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Using Nerdio to Manage Existing Microsoft Azure Deployments 

The Nerdio Admin Portal (NAP) is a multi-tenant, single-pane-of-glass portal that allows MSPs to manage all of their Azure deployments securely in one place and across all aspects of the IT environment. The NAP can manage VMs, storage, networking, backup, autoscaling, users, virtual desktops, Office 365, mailboxes, security, and much more – all in a “3-click or less” console with role-based security.  The customers of MSPs can be full admins with access to all aspects of a customer’s IT environment or they can be limited users (e.g. Tier 1 Support) with access to things like user password resets but not VPN configuration.   

MSPs can also co-manage a customer’s Azure environment with the customer’s internal IT staff.  For example, an end-user account can be given access to the NAP to do both basic and advanced management of just their own environment.  Because the NAP is so simple to use, delegating some basic management capabilities to specific end-users reduces the number of incoming tickets, gives the customer more control that they desire, and speeds up time-to-resolution by allowing the customer to self-serve on some common functions.  All without risking overwhelming the customer with too much technical complexity or exposing Azure with administrative access and risking issues that could be created by an inexperienced user in an otherwise stable environment. 

A common question we get from partners goes something like this: “We’d love to use Nerdio to manage our Azure deployments but have existing customers in Azure.  Can Nerdio be used to manage those?” 

The short answer is, “yes, they absolutely can” and it does require a bit of planning.”

The goal of this article is to outline the steps necessary to configure Nerdio to manage existing Azure resources. 

The Typical Nerdio Manager for MSP Deployment 

Nerdio is designed to be safe and non-disruptive to existing environments.  Therefore, when you provision a new Nerdio account into Azure, it creates a brand new, empty resource group and only manages resources in that one resource group.  You can have a single Azure AD tenant with a single Azure Subscription and segregate customers by resource groups (or by Azure subscriptions or Azure AD tenants).  The resources in each of these groups will be independent and isolated.  Nerdio will manage each deployment in each unique resource group as its own Nerdio account. 

Every Nerdio for Azure deployment is designed to start out as a “greenfield” deployment without any existing legacy information (other than connectivity into an existing Office 365 account).  The goal is to enable an MSP to set up a greenfield Azure environment and conduct a pilot with a customer without disrupting the existing IT infrastructure.  Once the pilot is successful, the Nerdio deployment is “plugged into” an existing IT environment and added to production, making it accessible to users.  Once in production, users, data, and server workloads can be seamlessly moved into the new Nerdio deployment in Azure. 

“Plugging” Nerdio into an existing IT environment 

There are three top level steps involved in plugging a greenfield Nerdio deployment into an existing IT environment. 

  1. Extend the network – this is typically accomplished by setting up a site-to-site VPN between the Nerdio for Azure environment and an existing environment.  It is also possible to use the VNet peering capability of Azure in some cases, as we’ll see below. 
  2. Extend Active Directory – Making the same Active Directory Domain Services available in Azure is fully automated by Nerdio with our Nerdio Hybrid AD™ functionality.  Extending AD into Azure allows the NAP to have visibility into the existing Active Directory, manage user objects, and assign virtual desktops – all without any changes to the existing environment.  Once the AD is extended from the existing environment to Azure, it spans both locations and allows seamless movement of servers from one to the other. 
  3. Move VM workloads – Once network connectivity is established and AD is extended into Azure, servers and data can be moved from the existing environment to Azure using Azure Site Recovery (ASR), another VM replication technology, or Azure Resource Move process, as we’ll see below. 

The result of the 3 steps above is a Nerdio managed Azure environment with connectivity to an existing IT environment, AD visibility, and the ability to move VMs from one environment to the other without the need to re-join the domain or reconfigure the operating system. 

“Plugging” Nerdio into an existing Azure deployment 

It is possible to leverage Nerdio to manage an existing Azure deployment.  Think of it as a special case of a typical process outlined above – create a new Nerdio for Azure greenfield deployment, plug it into an existing Azure deployment, and migrate workloads as appropriate.  However, because both the existing Azure deployment and the new Nerdio deployment are both in Azure, there are some additional tools available to simplify and speed up the process. 

