Azure Automation state configuration to machine configuration migration planning

Machine configuration is the latest implementation of functionality that has been provided by Azure Automation State Configuration (also known as Azure Automation Desired State Configuration, or AADSC). When possible, you should plan to move your content and machines to the new service. This article provides guidance on developing a migration strategy from Azure Automation to machine configuration.

New features in machine configuration address customer requests:

  • Increased size limit for configurations to 100 MB
  • Advanced reporting through Azure Resource Graph including resource ID and state
  • Manage multiple configurations for the same machine
  • When machines drift from the desired state, you control when remediation occurs
  • Linux and Windows both consume PowerShell-based DSC resources

Before you begin, it's a good idea to read the conceptual overview information at the page Azure Policy's machine configuration.

Understand migration

The best approach to migration is to redeploy content first, and then migrate machines. This section outlines the expected steps for migration.

  1. Export configurations from Azure Automation
  2. Discover module requirements and load them in your environment
  3. Compile configurations
  4. Create and publish machine configuration packages
  5. Test machine configuration packages
  6. Onboard hybrid machines to Azure Arc
  7. Unregister servers from Azure Automation State Configuration
  8. Assign configurations to servers using machine configuration

Machine configuration uses DSC version 3 with PowerShell version 7. DSC version 3 can coexist with older versions of DSC in Windows and Linux. The implementations are separate. However, there's no conflict detection.

Machine configuration doesn't require publishing modules or configurations in to a service, or compiling in a service. Instead, you develop and test content using purpose-built tooling and publish the content anywhere the machine can reach over HTTPS (typically Azure Blob Storage).

If you decide to have machines in both services for some period of time, there are no technical barriers. The two services are independent.

Export content from Azure Automation

Start by discovering and exporting content from Azure Automation State Configuration into a development environment where you create, test, and publish content packages for machine configuration.


You can only export configuration scripts from Azure Automation. It isn't possible to export node configurations, or compiled MOF files. If you published MOF files directly into the Automation Account and no longer have access to the original file, you need to recompile from your private configuration scripts. If you can't find the original configuration, you must reauthor it.

To export configuration scripts from Azure Automation, first identify the Azure Automation account that has the configurations and the name of the Resource Group the Automation Account is deployed in.

Install the PowerShell module Az.Automation.

Install-Module -Name Az.Automation

Next, use the Get-AzAutomationAccount command to identify your Automation Accounts and the Resource Group where they're deployed. The properties ResourceGroupName and AutomationAccountName are important for next steps.

SubscriptionId        : <your-subscription-id>
ResourceGroupName     : <your-resource-group-name>
AutomationAccountName : <your-automation-account-name>
Location              : centralus
State                 :
Plan                  :
CreationTime          : 6/30/2021 11:56:17 AM -05:00
LastModifiedTime      : 6/30/2021 11:56:17 AM -05:00
LastModifiedBy        :
Tags                  : {}

Discover the configurations in your Automation Account. The output has one entry per configuration. If you have many, store the information as a variable so it's easier to work with.

$getParams = @{
    ResourceGroupName     = '<your-resource-group-name>'
    AutomationAccountName = '<your-automation-account-name>'

Get-AzAutomationDscConfiguration @getParams
ResourceGroupName     : <your-resource-group-name>
AutomationAccountName : <your-automation-account-name>
Location              : centralus
State                 : Published
Name                  : <your-configuration-name>
Tags                  : {}
CreationTime          : 6/30/2021 12:18:26 PM -05:00
LastModifiedTime      : 6/30/2021 12:18:26 PM -05:00
Description           :
Parameters            : {}
LogVerbose            : False

Finally, export each configuration to a local script file using the command Export-AzAutomationDscConfiguration. The resulting file name uses the pattern \ConfigurationName.ps1.

