Thursday, March 12, 2015

'Unlock the Value of System Center and Azure Pack' - Free Online Event - Register Now

On Friday March 20th, Microsoft are running a free online education and training event titled 'Unlock the Value of System Center and Azure Pack'.

The event comprises eight sessions delivered by well known System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP's from across the UK and Ireland.

The content presented aims to help you understand how the professionals plan, deploy and use System Center and Windows Azure Pack to make IT service management processes and tasks easier.
Here's a run-down of the agenda for the day:

09.30 Cloud Platform and System Center Keynote – Chris van Wesep from Microsoft Corp

09.35-10.15 Key Management Scenarios – What you can do with System Center – Damian Flynn

10.30-11.25 Deploy System Center in a matter of days – Steve Beaumont

11.30-12.30 Provision and Configure your Datacenter Fabric Infrastructure – Simon Skinner

2.30-13.00 - Break

13.00-14.00 Monitor your Cloud Infrastructure and Applications – Kevin Greene

14.05-15.00 Improve your Users’ Experience through Self-Service – Paul Keely

15.15-16.15 Improve your Management and Service Delivery through Automation – Damian Flynn

16.20-17.15 Manage your Private Cloud with Windows Azure Pack – Gordon McKenna

The online event runs for the whole day and is open to anyone who wants to register.

Interested? If so, then check click here for more information and registration info and we'll see you then!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

SCOM 2012 R2 - Update Rollup 5 Has Just Been Released!

Yesterday, Microsoft released their latest Update Rollup (UR5) package for SCOM 2012 R2. This new update contains some welcome fixes and changes.

One of these issues that are fixed has been a hassle for SCOM administrators for some time:

  • RunAs accounts cannot be edited because of "Specified cast is invalid" exception

    RunAs accounts can be distributed only to a selected computer through the distribution tab of Run As Account properties. When a computer that is in the distribution list is decommissioned from Operations Manager and the Run As account is opened, you receive the following exception, and no computers are shown on the list:
    System.InvalidCastException: Specified cast is not valid. at Microsoft.EnterpriseManagement.Monitoring.Internal.MonitoringObjectGenerated.get_Id()

    This issue is fixed and the exception no longer occurs.
This was a real pain when working in environments where monitored computers are retired on a regular basis and if you didn't have a properly documented procedure in place to retire an agent from SCOM, then you would almost certainly bump into the error mentioned above. The fact that this exception now no longer occurs will save us endless amounts of time going forward!

Another notable change that this update brings is the rebranding of System Center Advisor to Operational Insights:

  • Operational Insights through Operations Manager

    System Center Advisor is improved with many exciting features and is rebranded as "Operational Insights." Learn more about the new Operational Insights feature. The product name is updated in the Operations Manager plug-in for System Center Advisor.

There's also fixes for things like Evaluation License alerting, Data warehouse time-outs, baseline tasks, powershell scripting and application crashes.

Check out the full KB article and description of fixes here.

You can download UR5 for SCOM 2012 R2 from this link or just use Windows Update Services to update your SCOM environment. If you plan on using Windows Update Services however, be sure to follow the step-by-step guide  in the 'Installation Instructions' section of the KB article as this gives guidance on the order of update for your server infrastructure along with information on running some SQL scripts and updated management packs.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

SCOM - Updated Info on Sending Data to Azure OpInsights (SC Advisor)

This week, Microsoft announced that they will be making a small change to the URL for which SCOM sends its data up to Azure Operational Insights - formerly known as System Center Advisor.

This small change is no doubt related to the new name change of the service but also to help facilitate preparations for when they go live with some new Azure regions.

Essentially, the change will only affect sites that are running a connected SCOM-OpInsights scenario behind a proxy and with specific rules in place allowing connection to only certain URL destinations.

IMPORTANT for OpInsights users!

If you are using OpsMgr with Azure Operational Insights behind proxies with specific ACL or rules to only allow traffic to specific destination, please note the following upcoming change that would require an action in your environment.
In order to align the way that OpsMgr and direct agent send data to the service, and as we are making preparations to have a presence in more Azure regions, we have to make a ONE-TIME change to the URLs that the management packs use to post data to OpInsights: 

Where in the past OpsMgr would be talking to , with an upcoming deployment (possibly mid of this week, we will update our blog post closer to the deployment as we have a more specific date) OpsMgr will instead start reporting to <yourworkspaceid> We recommend you update your firewall/proxy’s ACLs/rules to allow traffic to the new destination * or your data would start either queuing up on OpsMgr and/or eventually being dropped if the new destination can’t be reached.

