Managing Azure VM Diagnostics Data in Table Storage

Windows Azure Diagnostics (WAD) data is stored in table storage of a storage account. There are many types of tables to store different kind of Azure Windows VM diagnostics data and some of them are mentioned below:

  1. WADMetrics*: Used to store metrics data. It follows a proper naming convention whose details can be found here
  2. WADDiagnosticInfrastructureLogsTable: stores diagnostics infrastructure data
  3. WADWindowsEventLogsTable: Stores event logs data
  4. WADPerformanceCountersTable: stores performance counters data

The issue is we don’t have any mechanism to apply retention policy to these tables or any way to directly delete the data. With time, the data grow exponentially and eventually you pay for all of it. As of August 2019, you have to manually delete the old data/tables. Now there are two ways to do it:

  1. Delete the tables altogether: This is simple and Azure re-creates them to store more WAD data. But the issue is, if your table has millions of records (like mine) it might take few days to delete the table completely. And during this time, any attempt to re-create the table will throw an error. So if your VM is writing constantly to these tables, not a good option
  2. Partially delete the data: Even though it is cumbersome and required writing custom code, I found this better. Basically you can run this code on schedule to delete all the data that is more than a month old (or any time frame). But notice, that you pay for all the operations including deleting the data, even though the cost is very low.

So I decided to go with the approach of making a utility to delete all the data that was more than a month old from logs and performance counters table. But for metrics table, since these tables are created thrice per month, every month, hence I deleted the tables more than 2 months old.

Below is the code to achieve this in normal console application, which you can use as web job too. Install “WindowsAzure.Storage” for it to work.

Delete All Metrics Tables more than two months old:

You have to run the below code twice for PT1H and PT1M tables. Also if your storage account has older data than current year’s, run the code for previous years too by looping through all the years (instead of months)

Delete logs data more than x days old:

You have to run the below code for all the storage logs table (Infrastructure, Events, Performance etc.)

You can use the above to delete data incrementally on a schedule (via web job, azure function etc) or deleting all of the old data.

P.S. Cloud Table Client uses default exponential retry policy which you can change too. If you do not want to use any retry mechanism, make sure to set it to none. Good thing is, you can set retry policy to a particular action (like Delete) instead of table client in all. For this check implementing retry policies

Hope this helps! Happy coding!

References:

  1. Effective way of fetching diagnostics data from Windows Azure Diagnostics Table
  2. Understanding Windows Azure Diagnostics Costs And Some Ways To Control It

Using MIP SDK in SharePoint – II

This post is in continuation with how to use MIP SDK in C#. Please go through it first to cover some basic concepts like, setting up your system, nuget required for MIP and registering Azure AD app which will be used in the code below too.

My case scenario was to analyze a protected file present in SharePoint Document Library and set/remove protection on it depending on the contents of the document. In case you are not aware, we can use Azure Information Protection or Unified Labeling in SharePoint too. It’s pretty straight-forward and more details can be found here.

In comparison to the code I uploaded on git, there are few basic changes for using MIP SDK in Provider Hosted add-ins. Instead of relying on file path, we will use file stream from SharePoint and similarly, upload that stream back to SharePoint. I am assuming that you all are aware of provider hosted add-ins and have gone through the part one of this post. I am listing the changes below while rest of the stuff remains the same.

  1. Create a provider hosted add-in using Visual Studio. I have used SharePoint Online and MVC template for my work
  2. In AppManifest.xml give proper permission to access libraries of your target site collection
  3. Now coming to HomeController, InvokeMIP method, the first difference is how will we get tenant id of our host web. Instead of finding it in Claims, we will get it using TokenHelper’s method GetRealmFromTargetUrl
  4. Apart from this, we will create SharePoint context to get file stream of the uploaded file where we need to perform MIP operations
  5. Using this stream, MIP file handler will be created
  6. The output will be collected in memory stream
  7. Output Stream will be used to upload the changed document back to SharePoint (For more details on how to upload large files in provider hosted add-in, check this post here)

The complete code will look like below:

Make sure you have registered Azure AD app with proper permissions and your SharePoint App has correct permissions too.

P.S. Please note that MIP SDK does not support content marking (watermark, header, footer). You can apply a label with watermark but it wont be reflected until you open the document and save it in office again. More details here

Happy Coding!

Update November 9, 2019:

Now you can enable sensitivity labels for file present in OneDrive and SharePoint. The feature comes with some new capabilities and some limitations and is currently in public preview. Click here to learn more about this.

Working with C# MIP SDK – I

Recently I got a chance to work with the MIP SDK which is the unification of Microsoft’s classification, labeling, and protection services. Now is the time for data, and its security is paramount for everyone. Microsoft provides some amazing tools to protect our data tenant wide (if you are using O365 Online) or across your farms (in case of on-premises). If you are not aware of the core concepts, I would urge you to read the following links, before jumping to the SDKs.

