepare your (parent) Windows Server 2022 Hyper-V host (ensure enough resources are available)
    • it already hosts my Active Directory, DNS, DHCP, router, …,  VMs
    • everything will be saved locally to D:\AzureStackHCI
  • (optional) install Windows Admin Center (WAC) for easier management
    • download it and install with simple command:

  • obtain the Azure Stack HCI 60-day trial ISO image from here
  • make VHD(X) from the obtained ISO image:

    • note that I’m using Convert-WindowsImage.ps1 available here
    • which gives me nice, generalized Azure Stack HCI VHD(X), which we will “upgrade with things” and later use for VM creation
  • install prerequisites into VHD(X)
    • this one is fairly easy – install Windows roles and features directly to the VHD(X) itself:

    • NOTE: If you try to install the Hyper-V role later, it may fail as we’re running Azure Stack HCI on “normal” Windows Server, so it get’s confused with nested virtualization availability. With preinstaling it, we make sure it just works.
  • update VHD(X) with latest patches:

    • I have previously downloaded all the Azure Stack HCI patches available to D:\AzureStackHCI\Updates
  • add Unattend.xml to handle the “set password at first login issue”
    • it annoys me that I need to set up the initial password, so… simple Unattend.xml file, injected into VHD(X) should take care of this:

    • NOTE: Make sure you don’t use clear-text passwords in Unattend.xml file!
  • create Azure Stack HCI VMs
    • I’m creating two VMs from our prepared VHD(X), with a couple of additional data disks, few network adapters for different purposes, nested virtualization enabled, etc.:

  • set node networking, join them to the domain, prepare for cluster (by using PowerShell Direct):

  • create the Azure Stack HCI cluster:

  • register (optional) the Azure Stack HCI cluster:

  • create CSV(s) and virtual switches for child workloads (but add nodes/cluster to WAC before, if not using PowerShell)

  • play around with your new cluster
  • (optional) clean all/redeploy if needed:

And now you have fully functional, nested, 2-node Azure Stack HCI cluster – nothing too fancy, but you can extend it how you wish! 😊

You can begin exploring the Azure Stack HCI itself, use it with Azure Arc, or perhaps install AKS on Azure Stack HCI and play around with it. Or something else.


P.S. You can use these scripts also for stuff other than Azure Stack HCI, of course! 😉
P.P.S. Code is also available on my GitHub page.

Backing up Office 365 to S3 storage (Exoscale SOS) with Veeam

Are you backing up your Office 365? And… why not? 🙂

I’m not going into the lengthy and exhausting discussion of why you should take care of your data, even if it’s stored in something unbreakable like “the cloud”, at least not in this post. I would like to focus on one of the features of the new Veeam Backup for Office 365 v4, which was released just the other day. This feature is “object storage support“, as you may have guessed it already from the title of this fine post!

So, this means that you can take Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure Blob Storage or even IBM Cloud Object Storage and use it for your Veeam Backup for Office 365. And even better – you can use any S3-compatible storage to do the same! How cool is that?!

To test this, I decided to use the Exoscale SOS (also S3-compatible) storage for backups of my personal Office 365 via Veeam Backup for Office 365.

I’ve created a small environment to support this test (and later production, if it works as it should) and basically done the following:

  • created a standard Windows Server 2019 VM on top of Microsoft Azure, to hold my Veeam Backup for Office 365 installation
    (good people at Microsoft provided me Azure credits, so… why not?!)
  • downloaded Veeam Backup for Office 365
    (good people at Veeam provided me NFR license for it, so I’ve used it instead of Community Edition)
  • created an Exoscale SOS bucket for my backups
    (good people at Exoscale/A1TAG/ provided me credits, so… why not?!)
  • installed Veeam Backup for Office 365
    (it’s a “Next-Next-Finish” type of installation, hard to get it wrong)
  • configured Veeam Backup for Office 365 (not so hard, if you know what you are doing and you’ve read the official docs)
    • added a new Object Storage Repository
    • added a new Backup Repository which offloads the backup data to the previously created Object Storage Repository
    • configured a custom AAD app (with the right permissions)
    • added a new Office 365 organization with AAD app and Global Admin account credentials (docs)
    • created a backup job for this Office 365 organization
    • started backing it all up

Now, a few tips on the “configuration part”:

