Microsoft Application Approval Workflow Available for Download

Just arrived in my inbox:

The Microsoft Solution Accelerators Team is pleased to announce that Microsoft Application Approval Workflow is now available for download

The Application Approval Workflow (AAW) takes an application request submitted through the System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Application Catalog and transforms it into a System Center 2012 – Service Manager service request, allowing flexible approval lists and activities.      

The AAW illustrates the integration of the components of System Center 2012, taking the basic functionality of the ConfigMgr 2012 Application Catalog and extending it into the Service Catalog of Service Manager.

Key feature list:

  • Sync Configuration Manager applications data into the Service Manager database.
  • Monitor and transport Configuration Manager Application Catalog requests requiring approval to Service Manager and open a service request.
  • Return the completed approval workflow status to Configuration Manager for handling.
  • Allow administrators to define and maintain application selection criteria for specific applications or application groups and specific users or user groups.
  • Track service application requests and view application catalog contents in Service Manager.

Want to Consult on System Center 2012? Then You Cannot Avoid Service Manager or Orchestrator

In the “2007” generation of System Center (how I refer to the last generation of the suite including the 2010 and 2008 R2 products), I quite happily avoided Opalis (which I was quite vocal about not liking) and Service Manager (which was quite rightly a niche product).  I put my focus on VMM, ConfigMgr, OpsMgr, and a little DPM.

Folks, the game has changed.  It’s one thing to hear MSFT marketing talk about it, or to hear it for 5 days straight at a conference.  But it’s something completely different when customers are demanding it.  Organisations want a service centric IT department with self-service, automation, governance, deep monitoring, and …. and … you get the picture. 

That means 2 things:

  • You need System Center 2012 Orchestrator for the automation and deep integration into the rest of System Center, AD, and 3rd party products
  • You need System Center 2012 Service Manager as a portal to the IT department and the service catalogue that it provides

At MMS we just had one session after another that illustrated how some business scenario could be dealt with using some component(s) of System Center in combination with the above two products.  Every time, the user would request a service in Service Manager, Orchestrator would orchestrate the tasks, and the rest of System Center would implement the desired changes, possibly requiring some manual approval via a service ticket.

With this huge increase in demand, I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot avoid Service Manager or Orchestrator anymore.  They’re very different to the “2007” generation of the same products, and people are aware of the need for solutions that do what these products do.  With those two products gluing the rest of System Center together, you can have an incredible service delivery from your (or your customers’) IT organisation.  I will have to learn these two products.  Damn you Microsoft!  Now I need to learn:

  • Windows 8
  • Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V
  • Pretty much all of System Center 2012
  • And let’s not forget that Office wave 15 beta is around the corner


MMS2012 – SC 2012 VMM: PowerShell Is Your Friend, And Here’s Why

Speakers: Hector Linares, Senior Program Manager and Susan Hill, Senior Technical Writer, MSFT

Went from 162 cmdlets in VMM 2008 R2 to 438 in VMM 2012.  They maintained backwards compatibility through aliases.  The cmdlets got renamed so they don’t conflict with the new Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V cmdlets.

POSH is the driving force for the UI.  Cmdlets are executed as jobs in VMM so there’s an audit trail.  Other partners, e.g. TFS or XenDesktop, integrates with VMM cmdlets for deployment.

Overview of VMM 2012 system

  • Infrastructure: HA VMM Server, PowerShell, Upgrade, Custom Properties
  • Fabric: Server lifecycle management, multiple hypervisors, network management, storage management, dynamic optimisation.
  • Clouds: An abstraction of fabrics.  Application ower usage, capacity and capability, delegation and quota.
  • Services: Service templates, application deployment, customer command execution, image-based servicing.

Cmdlet groups: 46 nouns

  • get-command –module VirtualMachinemanager –commandtype cmdlet
  • get-scvirtualmachine
  • Now you run read-SCvirtualmachine to do a refresh
  • Repair-scvirtualmachine wil do the repair action.
  • Stop-scvirtualmachine takes more parameters, e.g. stop (cold), save state, or clean shutdown
  • Register-sCVMHost to register a bare metal host.
  • Restart-SCVMHost to reboot a host.
  • Test-SCVMHostCluster to run a cluster validation.

Domain Join for VM

You can use –DomainJoinOrganizationalUnit “ou=, dc=” to set where a new VM joins in a domain.

-AutolongCredential to  set autologon account and –AutoLogonCount to say how many times that will run.

These must be set at the same time.  You can clean up with disableautologon.


