Friday, October 17, 2014

System Center Advisor Just Got Even Better!

When I'm working with customers delivering System Center projects, a key component of those engagements always revolves around visualizing the data that we gather through the various products in the suite.



Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you should have noticed the buzz that's starting to build around the new System Center Advisor platform - which is currently available as a limited public preview here.

Even though Advisor is in preview, we've deployed it for a few customers when we wanted to super-charge SCOM 2012 R2 and get an extra edge on best practices and recommendations around some new (or even problematic) IT services that they were monitoring and it hasn't disappointed!

Anyway, similar to the speed at which the Microsoft Azure team are releasing updates to their platform, the SC Advisor team are doing their own hard work to make it better and better each week.

An example of this is yesterday's announcement by Joseph Chan that now empowers Advisor users to create their own custom dashboards and visualizations on-the-fly.

Here's an example of a custom dashboard that you can create yourself...


These new dashboards can be easily configured by clicking on the 'My Dashboard' option in the right-hand shortcut bar as shown here...


Pretty easy huh?

So, if you want to get started with these new visualizations today, then first have a quick read over Joseph's full post from the link below, then you should have everything you need to know to enhance your monitoring solutions even more than before!

http://blogs.technet.com/b/momteam/archive/2014/10/16/custom-dashboard-in-advisor.aspx

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Awarded Microsoft MVP 2014 for Cloud and Datacenter Management!

I've just seen 'the email' that all MVP's anticipate every 12 months - which is when their existing MVP is up for renewal.

I'd nearly forgotten that today was my own renewal day as I was busy delivering some webinars on DevOps to the community.


Thanks to all my friends and colleagues that I've worked with and shared knowledge on CloudOS with over the last year - it's great to see the 'Number of MVP Awards' counter on my profile go up by one each year!

I'll be at the MVP Summit in November and if you've been renewed or are a first time MVP awardee, then we might catch up over there for a beer! For now though, I'll just bask in my own glory for an hour or so!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Join My Upcoming "From Dev to the Datacenter" Webinars on October 1st and 2nd

Tomorrow (October 1st) and Wednesday (October 2nd), I'll be delivering two webinars in conjunction with Savision to discuss the content of our recently released free whitepaper titled: "From Dev to the Datacenter"


We will be presenting the same content in each webinar and you have a choice of timezone depending on where you're located:

US Timezone: Wednesday October 1st, 2014 at 5pm CEST/ 11am EDT

EU Timezone: Thursday October 2nd, 2014 at 3pm CEST/ 9am EDT

During the webinars, you'll see some cool demo's that should help to reinforce how System Center, Visual Studio Online and Savision can work with you to support your DevOps scenarios.

We'll also leave some time for Q & A so feel free to drop by and hit us up with any questions you have on these awesome technologies.

You can find more information on registration for either webinar here and if you haven't yet had a chance to download and read through the free whitepaper, then you can do so from this link.

Hope to talk to you all then!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Just Released - Free DevOps Whitepaper - 'From Dev to the Datacenter'

Things have been pretty quiet on this blog lately due to all my spare time being taken up with some really cool projects in work, preparing for my two System Center Universe Europe presentations and putting the finishing touches to a whitepaper collaboration that I've been working on with Savision.


The new whitepaper has just been released and in it, I speak about leveraging System Center and Visual Studio Online to help you with your day-to-day 'DevOps' scenarios. Here's an abstract:

"When your critical business applications start performing badly, it’s often difficult to quickly pinpoint whether the problem lies with the infrastructure or the developers’ code. 

If you’re tired of trawling through consoles and log files full of alerts to find the root cause of a service outage, then this white-paper will show you how to leverage Microsoft’s System Center and Visual Studio Online cloud solutions to get a full 360 degree view of your applications.

With this knowledge, you’ll gain the confidence to work with your developer teams to bring a rapid conclusion to your application problems."

Targeted at both IT Pro's and Developers, the aim of this whitepaper is to bring about a better awareness of how we can use components of Microsoft's CloudOS story to help make everyone's life a little bit easier!

Interested? If so, then you can get your hands on the whitepaper here:

http://www.savision.com/free-whitepaper-dev-datacenter

When I return from System Center Universe, I'll be working with Savision to deliver two live webinars where we're going to expand a little on the topics covered in the whitepaper and we'll also give people an opportunity to get their questions answered.

