Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Free OMS E-Book - Inside the Microsoft Operations Management Suite

Earlier today the preview version of a new free e-book on Microsoft's Operations Management Suite (OMS) was released. This book was authored by four of the best OMS ninja's around (Tao Yang, Stanislav Zhelyazkov, Pete Zerger and Anders Bengtsson) and after having a quick scan through its contents myself, I can already tell it's much more than your average 'low-page count' freebie.

With over 400 pages of technical goodness, you should find everything you need to know about OMS from the 12 chapters listed below in the book:

Chapter 1: Introduction and Onboarding
Chapter 2: Searching and Presenting OMS Data
Chapter 3: Alert Management
Chapter 4: Configuration Assessment and Change Tracking
Chapter 5: Working with Performance Data
Chapter 6: Process Automation and Desired State Configuration
Chapter 7: Backup and Disaster Recovery
Chapter 8: Security Configuration and Event Analysis
Chapter 9: Analyzing Network Data
Chapter 10: Accessing OMS Data Programmatically
Chapter 11: Custom Management Pack Authoring
Chapter 12: Cross-Platform Management and Automation

Whether you're a seasoned OMS aficionado or just a little curious about the next stage of Microsoft's cloud and datacenter management offerings, this book is for you.

Download it (FOR FREE!) here and make sure to give it a 5 star rating on the TechNet Gallery.

Thanks to the authors for all the hard work they've put into this - looking forward to learning loads from it!

Monday, December 21, 2015

System Center Universe 2016 is Just Around the Corner!

At a time when the whole world is going crazy with inter-galactic theme tunes and costumes in anticipation for the new Star Wars movie, it's appropriate that the awesome System Center Universe (SCU) 2016 conference in Texas, USA is just around the corner.

Hosted by Catapult Systems, SCU is into its fifth year now and has grown significantly from the original one-off event that was hosted solely in the USA to becoming large multi-day events hosted in Europe (SCU Europe) and Asia (SCU APAC) too.

Have a read through Cameron Fuller's blog post here to get the low-down on the history of SCU along with some photo's from some of the previous events too.

With the long list of well known speakers at each event ensuring it takes its place as one of the best Microsoft-focused and community driven Cloud and Datacenter Management conferences out there, SCU is now always one of the first conferences that attendees want to pencil into their calendars each year to maximize the return on their company training budgets.

So what's in store for SCU 2016 you might ask?

Well, there's a live stream for anyone not able to jump on a plane and head over to Dallas with two separate tracks to choose from - Enterprise Client Management and Cloud and Datacenter Management. Each track has a who's-who of presenters including MVP's, Subject Matter Experts and Microsoft ninjas!. You can check out the full list of confirmed presenters here.

Here's a list of some of the technologies that will be presented throughout the event:

  • Azure Automation
  • Configuration Manager
  • EMS
  • Hyper-V and Failover Clustering
  • Intune
  • IoT
  • OMS
  • Operations Manager
  • Windows 10 Deployment
  • Windows Server 2016

If you run a local user group in your town, then you can sign up to host a free simulcast and join these other user groups around the world doing the same:

  • Austin, TX
  • Denver, CO
  • Houston, TX
  • Omaha, NE
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Seattle, WA
  • Tampa, FL
  • Amsterdam
  • Germany
  • Vienna

For more information on SCU 2016, check out the official website here and join in the fun on Twitter by following @SCU2016 and using the hashtag #SCU2016.

Looking forward to seeing many of you online during the event on January 19th!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Presenting at Experts Live 2015 in The Netherlands

Tomorrow morning, I'll be heading back over to The Netherlands as part of a three-man Irish contingent to present at the annual Experts Live conference.

This one day event features eight different tracks being presented by over 50 well known speakers in the Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter space.

I'll be presenting one session as part of the Operations Management Suite (OMS) track titled 'Monitoring.....the Next Generation'. In the session, attendees will learn about the latest developments and features coming in SCOM 2016 and I'll dive into the new OMS platform to show some handy use-case scenarios too.

