Category Archives: Uncategorized

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Exam Review

A couple of weeks ago I sat the Amazon Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam and passed (woohoo!). I wanted to provide a bit of an overview of the exam itself and what I did to prepare.

The exam itself was 60 questions, with 80 minutes to answer all of them. I think i had 25 minutes or so when all was said and done, so it was ample enough time for me. All questions are multiple choice; no simulations were involved though there was some fill in the blank style questions with multiple choice answers. As you go through the exam you have the opportunity to mark each question for review, and can then review any question once you have answered all of them. I’d suggest taking advantage of this; I would mark questions that I was uncertain about, using context from other questions or a bit more time to think about it at the end. I think I marked 6 questions or so, and am pretty sure that I answered most of them correctly after changing my answers during the review period. Regardless, it’s a good practice to mark those that you’re unsure about so you can ponder on them a bit more as time allows at the end, but leaving an answer if you happen to not have that extra time buffer at the end.

As far as the questions themselves, per the testing agreement I cannot disclose any detailed specifics, but can give you some high level thoughts on what was covered. First and foremost, having solid experience with AWS will go a long way on this exam. Strong knowledge of EC2, VPC, S3 and IAM is good to have. The exam blueprint is a good place to start, but you’ll have much more success if you spend time in the console, building environments and playing around. Take the time to get very familiar with all the concepts in the blueprint and that will go a long way. Specifics on pricing for services were not covered in the exam, so you don’t need to know things like how much you’ll get charged per GB on ingress network traffic per VPC.

As far as preparation, along with hands on experience I took the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate 2015 course on Udemy [1]. It’s a great course, starts out a bit slow if you’ve had any experience on AWS, but does a very good job of covering all the concepts you’d need to know in preparation for the exam. Ryan Kroonenburg is the instructor, and he’s got a Professional course that should be coming soon that I’m looking forward to. If you don’t have experience with AWS, get a free account and start playing around, you’ll need it if you take Ryan’s course.

All in all it wasn’t terribly difficult, but I’m glad that I took the time to prepare, as I’ve no doubt it contributed to my success. If you’re taking it, good luck!

[1] https://www.udemy.com/aws-certified-solutions-architect-associate-2015/

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CentOS 6.5 & Amazon Linux Active Directory Authentication in AWS

Update 8/13/2015
Samba 4.1 has now been made available in the AWS Amazon Linux repo (yay!). This now allows you to join Amazon Linux instances to your AD as well.

Linux can be configured to authenticate against an Active Directory domain, providing centralized access control and the ability to use a single account to administer Windows and Linux hosts, as well as reducing the number of users directly logging on as root. There are many blogs and guides online that detail steps to configure this, but depending on your flavor of Linux, version and wind direction they may or may not work. What follows is documentation of a successful implementation within an AWS environment. Once complete, authentication via SSH is permitted for local and AD users, and sudo permissions are also granted for required elevation.

This setup uses winbind to join the domain and provide authentication via Kerberos.

Prerequisites and Assumptions

Originally I tried setting this up on an Amazon Linux AMI, which I’d hoped would work since it’s a RHEL based Linux distribution, but I ran into a few issues. For some reason, Amazon doesn’t provide the Samba package in their Yum repo, so I downloaded the samba binaries and compiled from source. Even after doing a compile and install, I still wasn’t able to get it to work. Bottom line is that the steps outlined here are for CentOS 6.5 (and presumably RHEL 6.5). At some point I’d like to retry Amazon Linux, as well as validating CentOS 7 (which given the underlying changes in the OS may be an entirely different setup process).

This has been validated to work on Centos 6.x and Amazon Linux.

You’ll need a Windows Active Directory environment. This post in no way outlines that setup, but the version tested against in this scenario was AD running at a 2012 R2 functional level. You’ll want a group set up that you can add users to for authorization purposes. In this case I used two groups, Domain Admins and an environment specific group (Linux Admins).

Your server should be pointed to the domain controllers for DNS resolution. In my case this was already provided through a DHCP option set in AWS. This can also be configured manually by updating /etc/resolv.conf with your DNS server entries. Example of mine in this case:

[root@adtest1 ~]$ cat /etc/resolv.conf
; generated by /sbin/dhclient-script
search addomain.local
nameserver 10.145.97.32
nameserver 10.145.99.246

If you’re set up in AWS, ensure that you’ve got a security group configured with all the necessary ports for AD and DNS communication allowed from the domain members, and apply it to your host. If you’re not in AWS ensure that you’ve got these opened. There are a number of places online that you can find the requirements, so I’m not going to list those out here.