Looks like we can use this to customise an unattend.xml for Specialize (3) and OOBE (6) passes.  Use Add)key,value) to add settings.

  • $unattend.add
  • $unattend.remove

Your settings will override settings in GuestOSProfile or VMTemplate.  You have to commit the settings with set-scvmtemplate (I think – quick slides) to use them.


In the demo, he wants to override a template.  He gets the template.  Now he creates a new temporary template.  He sets the OU for it to join to.  He creates runas account as the account he’ll use for building the VM.  He uses that for autologon.  He get’s the unattend object.  No he adds a bunch of overrides to the template using $unattend.add().  set-scvmtemplate – vmtemplate $template –UnanntedSettings $unattend) | Out-Null commits the overrides.  They create a $vmconfig using new-scmconfiguration –vmtemplate $template –Name ($vmNamePrefix + @_config@)) | fl Name. 

VMM still doesn’t have the ability to create differencing disks so you have to use WMI to do it instead.  Apparently this has been blogged. 

He sets the disk name and location.  This can be done on a per disk basis.  In this cmdlet he’s told it to use an existing VHD he just created using WMI. 

Virtual Machine Configuration

You can create a VM config so you can deploy very specific VM configs, different from the defaults.  $VHD to get-scvirtualharddisk from the library.  Then set$storageclass viariable with get-scstorageclassification.  Now $ComputeTier with get-sccomputertier.  Then $VMconfig with new-scvmconfiguration and the $computertier variable.  $vhdconfig and get-scvirtualharddiskconfiguration and $vmconfig.  setscvirtualharddiskconfiguration and $vhdconfig and $vhd and $storageclass. 

Now $virtualnetworkadatperconfig = get-scvirtualnetworkadapterconfiguration.  Setscvirtunetworkadapterconfiguration with $virtualnetadapterconfiguration.  And then more stuff.  Download the slide deck when it comes out in a few days.

Basically you build up a VM config and then you create a VM from that config.

There is a script on the net that will automatically sign the scripts in your VMM library.  It was written for 2008 R2.

We’re shown a demo where a script checks for expired (by date) VMs and stores them in the VMM library.

Hyper-V Data Exchange

Can read and set the KVPs in the VM.  Can read data from a VM without using the network via read.  Can pass in string values to a VM regardless of power state with Set.  A Key is a registry VALUE create to store DATA.  The value is the DATA.  And a KVPMAP is a hash table is one ore more VALUEs or DATA.

Cool demo where Hector writes to the registry of the VM in different power states (on, off, paused, save state).


Jobs submitted to VMM using –RunAsynchronously from one or more runspaces.  Hundreds of parallel jobs.  Typically used in the morning bootstorm in VDI.

VMM 2012 has a concept of threadpools.  By default it handles 25 threads per core in the VMM server with a max of 150 (requires a monster VMM server).  High number of context switches can slow performance of the VMM server.  The WCF timeout is configurable (default of 120 seconds).  Monitor the performance of jobs if you increase threadpools.

If you run asynchronously then query the job object for status.  For higher throughput, use multiple threads with multiple runspaces.

Make sure you tune the VMM refreshers in VDI, and also in very large static environments.  4000 VMs doing a light refresh every 2 minutes and a ful refresh every 30 minutes will hammer the VMM server. 


Service Manager 2012 “Service Ticketing”

Import Management Packs

  • Service Manager CMDB can become aware of your environment from OpsMgr if:
  • You import MP in OPsMgr
  • AND import MP in Service Manager
  • ConfigMgr data is pulled in, including primary devices for users
  • AD
  • Orchestrator runbooks are also importable: LOB and 3rd party management tools

Other options:

  • Import files
  • Write/buy 3rd party connectors

Some sets of data can come from multiple sources.  All that’s mapped into one object in the CMDB. 

Self Service Portal Features

Service Catalog, Silverlight web part hosted in SharePoint:

  • Role based access
  • Users fill forms to create service requests
  • Dynamic forms

Help Articles and more

Supported Configurations:

  • SharePoint site and WCS (web content server) co-located with SM management server
  • SharePoint site and/or WCS remote from SM management server

Can use SharePoint Foundation 2010 or Enterprise.  Can reuse existing SP farms.


A user wants access to an app and fills out a form requesting it and gives a business case.  A ticket is created, and awaits an approval/rejection.  The helpdesk admin can see the ticket with available actions in the portal.  Click approve and the automated activity does the work, in this case adding the requestor to a security group in AD.

He browses the now accessible web app.  But it crashes.  So now he opens an incident ticket. 