Let’s look at each of the three steps as they relate to this unique scenario. 

1. Extend the network 

 While it is possible to use VPN Gateways and site-to-site VPN connections between virtual networks in Azure, it is far simpler to leverage Azure VNet peering capability.  Azure supports two types of VNet peering: 

  • VNet peering – connecting VNets within the same Azure region 
  • Global VNet peering – connecting VNets across Azure regions 

There are multiple advantages to using VNet Peering instead of site-to-site VPN.  Network traffic is private, low-latency, and high-bandwidth.  That’s because it traverses Azure’s private network backbone instead of leveraging public internet infrastructure. 

VNet peering has all the expected functionality, including no downtime for the VMs when creating the peering, the ability to apply Network Security Groups (NSG) to control traffic flow and access, if needed, and, by default, complete and simple connectivity of all resources in peered networks without additional setup. 

There is a charge associated with using VNet peering.  When data travels within the same Azure region (both inbound and outbound, unlike public internet bandwidth) there is a charge of $0.01/GB of transfer.  To transfer a 100GB virtual disk from the existing virtual network in Azure to the Nerdio deployment will cost about $1.  When peering VNets across Azure regions (Global VNet Peering), the cost is about $0.035/GB in most US regions. 

2. Extend Active Directory 

Extending the Active Directory (not Azure AD – that’s already integrated into Nerdio by default when deployed) from an existing Azure environment into the new Nerdio environment is identical to the process when the source environment is not in Azure.   

Once the VNet peering is in place and VMs in the Nerdio deployment can talk to the VMs in the existing Azure deployment, the Nerdio Hybrid AD engine will create a new domain controller in the Nerdio deployment and extend the existing Active Directory Domain Services.  Once AD is extended and all resources are moved over to the Nerdio deployment to be managed in the NAP, Active Directory FSMO roles can be transitioned over to the new domain controller VM in Nerdio and the existing AD can be de-provisioned. 

3. Move VM workloads 

Since both the source (existing Azure deployment) and destination (new Nerdio deployment) are in Azure, it is possible to use the native resource move functionality  to transfer from source to destination.  This is an easy and seamless process that can be done via the Azure portal or via PowerShell. 

Establishing network connectivity with VNet peering and extending Active Directory with Nerdio Hybrid AD before moving the VMs will allow the process to be seamless.  For example, if one out of five server VMs are moved from source to destination, the moved VM will still be able to talk to its peer VMs in the existing Azure deployment due to VNet peering that’s in place.  Similarly, since the same AD spans both environments, the moved VM will be able to communicate with a local domain controller and authenticate connections without the need to join it to a new AD domain.   

Other Azure resources such as public IP addresses and storage accounts can also be moved via the Azure portal from their source resource group to the new Nerdio one.  

As all VM workloads and other resources are moved over to Nerdio, which can be done in a non-disruptive, phased approach, and FSMO roles are transferred to the new AD DC, the source environment can be simply de-provisioned and VNet peering turned off. 

The result will be a new Nerdio deployment managed via the Nerdio Admin Portal with all the automation and simplification benefits outlined above but using the same data, applications and user objects.  This process allows MSPs to standardize their Azure deployments and automate much of the management, auto-scaling and help desk tasks. 


Multi-Cloud and On-Premises Deployment with Azure Stack HCI (Coming Soon)

Deploy Azure Virtual Desktop in Azure and extend the session host VM placement to on-premises and other cloud using Azure Stack HCI. Nerdio Manager automates deployment of session hosts, AVD agent installation, and full integration into the AVD deployment in Azure.

Create a brand new Azure Virtual Desktop environment or allow Nerdio Manager to discover an existing deployment, connecting to existing resources, and manage them.

Deploy Nerdio Manager from Azure Marketplace and configure a new AVD environment with an easy to follow, step-by-step configuration wizard. First group of users can access their AVD desktop in less than 2 hours.

Service providers, system integrators, and consultants can leverage Nerdio Manager’s scripted AVD deployment template. Create complete environments with desktop images, host pools, and auto-scaling in minutes.