Hope you like the content and if you're attending System Center Universe next week, make sure to check out my 'Hybrid Cloud DevOps with APM' presentation to see some of this cool stuff in action!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Useful Recent CloudOS News and Blogs

Well, after a few weeks away from work on vacation, I've finally managed to filter through the majority of my unread emails and Twitter feeds. What I've come across from browsing through just a few short weeks of them is a number of very useful and cool updates and community offerings for System Center 2012 R2, Windows Azure Pack, Azure and Windows Server 2012 R2.

I've broken my favourites down into categories to make things easier to reference and if you haven't seen some of these posts yet and are working with CloudOS products, then I'd strongly advise you to check them out:

SCOM

Jalasoft – Xian SNMP Device Simulator V5










SCOM 2012 – Display & Download MPs Using PowerShell Widgets



VMM

Download the VMM Network Builder

Blog Series: Bare Metal Post-Deployment









So that's it in a nutshell for now - and although it's not a comprehensive list of everything that's been happening over the past month or so, there's still a lot of very impressive community content around CloudOS.

Enjoy!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

TechCamp 2014 Dublin

Day 1 for our TechCamp 2014 event has just finished and each session had a great turnout of attendees. Microsoft Ireland's Art Coughlan kicked off with a keynote speech on how Microsoft can help people with their journey to the cloud and he gave some great real-world examples of well known global brands using Cloud Technologies such as Azure, Hyper-V and System Center.

After the keynote this morning, Aidan Finn gave a really interesting session on Windows Server Storage Spaces and Scale Out File Servers. He walked through building the solutions in his demo step-by-step to give people an idea of how easy it is to get started.

After Aidan's presentation, it was my turn to get down and dirty and shake with datacentre automation in my 'Service Automation Using System Center' session. I first spoke about getting your automation processes properly mapped out and including the right teams to plan the process. Then I went into a demonstration that incorporated System Center Orchestrator, Service Manager and Windows Azure Pack. Thankfully my themed Windows Azure Pack Tenant Portal went down well and I received some nice attendee comments during lunch about it:



The 'New Hire Onboard' process that I automated was made possible using System Center Orchestrator and Service Manager integrated into Windows Azure Pack. The secret sauce to surface the request management in the WAP Tenant portal was delivered using the awesome new GridPro Request Management - check it out here: http://www.gridprosoftware.com/en/products/requestmanagement)


After lunch, Damian Flynn took to the stage and gave a full overview to the audience on how all the System Center components integrate with each other and then he went into the Windows Azure Pack Framework and all it's moving parts - a very enjoyable session for the attendees with the 'F Bombs' dropped kept to a minimum ;)

The final presentation of the day saw Aidan get back up for more heckling as he spoke about this time on Hybrid Cloud using Microsoft Azure. Some really interesting demo's delivered to the audience configuring public-cloud VM's and virtual networking on the fly.

That wraps up Day 1, tomorrow's track of 'Software as a Service' should be a blast!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

TechCamp 2014 - An Awesome Irish Cloud Community Event

After the success of our last TechCamp 2013 event, a week from tomorrow (Thursday 19th of June), we kick off TechCamp 2014 in Dublin's Citywest Hotel and Conference Centre.


This year we've decided to span the event out over two days and into two separate tracks - Hybrid Cloud & Software as a Service - and we have an awesome line-up of speakers presenting on some very relevant topics.

Day 1 (Hybrid Cloud Track)

I'll be delivering a session on Day 1 for the Hybrid Cloud track titled - 'Service Automation using System Center'. In it, you can expect to see some (hopefully impressive) demo's around System Center, Windows Azure Pack and Service Management Automation (SMA).

Day 1 also sees me share the stage with two good friends and excellent presenters - Aidan Finn and Damian Flynn. Aidan will be talking about Storage Spaces, Scale Out File Server and Hybrid Cloud and Damian will be digging into the new and seriously cool Windows Azure Pack in his presentation.

Day 2 (Software as a Service Track)

On Day 2 (Software as a Service), Nathan Winters - author, former Exchange MVP and now working for Microsoft UK - will be talking about Office365 Exchange & Lync. Later in the day there's a presentation from Sean O'Farrell - a colleague of mine in Ergo - who's making a lot of noise in the Office365 community and he'll be talking about using Office365 SharePoint & Yammer in the real world.

To finish off Day 2 and the overall event, we have Bob Duffy - who in his own words is an 'all-round SQL dude' but in my words - 'the one person on this planet that I've met that knows more about SQL than anyone else!'