  1. Azure Information Protection
  2. Office 365 Security and Compliance

The MIP SDK helps you to create custom third-party apps to create, apply, remove labels from your files. It might come handy in cases when you, as a super admin wants to access a protected file, apply labels based on some sensitivity information or even remove labels to check the data. These SDKs are built in C++ and MS provides a C# wrapper over it. There are some good samples provided by Microsoft and they cover a lot of things. But my requirement was bit different. I wanted create a multi-tenant SAAS application which can access these labels. Not only this, it was going to be like a daemon service with no user interaction and hence I needed app-only permissions. Therefore, I used client credential flow to implement this.

Coming back to the challenges I faced:

  1. It took me some time to set up my machine for development
  2. Not much documentation is available for C# and hence I took a lot of time to understand it
  3. The github samples and the test code in the documentation are different. I have to go with code snippets provided in documentation and figure out the rest
  4. Spent some time exploring all the permissions needed and how will they work together for various operations

Here are the assumptions I took from my side:

  1. You have gone through the concepts of File Profiles and File Engines
  2. You already have idea of registering multi-tenant Azure AD app and how it works
  3. You have a basic idea of OAuth and various authorization flow it uses, like client credentials flow

Now coming to the setup of your machine, the exhaustive list could be found here. I am covering the things I did to set up my Windows 10 environment.

  1. Created a demo account which has AIP enabled for trial
  2. Configured few sensitivity labels with various settings in O365 Security and Compliance Center
  3. Make sure your Windows 10 has version 1709 or later
  4. My machine does not have “Developer Mode” enabled but it works
  5. Installed Universal Windows Platform development in VS 2017, which took like 2 hours
  6. Downloaded and installed MIP SDK for Windows
  7. And you are done!!!!!

As our development environment is ready, lets fire up VS (I am using 2017)

  1. Create new .Net Web Application -> Choose MVC Template -> Change Authentication to “Work or School Accounts” -> “Cloud – Multiple Organizations”. Provide relevant domain and create a new project
  2. This will automatically create a registration in Azure AD with your project name. Login to portal -> Azure Active Directory -> App Registrations and search for the app you created
  3. For demo purpose I am using default localhost Redirect URI created by VS
  4. Navigate to “API permissions” tab and grant the following permissions. Make sure to click on “Grant admin consent” so that permissions are authorized by admin. Notice that all are application permission, except for MS Graph which is used for login
  5. Navigate to “Certificates and secrets” tab and create new client secret. Remember to copy and save it in web.config. This is not a secure practice and in production environment you should use Key Vault to store it securely
  6. Move to the project created in VS and update your web.config with following entries
  7. Install following Nuget in the project: Microsoft.InformationProtection.File and Microsoft.IdentityModel.Clients.ActiveDirectory
  8. That’s it!

You can find the complete source code at my github repo. Below are few issues I faced and how I solved it:

  1. Load Library failed for mip_dotnet.dll : To fix this, you need to provide the path of dll from the app folder. That’s why in HomeController line 41 you can see I have initialized MIP by providing the path
    MIP.Initialize(MipComponent.File, path);
  2. Also make sure to provide proper path while creating File Profile at line 54 as this is the place under which logging, telemetry, and other persistent state is stored.
    var profileSettings = new FileProfileSettings(mipPath, false, authDelegate, new ConsentDelegateImplementation(), appInfo, LogLevel.Trace);
  3. Make sure “ID Tokens” is enabled in AD registered app

I hope this helps in getting started with MIP SDK in C#. I have updated the code to remove protection from a file, you can try other similar operations.

In Part two we will go through using MIP SDK with SharePoint files. To make stuff more interesting, we will implement it in SharePoint Provider Hosted Add-In.

Happy Coding!

Update November 9, 2019:

Now you can use sensitivity labels with MS Teams, O365 and SharePoint Sites. This feature is in public preview. Click here to learn more about this.

SharePoint Saturday Pune

So, I was lucky enough to attend and speak in first ever SharePoint Saturday held in Pune today. I was one of the speaker and spoke on “Why do we need Site Designs?”

Why do we need Site Designs

I would like to thank PUG (Pune User Group) for organising such a great event on a short notice. It was lovely to meet so many SP experts. Thanks Rapid Circle and other sponsors for making it happen. We have #WomenInTech session and sharing a picture with all my colleagues.

#WomenInTech RC People

This post is to share my slide-deck with you all. So anyone who is interested can access the slides on “Site Designs” using below link:

Why do we need Site Designs

Happy Sharing!

Auditing in MVC EF Project

Recently I worked on a requirement to audit the web application for CRUD operations. Yes, all of CRUD that means read operation too. I had a MVC web application which used Entity Framework DB first option and was using Azure AD Authentication. The complete set of requirements (mentioned below) was bit different than normal auditing.

  1. Log one row per table change instead of per property (column) change.
  2. Log for read operation too
  3. Generate a checksum and log it to along with the audit trail
  4. Apart from that, have to log table name, logged in user name, timestamp and other generic stuff

We decided to just store the new (updated) values in the audit trail instead of both old and new ones. If needed, we can get history of that object from audit table so not storing old values was not going to be an issue.