As the new management packs will be received, the system will start reporting to the new URL, and you can later remove the previous entry which won’t be needed any longer.

So, if you've configured SCOM and SC Advisor/OpInsights in either your own or a customers environment, then I'd advise you to check out the blog post linked above.

There's also a really quick survey that you can take to give some constructive feedback to Microsoft on how you use proxies with OpInsights and SCOM - this can go a long way in helping them understand how future integrated scenarios will be delivered.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

SCOM - Updated (and Fixed) Windows Server OS Management Pack Now Available!

A few weeks ago, Microsoft released version 6.0.7294.0 of their Windows Server Operating System Management Pack (MP). Unfortunately at the time, I wrote a blog post that told how this release had some serious flaws in it and it was quickly pulled and replaced with the earlier version 6.0.7292 MP.

Well, thankfully the team over at Microsoft have worked hard to remedy the previous issues and they've announced an updated version 6.0.7296 of this MP.

Here's what they've changed in this latest release:

  • In 2003, 2008, 2008R2 platforms, the mount point discovery script was also discovering logical disks as mount points which appeared to many as duplicates. These mount points for logical disks were removed to prevent confusion.
  • In 2012, 2012R2 platforms, mount point discovery was causing rediscovery of logical disks and this rediscovery resulted in rules being run again. This was fixed.
  • In all platforms, duplicate performance rules were shown for mount points and logical disks. This has been fixed.

From the looks of things, this should resolve the previous problems but as usual, I'd recommend that you hold off downloading on importing this MP into your production environments until you've fully tested it and until the general SCOM community have had a chance to confirm it's OK.

This is too important an MP to take a chance on and the only time I'd recommend immediately installing this is if you were one of the unlucky few that imported the broken version 6.0.7294 version into their production environments and need a quick fix.

You can download the updated version from here:

Friday, January 30, 2015

System Center Universe 2015 is just around the corner!

It's that time of the year again where, since 2012, Cameron Fuller and the team over at Catapult Systems have organised one of the best one-day System Center events on the planet in System Center Universe (SCU).

If you haven't heard of SCU before, or just didn't get the chance to attend previously, bring yourself up to speed with the history of the conference first here.

This years event kicks off on February 4th in Dallas, TX and will run across two separate (simultaneous) breakout tracks.

As usual, there's an awesome list of speakers on the day and here's just a sample of them:

  • Anders Bengtsson: Microsoft
  • Brad Anderson: Microsoft
  • Cameron Fuller: MVP
  • Dieter Wijckmans: MVP
  • Jason Sandys: MVP
  • Johan Arwidmark: MVP
  • John Savill: Microsoft
  • Kent Agerlund: MVP
  • Maarten Goet: MVP
  • Marc van Eijk: MVP
  • Pete Zerger: MVP
  • Travis Wright: MVP
  • Wally Mead

You can check out the full speaker list here.

The agenda for the day will include topics that cover ConfigMgr, OpsMgr, Service Manager and Microsoft Azure to name but a few. Here's the full agenda.

Now, if you're not familiar with how this plays out and you're thinking to yourself that you're going to miss all this awesome content because you won't be there in-person, or that you'll have to wait for weeks before the recordings are uploaded, fear not - SCU has the solution!

This event is streamed LIVE across the internet and all you have to do is register your interest and you're in!

So, mark your calendars, order the pizza, crack open a beer and sit back and enjoy the content for SCU 2015!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Free Online Training at TechDays Online 2015

There's only a few weeks left until we get to immerse ourselves in some free online training through the Microsoft-run 'Tech Days Online 2015' event. It will be live-streamed from the UK with a number of very well known speakers on the agenda.

What I love about these events are the fact that there's no traveling involved to attend, and it's all free! There's three tracks - split over three days - with some awesome presenters to walk you through the content.

Here's what's happening on each day...