If you're attending, bring the coffee and stroopwafels and I'll see you there!

Friday, October 16, 2015

SCOM - New SQL 2012 & 2014 Management Packs with Bug Fixes Released

Yesterday I noticed that a new release (version of the SQL 2012 & 2014 management packs has just landed and there's a lot of people out there who've been waiting on them.

Important Update - 21st October 2015: There have been a few reports about a bug in this latest management pack - which seems to have also been present in the previous MP release - where the SQL database logs on your DW server can fill up in certain scenarios. For this reason, it's a good idea to hold off deploying these MP's into production until Microsoft release a fix for this (as far as I know, Microsoft are aware of the issue and are working on a solution).

The previous release (version brought a new dashboard template and visualizations....

Unfortunately, many people (myself included) that deployed this MP ran into problems when viewing the SQL Server Summary Dashboard. As you can see from the comments section at the end of this TechNet post - this was a widespread issue...

Thankfully, Microsoft have identified this as an issue and have listed this as a fix in the latest release of the MP:

I've deployed this updated MP into my lab and so far, it seems to have fixed the issue for me - although it took a few days to manifest itself in the last MP so let's see how this one goes!

There's also a few new visualization options that you can choose from as you can see from Microsoft's post on the new MP's here.

You can download the new SQL management packs using the SCOM MP Wiki or directly from here (SQL 2012) and here (SQL 2014).

Note: As of the time of writing this post, these updated MP's are not available through the built-in catalog option in SCOM but I'd expect them to light up there in the coming days too.

Monday, October 12, 2015

My System Center Universe Europe 2015 Presentation Video is Now Live!

A few months back, I had the pleasure of presenting a session with my good friend Damian Flynn at the System Center Universe Europe 2015 conference in Switzerland and today I've noticed that the video recording for our session has just gone live.

Our presentation was titled 'What's new in OpsMgr?' and included information on what's new with the current SCOM 2012 R2 build as well as everything that we know up to now for the upcoming SCOM 2016 build.

You can check out our presentation video here - https://vimeo.com/142038148

As a side note, if you're watching our presentation and you're wondering why Damian keeps referencing 'glow sticks', then take a read of my 'Looking Back at System Center Universe Europe 2015' post to bring you up to speed!

Not all of the other videos from the conference have been uploaded yet, but along with our one, there's another 20+ awesome presentations to choose from and you can check them all out from the link below:


That's my spare time in the coming weeks used up watching and learning from all these new videos!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Awarded Microsoft MVP 2015 for Cloud and Datacenter Management!

With everything that I've had going on lately I nearly forgot today was my MVP renewal date. I say nearly, because as an MVP, when you notice the #MVPBuzz Twitter posts stacking up in your feed, you quickly go into 'DEFCON 1' mode.

In DEFCON 1 mode, you immediately begin to feel sorry for the poor F5 key on your keyboard that will undoubtedly feel the pain as the wait for the annual 'email' draws nearer and you can't help but keep frantically refreshing your email client until the mail finally arrives!

Thankfully, in between some customer presentations I was delivering this afternoon, the following email landed in my inbox....

This email brings confirmation from Microsoft that I've been awarded my 4th MVP in the System Center Cloud & Datacenter space and no matter how hard you work throughout the year, there's no guarantee that you will ever see that email coming in so it's always a very welcome relief.

The MVP program enables me to network and interact with some of the best technical brains in the industry and I'm very lucky to work for an employer (Ergo) that supports me on this journey each year by allowing me time off work to present at events and attend conferences where I can maximize my learning curve.

So far over the past 12 months, I've started working on another book, been to Chicago to attend the Microsoft Ignite conference, had the opportunity to present two sessions at the awesome System Center Universe Europe conference and have been invited to present alongside some friends at the Dutch WMUG NL group.

Next month I'll be heading over to Seattle to attend the MVP Summit and will then take another trip back to the Netherlands to present a session at the Experts Live 2015 event.

