Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cross Post: Understanding Resource Pools

I thought I understood already all there was to know about Resource Pools. But heck no! Wished I knew what Kevin has just posted when I wrote the chapter ‘Complex Configurations’ for the SCOM 2012 Unleashed book Smile.

But back then I didn’t know. But now I do. And there is much more to Resource Pools than I thought possible. And it can be modified as well!

Totally awesome! Want to know more? Read Kevin’s posting and be amazed, just like me!

All credits go to Kevin Holman for sharing AND his colleague Mihai Sarbulescu turns out to be the SCOM Resource Pool guru! Changes are this man knows a lot more SCOM stuff as well, so perhaps other mind blowing postings are to be expected in the near future?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

BlueStripe FactFinder Goes Cloud: Say Hello To Service Map

Some background information
In June 2015 Microsoft completed the acquisition of BlueStripe Software. Their flagship product being BlueStripe FactFinder, a dynamic monitoring solution which maps, monitors and troubleshoots distributed applications across heterogeneous operating systems and multiple datacenter and cloud environments.

On itself very impressive and when combined with SCOM it got even more impressive since it extended SCOM to an unprecedented level. It enabled SCOM to dynamically discover multi layered applications, build DA’s on the fly and show real time performance monitoring in the SCOM Console as well.

Sadly, when BlueStripe Software was acquired by Microsoft, the flagship product was pulled. Only updates for existing customers were available but that was just about it.

OMS it is…
Until now that is. Microsoft and the former BlueStripe people have worked hard in order to fold the BlueStripe FactFinder functionality into OMS as a Solution, branded Service Map, previously called Application Dependency Monitor.

It’s in Public Preview, so you can test drive it for free.

When you want to know more about this new OMS Solution go here and read the whole article all about Service Map, it’s capabilities and possibilities, written by Nick Burling, Principal Program Manager on the Enterprise Cloud Management Team.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Is SCCM Current Branch Successful? The Numbers Say YES!!!

As stated earlier, SCCM uses a new approach for it’s updates. Almost three to four times per year an update for SCCM becomes available. As a result, Microsoft speaks now of CaaS, ConfigMgr-as-a-Service.

IMHO, it’s a success. But who am I at the end of the day? Only one man with a blog that’s all. And sure, I get positive feedback from my customers when I ask them about their (update) experiences with CaaS.

But still, it only represents a small number of it all. Especially when we talk about SCCM/ConfigMgr.

So gladly Microsoft has published some numbers which are impressive:

  1. 50 million+ devices are managed by CaaS (1511 or later);
  2. 25 thousand+ organizations are using CaaS.

Want to know more? Read this posting by Brad Anderson and be – just like me – amazed & impressed.

System Center & Update Mechanism SCCM

Since SCCM 1511 a whole new update mechanism is introduced. In this new approach the Windows 10 update mechanism - where updates are pushed out in so called ‘rings’ - is used by SCCM 1511 and later as well.

As such SCCM is growing into a Software-as-a-Service model, titled CaaS, ConfigMgr-as-a-Service. As a result the latest & greatest version of SCCM is dubbed ConfigMgr Current Branch.

For all of my customers this approach works great. No more Googling required in order to see whether their SCCM environment is up to date. Instead the SCCM Console itself, tells the admins when an update is available.

And it doesn’t end there. SCCM also aids in rolling out the upgrade! Of course, a backup of the related VMs and SQL database is always advised, but still SCCM itself aids you in upgrading to the Current Branch, by:

  1. Notifying you when an update is available;
  2. Downloading it;
  3. Packaging it and upload it to the DPs;
  4. Running the Prerequisite Check in order to see the current environment is ‘upgrade ready’;
  5. Rolling out the upgrade;
  6. Upgrading all the related components;
  7. Warning you when something goes wrong (haven’t heard about this at all yet Smile);
  8. Finishing up and cleaning up all the ‘mess’ which is normal after any upgrade.

As such, rolling out an upgrade of SCCM/ConfigMgr has evolved from a tedious and sometimes even hideous task, in a controlled workflow which is pretty solid.

This results in faster adoption of the Current Branch. So in order ‘to keep up’ one has to invest less more time, resources and budget.

System Center-as-a-Service?
Therefore I am hoping that one day the rest of the System Center 2016 stack will adopt the same approach as used by SCCM today.

It would lessen the administration burden significantly and help companies to grow into the idea that System Center-as-a-Service (SCaaS?) is good, helping them to adopt Azure based workloads and services even faster.

