This blog post was co-authored by Sanjay Satheesh, Product Marketing Manager for Azure Automation.

If, like many of our customers, you run a mix of machines and applications in your on-premises data center or in the cloud, be it Azure or any other platform of your choice, managing these resources consistently is probably your number one priority. Infrastructure automation was one of the main areas of investment for many companies in 2020. The global pandemic has affected every business – large or small – its employees and the customers they serve. We recognized the critical role infrastructure automation plays in maintaining and operating efficiently across the board by giving you the power to automate your day-to-day IT tasks and other business-critical processes.

Azure automation offers comprehensive functions and integration options for other platforms in order to configure the infrastructure and coordinate workflows in the cloud or locally via the hybrid worker role. Our team is expanding this ecosystem and offering more features and improvements. Customer feedback has been instrumental in shaping these features and we hope you continue to receive this feedback.

In this blog post, let’s take a retrospective journey and see the improvements introduced to Azure Automation in 2020, an announcement from Forrester declaring Microsoft a leader in the Infrastructure Automation Platform, and a sneak peek in our priorities and initiatives in the coming years.

Process automation and state configuration

  • Azure Automation integration with GitHub. With the TechNet Script Center retiring and crowdsourcing runbooks, all of the runbooks hosted in the Runbook Gallery have been moved to our Automation GitHub organization.
  • Process automation and status configuration support explains general availability in Japan West, Switzerland West, UAE North, Germany West Central, Switzerland North, Brazil Southeast and US Gov Arizona.
  • Azure Automation and Update Management Private Link announced general availability. Azure Automation enabled private link support to secure the execution of a runbook for a hybrid worker role. Use Azure Update Management to patch computers, access a runbook through a webhook, and use the state configuration service to keep complaints about your computers open.
  • Azure Automation classified as Grade C certified for accessibility. Accessibility features in Microsoft products help agencies meet global accessibility requirements.

On the Blog announcement Page, look for Azure automation Read the Automation Service Accessibility Compliance Report.

  • Desired State Configuration (DSC) support announced for Oracle 6.7 and Ubuntu 18.04.
  • Preview for Python3 runbooks in automation. Azure Automation now supports previewing Python 3 clouds and hybrid runbooks in all regions of the Azure global cloud.
  • Release of DSC extension to support Azure Arc. Use the Azure Automation state configuration to maintain the desired state of hybrid machines enabled through the DSC Virtual Machine (VM) extension for Azure Arc-enabled servers.
  • Start and stop outside business hours virtual machines that have been updated to use Azure Az modules. Virtual machine start and stop runbooks have been updated to use Azure Az modules instead of Azure Resource Manager modules.
  • Added support for Hybrid Runbook Worker for Windows Server 2008 R2 to support automation scenarios on Server 2008 R2.
  • Update the automation diagnostic log scheme. Introduced a change in the Azure Automation log data schema in the Log Analytics service.
  • Hybrid runbook worker onboarding script updated to use Azure Az modules. The New-OnPremiseHybridWorker runbook has been updated to support Azure Az modules.
  • Updated DNS entries of the automation service from region-specific to account-specific URLs of the automation service. Azure Automation DNS records have been updated to support private links.
  • The ability to keep automation runbooks and DSC scripts encrypted by default has been added. In addition to improving the security of assets, runbooks and DSC scripts are also encrypted to improve the security of Azure Automation.
  • Shutdown of the Automation Watcher task. Azure Logic Apps is now the recommended and supported way to monitor events, schedule recurring tasks, and trigger actions.
  • Support for Impact Level 5 (IL5) compute isolation in Azure Commercial and Azure Government Cloud. Azure Automation Hybrid Runbook Worker can be used in Azure Government to support Impact Level 5 workloads.
  • Introduced support for Azure Virtual Service Service tags. Automation support from service tags enables or denies traffic for the automation service for a subset of scenarios.
  • Enable TLS 1.2 support for the Azure Automation service. Azure Automation fully supports TLS 1.2 and all client calls (via webhooks, DSC nodes and hybrid workers).
  • Introduced a preview of customer-managed keys for Azure Automation. Customers can now manage and secure encryption of Azure Automation assets using their own managed keys.
  • Retirement of ASM REST APIs (Azure Service Management) for Azure Automation. Azure Service Management (ASM) REST APIs for Azure Automation will be retired after January 30, 2020 and will no longer be supported.

Azure update management

  • Availability of update management in the South-Central USA, China East 2 and US Gov Arizona regions. The Azure Automation region mapping has been updated to support the update management functionality in these regions.
  • Update management support for Windows Server 2008 R2. Update Management now supports evaluating and patching the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system.
  • Azure Lighthouse supports the management of automation updates. Azure Lighthouse enables delegated resource management with update management for service providers and customers.

Change tracking

  • Support for change tracking declared general availability in Northern Switzerland.

Microsoft named a Leader in Forrester Wave (TM): Infrastructure Automation Platforms, Q3 2020

In a 26-criterion rating divided into three high-level categories; Current offer, strategy and market presence. Forrester’s research uncovered a top vendor market that Microsoft is a leader in.
The report says:

Microsoft continues to iterate at a rapid pace, and the rampant adoption of open source has paid off. Microsoft outperforms most of its competitors in terms of DevOps integration, community engagement, and support for its products and services. Reference customers praised Microsoft’s engagement model and end-to-end ecosystem, but expressed concerns about the transparency of costs and where customers could ultimately save money. Microsoft’s solution works well for companies that want a rapidly updated automation stack or for companies with an established relationship with Microsoft. “

read this Complete report to learn more.

What’s next?

We aim to deliver what you have asked for. Our investments for this year and next are aimed at making Azure Automation even better by providing you with a reliable platform for your business-critical orchestration needs. Integration with Azure services such as security enforcement policies, Azure Monitor for advanced monitoring functions to make the service more resilient – through the availability zone function, which provides redundancy at the zone level, against errors. Additional regions to support Azure Automation and Update Management or for change tracking. New functions and improvements at platform level for ease of use will be our focus. In addition, we are committed to making a contribution and expanding our growth GitHub script library with new sample runbooks that you can adapt to your needs and use in your environment.

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