The amount of work you have to put in blogging, tweeting, writing books, working the forums and presenting at events to obtain and hold onto an MVP is not easy (most of it is carried out on your own time after the day job is finished) but it's certainly worth it!

Thanks to my family, to everyone in the MVP community for their help and advice over the last year and also thanks to my friends and work colleagues at Ergo for giving me the opportunity to work on some epic System Center projects this year too!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Presenting at Experts Live 2015 in The Netherlands

I've just been confirmed as a speaker at the Experts Live 2015 conference in the Netherlands.

The one-day event kicks off on November 19th and has a wide range of speakers delivering over 40 breakout sessions across the following seven tracks:

  • Azure
  • Office 365
  • Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS)
  • Operations Management Suite (OMS)
  • Azure Stack
  • Hyper-V
  • Windows

With speakers travelling from far and wide and a large number of presentations being delivered in English, don't be fooled into thinking this is a conference exclusively just for our Dutch-speaking friends - it definitely has an international flavor to it.

My presentation is titled 'Monitoring.....the Next Generation' and in it, I'll be talking about what's new in the Microsoft monitoring world with some (hopefully) cool demonstrations on OMS and SCOM vNext.

If you're thinking of attending, then you can register here where you can still avail of some early bird pricing and there's even a chance for attendees to win a test drive of a Tesla!

I'm really looking forward to heading back to the Netherlands to present again as I had an awesome time over there a few weeks back meeting up with friends and members of the System Center community and taking in some of the lovely sights the country has to offer.

I'll post more here as we get closer to the event and until then, check out the official Experts Live Twitter account to keep up to date with what's happening.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

SCOM - Updated Active Directory and DHCP Management Packs Available

Microsoft has just announced the update of two important SCOM management packs - Active Directory and DHCP.

Active Directory

The Active Directory MP (6.0.8321.0) update includes the following bug fix that should help out my German-speaking friends:

Fixed “AD_Op_Master_Response.vbs” which fails if the region local system is set to German.

You can download the MP and it's associated guide from here.


The DHCP MP (6.0.7295.0) update includes the following bug fix:

The properties view of Failover Server Relationship does not display all the IP addresses, with this fix the properties view of Failover Server Relationship will display all IP addresses.

You can download this MP and it's associated guide from here.

Remember to Test First!

As is always the case, make sure that you test these new MP's out in your lab/test environments and unless you're experiencing the exact problems listed above, then maybe hold off for a few weeks before putting them into production.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Presenting at the Windows Management User Group in the Netherlands

Next week I have the pleasure of taking a short trip over to the Netherlands to present a couple of sessions on OpsMgr/SCOM with my friends over there from the Windows Management User Group (WMUG NL).

This community-driven event kicks off on Tuesday 8th September at 16:00 and runs until 21:30 that evening. The event is being hosted at the Naarden premises of well known IT services and consulting company - Pink Elephant.

I'm really excited about this event for a number of reasons - I get to co-present for the first time with my good friend and MVP colleague Bob Cornelissen whom I know well since we worked on our first book together. Also, the rest of the team running WMUG NL - are collectively, some of the best in the business when it comes to System Center and Cloud technologies.

Throw in the fact that the event is hosted in the Netherlands and we're onto a winner already!


Here's the full agenda:

16:00 - 16:30 -  Reception and Kick-off

16:30 - 17:30  - Top Tips to Make Your OpsMgr Deployments Rock
(Kevin Greene, Bob Cornelissen)

17:30 – 18:30 - Food break

18:30 – 19:15 - Extending OpsMgr through Microsoft Management Services and Partner Solutions (Christian Heitkamp, NiCE IT Management Solutions)

19:15 – 19:30 - Quick Break

19:30 – 20:30 - Essential OpsMgr Management Packs, Dashboards and Tools
(Kevin Greene, Bob Cornelissen)

20:30 -21:30 - Drinks and networking

Session Info

The first presentation we will deliver (Top Tips to Make Your OpsMgr Deployments Rock) is targeted at the IT pro/admin/consultant whose role is to deploy different OpsMgr builds on a regular basis or who is preparing for a deployment of the upcoming OpsMgr 2016 release. In the session we will share our top tips and tricks that we've learnt along the way to help ensure your deployments and initial administration run smoothly and without any problems.