Hopefully Microsoft will choose for this approach one day. Please let me know how YOU think & feel about such an approach.

OMS Experience Center

Ever wanted to test drive OMS without having to connect your own environment to it? So you can see what it does, how it works and what kind of services OMS can deliver for your organization?

Especially for this kind of scenario Microsoft has made the Operations Management Suite Experience Center.

What it offers/does? As Microsoft states: ‘…You will log-in as an administrator for an enterprise organization, Contoso. The environment has 500 servers, running on-premises as well as the cloud – in both Azure and AWS. The on-premises system is managed by System Center, and the key workloads being monitoring include; Exchange, SharePoint, SQL, and even MySQL running on Linux…’

With the OMS Experience Center you can test OMS without uploading a single bit of data from your servers. This will help you to build a proper business case for our organization starting to use OMS with their own servers.

Want to test drive OMS? Go to the Operations Management Suite Experience Center and sign up!

I Want ConfigMgr 1610 And I Want It NOW!!!

Suppose you’ve got a ConfigMgr 1606 (or older) environment and have heard about the Current Branch 1610 being available. How ever, as it’s globally rolled out, it might take some time before it’s available in your region.

As such it might not show up yet in your ConfigMgr environment:

Now there are two things you can do: WAIT, until it’s available and ConfigMgr will let you know when it’s there, OR run a PS script which puts you in the first wave of customers getting the update, AKA Early Update Ring.

This PS script is made by the The Configuration Manager Team, so you know it’s good Smile. Script can be downloaded from here.

How it works
Easy job!

  1. Download the script which is packed as a signed executable so the code can’t be tampered with;
  2. Unpack the executable. By default it unpacks the PS script in the folder C:\EnableFastRing;
  3. Run the PS script EnableFastUpdateRing1610.ps1 and enter the name of your Site Server and hit <enter>;
  4. The PS script will run and report the status back when done:
  5. Open the ConfigMgr Console with admin permissions and go to \Administration\Overview\Cloud Services\Updates and Servicing. Hit the Check for Updates button and wait.
    > !!!When upgrading from 1511, you must restart the SMS_Executive service first!!!<
  6. Hit the Refresh button after a few minutes, and now the 1610 update will be shown:
  7. Happy upgrading!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Azure Stack Technical Preview 2 November Refresh Available!

Last Friday Microsoft released the November Refresh for Azure Stack. Many deployment fixes and Azure PaaS services are added!

You can download it from here.

As an added bonus the tip from Charles Joy on Twitter: Increase your MaxPasswordAge. Your Azure Stack POC environment will last a lot longer now!

Azure Advisor In Public Preview

Microsoft released Azure Advisor under public preview.

As Microsoft states: ‘…While it’s easy to start building applications on Azure, making sure that the underlying Azure resources are setup correctly and being used optimally can be a challenging task…’

Therefore Microsoft released Azure Advisor which is ‘…a personalized recommendation engine that provides proactive best practices guidance for optimally configuring your Azure resources…’

What it does? Again, as Microsoft states: ‘…Azure Advisor analyzes your resource configuration and usage telemetry to detect risks and potential issues. It then draws on Azure best practices to recommend solutions that will reduce your cost and improve the security, performance, and reliability of your applications…’

Please know this service is under Public Preview. So you can use it for free. When it will become generally available I don’t know also not under what pricing. Yet, IMHO this service will help many companies to utilize their Azure resources in an optimal manner.

Want to know more? Go here.

How Do You Do It?

Many times I am asked above question. Gladly, related to my interest of technologies that is Smile. Mostly, the question comes down to: How do you keep up with all new technologies and development?

The answer is quite simple actually. I love to watch videos and with Microsoft Mechanics on Twitter I am quickly informed about ‘the latest & greatest’.

They have tons of videos (many of them only 60 seconds), podcasts, interviews and so on, all about what’s new and how it works.

Of course, with 60 seconds one won’t learn the deeper stuff, but still you learn where to place it in the bigger picture. And when requiring more knowledge there are other sides like Microsoft Virtual Academy, Microsoft Channel 9, lots of blogs and so on. And when that’s not enough, simply Google it (sorry, I don’t use Bing).

And yes, Microsoft Mechanics IS a MARKETING channel. So you’ve got to cut through the marketing mumbo jumbo. But even when that slicing is done, there is still a lot of worth while information to be found there.

New E-book: Containerized Docker Application Lifecycle With Microsoft Platform & Tools

Wonder what containers are (besides the obvious that is) and why IT in general and you specifically should know? And what containers can do for you (your company, your customers that is)?