  • Microsoft Azure:
    • no real prerequisites and tips here – simple Windows VM, on which I’m installing the downloaded software (there is a list of system requirements if want to make sure it’s all “by the book”)
  • Exoscale:
    • creating the Exoscale SOS bucket is relatively easy, once you have your account (you can request a trial here) – you choose the bucket name and zone in which data will be stored and… voilà:

    • if you need to make adjustments to the ACL of the bucket, you can (quick ACL with private setting is just fine for this one):

    • to access your bucket from Veeam, you’ll need your API keys, which you can find in the Account – Profile – API keys section:

    • one other thing you’ll need from this section is the Storage API Endpoint, which depends on the zone you’ve created your bucket in (mine was created inside AT-VIE-1 zone, so my endpoint is

  • Office 365:
    • note: I’m using the Modern authentication option because of MFA on my tenant and… it’s the right way to do it!
    • for this, I created a custom application in Azure Active Directory (AAD) (under App registrations – New registration) (take a note of the Application (client) ID, as you will need it when configuring Veeam):

    • I’ve added a secret (which you should also take a note of, because you’ll need it later) to this app:

    • then, I’ve added the minimal required API permissions to this app (as per the official docs) – but note that the official docs have an error (at this time), which I reported to Veeam – you’ll need the SharePoint Online API access permissions even if you don’t use the certificate based authentication(!) – so, the permissions which work for me are:

    • UPDATE: Got back the word from Veeam development – additional SharePoint permissions may not be necessary after all, maybe I needed to wait a bit longer… will retry next time without those permissions. 🙂
    • after that, I’ve enabled the “legacy authentication protocols”, which is still a requirement (you can do it in Office 365 admin center – SharePoint admin center – Access Control – Apps that don’t use modern authentication – Allow access or via PowerShell command “Set-SPOTenant -LegacyAuthProtocolsEnabled $True”):

    • lastly, I’ve created an app password for my (global admin) account (which will also be required for Veeam configuration):

  • Veeam Backup for Office 365:
    • add a new Object Storage Repository:

    • add a new Backup Repository (connected to the created Object Storage Repository; this local repository will only store metadata – backup data will be offloaded to the object storage and can be encrypted, if needed):

    • add a new Office 365 organization:

    • create a backup job:

    • start backing up your Office 365 data:

Any questions/difficulties with your setup?
Leave them in the comments section, I’ll be happy to help (if I can).


Deploying Linux machines by using System Center 2016: Virtual Machine Manager templates

In light of “Microsoft loves Linux” initiative, you can now deploy your Linux virtual machines by using templates in the System Center 2016: Virtual Machine Manager. As I was searching on how to do this (successfully), there were couple of articles that helped, so I’ve decided to do a short list of all the necessary steps (in one place).

Steps to make your Linux VM template deployments work:

  • create a new (Generation 2) virtual machine (as you would normally do)
  • install the Linux operating system in that virtual machine (as you would normally do)
    • HINT: A list of supported Linux distributions and versions on Hyper-V is available here.
  • install the Linux Integration Services (LIS) (as per this post):
    • open the “modules” file
    • add the following to the end of this file:
    • save it (Ctrl+X and Y)
    • install LIS and reboot the machine by using the following commands:
    • check if the services are running by using the command:
  • install the Virtual Machine Manager agent (as per this post):
    • share the folder C:\Program Files\Microsoft System Center 2016\Agents\Linux on your VMM machine
    • copy the VMM agent files to Linux virtual machine
      • as a real Windows admin, I did it through the GUI
    • install the agent:
  • fix the boot for Generation 2 virtual machine (boot information is by default stored in the VM configuration file, not on disk – Ben wrote a great article on this “issue”)
    • Ben’s way (didn’t work for me):
      • change directory to the boot EFI directory
      • copy the ubuntu directory in to a new directory named boot
      • change directory to the newly created boot directory
      • rename the shimx64.efi file
    • TriJetScud’s way in the comments (worked for me with Ubuntu 16.04 Generation 2 VM):
  • shutdown the virtual machine and copy its VHDX to the VMM Library
    • HINT: Don’t forget to refresh the VMM Library.
  • go to the VMM Library, right-click the copied VHDX and select the Create VM template option
  • proceed with creating the template as you normally would, to the part Configure Operating System
    • HINT: If you are using Secure boot, don’t forget to select the MicrosoftUEFICertificateAuthority template in hardware settings.
  • there, under Guest OS profile, you select the option to create a new Linux operating system customization settings
  • next you specify your guest OS settings and finish creating the template
  • now you can create a new Linux virtual machine from the template you’ve configured!

Hope it helps!