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!

*********************************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.
*********************************UPDATE 14th January 2015**************************************
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 - http://www.buchatech.com/2014/11/dpm-2012-r2-reporting-improvements/ - 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!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Another (Equally Cool) Way to Build Your Own SCOM MP Store!

Following on from my recent post about building a SCOM management pack catalog using SharePoint or SharePoint online, Microsoft's Dirk Brinkmann has put together his own solution to help you download, categorize and then store all of your management packs in one handy and automated way.

He's written a three-part blog series using PowerShell and some free scripts written by other SCOM community members and it's definitely worth a read - particularly if you manage environments with multiple management groups (Test/Dev/Production etc.)

Have a read of Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the series before downloading the relevant scripts from the TechNet Gallery from the links below:

A big thanks to Dirk, Tao and the rest of the guys for their work on bringing these solutions to the community!

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Building Your Very Own Internal or External SCOM MP Catalog

This is essentially a cross-post to highlight some of the awesome work that my buddy Tao Yang has been working on in his spare time.

Recently and for whatever reason, the official Microsoft Pinpoint Site has been missing some of the more recent releases of SCOM management packs. Now, before people start panicking and complaining that they can't get access to any new MP's for their SCOM environments, you can be safe in the knowledge that the Microsoft MP Wiki is the first place to check for all of the latest and greatest MP releases:


You can also get access to MP's by performing a quick Google (Bing) search for the MP name or by searching the Microsoft Download Center site.

The Microsoft Pinpoint site used to be a one-stop-shop for all your Microsoft (and even some approved third-party vendor) management packs and if nothing else, it was a handy place to go and quickly download what you're looking for.

The On-Premise Solution

As the Pinpoint solution isn't as reliable as it used to be, Tao first started working on his own private 'MP Catalog' for SCOM that leverages the power of Service Management Automation (SMA) and SharePoint 2013 to deliver a fully dynamic and up-to-date list of all available Microsoft MP's that looks something like this.....

Check out Tao's walkthrough on how to get this up and running here.

The Off-Premise Solution

Not content on delivering an internal version of his private catalog, he then got to work on creating a similar solution up in Microsoft Azure using Azure Automation and SharePoint Online as his preferred model.

You can see this second awesome post here.

Whether or not you ever intend on actually deploying your own SCOM MP Catalog onsite or off-prem, what Tao has done shows the automation extensibility that comes with both SMA and Azure Automation. I highly recommend you take a read over both posts as there's some very useful information and scripts that can easily be used or tweaked for different purposes to suit your needs.

Great work Tao and thanks for sharing this content with the community :)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cloud Platform Integration Framework (CPIF) for the Modern Datacenter

Microsoft has just released a new download for their Cloud Platform Integration Framework (CPIF) for the Modern Datacenter. The download contains six documents (twelve if you count the fact that each one comes in both PDF and Word format) that delivers integration guidance for onboarding your applications into a Microsoft Cloud Solution.

Here's an overview of CPIF taken from their website:

"CPIF describes how organizations, Microsoft Partners and Solution Integrator's should design and deploy Cloud-targeted workloads utilizing the hybrid cloud platform and management capabilities of Azure, System Center and Windows Server."

Aligning with Microsoft's CloudOS story, the various components of the CPIF have been broken down into the functions shown in this graphic:

Quoting the website again:

"By integrating these functions directly into workloads, “platforms” can be developed which allow for further configuration by tenants to implement extended software services."

The download includes foundation documents for the following CPIF architecture patterns:

  • Azure Search Tier 
  • Multi-Site Data Tier 
  • Offsite Batch Processing Tier 
  • Web Tier 
  • Hybrid Networking
Sound interesting?

If so, then download the CPIF here.

Performance Problems with your SCOM Console? This 'Might' Help....

My good friend Marnix has just blogged a very interesting post about a really slow performing SCOM console issue that he was having at one of his customer sites.

After a lot of searching to try and resolve the issue, he came across some information about editing the default 'Max Degree of Parallelism' setting inside the SQL instance that was hosting the SCOM databases. When he modified this SQL setting, the difference in performance of the SCOM console was HUGE! He even had staff at the customer site come up to him to see what he had changed because the difference in performance was so noticeable!

Now halt for just a second!

Before you rush off and go back to all your slow performing consoles and change the 'Max Degree of Parallelism' setting on every SQL server that your customers run SCOM on, just take note of some interesting points that Marnix and a few other SCOM 'enthusiasts' (i.e. MVP's and Microsoft staff) have been having offline about this topic in the last day or so....

  • Some MVP's modified this setting and encountered performance gains.
  • Other MVP's made the change and saw either no difference, or even a drop in performance of the SCOM console.
  • A very well respected Microsoft employee working in the SCOM space also chipped in with his thoughts and made some interesting observations about how modifying 'Max Degree of Parrallelism' in the same way that each MVP saw gains in their console performance SHOULD NOT make any difference whatsoever!
  • Another point was also made that, modifying this setting 'MIGHT' help with performance when using HyperThreading on VMware with CPU Gang Scheduling.

So, taking all these points into account, my recommendation is to have a good read of Marnix' post here...


Then make your own judgement call on whether or not you modify the setting.

My view on this is that if you're already having bad SCOM console performance issues, then you've got nothing to lose by first bench-marking how long it takes you to open the console and perform certain tasks, then making the change to SQL and comparing the new performance load times with their originals. If you see much of a difference for the better, then you could be on to a winner - if not, then just change the setting back to it's default value of '0' and you're back to where you started with no harm done!

SCOM - Free eBook - Extending Operations Manager Reporting

The team over at Microsoft Press have been busy putting together another free eBook for your System Center reading pleasure. This one is 122 pages of goodness on how to work with and author reports in your SCOM environments.

Here's an introduction to its content:

The System Center Operations Manager data warehouse stores many objects, making it possible to report on performance, availability, configuration, and security. You can use data collected by Operations Manager for issue tracking, awareness, planning, and forecasting, all of which are important factors for maintaining and managing your environment. But understanding what to report on and how to do so is what actually contributes to the stability of your infrastructure.

If you're not using the data you collect about your environment, you're simply wasting space. If you use Operations Manager to monitor your environment, whether your infrastructure or a public, private, or hybrid cloud, this book is a good resource to help you understand the basics of reporting and how to build queries and stored procedures for your reports. It can also help you understand the various elements of Operations Manager management packs that are used when you create reports.

This book assumes that you have a good understanding of Operations Manager and the management pack structure required to create custom reports. It also assumes that you have a good working knowledge of SQL Server and tools like Report Builder, Business Intelligence Development Suite, and SQL Server Data Tools.

The book was authored by George Wallace, Chris Jones, Bill May, Fred Lee, edited by Mitch Tulloch and had contributions from Kevin Holman and Alban Montanera.

If you are in any way serious about delivering deep-level and easy-to-consume reports back to either your own or your customer SCOM deployments, then this book is as good a starting point as any to get you going.

Oh, and did I also mention it's FREE!

Download the book in your electronic format of choice from the Official Microsoft Press Blog here.

If this is something that interests you and you know that you'll have plenty of spare time over the upcoming Xmas holiday period, then why not check out all the other 'FREE' eBooks that MS Press have to offer from the link below: