Event: TechCamp 2014 On June 19/20 In Dublin

Another community event is coming on June 19th and 20th in Citywest in Dublin. This time, with TechCamp 2014, we’re switching to a more “here’s how to do it” style of presentation. Based on feedback, we’ll have 1 track per day, over 2 days. Day 1 (June 19th) will focus on Hybrid Cloud, mixing Windows Server, System Center, and Microsoft Azure content into one track. On day 2 (June 20th) the focus switches over to the public cloud, and products like Office 365 and Windows Intune.

Most of the speakers are MVPs sharing their knowledge and experience with these technologies, with keynotes by local Microsoft product-line managers.

You can choose to register for either or both days.

Please retweet, post on Facebook, LinkedIn, share with workmates, customers, etc.


Presentation – Microsoft Azure And Hybrid Cloud

I recently presented in the MicroWarehouse and Microsoft Ireland road show to Irish Microsoft partners on the topic of the Cloud OS, comprised of Azure, Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V, and System Center 2012 R2. You can find the slide deck below.


UR1 For System Center 2012 R2 Is Available – Be Careful

Microsoft has released Update Rollup 1 for System Center 2012 R2, covering everything except Endpoint Protection and Configuration Manager (they’re almost a separate group).

As usual with update rollups, I would caution you to let others download, install, and test this rollup. Don’t approve it for deployment for another month. And even then, make sure you read each product’s documentation before doing an installation.

Those who lived through URs over the last 12-18 months will remember that System Center had as bad, if not worse, time than Windows Server 2012 with these Update Rollups.


Update Rollup 5 for System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 was also released. The same advice applies; don’t deploy for 1 month and let others be the guinea pigs.

Windows Server and System Center 2012 R2 Previews Are Available

It’s all over social media this morning; You can download WSSC 2012 R2 (That’s WS2012 R2 and SC/SysCtr 2012 R2) from TechNet and MSDN right now.  The previews for the following are available now:

  • Hyper-V Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials
  • Windows server 2012 R2 Datacenter
  • System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager (x86 and x64)
  • System Center 2012 R2 Service Manager (x86 and x64)
  • System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager (x86 and x64)
  • System Center 2012 R2 App Controller (x86 and x64)
  • System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager (x86 and x64)
  • System Center 2012 R2 Orchestrator (x86 and x64)
  • System Center 2012 R2 Operations Manager (x86 and x64)
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Virtual Machine
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Core

SQL Server 2014 CTP1 is also up there for you to test.


Remember that these are preview releases – that’s like a beta (the product is not finished and has no support unless you are in a MSFT supervised TAP program) but without the feedback mechanism of a beta.  Do not use these preview releases in production!

I have the bits downloading now.  I’m on a customer site today so I don’t know if I’ll be deploying the bits or not until tomorrow.

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


MMS 2012: Automating Data Protection And Recovery With DPM and System Center 2012

Speakers: Orin Thomas and Mike Ressler

Replication is not the same as backup.  Lose it in site A = lose it in site B.  Backup is still required.  And backup provisioning in the private cloud is a challenge cos admins don’t know what’s being deployed.

DPM is a part of system center, a part of a holistic integrated solution.  Makes it perfect for provisioning in the private cloud.

How Will The Agent Get Deployed?

  • Make it part of image
  • GPO for an OU
  • Scripting or manually
  • Use Configuration Manager
  • And probably lots more options, e.g. a runbook fired off from Service Manager

Their solution is user goes to Service Manager, creates a request, and Orchestrator runs a runbook.  Their is a DPM Integration Pack.  It’s a confusing IP apparently. 

  1. Initialize Data: Add parameters – ServerName, DatabaseName, and Type (3 types of protection group in DPM such as gold, silver, and bronze for recovery points, retention, etc).
  2. Get Data Source (renamed as Get Protection Group): Data Source Location set as protection group and select Type
  3. Get Data Source (get server ID) – choose protection server and select ServerName
  4. Get Data Source (renamed as Get Data Source ID) – DPM, Get protection server name and filter to DatabaseName to protect a single DB, could have said type = SQL to protect all DBs.
  5. Protect Data Source: Protection Group = Get Protection Group
  6. Create Recovery – Something.

Yup, it’s confusing.  Go look at the videos when the guys tweet the link.

Keep the self-service simple.  If there’s more than a few questions, the user won’t do it and they’ll blame you when data isn’t protected and it’s lost.

There’s a bunch of Service Manager stuff after this.

MMS2012 – System Center 2012 Monitoring and Operations Tips and Advice

Speaker: Gordon McKenna and Sean Roberts, Inframon

I’m live blogging this session so hit refresh to see more.

Private Cloud MOC and Certification

New exams and certifications.  70-246 Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud.  70-247 Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud.

  • MCSA + 70-246 + 70-247 = MCSE: Private Cloud
  • 70-640 + 70-642 + 70-646 = MCSA

The two training courses are available now.

10750 – Module 4: Monitoring Private Cloud Services

To do J2EE APM you download an opensource Java bean.  OpsMgr network monitoring is network monitoring for server guys. Existing solutions for network guys won’t be replaced.  OpsMgr network monitoring gives the server guys the tools to find a troublesome link/device and enable them to tell the n/w guys.  Port stitching figures out what ports your monitored servers are talking to and shows that to you.