In this example we’re using the following information:
Member server – adtest1
Member server IP – 10.145.97.224
AD Domain – addomain.local
AD Domain Shortname – addomain
DC1 – 10.145.97.32
DC2 – 10.145.99.246

Implementation Walkthrough

Build Server and Logon

Provision your CentOS 6.5 server and log on to it as root. I used the CentOS 6 AMI from the AWS Marketplace (https://aws.amazon.com/marketplace/pp/B00A6KUVBW) as I wanted my root volume on EBS. You’ll use a keyfile for SSH authentication for root, then once everything is set up you’ll authenticate with a password for all your AD accounts.

Install Required Packages

Install all the necessary dependencies via yum. These are as follows, with a brief explanation of what they do and why they are needed. There are other dependencies that these will install, but this is the top level of what you’ll need.
samba-client – Provides SMB/CIFS communication functionality and provides the winbindd service to handle AD communication.
krb5-workstation – Provides the base Kerberos functionality required for Kerberos authentication.
samba-winbind-krb5-locator – Provides KDC resolution for winbind.
authconfig – Installs a command line tool (authconfig) to update the appropriate configuration files required for AD authentication. Easier than editing all the config files manually.
pam_krb5 – Provides a Kerberos module for PAM.
I also install bind-utils if they aren’t already, so that you’ve got DNS troubleshooting tools (nslookup, dig & host).

To install all these prerequisites (and bind-utils) you can run a single command and get it done in one shot:

yum -y install bind-utils samba-client krb5-workstation samba-winbind-krb5-locator authconfig pam_krb5

Update Host Name and Hosts File

Since our server is in AWS the host name that it has is essentially the IP address, so we’ll want to change this to something that lines up with our standards and is a little more readable. This can be done by updating the /etc/sysconfig/network file. I love to do things via one command, so sed is our friend here. The following command can be used to update this file, make sure you update with your respective host name.

sed -i 's/localhost.localdomain/adtest1.addomain.local/g' /etc/sysconfig/network

You’ll now want to update your hosts file to resolve the local server properly. This is an important step for when we join the domain later on, as the DNS update performed once the domain join completes will look here to determine the FQDN of the server and update DNS appropriately. We’ll just add this on to the file that’s already there; again, adjust for your host name and IP address appropriately.

echo '10.145.97.224    adtest1.ADDOMAIN.LOCAL adtest1' >> /etc/hosts

After this is done reboot your server so the OS picks up this change. You might be able to get away with just cycling the network service, but a reboot will ensure everything gets picked up properly.

Authconfig

Now that you have your host name updated, it’s time to run your authconfig command. This will update the necessary config files in one command, easing the amount of manual updates that we’ll need to make. I’ll give you the command first (listed multiline for ease of reading), then will go through what each option means.

sudo authconfig \
 --disablecache \
 --enablewinbind \
 --enablewinbindauth \
 --smbsecurity=ads \
 --smbworkgroup=ADDOMAIN \
 --smbrealm=ADDOMAIN.LOCAL \
 --enablewinbindusedefaultdomain \
 --winbindtemplatehomedir=/home/%U \
 --winbindtemplateshell=/bin/bash \
 --enablekrb5 \
 --krb5realm=ADDOMAIN.LOCAL \
 --enablekrb5kdcdns \
 --enablekrb5realmdns \
 --enablelocauthorize \
 --enablemkhomedir \
 --enablepamaccess \
 --enablewinbindoffline \
 --updateall

–disablecache – This disables the name server cache daemon which is used for name caching. This is to prevent logon delays when logging on to the system or during other authorization attempts.
–enablewinbind – This enables winbind.
–enablewinbindauth – This enables authentication via winbind.
–smbsecurity=ads – This sets the security mode that winbind should use. In our case it’s set to ads, which is active directory authentication.
–smbworkgroup=ADDOMAIN – This is the domain name of our AD domain in its short name format. Note that this should be in all caps. I specifically had issues when this was lower case.
–smbrealm=ADDOMAIN.LOCAL – This is the domain name of our AD domain in it’s normal format. Same applies here, make it all caps.
–enablewinbindusedefaultdomain – Configured winbind to assume that users that don’t specify a domain name are in fact domain users.
–winbindtemplatehomedir=/home/%U – Specifies where to put users home directories.
–winbindtemplateshell=/bin/bash – Specifies the shell to configure users to use.
–enablekrb5 – Enables Kerberos authentication.
–krb5realm=ADDOMAIN.LOCAL – Specifies the Kerberos realm. Make this all caps also.
–enablekrb5kdcdns – Configures Kerberos to use DNS to locate domain controllers.
–enablekrb5realmdns – Configures Kerberos to use DNS to locate realms.
–enablelocauthorize – Permits logon using local credentials. Necessary if you still want to log on with root or any other local account.
–enablemkhomedir – Enables the creation of the users home directory if it doesn’t already exist when they log on.
–enablepamaccess – This enables the pam_access module execution during logon.
–enablewinbindoffline – Allows accounts to authenticate even if a DC is unreachable, using cached credentials. I wasn’t able to successfully test this out, so you may still need to rely on root if the DC’s are unavailable.
–updateall – Update all the config files with the appropriate information.
If this command is successful you should see winbind start up. If it’s not, it should give back any errors, so make sure things are good before proceeding.

