Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New OMS and Azure Hybrid Worker PowerShell Module Available

Today Tao Yang (the scripting and toolkit ninja from down-under) has just released another free PowerShell module - this time for the OMS and Azure Automation Hybrid Worker role.

Combining ideas from recent blog posts by Pete Zerger and Kevin Holman with some added knowledge based on real-world experience thrown in for good measure, Tao's HybridWorkerToolkit contains the following three PowerShell functions:

  • Get-HybridWorkerConfiguration - used to get the Hybrid Worker and Microsoft Monitoring Agent configuration.
  • Get-HybridWorkerJobRuntimeInfo - retrieves the following information about the Azure Automation runbook and the job run time.
  • New-HybridWorkerRunbookLogEntry - used to log event log entries.

Check out Tao's blog post for detailed information on each of these functions and if you're using Hybrid Workers with either OMS or Azure Automation, then I'd strongly recommend you download this module and give it a test drive.

It's available for download on both Github and the PowerShell Gallery.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The New SCOM Partner Solutions Area is Now Live!

Late last year, Update Rollup 8 for SCOM 2012 R2 introduced a new Partner Solutions area into the Administration workspace (shown below).

This was the first step to delivering an integrated overview of Microsoft's preferred partner solutions directly within the SCOM console. However, clicking into this area would just return a message asking that you come back soon for more information.

In the past week, this feature has now gone live and when you click on it you'll notice a number of already well-known third-party vendors such as NiCE, Comtrade, OpsLogix and Silect.

For each partner, you can see a description of the solution they have on offer, along with the version, release date and a link to their website. Interestingly, all of the current solutions listed here are offered for free - though I would imagine paid-for solutions will creep in once the feature matures.

Either way, when you need to recommend third-party solutions to your customers (or boss), this area can serve as a useful vote of confidence to show that vendors listed here have been endorsed by Microsoft to run their products on SCOM.

Over the coming months, I expect this feature to become much more populated as additional preferred partners are brought on-board.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Upcoming Webinar: Log File Monitoring in SCOM Made Easy

Next Thursday (April 21st), I'll be taking part in a webinar with well-known MPx Alliance member NiCE IT Management Solutions.

Update: The full recording for this webinar is now available for viewing here.

What you'll learn..

In this webinar we'll show you how to drastically enhance your log file monitoring capabilities with SCOM using the free Log File MP from NiCE. If you haven't already deployed this management pack, then you're missing a trick and I'd suggest you download and start playing with it now.

The management pack takes the initial (and fairly basic) out-of-the-box idea Microsoft had for monitoring log files with SCOM and turbo-enhances it with some seriously cool features that delivers many more new and interesting monitoring scenarios for your SCOM environments.

Sounds great, what's the catch?

Thankfully, there's no catch. When I initially spoke with NiCE about collaborating on this with them, I was curious to know why they wanted to deliver a webinar based solely on a free product that people can download and fully deploy without any obligation (as opposed to running a webinar that promotes any of the awesome paid-for management packs they have in their portfolio).

Unsurprisingly (given how focused a company NiCE have always been with their free contributions to the SCOM ecosystem), they want this webinar to serve two main purposes:

  1. Spread the word to anyone who hasn't yet worked with their Log File MP and encourage them to deploy it.
  2. Educate people who have previously imported the MP on new scenario's and capabilities that they probably aren't aware it has.
The second point is where they've found the biggest challenge with this management pack as they have noted the majority of users working with it simply aren't leveraging it to the best of its abilities. I can personally testify to this point too as every time I work with this management pack on a customer site or in our own environment, I find something new that it can do - which is always an added bonus when working with free stuff!

Agenda and Takeaways

We'll have a number of different presenters during the webinar including NiCE Product Director (and all-round good guy) Christian Heitkamp, myself and also the guys from the Log File MP development team will be on hand to answer any real deep-dive log file monitoring questions that you might have.

Here's how things should pan out on the day:

  • Learn new best-practices on how to use the NiCE Log File MP
  • Popular use cases explained and demonstrated by MVP Kevin Greene
  • Sneak preview of upcoming new features and road-map
  • Download access to the free management pack along with some free examples after Webinar
  • Chance to ask NiCE experts all your questions

Date and Times

Date:         Thursday April 21st, 2016

Place:         Microsoft ‘Skype for Business’ – Online Webinar

Times: 16:00-16:45 – Central Europe Time Zone
                 10:00-10:45 – North American Eastern Time Zone
                 15:00-15:45 –  UTC/GMT

Register Today

If you're managing or deploying SCOM environments and this sounds like something you'd be interested in, then you can register for the webinar via the NiCE IT Management Solutions website here:

Thursday, March 3, 2016

SCOM 2016 & 2012 R2 - New List of Supported Network Devices for Extended Monitoring

It's been a while since I've had a chance to put some blog posts together (mainly due to focusing all my extra time on a new book project that's soon to be released) and I thought it'd be good to kick off again with a quick post about SCOM network monitoring.

Since SCOM 2012, we've had some pretty cool network monitoring capabilities out-of-the-box where you can easily discover and monitor a wide range of vendor network devices. Basically, any type of network connected device that supports ICMP (Ping) or SNMP can be monitored. As ICMP is only a basic Up/Down identifier that any monitoring tool is capable of performing, we'll skip the discussion on this.

What types of network devices can you monitor?

Using SNMP with SCOM, you can think outside the box a little where, aside from the typical devices you'd associate with network monitoring (switches, routers, firewalls etc.), you can also monitor things like UPS devices, air conditioning units, door scanners, wireless access points, cash registers and even CCTV cameras! It's these extra non-typical devices that people often forget about when deploying a monitoring solution and they can make all the difference when you need to get the full 360 degree view when mapping out IT services as distributed applications.

These types of SNMP devices will be discovered in SCOM as Generic devices and you'll get some basic monitoring capabilities back for them - similar to the Generic SNMP device we're monitoring in this image...

Taking it to the Next Level with Extended Network Monitoring

Extended network monitoring is available for any devices that implement the SNMP management information base (MIB) RFC 2863 and MIB-II RFC 1213 standards. 

An extended network monitoring device will give you additional monitoring capabilities for things like Chassis, Processor and Memory components (as shown in the following screenshot):

If your devices support these standards, they will be discovered as Certified devices in SCOM and in the past few days, Microsoft has published an updated Excel spreadsheet containing a list of all network devices that are supported for this extended monitoring capability.

This spreadsheet is an update to one that was released a few years back for SCOM 2012 and it's the official list of network devices that are supported for extended monitoring in SCOM 2016. With nearly 850 different devices on the list, you get information about the Object ID (OID), device type, vendor, model name, and whether or not the processor and memory components get monitored as part of the extended monitoring function.

Here's a screenshot of some of the contents of the updated spreadsheet:

To download the updated SCOM 2016 Network Devices Supported for Monitoring spreadsheet, click the link here:

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 -

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!