Azure flock can stop faffing over bastion hosts: Microsoft has made it noob-friendly

Those suffering sphincter-tightening terror when opening a port to their VMs have been soothed by Microsoft in the form of Azure Bastion.

Getting access to machines on private networks from the outside world is problematic. Secure Shell (SSH) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connectivity means making things potentially more open than the cautious would like.

The careless would just fling open all the ports with a cheery "have at it!" to all and sundry.

Others prefer to deploy a bastion host. Such a host is hardened as much as possible to prevent attack while it straddles private and public networks. Configuring and keeping the things up to date requires a bit of thought and expertise.

Some brave souls reckon that with careful configuration of services, software-defined networking and design, one could get away without using bastion hosts at all.

Microsoft, however, believes demand exists to easily deploy, run and scale bastion hosts within Azure, hence the startlingly originally named preview of "Azure Bastion".

Azure Bastion is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) product designed to slot directly into an Azure Virtual Network. Once provisioned, users would enjoy RDP and SSH connectivity to VMs running in Microsoft's cloud over the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Public exposure of VM IPs is not needed.

You will, however, have to fire up a browser and head to the Azure portal to do the magic. The portal is used to kick off RDP and SSH sessions. Corporate firewalls can also be dealt with by HTML5-based web clients automatically streaming to the local device, providing the RDP/SSH session over SSL on port 443.

While some will prefer to cling to their carefully configured bastion hosts, a service maintained, patched and hardened by the Windows giant will appeal to many already in the Azure world. Microsoft, after all, has quite a lot of experience patching stuff.

Arch-rivals AWS and Google Cloud also allow for the provisioning of bastion hosts to keep things safe and sound. However, both are bit more manual than Microsoft's preview take on things. AWS, for example, provides a quick start for kicking off the deployment of Linux bastion hosts, which, while having plenty of configuration opportunities, lack the click-and-forget of Microsoft's take on things.

In the future, Microsoft intends to integrate Azure Bastion with Azure Active Directory and add Azure Multi-Factor Authentication. The gang also plans support for native RDP/SSH clients and add full session video recording for RDP. ®

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