Monday, July 13, 2015

Automating SCOM to Make Your Life Easier!

My buddy Tao Yang (the Tim-Tam distributing, management pack creation machine) has been at it again and has released Part 6 of his 'Automating OpsMgr' series.

If you work as a SCOM administrator or consultant in any way, shape or form, then you really need to read through each of these posts as they are awesome! You'll come away with heaps of tools, tips and tricks that Tao has spent tireless hours scripting and putting together for the community and they'll save you loads of time with your deployments.

As an example of how much effort he put into this, take the first post in the series. In this post Tao looked at the PowerShell module that comes bundled with the SCOM installation and also took a look at what was on offer with the System Center Orchestrator integration pack for SCOM and the SMA portable integration module.

These offerings are useful in their own right, but still lack a lot of functionality, so Tao decided to spend 5 months of his own time (on and off)  to write a new extended PowerShell module for SCOM! This new module contains administrative tasks for managing agents, configuring management group references and backing up management packs. It also contains some super tasks to assist with basic and advanced management pack authoring.

The module can be run on its own or as part of SMA and each function of the module contains some very detailed help references.

The other 5 posts (so far) build on this new extended SCOM PowerShell module and leverage SMA for automation to carry out tasks such as collecting logs from ConfigMgr, creating management pack runbooks and managing groups in SCOM.

I know Tao has many more of these posts to put up in the coming months so make sure to check out the whole series so far and download the module and scripts so you can start playing around with them today.

Use the following tag on his blog to access all his posts:

A big thanks Tao for yet another awesome contribution to the SCOM community!

System Center Universe Europe is Just Around the Corner!

It's that time of year again that the biggest and best System Center Universe (SCU) conference in Europe is getting ready for take off in Switzerland.

I've had the honour of presenting at the inaugural SCU Europe held in Bern in 2013 and then again last year in Basel. Thankfully, I've been asked to present another session at this year's event - where the conference will be run in the same excellent venue in Basel as last years one.

If you're working with System Center or Microsoft Cloud Technologies and are wondering what exactly SCU Europe is, then take a quick read through some of these FAQ's from the official website:

What is System Center Universe Europe?

System Center Universe is a community conference with a strong focus on systems management and virtualization topics such as cloud, datacenter and modern workplace management. We present top content with top presenters around Microsoft System Center, Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Hyper-V and want to build the number one conference for those kind of topics across Europe.

Who should attend SCU?

SCU is a technical conference for administrators, engineers, architects, technical project managers and other technical-oriented people that are focused on Microsoft products and technologies. Less technical oriented people can still benefit from a conference attendance by getting a broad overview of problem-solving solutions and of course by connecting to exhibitors and community specialists.

Why is SCU different from other conferences?

SCU is a first-class community conference that lives from inputs and ideas from people that are part of the community and that know about real-world requirements and solutions. That said, we are not marketing-driven but try to present the latest and greatest content with the best speakers. Sessions are presented with lots of live demos and go technically deep, mainly down to level 300 or 400 (advanced and expert). Attending SCU gives you ready-to-use knowledge and allows you to connect and build long-term relations with speakers and attendees from all over the world.

With some of the best Cloud and Datacenter Management focused technical presenters around, epic parties and great food, this years conference aims to be even bigger and better than the last one.

The session planner is available here and if you're thinking of attending, then you can register here.

So what are you waiting for?

See you over there!

Quickly Check Build Numbers for Common Microsoft Applications

If you ever have a problem trying to identify which version of your application its build number relates to, then I've got something pretty useful to help you out.

For the past year I've been referencing a community-authored blog that posts current build number references for common Microsoft applications and provides a download link to each cumulative update or service pack.

The list of applications that are referenced include System Center and SQL (definitely one you'll use a lot here). It's regularly updated (the new 2016 Tech Preview releases are all there) and goes back quite a few versions - MOM 2000 is even listed!

There's a handy navigation ribbon to choose your application or if you like, just use the tags.

Here's the blog URL:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Whitepaper - Is Operations Manager Still Relevant in the World of the Cloud?

Last week my good buddy Cameron Fuller, in collaboration with Savision, authored a whitepaper which tackles a topic that is becoming more and more relevant as the global push towards the cloud accelerates.

He asks simply - 'Is Operations Manager still relevant in the world of the cloud ?'

Instead of just adding his own perspective to this question, Cameron has put in the ground-work to thoroughly research the validity and longevity of Microsoft's on-premise monitoring solution that, for me as a Cloud OS consultant, is currently the product that's consuming the majority of my working weeks.

Here are some of the key points that he discusses in the document:
  • A history of Operations Manager and what conclusions we can draw from that history
  • Cloud first, mobile first, and it’s impacts on System Center
  • The Microsoft Operations Management Suite and how it compares with Operations Manager
  • Monitoring available within Azure, and solutions to monitor Azure
  • The Cloud Platform Stack, WAP, and Azure Stack
  • Architecting Operations Manager to run in the cloud 

If you've read any of Cameron's OpsMgr Unleashed books or attended his presentations, you'll know that he has an excellent way of getting his point across and this whitepaper is no exception.

So, if you're working with SCOM (or plan to in the next year or so), then I'd highly recommend you have a read of this whitepaper to gain an insight into where things are going and where we're at now. 

You can download it directly from Savision's website at the following link:


SCOM - Updated Community Windows Azure Pack MP V2

A few weeks back, I published a post about Oskar Landman's awesome new community MP for Windows Azure Pack and the big man's been at it again - this time giving us a fully redesigned Version 2.