MP Templates are a good starting point.  Check out the new Visio tool and the MP Authoring tool (latter requires significant time investment). 

Distributed Application Monitoring

A new distributed application monitoring tool.  3 types of line:

  • Reference relationship: no impact … dotted line
  • Hosted relationship, e.g. database hosted by database instance.  Health will roll up.
  • Containment: Group of servers.  With aggregate rollup monitor, server goes red, group goes red.

Note that default management pack is no longer there!  Forces you to save your authoring in a suitable MP.  Yay!

Health rolls up to 1 of 4 things:

  • Availability
  • Performance
  • Configuration
  • Security

We can configure the rollup to go up to a level of our choice, e.g. don’t roll up or roll up to top level of distributed application.

  • Presentation Tier – anything user sees
  • Business Tier: back or middle tiers.

Creates a service level dashboard for the new MP based on the distributed app model.  Add the OpsMgr dashboard viewer and adds the webpart into SharePoint.  Grab the URL of the dashboard link in OpsMgr and edit the web part properties to paste the Dashboard link.  Now the SLA dashboard appears in SharePoint.


  • Always build out service models in the DAD (distributed application developer).  Good eye candy wins prizes!  I concur – have personal experience of that.
  • Use three tier service models that match your business functions
  • Use MP templates for true pro-active monitoring
  • Use APM to stop developer VS IT Pro arguments
  • Create a dedicate SharePoint portal for dashboard and reports

10750 – Automating Incident Creation, Remediation, and Change Requests

Orchestrator components:

  • Orchestration console on IIS (Silverlight)
  • Runbook server(s): usually local to servers
  • Management server running Runbook designed and deployment manager
  • SQL DB

Download integration pack, register it with management server, deploy IP to runbook servers, open Runbook Designer to use it.

Install OpsMgr R2 integration pack  Define a connection to the OpsMgr server.  You then have the actions available to use.  Do the same for Service Manager.

Demo with web service crashing and auto remediation.  OpsMgr detects event.  Orchestrator waits for that event.  It tries to restart the event.  Creates ticket to auto restart IIS.  If that fails, it lodges a ticket in Service Manager for manual OK to reboot the server.

Opens up Runbook designer.  Browses into Runbooks and we see the book in question.  Runs the runbook tester, toggles break point, and runs it.  Now he stops the website.  The runbook kicks off, and they step through the actions.  We get into Service Manager where there’s a change request for a reboot.  That’s approved and the web server is rebooted.

Note: there is a maximum of 50 running runbooks on a Runbook Server.

When configuring a runbook

  • Handle failure and warning links
  • Replace the default strings
  • Change link colours
  • Limit the number of activities for each Runbook
  • Enable runbook logs to an external file

10750 – Module 7: Problem Management In The Private Cloud

Incident = one time occurrence that can be handled by an operator.  Problem is more complex, e.g. engineering issue that requires escalation.

Information stored in Problem Log in Service Manager.  Another demo of automated problem record creation.  An alert will come in in OpsMgr for a DB that goes offline.  The alert auto pipes in as an incident in Service Manager.  Many instances of it in the demo.  It’s a problem.  A problem record is manually created from these incidents.  He fills in information in the New Problem form. 

Now he kills the DB again. 

There’s a runbook that is looking for occurrences of that incident.  It’ll get the service details and the incidents for this service, output data to text file, count lines, if there’s more than X occurrences then it will create a problem based on the data in the file.  This workflow replaces the above manual task for this particular incident.

Hints and tips

  • Target object and classes and use groups to override
  • Be aware of the inheritance for each class
  • Limit the size and activity of a runbook
  • Download and use the Cloud Processes Pack.  Create request driven processes for many cloud services functions such as project, capacity pools, and virtual machines.  Can introduce the concept of charge back billing.  Supplies cloud service runbooks.  Project = collection of capacity pools.


System Center 2012 Technical Documentation Downloads

Smell that?  We’re getting close to release!  Microsoft has released a bunch of technical documentation downloads for System Center 2012:

And there’s a lot of related downloads available too:

  • Microsoft Security Compliance Manager: Take advantage of the experience of Microsoft security professionals, and reduce the time and money required to harden your environment. This end-to-end Solution Accelerator will help you plan, deploy, operate, and manage your security baselines for Windows client and server operating systems, and Microsoft applications. Access the complete database of Microsoft recommended security settings, customize your baselines, and then choose from multiple formats—including XLS, Group Policy objects (GPOs), Desired Configuration Management (DCM) packs, or Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP)—to export the baselines to your environment to automate the security baseline deployment and compliance verification process. Use the Security Compliance Manager to achieve a secure, reliable, and centralized IT environment that will help you better balance your organization’s needs for security and functionality.
  • System Center 2012 – Service Manager Component Add-ons and Extensions: Download and install add-ons and extensions for the System Center 2012 – Service Manager component.
  • System Center 2012 – Orchestrator Component Add-ons and Extensions: Download and install add-ons and extensions for the System Center 2012 – Orchestrator component.

And there are some new management packs too!  Check the catalog, read the documentation, prep, download, import, and configure as specified in that documentation you made sure to read first, rather than lazily importing the management packs via the import GUI and hoping for the best Smile