Azure Landing Zones adhere to the operational, security, and compliance requirements of an organization and provide guidelines, best practices, and resources to set up a deployment environment for services and workloads in Azure. With Azure landing zones, your company’s core cloud components and resources can be tailored to your specific requirements.
This article talks about how to implement Azure landing zones and improve them as you scale to meet operational excellence, reliability, and performance requirements.
What Is an Azure Landing Zone?
A landing zone includes a collection of scalable and modular building blocks (services, processes, etc.) that help you automatically create accounts, infrastructure, and environments that are pre-configured in accordance with security policies, compliance guidelines, and cloud-native best practices. This enables end users to implement essential cloud resources (e.g., get a cloud account, provision workloads, use services) quickly, securely, and efficiently.
Azure Landing Zones make use of subscriptions to isolate and scale application and platform resources in a secure manner.
Azure Landing Zones: Pros and Cons
Organizations gain several benefits by using landing zones to scale and optimize their cloud infrastructure. There are, however, some disadvantages to consider as well.
Organizations can leverage the following features of an Azure Landing Zone:
- Standardization and Consistency – A landing zone’s standardized architecture follows design principles across eight areas, enabling consistency across applications and workloads.
- Scalability – Its scalable environment can easily add or remove resources based on an organization’s requirements.
- Automation and Governance – It lets you automate governance and security policies to ensure that workloads and applications meet compliance requirements and are secure.
- Cost Optimization – A landing zone also helps optimize costs by implementing efficient resource management practices, e.g., using resource groups and tags to categorize and organize your resources.
- Faster Time to Market – You can also deliver your product quickly to generate revenue sooner and drive business value faster via a solid foundation for application migration, modernization, and innovation at scale.
There are some factors you will need to consider when contemplating using Azure landing zones:
- Complexity – Setting up and customizing an Azure landing zone can be complex, requiring careful planning and execution.
- Expertise Required – Establishing an efficient Azure Landing Zone requires professionals with expertise in cloud infrastructure design, deployment, automation, and governance.
- Cost and Resources – The initial setup of an Azure Landing Zone can be costly and require significant resources.
Key Objectives When Designing Landing Zones
Organizations need to keep several key goals in mind when designing their landing zone.
Establish a consistent and standardized framework for deploying resources in Azure so that all landing zones within your organization adhere to the same governance, security, and operational practices.
Design landing zones that can easily scale to accommodate changing business requirements and handle increased workload demands as your organization grows.
Security and Compliance
Take advantage of robust security measures to protect your resources and data; these should include encryption, access controls, network segmentation, and compliance with regulatory requirements.
Optimize spend by implementing resource management and cost control practices such as rightsizing deployments, monitoring resource usage, and utilizing reserved instances or spot instances where applicable.
Automation and Orchestration
Leverage automation tools and processes to simplify the provisioning, configuration, and management of resources. These will also improve efficiency, reduce human error, and facilitate faster time to market.
Resilience and Disaster Recovery
Always keep resiliency and high availability top of mind. Make sure that disaster recovery and redundancy mechanisms are in place to ensure business continuity in the event of failure.
Collaboration and DevOps
Foster collaboration and enable DevOps practices within landing zones. Implement tools and processes that facilitate seamless communication, resource sharing, and continuous integration and delivery.
Monitoring and Governance
Establish effective monitoring, logging, and alerting mechanisms to help you gain visibility into the health, performance, and security of your landing zones. Make sure to also enforce these via proper governance practices.
Flexibility and Agility
Make sure your landing zone is flexible and able to evolve as technology advances and business needs change. This includes the ability to easily integrate new services, adopt new cloud-native technologies, and scale resources as necessary.
Documentation and Knowledge Transfer
Have comprehensive documentation and knowledge transfer mechanisms in place to ensure that multiple teams can effectively manage and maintain landing zones over time.
How Do You Create an Azure Landing Zone?
The steps below will help you through the process of creating an Azure landing zone.
1. Determine the Design Requirements
Identify the business and technical objectives of your organization, its compliance and security requirements, and governance policies. Establish a management group hierarchy and subscription structure, based on resource groups.