SLA Capabilities

  • Features calendars, business hours, holidays.  SLA metrics in the box.
  • Service level objects are supported for all work items.  Specify target and warning thresholds. 
  • Notifications when you are about to or have breached SLAs.


He opens the previous incident.  We can see there is an SLO (service level objective) in the form of time left until SLA is breached.  This is defined in Administration, Service Level Management, Service Level Objectives. 



Why We Fail–Or How An Architect Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Cloud

Alex Juch, Architect, NetApp

Everyone wants cloud. No one knows what cloud is.

  • Gartner: 78% of IT shops will deploy a private cloud computing strategy by 2014.
  • CIO.COM: “62% of all IT projects fail”

You will fail if you approach this project as a technology project.  The architect needs to sell this as a business solution.  Architecture is the intersection between technology and business.

Reduce your risk:

  • Business risk: people and process, managed portfolios, IT/business alignment.
  • Technical risk: use reference architecture, platform bundles.

The customer must want to do this, you cannot coax/tease them into it.  Too much change in mindset and established process.

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.  I gave up listening, VPNed into the lab, and continued building a lab for work, happily finding that my COnfigMgr clients were pushed out, updates were downloading, Endpoint was deployed and updated, and I build a few collections and deployed some AV policy.

MMS Keynote Day 1: Are You Ready For The Future, Now?

It opens with a movie trailer about the IT Pro, and up jumps Brad Anderson.

Continuous services and connected devices.  For every 600 phones, 1 server is stood up to support them.  It’s 100/1 for desktops.

This year, the number of virtual OS instances will be double the number of physical instances.  The industry needs to get better and managing these rapidly deploying virtual instances.  This is a shift beyond virtualisation to cloud computing.

Their cloud definition is:

  • Pooled resources
  • Self-service
  • Elastic
  • Usage-based

Similar to NIST definition.  Cloud is not defined by location, e.g. there is public, private, and hybrid cloud.  See chapter 1 of Microsoft Private Cloud Computing for more.  If there is 1 tenant, it is private.  If there >1 tenant then it is a public cloud …. not strictly true on NIST definition, but close.

Drivers of cloud:

  • Economy
  • Flexibility
  • Scalability

No substitute for experience.  MSFT is the only company operating public and a private cloud services for their customers.

The 4 common techs are:

  • Identity
  • Virtualisation
  • Management
  • Development

Rest of session is focusing on Private Cloud = Windows Server and System Center.  We get the announcement of GA for System Center …. 2 weeks after the actual GA.  Simplification was a big focus, from licensing, to deployment, to administration. 

100,000 servers were managed by the release candidate of System Center 2012.

Fast Track

Private Cloud configurations that are certified by MSFT, provided as out of the box solutions by the likes of HP.

Agile Resource Management

Vijay Tewari comes out to demo.  vSphere 4.0 and XenServer are managed by VMM 2012.  Multi-platform clouds.  He goes through the process of doing a bare metal Hyper-V deployment on some HP DL servers via iLO.  Funny video of Vijay going to Blue Man Group and swimming while his hosts build – automation takes care of the time consuming repetitive work.

Agile Service Level Delivery

Ryan O’Hara is on stage.  We get some smooth does some demos with Service Manager reaching into the rest of System Center to deploy a service, and then OpsMgr detecting a breach of SLA so it can scale out the service automatically via VMM service template.

Back to Brad.  System Center understands the environment thanks to partner extensions.  Application monitoring gives deep insight into J2EE and .Net apps to avoid the admin VS dev finger pointing when there is a problem.

Ryan demos an app breaching SLA in OpsMgr.  Then he goes into App Monitoring to diagnose where in the code the problem is.


The MCSE is back. Ugh!  Private cloud certification. 

Windows Server 2012

Here comes the announcement.  Want to learn more

Jeff Woolsey comes out.  He’s the head PM for Hyper-V.  This is a cloud platform release.  Lots of stuff that I previously blogged.  We see shared nothing live migration in VMM 2012 SP1.  There’s a problem in the demo … the memory LM takes waaay too long for a 2 GB RAM VM.  No one seems to notice.

Now we see network virtualisation where 2 VMs have the same IP on the same cloud, but are still routing.

App Controller

A new SP1 feature where you can integrate with any hoster that offers the service.  You can integrate your cloud with their private cloud and deploy services in their public cloud.

The Microsoft Private Cloud

  • All about the app
  • Cross platform from the metal up
  • Foundation for the future
  • Cloud on your terms

Winners lead, don’t follow.