$exportParams = @{
    OutputFolder          = '<location-on-your-machine>'
    ResourceGroupName     = '<your-resource-group-name>'
    AutomationAccountName = '<your-automation-account-name>'
    Name                  = '<your-configuration-name>'
Export-AzAutomationDscConfiguration @exportParams
UnixMode   User             Group                 LastWriteTime           Size Name
--------   ----             -----                 -------------           ---- ----
                                               12/31/1600 18:09

Export configurations using the PowerShell pipeline

After you've discovered your accounts and the number of configurations, you might wish to export all configurations to a local folder on your machine. To automate this process, pipe the output of each command in the earlier examples to the next command.

The example exports five configurations. The output pattern is the only indicator of success.

Get-AzAutomationAccount |
    Get-AzAutomationDscConfiguration |
    Export-AzAutomationDSCConfiguration -OutputFolder <location on your machine>
UnixMode   User             Group                 LastWriteTime           Size Name
--------   ----             -----                 -------------           ---- ----
                                               12/31/1600 18:09
                                               12/31/1600 18:09
                                               12/31/1600 18:09
                                               12/31/1600 18:09
                                               12/31/1600 18:09

Consider decomposing complex configuration files

Machine configuration can manage more than one configuration per machine. Many configurations written for Azure Automation State Configuration assumed the limitation of managing a single configuration per machine. To take advantage of the expanded capabilities offered by machine configuration, you can divide large configuration files into many smaller configurations where each handles a specific scenario.

There's no orchestration in machine configuration to control the order of how configurations are sorted. Keep steps in a configuration together in one package if they're required to happen sequentially.


It isn't possible to export modules from Azure Automation or automatically correlate which configurations require which modules and versions. You must have the modules in your local environment to create a new machine configuration package. To create a list of modules you need for migration, use PowerShell to query Azure Automation for the name and version of modules.

If you're using modules that are custom authored and only exist in your private development environment, it isn't possible to export them from Azure Automation.

If you can't find a custom module in your environment that's required for a configuration and in the account, you can't compile the configuration. Therefore, you can't migrate the configuration.

List modules imported in Azure Automation

To retrieve a list of all modules installed in your automation account, use the Get-AzAutomationModule command. The property IsGlobal tells you if the module is built into Azure Automation always, or if it was published to the account.

For example, to create a list of all modules published to any of your accounts.

Get-AzAutomationAccount |
    Get-AzAutomationModule |
    Where-Object IsGlobal -eq $false

You can also use the PowerShell Gallery as an aid in finding details about modules that are publicly available. The following example lists the modules that are built into new Automation Accounts and contain DSC resources.

Get-AzAutomationAccount |
    Get-AzAutomationModule |
    Where-Object IsGlobal -eq $true |
    Find-Module -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue |
    Where-Object {'' -ne $_.Includes.DscResource} |
    Select-Object -Property Name, Version -Unique |
    Format-Table -AutoSize
Name                       Version
----                       -------
AuditPolicyDsc             1.4.0
ComputerManagementDsc      8.4.0
PSDscResources             2.12.0
SecurityPolicyDsc          2.10.0
xDSCDomainjoin             1.2.23

If the modules were imported from the PowerShell Gallery, you can pipe the output from Find-Module directly to Install-Module. Piping the output across commands provides a solution to load a developer environment with all modules currently in an Automation Account if they're available in the PowerShell Gallery.

You can use the same approach to pull modules from a custom NuGet feed if you have registered the feed in your local environment as a PowerShellGet repository.

The Find-Module command in this example doesn't suppress errors, meaning any modules not found in the gallery return an error message.

Get-AzAutomationAccount |
    Get-AzAutomationModule |
    Where-Object IsGlobal -eq $false |
    Find-Module |
    Where-Object { '' -ne $_.Includes.DscResource } |

Inspecting configuration scripts for module requirements

If you've exported configuration scripts from Azure Automation, you can also review the contents for details about which modules are required to compile each configuration to a MOF file. This approach is only needed if you find configurations in your Automation Accounts where the modules have been removed. The configurations would no longer be useful for machines, but they might still be in the account.