Day 1 (Tuesday February 3)
Devices and Managing a Mobile-First World
09:30-09:40         Overview of the Day
09:40-10:15         Keynote: The repositioning of Microsoft & what this means for IT Pros &                             Devs - Mary-Jo Foley, Tech Journalist and Microsoft watcher
10:30-11:05         Devices, Devices Everywhere    
11:20-11:55         Windows 10 Client Innovations 
12:10-12:45         Enterprise Mobility - Justin Zarb
13:30-14:05         The Internet of Things - Paul Foster, MSFT UK & Robert Hogg
14:20-14:55         Microsoft Azure Remote App - Richard Astbury, (MVP)
15:10-15:45         Microsoft Azure RMS    
16:00-16:35         Microsoft Azure AD - Rick Hepworth, (MVP)
16:50-17:25         Microsoft Intune/SCCM - Steve Beaumont, (MVP)
17:25-17:30         Wrap up of day 1 - Part 1 - Ed Baker, MSFT UK

Day 1 Evening (Tuesday February 3)
An evening with Office 365

18:30 – 19:05      Migration of your mailboxes to Office 365
19:15 – 19:50      Building online collaboration inside Office 365
20:00 – 20:35      Keeping in touch with the online world
20:35 – 20:45      Final thoughts for the day

Day 2 (Wednesday February 4)
The Journey to the Cloud-first World

09:30-09:40         Overview of the Day - Andrew Fryer, Microsoft UK
09:40-10:15         What’s new Windows Server /Hyper –V - Gordon McKenna, (MVP)
10:30-11:05         How to find out what’s happening in your datacentre with Azure Insights                                - Sam Erskine, (MCT)
11:20-11:55         Host your own cloud with the Windows Azure Pack
 - Damian Flynn, (MVP)
12:10-12:45         Taking scripting to the next level with Service Management / Azure                                     Automation - Jonathan Noble, (MVP)
13:30-14:05         A new home for your old applications - Susan Smith, Microsoft UK
14:20-14:55         20% + of Azure runs on Linux  - why is this important and how to do it                                 well? - Boris Devouge, (MVP)
15:10-15:45         DevOps in Microsoft Azure with Chef and Puppet for heterogeneous cloud                           environments - Tarun Arora  (MVP)
16:00-16:35         Make Azure your DMZ - Simon Skinner, (MVP)
16:50-17:25         Microsoft Corporate Keynote - Jeffrey Snover, Distinguished Engineer
17:25-17:30         Wrap up of Day 2 - Andrew Fryer, Microsoft UK

Day 3 (Thursday December 5)
Multi-device, Cross-platform Development

09:30-09:40         Overview of the Day - Martin Beeby, Microsoft UK
09:40-10:25         Creating x-platform apps with Visual Studio - Martin Hinshelwood, (MVP)
10:35-11:20         Vsual Studio ALM - Richard Fennell, (MVP)
11:30-12:15         Building next-generation apps with .NET and ASP.NET                                                       - Omar Al Zabir, (MVP)
13:00-13:45         Debugging web apps - Bianca Furtuna & Martin Kearn, Microsoft UK
13:55-14:40         ’Roslyn’ .NET compiler update 
14:50-15:35         Data Science Track - Andrew Fryer, Microsoft UK
15:45-16:30         Dev. community feedback - session based on community ideas
              - Martin Beeby, Microsoft UK
16:45-17:20         Microsoft Corporate Keynote - Scott Hanselman

Pretty impressive lineup eh?

So, if you're interested in joining the fun and learning more about your chosen track, then you can register for the event here.

Anyone that signs up and attends at least one day will also be entered into a draw to possibly win a new Surface Pro 3 so there's even more incentive to get registered.

See you all online there!

Friday, January 9, 2015

SCOM - New Windows Server OS Management Pack Available - BUT BEWARE!

FINAL UPDATE 3rd February 2015
A new version of this MP has just been announced. Check out the information on changes and where to download it from here.

UPDATE 14th January 2015
Microsoft has confirmed this is a bug and have pulled this new MP version. The old version (6.0.7292.0) of the Windows Server OS MP has been made available for download again and if you're currently in the process of deploying a new SCOM environment, then I'd suggest using this version for now until the bug is fixed. You can download the old MP from here.

A few days ago, Microsoft released an update to their base Windows Server Operating System management pack (version 6.0.7294.0) that was supposed to fix a minor issue that the previous edition has (fix listed below):

  • Fixed more performance collection workflows that were failing for mount points

However, one of my MVP friends (and SCOM MP Ninja) Daniele Grandini noticed a bug in this new MP during his own tests - below is what he has to say on it:

"The latest OS MP has a serious flaw when collecting disk performance counters. If you don’t want your DB bogged down with too many performance data points, stay away from it."

Now, I've run some tests in my own demo environment and can also see multiple discoveries for each logical disk so until I hear more from Daniele or Microsoft, I'm going to keep this MP out of my production environments - and I suggest you do the same too!

I've also just noticed that Marnix has posted something similar about this MP, so it's better to be safe than sorry in this case!