Top 10 Production Experiences With Service Manager and Orchestrator

Speaker: Nathan Lasnoski, MVP

Focus is on Service Manager and Orchestrator.

Yu can transform a business in a way that other technology projects cannot.  These two products are transformative technologies.  Leads to process definition, cut through sacred cows, improve efficiency, and enable users to do what they are really interested in.


  • Processes are more clear
  • Common tasks are automated
  • People do tasks that use their skills
  • Time and resource spend is transparent

1) How to get started

Include the right people.  This is not just an IT project.  Examples of people to include: service desk manager, system center tech lead, IT leadership …. need a champion in the business with some influence.  Including the right people = success.  Not just a tech project and not just an ITIL project. 

2) Choose processes strategically

Look for the processes that have the biggest payoff.  They are the quick and influential wins.

  • Incident management
  • Service request management
  • Change management
  • Risk and compliance

3) Plan to transform process

A great tool doesn’t make a bad process better.  This is an opportunity to improve processes.

4) Plan requests first

Plan first, build later.

what are the questions you need to ask in the forms?  What data do you need to automate a process?  Organize the components and responsibilities.

5) Create a service catalogue

Everything IT does should end up in the service catalogue.  Use it to service both IT and end user requests.  Use service manager roles to constrain access.

SharePoint choices:  Enterprise edition gives PerformancePoint, but Foundation doesn’t. 

6) Don’t forget abut BI and reports

This might be the only view that the decision maker has of the system.  Ask the business decision maker (BDM) what it is they want to know.

7) Size your environment correctly

This requires big iron.  Minimum deployment is 4 servers.  Service Manager management server, datwarehouse + SQL, web server, and Orchestrator.  Can have additional management servers and web portals.  Could cluster datawarehouse. 

8) Have a development environment

Build and test in here.  Check performance!  Version control your management packs. 

9) Don’t Forget Training

Get buy-in by including people early in the planning.  Show ROI and why this system is good for them.  Train on what is relevant to them in the system.  ITIL/MOF important for implementers. 

10) Use a phased approach

Don’t try to do the whole thing at once.  Succeed end-to-end on each process.  Something always comes up; plan for that.  Check your can-do attitude – new requests can be done later.  Watch out for “tangents”.  Small chunks of measured and planned work are the key to success.

Survey Finds That vmLimited Customers Prefer Big Cat Wallpapers On Their OS/2 Warp Desktops

A recent survey found that vmLimited customers preferred to use images of big cats for their OS/2 Warp desktop wallpaper.  The same survey found that they also preferred the Phil Collins MiniDisc over the Mariah Carey one.

On the other hand, it was found that System Center 2012 customers preferred to look at dashboards that depicted the health of their private cloud and applications.

Are You vmLimited Like Tad? Go Ahead Punk, Make Me Laugh & Pay Your vTax


Meet Tad, he’s a salesman for vmLimited, a company that cannot see beyond virtualisation. 



As any decent IT pro knows, the thing that the company cares about is not that tiny little virtualisation layer, but they do care greatly about the LOB apps that run on the virtualisation platform.  What does Tad think of that?

If you think you’re a cool a cat as Tad thinks he is, then maybe you should get to know him a little more by buying one of his blast-to-the-past tapes:


So if you don’t care about the app, if you cannot see beyond virtualisation, if you want to pay not just more, but to be paying a crippling vTax, if you don’t give a damn about the business, and if you can find them, then maybe vmLimited is the platform for you!  How A-Team is that!  I’d sure hate to be a decision maker making that unwise move!

Alternatively, you might want to check out System Center 2012 and where Windows Server 8 Hyper-V is bringing us in just a few months … beyond virtualisation.


On a serious note, the VMware approach reminds me of what I had to work with in the 1990’s … buy up a bunch of systems management point solutions in a short period of time, stuck a –IT on the end of the name, or an A+, or a v- in front of it, call it a framework, say it’s integrated (the logos are changed and grouped together [maybe]) and Bob’s your Uncle.

System Center 2012 RTM is Available To Download

I just saw a tweet by Anthony Crotty where he said:

Stumbled across the System Center 2012 Suite on the Volume License website

So I just checked and ….


… there it is.  I just checked MSDN but it is not there yet.  Your distributor or LAR should have pricing as of this morning – we did, as well as for the new CIS license.

That explains the glut of System Center 2012 downloads that came out overnight and continue to appear today on the Downloads site.


Thanks to Wilbour Craddock for this: TechNet and MSDN now have System Center 2012 available for download.

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