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:


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Just Released - All New Exchange 2013 Management Pack!

Microsoft has just announced the release of an updated version of their Exchange Server 2013 Management Pack for SCOM and it's a world apart from its predecessor.

The original iteration of this MP was released over a year ago and was one of the most underwhelming management packs that we've seen in a long time. For whatever reason back then, a decision was made to leave most of the monitoring of Exchange Server 2013 to itself in a kind of 'self-monitoring' role. This decision then resulted in us getting an MP that barely gave us more than an 'Up or Down' overview of our newly deployed and on-premise email systems - which meant that in a lot of cases, people didn't even bother installing the MP into SCOM at all.

Thankfully, the team over in Redmond that are responsible for working on SCOM management packs listened to feedback from customers and the community and put their resources together to come up with this all new and improved MP.

In a world where we're being told that hybrid-cloud is the way to go, it didn't make sense for customers that were deploying hybrid email scenarios (Office365 for some off-prem and Exchange Server 2013 for on-prem) to not have a fully centralized monitoring solution for them. This new MP thankfully should ensure that Exchange and SCOM admins alike will want to get this deployed and managed inside their SCOM deployments now.

Here's some screenshots of the new Exchange Server 2013 MP in action:

Organization Diagram

Organization Summary (using some of the new SCOM Dashboard Widgets)

Server Summary

Like what you see? If so, then you can download the new MP either for your lab environments through the built-in catalog (shown here)

For your production environments, download the MP directly from this link -

Note: I always recommend to only use the built-in catalog option if you want to quickly deploy your MP's into a lab as you don't get easy access to the MP guide when using the direct download link option. As is the case with all SCOM management packs, it's crucial that you read the MP guide from front to back (RTFM!) to ensure you understand everything that the MP monitors out of the box and how to get any discoveries turned on or off.

You can get more info on this new MP from some of my fellow MVP's here and here or you can check out the official announcement here.

Finally, a huge well done should be given to the MP team led by Daniel Savage that got this MP updated and released - I can see a lot of deployments putting this into production now - thanks!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

System Center Universe Europe 2014 Presentations Now Live on!

The great team over at System Center Universe (SCU) Europe have just announced the availability of all the presentations that were delivered over the three day event last month up on Microsoft's

I presented two sessions at the event on IP address management with Windows Server 2012 R2 and Application Performance Monitoring (APM) across your private and public clouds. Here's the links to both my presentations:

Stefan Roth has listed all sixty presentations on his blog here and for quick access to the ones you want, I've copied them all below too (you should still check out Stefan's blog for loads more cool Cloud OS info though!):

  1. Advanced Orchestrator Runbook Authoring and Management
  2. Author your own custom gallery item and deploy VM roles in Windows Azure Pack
  3. Building a Real self-service platform with SCSM, SMA PowerShell Workflows
  4. Building solid business continuity plans using System Center, Windows Server and Azure
  5. Compliance Management – the new orange in Client Management
  6. Configuration Manager 2012 R2 – a site review
  7. Creating awesome System Center Reports with PowerBI and PowerView
  8. Customer requirements first – Service Manager Customizations without limits
  9. Data Deduplication in depth
  10. Deploy the Microsoft Cloud OS in high available
  11. Deploy Windows Azure Pack across sites
  12. Disaster Recovery in a service provider cloud
  13. Disaster Recovery with Azure Site Recovery
  14. Enterprise Management Solution (EMS) – the full story
  15. How to build a service provider cloud
  16. How to deliver BaaS, RaaS and DRaaS in a modern datacenter using System Center & Azure
  17. Hybrid Cloud DevOps with APM
  18. Identity Management for Hybrid IT with Windows Azure and Windows Server 2012 R2
  19. Integrating the System Center components – your path to the galaxy
  20. Leaving the dark ages – Migrating from Configuration Manager 2007 to 2012 R2
  21. Manage your Azure through Service Manager and SMA
  22. Managing your IP Addresses the Easy Way with IPAM
  23. Microsoft Hybrid Cloud – Manage Azure with Microsoft System Center
  24. Microsoft Mobile Device Management from A to Z
  25. Multi-factor authentication for your clouds
  26. My top ten things in Windows Server 2012 R2 that will make your life easier
  27. OMI and DAL – Understanding the big picture
  28. OpsMgr Dashboards – new widgets and possibilities
  29. Optimize Azure Virtual Machines for performance and availability
  30. PowerShell’s Desired State Configuration – Resource authoring
  31. PowerShell’s Desired State Configuration – Notes from the field
  32. Self-service software provisioning with SCSM, SCORCH and SCCM
  33. Send your monitoring probes deep into unexplored space
  34. Service Management Automation – Introduction
  35. Service Management Automation (SMA) deep dive
  36. Service Manager – Performance and Scalability best practices
  37. Show me the reporting money with System Center
  38. Software Defined Networking – Comparison of different solutions
  39. Speed Lab – Deploy a Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 environment
  40. Sponsor Session OPSLOGIX & ITNETX – Conference Closing Note
  41. Sponsored Session BLUESTRIPE SOFTWARE – Using System Center and BlueStripe for dynamic application management across Azure and datacenter business applications
  42. Sponsored Session CASED DIMENSIONS – How to make Service Manager enterprise
  43. Sponsored Session CIRESON – Worldwide First – Unveiling Cireson Portal v3
  44. Sponsored Session CISCO – a Unified Data Center – Best integration for Microsoft Environments
  45. Sponsored Session COMTRADE – Deliver Citrix desktop virtualization confidently with Operations Manager
  46. Sponsored Session DERDACK – Never miss a critical IT incident again. Resolve IT incidents on-the-go. On-call duty redefined
  47. Sponsored Session MATRIX42 – Web Console for SCCM – easiness and delegation
  48. Sponsored Session NUTANIX – Automating Your Datacenter – Web-Scale Style
  49. Sponsored Session STEFFEN INFORMATIK – SCOM Manager
  50. Sponsored Session SYLIANCE IT SERVICES – Customizing System Center – Things you’ve never seen before!
  51. Sponsored Session VEEAM – Rock your Microsoft datacenter with Veeam
  52. Storage Spaces – Scale-out file server deep dive
  53. System Center Orchestrator – Runbook Design 101
  54. Unified Device Management – It’s all about the experience
  55. Upgrading to Configuration Manager 2012 R2
  56. VMware to Hyper-V Migration
  57. Welcome Note and Keynote Going beyond the borders – prepare yourself for the future!
  58. Windows Apps in the Cloud – Azure RemoteApp
  59. Windows Azure Pack – Usage Metering & Reporting Troubleshooting Guide
  60. Windows Azure Pack usage metering
So, between these sessions and the upcoming TechEd Europe ones that should be available from next week, I think I'll have enough to download to keep me occupied on the plane journey over and back to Seattle when I head to the MVP Summit in a couple of weeks!


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!


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!