Join AD Domain

So everything is good to this point, now it’s time to join the domain. This will join the domain and add the respective DNS entry. You’ll need to specify an account in this command that has privileges to add computers to the domain. Replace your domain name and account respectively.

net ads join ADDOMAIN.LOCAL -U administrator

This will prompt you for your domain password. If it’s successful you should get a response that you’ve joined the domain successfully and a DNS record has been created.

Update pam_winbind.conf

There’s a couple manual updates you’ll need to make to the /etc/security/pam_winbind.conf file to enable the home directory creationand set up what users can log on to the server. For the latter, you can specify multiple groups, but ensure they are in lower case (Linux FTW), are enclosed in quotes and are separated by a comma with no spaces. Again, we’re using sed to easily update the config file. See the example below and update appropriately with your groups.

sed -i 's/;mkhomedir = no/mkhomedir = yes/g' /etc/security/pam_winbind.conf
sed -i 's/;require_membership_of =/require_membership_of = "domain admins","linux admins"/g' /etc/security/pam_winbind.conf

Sudoers

Finally, you’ll likely want to allow users to sudo, so the following command can be used to add a group (Domain Admins in this case) to allow sudo. Under normal circumstances you’d use visudo, but since we’re updating one line and there’s likely no other users on the server updating sudoers, we’re pretty safe here.

echo '## Allows Domain Admins to run all commands' >> /etc/sudoers
echo '%domain admins ALL=(ALL)      ALL' >> /etc/sudoers

Start The winbind Service

Most likely the winbind service isn’t running yet, so go ahead and start it up.

service start winbind

You may also want to run a chkconfig to ensure that the winbind service is set to start up on boot. It should look similar to the following (starts up on runlevels 3, 4 & 5).

[root@adtest1 ~]# chkconfig --list winbind
winbind         0:off   1:off   2:off   3:on    4:on    5:on    6:off

<h3>Enable SSH login with password</h3>
On Amazon Linux, ssh keys are required by default for login to the system and login via password is explicitly disabled. In order for this to work you need to enable login with a password.

sed -i 's/#PasswordAuthentication yes/PasswordAuthentication yes/g' /etc/ssh/sshd_config
sed -i 's/PasswordAuthentication no/#PasswordAuthentication no/g' /etc/ssh/sshd_config
service sshd restart

<h3 id="ActiveDirectoryAuthenticationForLinux-TestLogon">Test Logon</h3>
At this point you should be able to log on with AD credentails. Don't log off your existing session as root, since if something isn't set up right you could be locked out of your server entirely. Open up a new session and try to log on with your AD credentials. When you're on, try a sudo command and make sure that works as well.
<h2 id="ActiveDirectoryAuthenticationForLinux-ScriptedSetup">Scripted Setup</h2>
So the above commands can be done in a relatively simple set of commands. There are basically two sections, separated by a reboot. As mentioned before, update with your appropriate host names, credentials, IP address, etc.

# Install required packages
yum -y install bind-utils samba-client krb5-workstation samba-winbind-krb5-locator authconfig pam_krb5
# Update the host name
sed -i 's/localhost.localdomain/adtest1.addomain.local/g' /etc/sysconfig/network
# Update hosts file
echo '10.145.97.224 adtest1.ADDOMAIN.LOCAL adtest1' >> /etc/hosts
# Reboot
shutdown -r now
# Run authconfig
sudo authconfig --disablecache --enablewinbind --enablewinbindauth --smbsecurity=ads --smbworkgroup=ADDOMAIN --smbrealm=ADDOMAIN.LOCAL --enablewinbindusedefaultdomain --winbindtemplatehomedir=/home/%U --winbindtemplateshell=/bin/bash --enablekrb5 --krb5realm=ADDOMAIN.LOCAL --enablekrb5kdcdns --enablekrb5realmdns --enablelocauthorize --enablemkhomedir --enablepamaccess --enablewinbindoffline --updateall
# Join AD domain
net ads join ADDOMAIN.LOCAL -U administrator
# Update pam_winbind.conf
sed -i 's/;mkhomedir = no/mkhomedir = yes/g' /etc/security/pam_winbind.conf
sed -i 's/;require_membership_of =/require_membership_of = "domain admins","linux admins"/g' /etc/security/pam_winbind.conf
# Update sudoers
echo '## Allows Domain Admins to run all commands' >> /etc/sudoers
echo '%domain\ admins ALL=(ALL)      ALL' >> /etc/sudoers
# Start winbind
service winbind start
# Enable ssh with password
sed -i 's/#PasswordAuthentication yes/PasswordAuthentication yes/g' /etc/ssh/sshd_config
sed -i 's/PasswordAuthentication no/#PasswordAuthentication no/g' /etc/ssh/sshd_config
service sshd restart

Troubleshooting

If you have issues with authentication following these steps, most of the authentication modules log to /var/log/secure. You can review this log to ensure that authentication is successful, and investigate any errors that might show up here.