2. Create a Landing Zone Architecture
Design the architecture of your desired landing zone. This will include a blueprint outlining the landing zone’s structure and components.
3. Set Up Your Landing Zone Infrastructure
Configure your virtual networks, Azure subscriptions, and other resources required for your landing zone, following the design of your landing zone architecture.
4. Deploy the Management Group Hierarchy
Create parent and child management groups to align with the hierarchical structure. Assign security controls and policies to the management group hierarchy.
5. Implement Identity and Access Management
Choose the appropriate authentication and authorization methods, and configure identity providers, users, groups, and roles per your requirements to ensure that your Azure deployment has optimal security protections and users can only access the elements they need to, to do their jobs.
6. Create a Network Topology
Outline the requirements for virtual networks, subnets, and network security groups. You should also configure a gateway to connect on-premises resources to the Azure environment if required.
7. Establish Security and Compliance Controls
Implement Azure policies for compliance and security controls in the landing zone architecture; configure security solutions such as Azure Firewall, Azure Security Center, or Azure DDoS Protection.
8. Set Up Governance and Policies
Define the required standards for resource naming, tagging, and configuration. Implement monitoring and cost optimization policies using Azure Policy, Azure Monitor, and Azure Cost Management.
9. Deploy Resources and Workloads
Use Azure Resource Manager (ARM) or Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools like Terraform and Ansible to deploy resources and workloads and speed time to development and deployment.
How Do Landing Zones Deliver Business Value?
Below we cover several ways in which a well-designed landing zone can provide value to organizations.
Scalability and Agility
A landing zone architecture enables you to scale your resources easily and quickly. It provides a standard approach to provisioning resources, allowing for agility in an organization’s deployment processes. With Infrastructure as Code (IaC) principles and automation, deploying, and managing resources becomes faster and more efficient.
Enhanced Security and Compliance
Using a landing zone architecture, you can deploy and manage resources in a secure and compliant manner. This helps your organization to better protect data and resources by implementing security controls such as Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), network security groups, and Azure Security Center. Management groups and subscriptions can also enforce compliance policies and controls.
Governance and Control
A landing zone provides a framework for enforcing governance policies and standards. Policies, access controls, and configurations can all be applied consistently with the help of centralized management groups, ensuring that organizational guidelines are adhered to.
Improved Cost Management
A well-designed landing zone can help your organization optimize costs associated with resource provisioning and management.
Collaboration and DevOps Practices
By using standardized resource provisioning and management methods, teams can improve collaboration, resulting in greater efficiency and faster delivery of applications and services. Implementation of IaC principles allows for version control, reproducibility, and collaboration across different teams.
Streamlined Resource Management
Resource groups within a landing zone provide a logical grouping of resources for easier management and organization. RBAC permissions can also be applied at the resource group level, enabling fine-grained access control and delegation of responsibilities.
Azure Landing Zone Design Areas
In an Azure landing zone architecture, design areas help organizations organize their Azure resources effectively. The key design areas are:
- Azure billing and Azure Active Directory tenant
- Resource organization
- Identity and access management
- Network topology and connectivity
- Platform automation and DevOps
Each design area represents a specific aspect that organizations need to consider and plan for when implementing an Azure landing zone architecture; these may also vary depending on specific use cases and organizational requirements.
Azure Landing Zones Pricing
The cost of using Azure Landing Zones is primarily contingent upon what Azure services and resources you select and deploy inside the landing zone. Various components, including virtual machines, storage, networking, and data transmission, go into Azure’s pricing model. You can refer to the information provided by Microsoft for these resources on the Azure pricing page.
Azure Landing Zone Accelerator
The Azure Landing Zone Accelerator lets you fast-track the deployment of landing zones in Azure Resource Manager (ARM) using templates, scripts, and automation tools. Organizations can leverage the accelerator to effectively build cloud environments that are scalable, secure, and compliant via reusable building blocks and templates. The Azure Landing Zone Accelerator is available in GitHub and can be accessed through the Azure Portal or Azure PowerShell.
Key Components of an Azure Landing Zone
There are several parts in a typical Azure Landing Zone, with each serving a specific purpose in implementing governance, security, and networking principles.