Towards the top of each file, look for a line that includes Import-DscResource. This command is only applicable inside a configuration, and it's used to load modules at the time of compilation.

For example, the WindowsIISServerConfig configuration in the PowerShell Gallery has the lines in this example.

configuration WindowsIISServerConfig

Import-DscResource -ModuleName @{ModuleName = 'xWebAdministration';ModuleVersion = ''}
Import-DscResource -ModuleName 'PSDesiredStateConfiguration'

The configuration requires you to have the xWebAdministration module version and the module PSDesiredStateConfiguration.

Test content in Azure machine configuration

To evaluate whether you can use your content from Azure Automation State Configuration with machine configuration, follow the step-by-step tutorial in the page How to create custom machine configuration package artifacts.

When you reach the step Author a configuration, the configuration script that generates a MOF file should be one of the scripts you exported from Azure Automation State Configuration. You must have the required PowerShell modules installed in your environment before you can compile the configuration to a MOF file and create a machine configuration package.

What if a module doesn't work with machine configuration?

Some modules might have compatibility issues with machine configuration. The most common problems are related to .NET framework vs .NET core. Detailed technical information is available on the page, Differences between Windows PowerShell 5.1 and PowerShell 7.x.

One option to resolve compatibility issues is to run commands in Windows PowerShell from within a module that's imported in PowerShell 7, by running powershell.exe. You can review a sample module that uses this technique in the Azure-Policy repository where it's used to audit the state of Windows DSC Configuration.

The example also illustrates a small proof of concept.

# example function that could be loaded from module
function New-TaskResolvedInPWSH7 {
    # runs the fictitious command 'Get-myNotCompatibleCommand' in Windows PowerShell
    $compatObject = & powershell.exe -NoProfile -NonInteractive -Command {
    # resulting object can be used in PowerShell 7
    return $compatObject

Do I need to add the Reasons property to Get-TargetResource in all modules I migrate?

Implementing the Reasons property provides a better experience when viewing the results of a configuration assignment from the Azure portal. If the Get method in a module doesn't include Reasons, generic output is returned with details from the properties returned by the Get method. Therefore, it's optional for migration.


After you've finished testing content from Azure Automation State Configuration in machine configuration, develop a plan for migrating machines.

Azure Automation State Configuration is available for both virtual machines in Azure and hybrid machines located outside of Azure. You must plan for each of these scenarios using different steps.

Azure VMs

Azure virtual machines already have a resource in Azure, which means they're ready for machine configuration assignments that associate them with a configuration. The high-level tasks for migrating Azure virtual machines are to remove them from Azure Automation State Configuration and then assign configurations using machine configuration.

To remove a machine from Azure Automation State Configuration, follow the steps in the page How to remove a configuration and node from Automation State Configuration.

To assign configurations using machine configuration, follow the steps in the Azure Policy Quickstarts, such as Quickstart: Create a policy assignment to identify non-compliant resources. In step 6 when selecting a policy definition, pick the definition that applies a configuration you migrated from Azure Automation State Configuration.

Hybrid machines

Machines outside of Azure can be registered to Azure Automation State Configuration, but they don't have a machine resource in Azure. The Local Configuration Manager (LCM) service inside the machine handles the connection to Azure Automation. The record of the node is managed as a resource in the Azure Automation provider type.

Before removing a machine from Azure Automation State Configuration, onboard each node as an Azure Arc-enabled server. Onboarding to Azure Arc creates a machine resource in Azure so Azure Policy can manage the machine. The machine can be onboarded to Azure Arc at any time, but you can use Azure Automation State Configuration to automate the process.

Troubleshooting issues when exporting content

Details about known issues are provided in this section.

Exporting configurations results in "\" character in file name

When using PowerShell on macOS and Linux, you may have issues dealing with the file names output by Export-AzAutomationDSCConfiguration.

As a workaround, a module has been published to the PowerShell Gallery named AADSCConfigContent. The module has only one command, which exports the content of a configuration stored in Azure Automation by making a REST request to the service.

Next steps