Not wanting to read a tons of pages but under a hundred and STILL get a good and basic understanding of containerized applications (because that’s what I am talking about)?

Yeah, I know. Your field is IT Operations. So why should you care about application development? Let alone application life cycle? I mean, you’re NOT a developer. Duh!

Well guess what. The world we know is changing! And not at light pace but with the speed of light. As such, it comes in handy to know ‘a bit’ more about the world around you, the new technologies and the new world.

No, it’s not out there YET. But it’s changing already. And my guess is that containers are the next BIG thing and will make the revolution introduced by virtualization look like a walk in the park.

Hopefully I’ve made you curious. If so, READ the FREE e-book, all about Containerized Docker Application Lifecycle With Microsoft Platform & Tools.

And yes, 60 pages in total. Nice isn’t it?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Updated MP: Office 365 MP, Version 7.1.5134.0

A few days ago Microsoft released an update for the Office 365 MP, version 7.1.5134.0.

Changes in this MP (taken directly from the related MP guide):

  • Upgraded subscriptions authorization method: the monitoring is carried out by an Azure application, not a specific user. Introduced two options to create an application, essential for the monitoring: manual and automatic: Microsoft Office 365 Global Administrator credentials are required for the automatic option of Azure application creation, while Azure subscription can be used for the second (manual) option. See Managing Office 365 Subscriptions section for more details.
  • Added Message Center messages categorization (see “Office 365 Incidents and Messages” section for details).
  • Added a new Message Center messages type: Planned Maintenance.
  • The Management Pack now inquires Office 365 Service Communications API V2; added a possibility to customize the endpoints and resource URIs in advanced subscription settings of the Office 365 wizard while calling the API. The above changes are provided for further support of Chinese subscriptions.
  • Added “Configuring Proxy Connection” section to the guide;
  • Fixed bug: if there were several locales (Australian, Russian, etc.) present on the workstation, the monitoring was stopping.
  • Updated “Known Issues” section of the guide.

Office 365 MP, version 7.1.5134.0 can be downloaded from here.

We’re Using SCOM 2012 R2. Do We Upgrade To SCOM 2016 Or Move To OMS?

Update (11-17-2016): Based on some valid feedback from a reader I added a section about costs. Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated.

This kind of question I am asked by many customers today. In their own environment they’re running SCOM 2012 R2. They know SCOM 2016 is GA and that OMS has also a lot to offer.

Good bye SCOM & hello OMS?
So why not skip SCOM 2016 all together and move their monitoring into OMS? Simply because OMS also uses the Microsoft Monitoring Agent (MMA), uses Intelligent Packs (IPs, the OMS equivalent of SCOM MPs) and offers a Gateway as well (AKA OMS Log Analytics Forwarder).

On itself a logical question, which isn’t answered that easy however. Simple because it depends on how you’re using SCOM today.

SCOM = Monitoring. OMS = Log Analytics +++
To put it simply, SCOM is a pure bred monitoring tool with some basic log analytics capabilities. On the other hand OMS is a super enhanced log analyzer, with some (still basic) monitoring capabilities folded into it.

So when you’re using SCOM in order to monitor workloads, distributed applications and so on, whether on-premise or in the cloud or anything in between, SCOM is still the place to go and the product to use.

Rich Alerting required? SCOM is the product to use
Also when you have SCOM alerting people when something is wrong with the monitored environment, SCOM is still the product to use. Also because at this moment OMS has only some basic alerting capabilities built into it. Whereas SCOM has by default predefined Alerts (based on the MPs imported), OMS doesn’t have that so most of the Alerts have to be pre-defined manually by you. Which is quite a challenge because you have to think up every possible situation requiring an Alert.

Log analytics required? OMS!
However, when you require a powerful log analytics tool with many preconfigured solutions, like security & auditing, SQL Assessment, AD Assessment and so on, OMS is the product to use. Or better, service.

The speed, dashboarding and possibilities to ‘dig through the collected data’ is totally awesome and unmatched by SCOM. And believe me, SCOM will never get to that level, ever.

So when you require hard log analytics capabilities, OMS is the place to be.

SCOM & OMS. Better together
Good thing is, SCOM & OMS can be combined. So you have the power of SCOM (rich monitoring and alerting) and the log analytics power of OMS. So you’ve the best of both worlds.

As we already know it’s quite easy to attach SCOM to OMS and from there, have a (sub)set of SCOM monitored servers (whether Windows or Linux) uploading data to OMS as well.