A management group serves as the highest level of grouping within Azure’s hierarchical structure. It facilitates the management and implementation of governance and control measures across multiple landing zones.
Azure subscriptions are logical containers used to provision and manage Azure resources. Subscriptions offer isolation, billing boundaries, and access controls within the Azure environment.
Resource groups are logical containers that group related resources for management, organization, and control; they help you configure and manage policies for several resources.
A network hierarchy is a conglomeration of several networking components, including virtual networks (VNets), subnets, and the Azure Firewall.
Identity and Access Management
Azure Active Directory (AAD) provides centralized identity and access management for landing zones; this enables the management of users, groups, and applications and enforces authentication and access control.
Security and Compliance
Landing zones use various security measures to protect resources and data, including RBAC, Azure Firewall, network security groups (NSGs), Security Center, and Azure Policy.
Governance and Policies
When it comes to landing zones, Azure Policy makes it easier to define and execute governance norms and compliance requirements. Organizational principles and best practices should be followed while setting up and deploying resources.
Resource Deployment and Automation
By leveraging IaC principles and automation tools like ARM templates and Azure DevOps, you can simplify resource provisioning, configuration, and management.
Monitoring and Management
You can take advantage of Azure Monitor and Azure Log Analytics to monitor the performance, security, and health of your landing zones.
Cost Management and Optimization
Azure Cost Management and Billing offer a range of tools and analytical capabilities that enable users to effectively monitor, analyze, and optimize the expenses associated with provisioning resources inside landing zones.
As with any process or project, there are some best practices organizations should adopt to achieve their desired goals when designing Azure landing zones.
Standardization and Consistency
Ensure a standardized and consistent structure across all landing zones within your organization. As a recommended practice, you should establish common governance, security, and compliance policies that apply uniformly to all landing zones.
Governance and Compliance
Track compliance, and leverage governance controls and policies to enforce organizational standards, regulatory requirements, and industry best practices.
Security and Risk Management
Design and implement secure infrastructure and networking configurations to protect assets and data within each landing zone – be sure to implement security measures such as threat detection, encryption, identity and access management, and network segmentation.
Scalability and Agility
Design landing zones that allow for future expansion and growth. Automate resource scaling and management using IaC and Azure management services.
Streamline resource provisioning, configuration, and management processes across all landing zones. Implement automation and self-service capabilities to reduce manual efforts and enable faster time to market for new deployments.
Assess each landing zone’s potential for improved spend and enhanced efficiency. Leverage Azure’s cost management and reporting tools to monitor and control costs.
Flexibility and Modularity
Design landing zones that adapt to changing business requirements and take advantage of the latest Azure services. Ensure that each landing zone is modular and can be easily extended or modified without impacting other zones.
Collaboration and Team Productivity
Enable collaboration among teams working within different landing zones while ensuring appropriate access controls and resource isolation. Design landing zones that facilitate efficient communication, resource sharing, and knowledge transfer.
Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
Each landing zone should have a robust disaster recovery plan, a backup system, and a business continuity plan. Take advantage of Azure’s availability zones, regional redundancy, and backup services to ensure high availability and data security.
Monitoring and Insights
Enhance your awareness of the health, efficiency, and safety of each landing zone with the help of monitoring, recording, and reporting tools. You can also leverage the monitoring and analytics features of Azure to proactively detect and address issues.
The Sum of All Landing Zones
Azure Landing Zones should be designed with your organization’s objectives in mind so that their implementation aligns with your goals. Properly done, Azure Landing Zones will enable you to unlock the full benefits of the cloud: agility, scale, and cost optimization.
But achieving success, even with all the very useful tools within Azure to assist in a cloud deployment, requires that your IT team has the requisite skills to navigate Azure’s complexity and build the right environment for your unique needs.
If your IT team isn’t quite confident in their ability to make use of Azure Landing Zones as part of an Azure deployment, RapidScale can help. We’re an Azure Expert MSP and have over five years of experience in helping clients make use of Azure to its utmost.
Reach out to us today to learn how we can help you ensure the best deployment on Azure.