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!

Friday, March 28, 2014

MVP Cloud OS Online Event

I've just finished recording a video session for next week's UK & Ireland MVP Cloud OS Online event that will see nearly 20 different presentations being delivered online via YouTube over the course of two days by a number of MVP's.

Ireland is well represented at this event with myself, Aidan Finn, Damian Flynn and Paul Keely all entering a session. Our UK friends have a strong showing too with speakers like Gordon McKenna, Patrick Lownds, Steve Beaumont and Simon Skinner to name but a few.

Here's a snippet about the event from our UK & Ireland MVP lead - Claire Smyth:

What is MVP Cloud OS Online?

On the 31st March and the 1st April 2014, MVPs will be releasing a series of online training videos that articulate how to rapidly build and deploy apps, flexibly manage IT services, and support real-time analytics across all forms of data. They will also highlight how the Cloud OS supports people-centric IT, allowing employees to bring their own devices and enhancing anytime, anywhere productivity.

The videos (all 25-30 minutes in length) will go online consecutively from Monday 31st March through to Tuesday April 1st and you can view them using the following info:

How to get involved?!
If you're watching the videos on the Monday or Tuesday, then you can contact us using the #UKMVPCLOUD hashtag with any questions you might have.

Here's the agenda:

31 March: Transform the datacentre
image

1 April: Empower People Centric IT

image

Check out this article for more info:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/uktechnet/archive/2014/03/26/why-not-take-a-closer-look-at-mvp-cloud-os-online.aspx

Enjoy!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 8 - Alerting & Administration

This is the final post in my 'Application Insights Deep Dive' series and if you haven't already seen the previous posts, then you can check them all out here:

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 1 - Getting Started

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 2 - Building A Demo Server

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 3 - Deploying A Demo Web Application

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 4 - Monitoring Availability

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 5 - Monitoring Performance & Using Diagnostics

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 6 - Monitoring Usage

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 7 - Working with Dashboards

In this post I'll first show you how to configure e-mail alerting so you can be sure that you're kept in the loop in the event of any availability or performance related issues that might arise with your web applications. After that, you'll see how you can use the administration area to view any configuration changes to your applications and get quick access to keys and downloads relevant to your Application Insights account.

It's recommended that you have already worked through the demo's in my previous posts before working through the tasks in this one.

Configuring E-mail Alerts

There are two categories of e-mail alerting that you can configure within Application Insights:

Availability alerts - When you create a synthetic monitor availability test (as we did in Part 4), an e-mail alert can be configured to inform you of any problems with the test.

Performance alerts - Once performance monitoring has been configured (check out Part 5 to learn how), e-mail alerts can be fired when any of your thresholds are breached.

Like most things in Application Insights, configuring e-mail alerting is pretty easy and to get up and running for availability alerts here's what you need to do:

Open the console and browse to the Availability\Synthetic Monitors view.

Select the web application and synthetic monitor that you want to receive alerts on, then hit the edit button (the pencil icon) to open the 'Edit Synthetic Monitor' dialog box. From there, modify your alert criteria and enter a valid e-mail address to send the alerts to, then click OK. (see below):


To configure e-mail alerting for performance alerts, follow these steps:

Browse to the Diagnostics\Metrics view and choose the application that you want to get alert notification from.

Now click on the metric that you wish to receive alerts from and then hit the 'Configure Alert' button as shown below:


At the 'Edit Alerting Rule' dialog box, check the 'Alert if' box, change the rule options and then input a valid e-mail address. When you're ready, uncheck the 'Alert if' box, then hit the 'Save rule' button.

You can test e-mail alerting from your application by temporarily stopping the website in IIS and causing an availability outage (obviously only if your using a non-production application for testing). In a short few minutes, you should then receive an 'Alert Activated' e-mail similar to this...


Clicking the 'View Online' links from inside this e-mail will open up a scoped view of your Application Insights console to help you quickly understand the resultant issue.

When the issue is resolved, you'll then receive an 'Alert Resolved' e-mail like this one..


I think the simple visualisations in these 'Alert Activated' and 'Alert Resolved' e-mails are very useful and easy to quickly consume the status of your application - especially if you're using Application Insights in tandem with SCOM or another monitoring solution and are getting a number of e-mail alert notifications into your inbox on a daily basis.

The Administration Area

If you want to edit your alerting rules, then you can do this from within the Administration area by clicking on the 'Administer account' option (gear icon) in the top right of the Application Insights console as shown below..


Click on the 'Alerting Rules' tab and you will see all of the alert rules that have been configured for your selected application. From this view, you can then highlight an alert rule and hit the 'Configure Alert' button to get quick access for changing alert thresholds and e-mail addresses.


If you want to carry out wholesale batch updates of your alert rules, then this can be achieved by downloading a configuration file from the 'Configuration History' tab, making your changes to the file, then uploading it again to refresh the configuration and alert rules to reflect your changes.

Here's what the Configuration History tab of my application looks like....


You'll notice the Upload Configuration and Download Configuration options and if you click the Download one, you'll be presented with an XML file that contains your configuration and alert rules. If you open this file you'll find all synthetic monitors contained in the <SyntheticMonitors> section and your alert rules located in the <Rules> section as shown here..


If you want to get quick access to all of the relevant tools, agents, instrumentation keys and configuration samples, then click on the 'Keys & Downloads' tab of the Administration Area. Here, you can scroll through a centralised list of everything you need - including Java agents like the example in this screenshot:


Additional Resources

If you like what you see in my series of posts, you can get more information on Application Insights from the following Channel 9 videos that Microsoft's Charles Sterling (aka AI ninja) has put together to help give everyone an understanding of what it can do:

You can post questions and get answers for all your Application Insights problems on the TechNet forum here:

http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/home?forum=ApplicationInsights

Also, you can have a read through all of the available MSDN documentation on Application Insights here:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn481095.aspx


Conclusion

This wraps up my 'Application Insights Deep Dive' blog series and hopefully, if you've been working through all the demo's and examples over the past eight posts, you'll now have a far better understanding of what this really cool new offering can do. Although it's just in its infancy in terms of a mature solution, I'm expecting big things for this over the coming year or two and it really does feel to me like it's the next generation of Microsoft's monitoring platform.