In our second presentation (Essential OpsMgr Management Packs, Dashboards and Tools) we will discuss and demonstrate some of the 'must-have' OpsMgr management packs, dashboards and tools that are available for free and which we think everyone should know about to help them with their day-to-day monitoring tasks.


If you're in the Netherlands and are using (or thinking about deploying) OpsMgr, then this free community event is definitely for you. More information about the event can be viewed from the WMUG NL site here.

There are still some places left but the audience size is limited so make sure to register soon if you're interested and the direct link for registration can be found here.

Hopefully I'll see some of you over there next week!

Chatten binnenkort!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Looking Back at System Center Universe Europe 2015

Last week I had the opportunity to attend and present at my third System Center Universe conference in Switzerland and it certainly lived up to the hype as one of the best System Center and Microsoft Cloud focused events in the world.

The following is a run through of what I got up to during my time over there (I've used some of the photos below from the official SCU Europe Facebook page)

Update October 2015: I've added the links for the recorded video's to my own presentation and ones I attended into my post below and you can access the full library of videos as they come online from here. 

Day 1

The first day of the conference kicked off on the Monday morning with Marcel Zehner setting the scene for the week ahead and encouraging everyone to wave their glow-sticks (these were provided at each seat in the keynote room) during the country rundown!

When the giddiness subsided, we had some words from the conference sponsors before Microsoft's Sascha Corti took to the stage for his 'Internet of Things and Machine Learning' presentation. This was an interesting, humorous and very cool session where we got a glimpse into where Microsoft are positioning themselves to prepare for a future of all our day-to-day electronic devices being connected to the Internet.

When the keynote was over, I needed to head over to the speaker room to prepare and rehearse with my good friend and uber-geek Damian Flynn for our 'What's New in OpsMgr?' presentation.

After some last minute additions to the demo's and slide deck, we were ready to go on stage....

The hall we presented in was the same hall used for the keynote and it was massive....

but once we got going - it was hard to keep us quiet again...

When we were finished answering attendee questions at the end, I had to rush over to my second presentation of the day with Savision titled 'Are ITIL and System Center BFF's?'

This was a much more intimate and informal session that was hosted by Jonas Lenntun from Approved Consulting. I had the opportunity to join my fellow MVP friends Thomas Maurer, Kristian Nese and Robert Hedblom for this one and in it, we discussed the pro's and con's of implementing ITIL within the business alongside System Center.

The discussion was a worthwhile one to be had as presenters and attendees all chipped in with some great real-world examples of when ITIL works and when it doesn't.

Later that evening, we headed over to the uber-cool Bar Rouge for the speakers and sponsors party - which brought back fond memories of last years SCU Europe event ;)

Day 2

Being the sensible one of our gang, I didn't stay out too late the night before and after a Starbucks, was ready to rock for Day 2!

My first session of the day was titled 'Data center reporting and analysis using Power BI' and was presented by my MVP buddy Kurt Van Hoecke and Stijn Callebaut. This was an awesome session about how to leverage PowerBI to deliver top-drawer reports and dashboards for your System Center environments.

Next up was the 'Lessons learned from Real World Deployments of Windows Azure Pack' delivered by Michael Rüefli and Michel Lüscher. If you're using Windows Azure Pack, then I'd advise you to check out the recording of this session when it becomes available to hear some of the great tips and tricks the guys have to offer.

The last session before lunch brought me over to Ronny de Jong's 'Got your Hybrid Identity in 4 steps with Azure AD Connect'. This was a detailed and very useful presentation with some nice demo's on how to connect your hybrid identities using Azure.