Bob is an SQL Ranger/MVP/MCA/MCM/Maestro - so if you're interested in learning something new about SQL you'll definitely want to listen to what he has to say! His session is titled 'Power BI for Office365' and is sure to be filled with plenty of demo's and useful insights.

Registered Yet?

If I've got your attention and this event sounds like something you'd like to attend, then check out the agenda here and purchase your tickets from this link:

http://techcamp2014.azurewebsites.net/purchase-tickets

Like at TechCamp 2013, all proceeds from ticket sales are going to the very worthy charity - Camara. Also, none of the sessions will be recorded or streamed so if you don't attend, you don't get to see the sessions online at a later date - not to mention missing out on some excellent networking opportunities with peers and presenters alike.

So, like Aidan says - Don’t Be An IT Dinosaur – Attend TechCamp 2014 On June 19/20!

See you there :)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Attending TechEd North America 2014

After a few weeks away from blogging due to work and family vacation time, I thought it was about time I got the laptop out and started talking about my visit to TechEd North America 2014.


The Lowdown

TechEd is Microsoft's flagship conference aimed at the IT Pro and Enterprise Developer. It's a large scale event that will see thousands of nerds come together for the best part of a week of technical presentations and networking.

For me, I'm a newbie when it comes to TechEd. Over the last few years, the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) was where you'd find me hanging out as this was the place to be in the Cloud & Datacenter Management space. This year however, Microsoft have made a decision not to run MMS as a stand-alone event and to instead, integrate it into the TechEd conference to bring the whole CloudOS story to the table. There's been a lot of debate over the past year about whether or not this was a good move by Microsoft and as a result, a number of newer Cloud & Datacenter Management focused conferences have gained prominence - System Center Universe and IT/Dev Connections for example.

One things for sure, TechEd NA 2014 is completely sold out now and I guess a lot of people are expecting big things from the coming week due to the MMS integration so fingers crossed it'll live up to expectations!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

TechEd North America is being held in Houston, Texas this year and my journey over has started a few days early and taken a little bit of a detour on the way. The reason for this is that I have family living in south Texas that I haven't seen in a long time so thought that it'd be a sin if I didn't make the effort to visit - seeing as though I'm in the same state as them. That being said, Texas is the second largest state in the USA and is nearly three times the size of Ireland!


I left my house on Wednesday morning at 6am with a drive up to Dublin, enjoyed a very comfortable flight over to Chicago, had a 4.5 hour layover there (hotdogs and beer are an excellent way to pass the time in Chicago airport), jumped on another plane to Houston and finally managed to check-in to a hotel close to George Bush International Airport close to 11pm local time. All-in-all it was approximately 21 hours total journey from when I closed the front door back in Ireland!

I then managed 5(ish) hours of sleep before getting back on the road with a shuttle bus over to the airport, a connecting train between two terminals and a short-hop 45 minute flight from Houston down to Corpus Christi. In stark contrast to the massive scale of the airport in Houston, the tiny one in Corpus Christi was more reminiscent of something that we're used to in Ireland - think Knock Airport and you'll get the idea! A final 45 minute drive down to Alice, Texas and I've reached my destination and base for the next few days.

Hooking up with family and friends (of which I haven't seen in 13 years), consuming copious amounts of Mexican food and beer (this city is pretty close to the border and I'm known as a Gringo in these parts) - and life is good!

On Saturday afternoon I'll be flying back up to Houston to meet up with all of my buddies that are starting to make their way over for TechEd next week.

The Conference

Like myself, most people will be arriving into Houston from tomorrow and after some (quiet) drinks that night, on Sunday, a few of us are going to try and head over to NASA and see if we can give them any advice on how to manage their IT infrastructure with System Center.......

Also on Sunday, ten pre-conference sessions are kicking off TechEd NA 2014 and there's a nice mix of technical goodness between them to keep everyone happy.

At 9am on Monday morning, Microsoft's Brad Anderson delivers the Keynote presentation that will kick off the conference proper and immediately following that, we get down and dirty with a full day of sessions right the way up until 18:00. After a long day's work, I'm sure we'll have one or two things to do at night to keep us occupied and stave away the hunger and thirst :)

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will follow pretty much the same agenda as Monday without of course a keynote presentation so it'll be a pretty full-on week of deep-dive sessions and fun. The graphic below shows the available tracks that attendees have to choose from for each day.