The wbinfo command can be used to test communication to the domain controllers. If you run a wbinfo -u, it should output all the users in the domain. If this works, you’ve got the basic connectivity working, if it doesn’t, you’ve got issues.

If you look in your domain controllers, you should see both an AD computer account for your server as well as a DNS entry that matches the IP address of the server. Make sure that these are both there, if they’re not, something didn’t go quite right.

I mentioned it earlier, but the domain names in the authconfig command need to be in all caps. Don’t overlook this, as I wasn’t able to get it to work in lower case.

References

Below are the various blogs and web sites I referenced as I was going through the setup.

https://mikrocentillion.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/centos-6-authenticate-and-sudo-active-directory-users/

https://access.redhat.com/documentation/en-US/Red_Hat_Enterprise_Linux/7/html/Windows_Integration_Guide/winbind-auth.html

https://digitalchild.info/active-directory-authentication-with-centos/

http://kura2gurun.blogspot.com/2011/10/authentication-failure-using-ssh.html

http://www.slideshare.net/AshwinPawar/krb5

http://docs.fedoraproject.org/en-US/Fedora/14/html/Deployment_Guide/ch-Authentication_Configuration.html

Managing Jobs On SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Groups

SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability groups are one of the best things to happen to SQL Server over the past few years, and open the door to a high availability SQL Server architecture in a virtualized environment and more flexibility in your overall HA/DR plan. One of the challenges that this presents however, is in the area of SQL Server job management. Because the two (or more) instances in an AAG are truly separate instances, you have to account for this in your SQL Server Agent job management strategy. The same jobs need to be created on all nodes in the AAG that the database could failover to and they need to account for the fact that there are multiple nodes servicing the databases. One way of accomplishing this is by wrapping your job within code to determine if the node is the primary or secondary node in the AAG.

The following code (credit to this StackExchange post) can be used in your job to determine if it’s on the primary replica, and then execute a stored procedure (or whatever you need it to do) if it is. If it’s not, it simply prints a message and exits. You’ll want to replace <AAG_Listener_Name> with the name of your AAG Listener.

-- Check to see if this is the primary replica in the AAG
IF (SELECT ars.role_desc FROM sys.dm_hadr_availability_replica_states ars
INNER JOIN sys.availability_groups ag
ON ars.group_id = ag.group_id
WHERE ag.name = '<AAG_Listener_Name>'
AND ars.is_local = 1) = 'PRIMARY'
BEGIN
-- This server is the primary replica
exec stored_procedure_to_execute
END
ELSE
BEGIN
-- This server is not the primary replica
PRINT 'This server is not the primary replica, bypassing job execution'
END

There are other ways to accomplish this, but this is a simple, straightforward approach that has worked well in my experience.

Remote Desktop Session Host Certificate

I was setting up a Remote Desktop Web Access environment on Windows 2008 R2 and was getting a prompt for login to the RD Session Host, even though I was using certs the whole way through and had configured it to pass through credentials. I finally found where the missing setting was. If you pull up the RD Session Host configuration on the RD Session Host, right click RDP-TCP and select properties you’ll see an option where you can select a certificate. Note that this pulls from certificates stored in the local computer certificate store, so you’ll need to ensure it’s imported there if it’s not already. Once set, and provided you have all other SSL settings properly set up, you can use the credentials used at the Remote Desktop Web Access site to get on to your RD Session Host servers, allowing a single logon for users.

RDSH Config

RDP-TCP Properties

Southwest Airlines Powershell Checkin Script

If you’ve ever flown Southwest Airlines you know that getting checked in as soon as you can is key to not getting stuck at the end of boarding group C and ending up in a middle seat in the back of the plane. This awesome Powershell script (courtesey of Bill Grauer) allows you to set a scheduled task to automatically check in your flight for you, so you don’t have to mess with calendar reminders or forgetting it entirely.

The script takes 3 parameters: First, Last, and Conf. Schedule it to run 1 minute before your checkin time and it will loop through for a few minutes or until you’re checked in. I also updated the log location to be my Dropbox folder, allowing me to validate that the check-in was successful from my mobile device (or anywhere else with Dropbox access).

https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/SouthWest-Airlines-e1f861c0

First Post

So this is my blog. I’ll be throwing things on here of interest to me, and if you’ve found you’re way here there might be something of interest to you. Mostly tech, with some spattering of everything else thrown in.