After lunch we attended the very informative 'What's New in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V?' presentation from Thomas Maurer and Carsten Rachfahl. These two guys have been working in the trenches of Hyper-V for years now and when they present on this topic, it's certainly one you don't want to miss. There were some really useful nuggets to be gleaned here and another one that you should download the recording for once it becomes available.

The penultimate session of the day was delivered by one of my favourite presenters on System Center - Pete Zerger - and his partner in crime Anders Bengtsson. Their presentation was titled 'Migrating from Orchestrator to Azure Automation' and was packed full with demo's and advice on moving your automation workflows from on-premise to Microsoft Azure.

Towards the end of this presentation, myself and Damian had to head down to the 'Ask the Expert's' area where we were scheduled to be on-hand to answer questions from attendees about monitoring and all things System Center!

To close out Day 2, after our Ask the Experts session, I headed over to the small gathering of SCOM dashboard enthusiasts who had come together in one of the side-session rooms to hear Richard South deliver his 'Squared Up: Whisky Tasting (and insider info…)' presentation.

The fact that this session involved everyone drinking small shots of whisky while getting the inside track on what SquaredUp are planning next had honestly nothing to do with this being voted my favourite session of the day........

Later that evening we had the attendee networking party - which was held in the conference centre and we helped ourselves to the free food and drinks while listening to the DJ and Beatbox artists do their thing!

Day 3

The final day of the conference kicked off for me with a refreshing presentation delivered by Sam Erskine and Lee Berg. This session was titled 'IT Pro to IT Scientist' and featured demo's using a mix of webcam's, Raspberry PI's and Intel NUC devices! A very entertaining session that had everyone laughing and learning at the same time.

After that, it was over to see two more good MVP friends - Stefan Koell and Stefan Roth do their thing on stage with their aptly titled 'Speed Dating SCOM - Make it Sexy' presentation. In this session the guys demonstrated over 30 different tools, tips and tricks to help you keep your SCOM deployments ticking over nicely.

The last session before lunch brought us into another presentation from the dynamic duo - Pete Zerger and Anders Bengtsson which was titled 'Deep Dive into MS Operations Management Suite'. Here, the guys took a dive into the lesser known areas of OMS and discussed things like automation, log analytics and on-demand recovery.

For the final slot of the day before the conference closing note, we decided to visit the many vendors around the exhibition hall to get the low-down on what they had to offer and we had some interesting conversations with some members of the MPx Alliance from NiCE, Comtrade and Veeam.

Closing Note and Announcements

It's a credit to Marcel and the team over at itnetX that they kept one of the most entertaining demonstrations until the final closing keynote speech - where they rolled in two souped-up Tesla's to the main conference hall!

Here's me and Stefan Roth checking out one of them....

As part of his closing demonstration, Marcel created a PowerShell module that enabled him to carry out basic tasks on the Tesla - things like starting it up, turning on the air conditioning, honking the horn etc.

From there, he created a management pack for SCOM to give him monitoring capabilities of the Tesla direct from System Center..awesome!

When Marcel finished with the super-cool demo's, it was time for Maarten Goet to take the stage and present his super-funny and awesome annual SCU Trivia Quiz - where essentially he's compiled a list of 20 questions (some easy, some really difficult!) and then hands out prizes to the audience for correct answers!

When the quiz ended, Marcel came back onstage to make some announcements - the first was the unveiling of the new MSCloudCommunity.com website - which has been created to bring together both speakers and user group communities that are focused on Microsoft System Center and Cloud technologies. This is an awesome idea and one which I'm registered as a speaker. I'll post more about this in the coming days though.

The final announcement of the day involved the location and dates for next years System Center Universe Europe conference.

SCU Europe 2016 will be held in Berlin, Germany next August!

This was probably one of the best conference closing notes I've attended in a long time and to finish off the evening, we all headed across Basel to attend the official Closing Party to unwind before the journey back home.

All-in-all - it was the best SCU I've attended so far and this conference just seems to get better and better each year. I'm looking forward to seeing how Berlin can top this one next time!