I'll be keeping this blog reasonably up-to-date throughout the week based on some of the sessions, vendor offerings and new announcements that I've seen and heard. If you're looking for a live 'up-to-the-minute' update of some CloudOS sessions, then I highly recommend you check out my buddy Aidan Finn's blog over the few days that the event runs. Aidan always has some great tips and tricks to take on board when attending these conferences and loves to live-blog his way through the sessions he attends.

As a side game, if you want to try and win a copy of Aidan's excellent Hyper-V book, then check out his Hyper-V Amigo Selfie Game for some fun (note to Aidan, that's a pretty old-school mallet head picture of me you have up there!)

#TE14D5 (a.k.a Friday)

Unfortunately for me I'll be returning home on the Friday - unfortunate purely from a nerd perspective but to be fair, I don't think I'd get a sick-note from my ever-suffering wife for any more than the 11 days I already have away from her and our two kids! As I booked my tickets so long ago in advance, I wasn't aware of the plans that my pals Cameron Fuller and Maarten Goet had put together to keep people entertained on a day when the official four-day conference ended.


They came up with the ingenious idea that seeing as there would still be many attendees floating around Houston on Friday and many MVP's still there too, why not have a side-event uniquely titled 'Day 5', whereby a number of MVP's and community leaders would present some sessions that couldn't be squeezed into TechEd around two different tracks. These tracks will focus on System Center, Hyper-V, Azure and Device Management.

If you're around on the Friday and are looking to hear some of the best speakers around do their thing again, then you can still register for Day 5 here.

Make Sure to Say Hello

So, that's it from me for now, if you're coming over to Houston, make sure to say hello if you see me rambling around and I'll be glad to try and answer any CloudOS questions you might have to help you get ahead in work.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Global Service Monitor Gets Some Location Changes!

I've just seen a post up on the official SCOM Engineering Blog about some changes to their Global Service Monitor (GSM) offering.

Due to changes in the GSM cloud infrastructure, four of their monitoring nodes will be moving to another location within the same geo-area.

These are the locations that are affected and where they're moving to:
  • London to Dublin
  • Taipei to Hong Kong
  • US: Newark to US: Ashburn
  • US: Los Angeles to US: San Jose

(Finally, we're getting Dublin on the monitoring map!)
 
All this means is that if you've configured some GSM tests originating in any of the four locations above, these same tests will be automatically moved during April and May 2014. The GSM template will reflect these new location names and will be available for all new tests that you want to create, but your display names for existing tests will not change until you re-save your template.
 
Check out the original posting here:
 
 
 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Walkthrough of the New Microsoft Azure Dashboard

Today at the Microsoft BUILD conference in San Francisco, Microsoft announced a major update to their Microsoft Azure portal. They've added a new interactive dashboard and after I've had a chance to play around with it using my own Azure subscription, my first impression - it seriously rocks!

Here's a screenshot of what they've done:


The first thing that gets you with this portal is the vibrant colours and the different tiles - which have obviously been designed with touch compatible devices in mind.

The main tile in the middle shows a real-time health state of each of the various Microsoft datacentre's around the globe...


Clicking on this tile will open up a scrollable list of all the various Azure services and their associated health states as shown here..


The tile at the bottom-left.....


 gives you access to the Azure Gallery as shown here...


The Billing tile below gives me a good reminder of how little credit I have left to use up for my demo environments!


The new navigation bar on the left-hand side is really slick too and the Notifications link will give me information on any problems or things that need my attention as part of my subscriptions...


Clicking the 'Browse' view, you can get access to the newly announced 'Resource Groups' feature as shown here.....


Which expands out to...


One of my favourite areas of this new dashboard is it's integration with the recently released Application Insights feature of Visual Studio Online, which can be accessed from the 'Websites' option inside the 'Browse' link from the navigation bar as shown here....


This expands out to...


Scrolling down through your website information gives you more Usage data like this...


 You also get your Operational data and information from these tiles...


Note: If you want to learn more about some of the data analytics and insights behind the website tiles, then check out my step-by-step walkthrough series of deploying Application Insights in Visual Studio Online here:

 Application Insights Deep Dive Part 1 - Getting Started

Conclusion

All things considered, I think Microsoft has done an awesome job of getting these types of visualisations into Azure and as a SCOM consultant, it's this type of value-add that draws customers to the product.

I read a tweet today during the BUILD conference where someone mentioned that this new Azure dashboard makes Amazon's AWS offering look like Notepad - I have to say, on the surface of it, that sounds like a pretty good analogy!

If you like what you see and have an Azure subscription, you can give the new dashboard a test drive yourself from the following link:

http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/

Enjoy!