To achieve this, I decided to overwrite the SaveChanges method of DbContext. Entity Framework DB first creates partial classes for everything including the DbContext. I just used partial classes and overrode the SaveChanges method. Before jumping to the code, below is the approach I followed for all of the above points, respectively:

  1. I decided to create JSON of the updated row by using JSON.NET library. I could have used XML too but the issue with XML is, it fails on out of the box generated DB classes due to circular references and use of ICollection and virtual properties. To do this with XML, I would have to create POCO objects, which was just increasing the development time and effort. Hence I decided to use JSON.NET to create a valid json of updated row and store it in varchar(max) field of audit table in SQL. You can go ahead with XML too
  2. By overriding SaveChanges I can audit for create, update and delete (CUD) operation but not for read. Therefore, to simplify the process I just manually added audit rows for every call to functions where I fetch any table’s details. It was straightforward and easy but there was a catch. As I was adding audit row while reading an object, SaveChanges was called and hence for every read operation, there was an entry in audit table which denotes that an entry is added in the audit table. Basically the audit table was getting audited which I did not want. Hence, I have to exclude the “Audit” table manually from code
  3. This was easy to implement. I just combined the complete row using StringBuilder and generated checksum using MD5. You can use any other algorithm too. Besides that I converted the generated checksum to hex to store it in DB, you can use Base64 too
  4. I was using three tier architecture in my project with web layer, service layer and one data layer. Other things are straightforward but for user id I did not want to store complete email address for every row. That’s why, what I did was, I entered logged in user’s email id in database once someone logs in to the application for the first time and at the same time stored that table’s primary key as custom claim. I then read this claim value and use it for audit purpose
  5. Last thing, as I need to audit create operations too and their id is not generated until the call to SaveChanges, I have to collect create entities in different collection and audit them after an initial call to SaveChanges 

So below is the code to achieve all this:

 

Power Apps – Get Values from Multi-Select Fields

Most of the times in custom list forms or in web power apps you have a requirement to perform an action based on values selected in a field. It is very straightforward for simple fields like single line of text, number, single-select drop-downs but gets little tricky if the field is multi-select. For example, in a demo application, I want to enter my details along with my hobbies. Let’s say the condition is; if “Reading” is one of my hobby, I need to ask user his/her preferred book format. If not, this field should not be visible. Below post is about achieving this.

Currently the form looks like this:

I need to display “Book Format” field only when I select “Reading” as one of the “Hobbies”.

  1. The first logical step is to record the selected hobbies in a variable. We can bind it to the “OnChange” event of the “Hobbies” drop-down. It can simply be achieved by using the UpdateContext function

    UpdateContext({SelectedHobbies: HobbiesDropDown.SelectedItems})The above statement declares a variable named “SelectedHobbies” and set its value to selected items in the drop down list. I have renamed the data card value to “HobbiesDropDown” for ease of use.

  2. The above variable “SelectedHobbies” is of “Table” type. If you are confused, you can confirm the type of variable by selecting the “File” menu item and checking “Variables” section
  3. Now it is just a matter of checking if “Reading” is one of the value in “SelectedHobbies” table variable and then set visible property of “Book Format” drop-down accordingly. To check this, you can use LookUp function present in Power Apps. I used the below query:If(LookUp(SelectedHobbies, Value = “Reading”, Value) = “Reading”, true, false)

    What it says is, if “Reading” is one of the “Value” present in the “SelectedHobbies” table, then set visible property of “Book Format” to true else false. Notice the use of “Value” keyword here. LookUp searches the given collection (first parameter), based on a condition (second parameter) and return the field you want (third parameter) satisfying that condition. In our case, if “SelectedHobbies” collection has Reading as its one of the values, then return that particular value i.e. “Reading”.

  4. That’s it and you are done. Run your application to check.”Reading” not in the hobby list

    “Reading” selected as hobby:

Simple enough. I was going through multiple ways to do it when I stumbled onto the “Value” keyword. I did not find much documentation on this and hence the blog post. Needless to say, same behavior applies to power apps list form too.

Also, you can either replicate the same behavior in View and Edit form or use the Set function to create a global variable instead of UpdateContext which you can use across the app.

P.S. The above will not work for multi-select people picker column. It works for Choice and LookUp fields only.

Hope it helps!

Power Apps – An entry is required or has invalid value

Recently I started exploring Power Apps in more depth. Its a nice tool but not without some issues. My scenario was to create a power app based on a SharePoint list which uses a custom content type. All the fields in the content type were optional. But still when I tried to save the form, it gave classic “An entry is required or has invalid value” exception.

Generally this error means that a required field is missing a value but I have no such fields in my content type. Also, strangely, I was able to save an item using the default new list item form.

Update (July,2018): I tested this again and now even the default list form throws error.

All the fields in the power app has “Required” property set to “false”. All the fields in the custom content type were “Optional” and I had only one content type present on the list.

After wasting almost 2 hours on this, I realized that power app, unlike default new list item form, does not take content type “Required/Optional” attribute into account. It gives preference to column settings. So in my case the erroneous field was “Title” column. It was optional in content type but not in column settings.

 

 

 

 

As soon as I set this to “No” in the column settings, my power app worked perfectly. You might have some other column like this, so please check.

P.S. I encountered the same for Power Apps list forms.

Hope this helps!