If you liked the original MP, then this one gives you so much more - he even took the time to use some of my Visio stencils for Windows Azure Pack that I released last year (you can get the stencils from the following link):

This MP comes with all the classes, discoveries, monitors and rules that you should need to deliver comprehensive monitoring of your Windows Azure Pack environments.

Check out Oskar's full blog post on at the following link:

You can download the MP directly from the TechNet Gallery here.

Awesome work again Oskar - thanks for this super contribution :)

SCOM - New Community MP to Monitor SMA Runbook Instances

My buddy Stefan Roth has been hard at work putting together a new community management pack for anyone running both Service Management Automation (SMA) and SCOM in their environments.

This new management pack will monitor SMA runbook instances to alert you on whether or not an instance is running. It uses a PowerShell script to run an SQL query against the SMA database to return this type of information.

To get a full walk-through of this MP, check out Stefan's blog post at the following link:

You can also download the MP directly from the TechNet Gallery here.

Thanks Stefan!

Friday, June 12, 2015

SCOM - Alert Widget Template Using Logical Expression Filtering

OK so I'll admit that if you're not very familiar with the new dashboard widgets of SCOM, then the title of this post might seem like I've just swallowed a dictionary!

However, this is merely a cross-post to bring yet another awesome new community contribution from Wei H Lim to your attention.

Let me give you some context to this first though...

When you've deployed SCOM, imported your management packs and pushed out your agents it'll just be a matter of time before than empty console view becomes full of alerts. This can be a good and bad thing. Good because you are now seeing the issues that exist within your environment and bad because not all of those alerts might be relevant to you.

When you want to stop the alerts that aren't relevant to you from appearing in your console, you need to tune them out (or create overrides to disable or modify them). What you don't want to do is to just close all those alerts with a swift stroke of the CTRL + A keys and a click of your mouse. This is because some of those alerts will have been created by monitors and others will have been created by rules.

The Old Alert Filtering Method

A few years back, Cameron Fuller (Yoda-level SCOM consultant and System Center MVP) wrote a blog post explaining why you don't want to do this and I'll encourage you to take a quick read of his post before continuing on with this one:

OpsMgr: Never close an alert for a monitor – the exception to the “Rule of the monitor”

That post was written for SCOM 2007 R2 and the general recommendation was that you could bulk-close alerts that were generated by rules but not ones generated by monitors - once you had managed to identify which ones you could close first!

The New Alert Filtering Method

Since then, we have access to the new dashboard widgets - one of which is the 'Alert Widget'. A little known trick to help you with alert tuning is to use the 'Is Monitor Alert' display column to quickly sort alerts generated by monitors from alerts generated by rules.

Cameron has written another post on this topic:

QuickTrick: Find alerts from a monitor or rule in OpsMgr 2012

The introduction of this widget has given us a taste of how we can filter alerts into a customized and relevant view for whatever scenario we might have.

An Even Better Alert Filtering Method

Although the original Alert Widget solves the problem of displaying alerts generated by monitors and alerts generated by rules, it's still limited in how it can filter those alerts in the first place. This widget has three different Criteria options to choose from - Severity, Priority and Resolution State and sometimes these options just aren't enough.

This is something that Wei H. Lim noticed and decided to remedy with a new sample Alert Widget that makes use of custom fields to give you filtering through logical expressions.

Confused? Don't worry, all will become clearer when you check out his full post here:

You can download the sample alert widget from the TechNet Gallery here (although you'll need to read his post first to understand how to configure it):

Cheers Wei for another cool community offering!

SCOM - Automating Run As Account Distribution

If you're an IT Pro and anyway involved in deploying SCOM on a regular basis, then you'll know the pain of having to manage Run As account distribution to various Run As profiles.

The SQL management pack is one example where in large environments, this can quickly turn into a time-consuming nightmare!

Well, Kevin Holman (Microsoft's SCOM Ninja Master Elite) has come up with an awesome PowerShell script to solve these problems :)

His script uses a SCOM group to determine Run As account distribution and makes delegation of this task super-easy when working with more than one SCOM administrator/operator.

Kevin explains all in his post here (where you can also grab the PowerShell script):

I've tested this script now in a few different SCOM environments and it works exactly as promised but if you run into any problems with it or want to say thanks to Kevin directly, then just leave a comment on his blog from the link above.


SCOM & MSOMS - Collecting ConfigMgr Logs with the NiCE Log File MP

Although I don't work much with ConfigMgr, I can appreciate the difficultly people have when they try to collect and analyze the various logs that it can generate and it was only a matter of time before someone sat down and worked out how to make this collection easier.

That's what my Australian friend and fellow MVP Tao Yang has been spending his spare-time on for the past few weeks. The result is a mashed-up collaboration of SCOM, the Microsoft Operations Management Suite (MSOMS), ConfigMgr and the ever-useful free NiCe Log File management pack.

Tao has written a comprehensive blog post on how he managed to get all these solutions working together to collect ConfigMgr logs and you can check it out from here:

Great work as usual Tao!

SCOM - PowerShell Script to Enumerate Management Servers, Gateway Servers and Agents

When it comes to authoring PowerShell scripts from scratch, I wouldn't be the most prolific or creative but I am an obsessive hoarder of them. Like learning any new language, the more examples of that language you have to reference, the easier you will find it is to speak it yourself.

With that in mind, this week, my buddy Marnix Wolf has written a new PowerShell script to give you a quick overview of all your SCOM Management Servers, Gateway Servers and the agents reporting to them.

You could run a report to get this information or just check it out in the console but as Marnix says, PowerShell is always going to be quicker once you have a script like this at your disposal.

Check out his post at this link:

You can download the script from here.

Thanks Marnix - that's another script to add to my ever-growing collection :)