When I have more information, I'll update this post to reflect and if you're not yet following Daniele or Marnix' blogs, then get signed up via RSS ASAP (you could use the really handy OPML file that Stefan Roth has just released to help you along with this!)

Hope this saves people some time/sanity and hassle :)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Have Your Say on the Future of System Center

Microsoft have just put out a call for people to complete a survey that will ultimately help them shape the future of System Center as we know it.

Here's what they say:

The System Center leadership team is looking to hear from you on the challenges you face with your Management tools and where you would like to see us invest going forward.

We put together a short survey to gather your feedback and an option to join a discussion panel around this topic.

We are counting on your input, so please take a moment to provide your feedback in the survey.  We appreciate all the feedback you have given us in the past, and we hope you continue to do so.

As an MVP, I have the opportunity to attend Microsoft HQ in Seattle once a year and speak with the System Center product group and I can assure you - they definitely take feedback such as this onboard!

Here's the link to the survey and if you have 5 minutes to go through it, then please take the time to make a difference:

Using Distributed Applications with SCOM? You Might Want to Attend This Webinar So!

The essence of true IT as a Service monitoring using System Center 2012 R2 - Operations Manager (SCOM) is delivered through the deployment of Distributed Application models. These models can be complex to configure and maintain if you don't know what you're doing and before you even start designing one for an IT service in your organisation, you need to have all of the relevant components of that IT service mapped out to ensure you can bring them under monitoring control.

I've lost count of the number of times that I have engaged with customers on SCOM deployments who have difficulties in identifying all of the key components and dependencies of each of their IT services. Then, when everything is finally mapped out for their services and modeled in SCOM, there is still no (easy) way to dynamically updated the distributed applications when things change.

Step forward.....

I've known the guys over at BlueStripe Software for a while now and spent some very useful time with them at System Center Universe Europe over in Switzerland last year where I spent a couple of hours querying them on their software and trying to understand where it could fit into my customer deployments.

If you haven't heard of them before, then you might want to check out a webinar that they're running in a couple of weeks aptly titled - The End of the Distributed Application (feature) as You Know It.

In the webinar, they're going to demonstrate how you can make complex IT service monitoring easy by using their Performance Center software to automatically discover and map out all of the dependent components of your services and then bring them under monitoring in SCOM as distributed application models. It even goes so far as to dynamically update your distributed applications when components get added or retired to the service.

Here's a description of the webinar:

"IT teams don’t get paid because all the Servers are running at an optimal CPU rate. They get paid by delivering business applications that work.

For System Center owners, BlueStripe’s Performance Center for System Center delivers the desired application-centric management. Performance Center automatically brings application visibility and performance monitoring into Operations Manager – without any manual application creation or updates."

There will be two webinars running on Thursday 22nd January at 9AM EST (2:00PM GMT) and 1PM EST (6:00PM GMT).

Still not convinced yet? Well, the way I look at vendor solutions such as this is that if they can solve a problem for me and my customers and come in at an acceptable price point, then why wouldn't I want to bring it to the table? This is a unique offering in the SCOM space when working with distributed applications and if Microsoft use this internally, then it's definitely something worth checking out.

If this sounds interesting, then register today for 

Deduplication of DPM 2012 R2 Storage is Finally Supported!

Just before the Xmas holidays, Microsoft announced that they will support the deduplication of System Center 2012 R2 - Data Protection Manager (DPM) storage when you configure your backup environment as a specific scenario.

How this Helps

Deduplication reduces storage footprint by removing duplicate copies of repeating data and replacing those duplicates with markers (or reference points) that refer back to the original source. In some cases, this can lead to massive savings in disk space utilization for your datacentre storage offerings.

The Scenario

The scenario that Microsoft will support DPM storage deduplication uses a virtual DPM 2012 R2 (with UR4) server running on a Hyper-V cluster with SMB 3.0 and Scale Out File Server (SOFS) technologies. The storage volume VHDX file for the DPM server is located on the SOFS volumes with deduplication enabled.


A new whitepaper has been released in which, this supported scenario is explained in detail and you can read through the whitepaper from the link below:

Positive Outlook for DPM

I think that although this is still a limited scenario in which to achieve deduplication for DPM storage, it's definitely a good step forward and a welcome offering.

Add to this, the new reporting functionality of DPM 2012 R2 when integrated into SCOM - - and you can really get a feel that Microsoft are putting a lot of additional resources into a product that at one stage, seemed dead and buried when compared to its competition.

Hopefully the innovations will keep coming!