So now you have the power of SCOM and OMS. Totally awesome. The fun thing is, you can try this for free. OMS still offers a free data plan. It’s limited in the solutions it has, but still it will give you a good insight of the capabilities and power of OMS.

This brings me to another important topic: costs.

When your company already has a Software Assurance licensing agreement with Microsoft, changes are they have licenses for the entire System Center suite as part of the same SA. Leveraging OMS will result in an incremental cost on top of your current System Center licenses. Or you will wind up using the ingestion model at $2.30 per GB.

So it’s certainly worth the effort to find out whether your company has a SA in place with licenses for the entire System Center suite. When that’s the case you may use OMS for lower costs than expected.

If not, there is still the free data plan available, allowing you to test drive some OMS functionalities for free.

SCOM 2012 R2 or SCOM 2016?
When you’re on SCOM 2012 R2 level I strongly advise to upgrade to SCOM 2016. Why? There are many reasons, this is the Top 3:

  1. Mainstream support
    For SCOM 2012 R2 it ends on 11th of July 2017,
    For SCOM 2016 it ends on 11th of January 2022.

  2. Growth of capabilities and functionality
    What do you think? Will Microsoft add new capabilities and functionality to SCOM 2012 R2 or SCOM 2016? Exactly! So SCOM 2016 has more of a future ahead of itself compared to SCOM 2012 R2.

  3. Know what the future will bring? No?
    Neither do I. But it’s better to prepare yourself for it. Thus rolling out ‘the latest & greatest’ is a better approach, compared to holding on to SCOM 2012 R2 up an beyond July 2017. Sometime, many times earlier than expected, you end up with an unsupported product. Meaning it isn’t covered by SCOM 2012 R2 but SCOM 2016 instead. Ouch!

The future
Microsoft goes by the mantra ‘Cloud & Mobile First’. So it’s evident that OMS will keep on growing BIG time. Things we’re missing at this moment (like real monitoring, objects and health states included) with rich Alerting, are most likely to be added sometime in the future. Until then however, SCOM is the product delivering this functionality out of the box.

So SCOM still has a valid business case, and will have that for the years to come. None the less, it can’t and won’t hurt to take a look at OMS and start using it (the free data plan is a good start). Also combine it with SCOM and go from there.

What surprises me the most is the pace of growth in OMS. In less than two years, tons of new features are added. And that pace of growth won’t lessen. I know that for sure. So we’ll see new features, improvement of the existing ones and so on.

When running SCOM 2012 R2 for rich monitoring and Alerting, SCOM is still the product to use. However, this doesn’t exclude the usage or use case scenario’s for OMS.

OMS delivers rich and enhanced log analytics capabilities. Combined with SCOM you’ve yourself a rich monitoring and log analytics platform at hand, so now you can drill deep into the very core of your IT assets, then you ever imagined.

It will be an exciting journey, starting with SCOM 2016 on-premise and OMS in the cloud.

OMS: Security Advanced Detections – Now In Europe (Cross Post)

Note: This article is a cross post from contains copied text from this article written by The Scripting Guys, a Microsoft blog all about PowerShell and OMS.

Last August Microsoft introduced the advanced detection capability in OMS Security. It scans more than seven billion events per day(!) and analyzes them to generate useful detections.

OMS Security advanced detections are provided as a service, which means that customers don’t have to create or maintain the infrastructure and write threat detection rules. Microsoft does it for them on a global scale and brings Microsoft’s vast security knowledge and tools into play.

Microsoft is continuously adding new patterns and new detection types to keep up with the latest attack techniques. Microsoft keeps monitoring the detections to reduce the false positive detections as much they can.

Since yesterday this service is available in Europe as well and is automatically enabled for all OMS Security customers.

Want to know more about this powerfull feature, which is RTU (Ready To Use) without requiring any configuration at all, except for rolling out the Microsoft Monitoring Agent to the systems you want to cover, or to connect your SCOM environment to OMS? Go here.

OMS is growing on an almost weekly basis in capabilities and coverage, if not daily. Features like this one are really usefull and offer a good insight in how secure your organization really is and whether there are breaches. Normally it would take a lot of time, resources and money to roll out such a service. And now it’s available with just a few mouse clicks for a very affordable price!

For me this is a typical showcase of the power of the cloud and the services it has to offer.

Friday, November 4, 2016

SCOrch 2016: New IPs Available For Download

Since a few days the new Integration Packs (IPs) for Orchestrator 2016 are available for download:

Click on the links of the IPs you require for your environment.