Create and manage AVD environments that span Azure regions and subscriptions. Quickly link Vnets and resource groups and manage AVD deployments world-wide from unified portal.

Link multiple Azure tenants under the same Nerdio Manager instance and manage AVD deployments that span Azure AD tenants. User identities and session host VMs can run in separate tenants for maximum flexibilty and security.

Deploy and manage AVD environments that span across sovereign Azure Clouds. Cross-sovereign cloud support allows identity (e.g. users and groups) to be in one Azure Cloud, while session host VMs are in another Azure Cloud.

Management of workspaces, host pools, app groups, RemoteApps & custom RDP settings

Administer every aspect of AVD with Nerdio Manager including workspaces, host pools, application groups, RemoteApp publishing, RDP properties, session time limits, FSLogix, and much, much more. Every Azure service that AVD relies on can be managed with Nerdio Manager.

Deploy and manage AVD session host VMs. Hosts can be created manually or with auto-scaling, deleted on-demand or on a schedule, re-imaged to apply updates, run a scripted action, resized, put into or taken out of drain mode, and more.

Manage user sessions across the entire AVD environment, within a workspace, host pool or on a single host. Monitor session status, disconnect or log off the user, shadow or remote control to provide support, or send user an on-screen message.

End users have the ability to log into Nerdio Manager with their Azure AD credentials and manage their own session, restart their desktop VM, or start a session host if none are started in a host pool. (Ability to resize and re-image own desktop is coming soon.)

Create, link, and manage Azure Files shares including AD domain join. Synchronize Azure Files permissions with host pools, configure quotas, and enable SMB multi-channel. Manage file lock handles and configure Azure Files auto-scaling to increase quota as needed.

Create, link, and manage Azure NetApp Files accounts, capacity pools and volumes. Configure provisioned volume size, monitor usage, and use auto-scaling to automatically adjust volume and capacity pool size to accommodate the needed capacity and latency requirements.

FSLogix configuration can be complex and overwheling, but not with Nerdio Manager. Create one or more FSLogix profiles with all the needed options, point at one or more Azure Files, Azure NetApp Files, or server locations and select from VHDLocations, CloudCache and Azure Blob storage modes.

Multiple identity source profiles can be set up and used automatically on different host pools. Active Directory, Azure AD DS, and Native Azure AD are all supported. Choose the appropriate directory profile when adding a host pool and all VMs will automatically join this directory when being created.

Create a copy of a host pool with all of its settings: auto-scale config, app groups and RemoteApps, MSIX AppAttach, user/group assignments, VM deployment settings, etc. Save time by creating host pool “templates” that can be cloned to any Workspace, Azure region or subscription instead of starting from scratch.

Apply user session time limits at host pool level. Automatically log off disconnected sessions, limit the duration of idle sessions, control empty RemoteApp session behavior and more.

Assign Azure AD users to personal desktops to ensure the user will log into a pre-configured VM. Un-assign personal desktops from users who leave the organization and re-use these VMs for new users.

Pre-configure custom Azure tags for all Azure resources associated with each host pool. Tags can be used for charge-back and cost allocation by host pool.

When creating session hosts using NV-series VMs NVIDIA and AMD GPU drivers are automatically installed.

Move existing host pools from Fall 2019 (Classic) object model to Spring 2020 (ARM) object model. Choose to whether to move or copy user assignments. Existing session hosts are automatically migrated or new ones can be created in the ARM host pool.

Automatically enable and configure AVD integration with Azure monitor. Zero configuration required. Azure Monitor Insights for AVD can be used instead of or in conjunction with Sepago Monitor.

AVD personal desktops to Windows 365 Cloud PC migration (Coming Soon)

Migrate users from AVD personal desktops to Windows 365 Enterprise Cloud PCs using an existing image and user assignment. (Coming soon)


Cloud PC License Usage Optimization (Coming Soon)

Cloud PC device lifecycle management

Cloud PC user group assignment

Intune primary user management on Cloud PCs

Migrate AVD personal desktops to Cloud PCs (Coming Soon)

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