Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ubiquiti Unifi - an SME's best friend - resistance is futile

It's often difficult in small to medium IT shops to get enough budget to build a network that's stable enough to let you sleep at night.  For the most part you either pay a premium for your Cisco Catalyst, Juniper, etc and then spend hours learning how to use them properly or you wind up buying small business versions like the SG300, netgear, linksys and pray daily for uptime and accept lower performance.  It's kind of like buying a SonicWall instead of a Cisco ASA or a Palo Alto firewall.

A colleague of mine recently introduced me to Ubiquity Networks which has been around for a little over a decade and has a decent following.  Their approach to network design places a high emphasis on a dedicated controller machine or cloud key which in turn manages every other Unifi device in your network.  You define all your VLANs, WAP networks, and other settings in the controller and then 'adopt' your other devices.  The controller handles all the upgrades and provisioning of the new devices after the device has been adopted and provides statistics on clients, bandwidth usage, and types of hardware.
One console to rule them all.

bandwidth hogs can't hide.

basic switching - and yes it has STP.

The built-in Map function is pretty nifty as well.  It allows you to upload a floor layout and then define a map scale.  You then drag and drop the devices from inventory and the map updates to show you hotspot coverage, topology and other useful network management data.  And yes, this is all without buying an additional software package!

Wireless Cover map - labels removed

I was able to replace the whole wireless network for a 16,000 sq ft facility for just under $1k.

My deployment:
a) 1 UniFi Cloud Key (~$95 on amazon) - powers off POE and has a smaller footprint than a dedicated controller machine.
b) 1 Unifi 24 port POE 250W switch (~$365 on amazon)
c)  multiple UniFi AP-AC-Pro wireless access points (~$129 on amazon).  All POE based and a ridiculous indoor range compared to the Cisco WAP551 units that we used to have.

Note:  Make sure you have working DHCP on your network to make configuring the devices easier.

1) Rack mounted the switch, plugged in the cloud key, ran cabling to WAPs from the switch.
2) Configured the Cloud key - set up multiple wireless networks (limit 4).  The WAPs auto switch between 2.4 and 5 GHz using the same wireless network name so both client types work.  I set each wireless network to it's own VLAN and RADIUS authentication on the more secure one.
3) I 'adopted' the switch and the WAPs through the cloud controller interface.  And then I went ahead and hit the 'upgrade' button next to each to get the latest firmware.

--------------- And that was all it took -------------

Flat out, the stuff works.  Wireless handoff from WAP to WAP and all my client devices worked without a hitch.  I'd definitely recommend them if you're doing a greenfield deployment or if you're just looking to upgrade your small to medium sized network.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Extending your on premise AD (hybrid 365) into the Azure Cloud

Sure, if your on-premise Active Directory is already being synchronized with Office 365 then you've most likely already been exposed to the benefits of single sign-on.  And perhaps you've even spun up your own Azure subscription and set your synchronized Azure AD as the authentication provider so your team can assign Azure admin roles to your on-premise credentials.  There's one more nifty thing you can do which is to use Azure AD Services to extend your AD into Azure to provide domain services to the VMs inside your subscription (aka domain join, single-sign on inside the VM, etc).

The other alternative would be to spin up some servers, build out a site to site VPN, dcpromo the boxes, set up the AD site(s), and then manage it old school.  On the upside you'll have more control over your AD and it'll be a complete replica of your on-prem setup.  The downside is that you'll have more boxes to patch, more replication traffic to pay for, and possibly split fsmo roles.  There isn't a wrong answer, it just depends on if feel that your datacenter is more secure than Azure and what your company's needs are.  In my case, I decided to explore the ADDS route.

Enabling my Azure AD instance started out pretty straightforward, got a little murky with the virtual networks, and then took some patience for password sync.  I used Microsoft's documentation at   (Make sure to use the 'synched tenant' instructions for password sync)

Steps a through e below cover just setting up the basic ADDS.  The steps after that explain how I got it integrated with a Resource Management virtual network and VMs using Peering.

a) Created the AAD DC Administrators Group - this is a special group that is automatically inherited into your new ADDS so you'll want to put your admin accounts in here.
b) ADDS currently only works with the old type of virtual network and not the newer Resource Manager one.  So I had to create a legacy virtual network.
c) After enabling ADDS it took around 15 minutes to provision.  I chose the '' domain name and connected it to my new legacy virtual network.  Once provisioned, it popped out a new DNS IP.
d) I then edited the legacy virtual network and specified the IP address for the new ADDS.  This made it the new default DNS service for that virtual network.  Note:  After another hour, a second DNS IP showed up in the ADDS view.  It doesn't matter what you name them in the virtual network.
e) I then ran the powershell script in the link above to force a full sync in my AAD instance.  The first two variables have to be edited by hand before you run the script.  If you're not sure what your connectors are called, just open the Synchronization Service Manager and view the Connectors tab. (Hint - the one that ends in 'AAD' is your $azureadConnector)

f) I created a new virtual network in the 'new' Azure portal - making sure that the IP range did not overlap the IP range of the legacy virtual network.  ( vs and not and which would have collided).
g) Now to get both virtual networks to play nicely, you can either do a VPN and/or gateway or you can just do virtual network peering which will merge the two together much like joining two switches with a cable in a Layer 2 fashion.  From the 'new' Azure portal, under Virtual Networks, I selected the virtual network (ARM type) that I created earlier and then Peerings

h) I clicked Add at the top of the blade, gave the peering connector a name, chose Resource manager (important), assigned it the same subscription as everything else, and then chose the Classic virtual network from the selector.

i) Then I went back in and updated the DNS settings for the ARM virtual network.  Remember, out of the box each virtual network defaults to the Azure-provided DNS.  I was not able to join a VM to ADDS until I changed it to use the DNS servers for ADDS.  (There is a chance that if would have eventually worked without this step but it's up to you if you have more time available to wait it out).

j) I provisioned a new machine, booted it up, and then joined the domain using the on-premise credentials that I'd put in the AAD DC Administrators group.