Monday, February 19, 2018

Speaking at the Global Azure Bootcamp 2018

This coming April 21st, I'll be presenting a session on Azure Monitoring at the Global Azure Bootcamp 2018 event in Dublin.

This annual event is now in its sixth year of running and is held on the same date in nearly 200 locations around the globe - bringing together some of the best speakers and contributors in the Azure community.

Organised as a free event by the Irish MVP community with support from the awesome people over at our local Microsoft team, we're running an agenda of three tracks side-by-side covering topics across Azure Infrastructure & Security (Track 1), Azure Compute/General (Track 2) and Azure Workshops/Lightning Talks (Track 3).

If you haven't attended one of these events before, here's the lowdown on what to expect (taken from our official event website):

"Welcome to Global Azure Bootcamp! All around the world, user groups and communities want to learn about Azure and Cloud Computing. On April 21, 2018, tech communities world-wide will come together once again in the sixth great Global Azure Bootcamp event!

In Dublin, we are organising the biggest community lead event yet, with two tracks and in-depth workshops during the day. Bootcamps are happening on the same day all over the world - come to Dublin and join in - please share your experience under the social hashtag #GlobalAzure!

It is important to point out, that while this event is *about* Azure, it is *not* a commercial event. Azure bootcamp Dublin is organised by the local MVP tech commmunity - we are here to share our knowledge, not sell anything."

Registration is filling up fast and if you miss out on a seat at the first attempt, we've put a waiting list system in place to hopefully help you grab a cancellation spot. You can check out the full agenda and list of speakers on the day along with your free registration at our new website here -

Hope to see some of you guys there!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

SCOM 1801 Has Just Been Released!

The latest release of SCOM (1801) has just been announced and it brings with it some major changes in licensing along with some nice additional features and enhancements compared to earlier versions.
Licensing Changes

This is the first release of SCOM in the new Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) model and it will enable Microsoft to deliver much faster capabilities to our favourite monitoring platform than we ever had before - e.g. two product releases per year versus one every three or four years. Due to this faster release cadence, SAC releases only have an 18-month support policy with the concept being similar to how we manage, deploy and get support for service packs to our operating systems and other applications.

If this short-term release cycle isn't something that you fancy, then you can still deploy SCOM using the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) model - which will provide new version releases at a much lower frequency and no new features will be added - mainly just bug fixes. With LTSC, you get up to 5 years of mainstream support followed by 5 more years of extended support - as has been standard with the versions of SCOM we've been using up to now.

Key Features

We get a number of new features with this release with my favourites being the new HTML 5 widgets, Service Map integration and the enhanced performance gains. Here's the full list of everything that's new:

  • Improved HTML5 dashboard experience 
  • Enhanced SDK performance 
  • Linux Logfile monitoring enhancements 
  • Linux Kerberos support 
  • GUI support for entering SCOM License key 
  • Service Map integration 
  • Updates and Recommendations for third-party vendor Management Packs 
  • System Center Visual Studio Authoring Extension (VSAE) support for Visual Studio 2017

The bits for this new release should start hitting your normal licensing channels for download around about now (if it's not there, give it a day or so to fully populate) and in the meantime, you can download an evaluation copy of SCOM 1801 from the Evaluation Center here.

I'll post back in the coming days with my thoughts on the new release and anything extra that I come across.


SCOM 'Updates and Recommendations' Feature Now Supports External Partner MP's

Earlier this week Microsoft announced that the Updates and Recommendations feature (first introduced in SCOM 2016) will be extended for the new SCOM 1801 semi-annual release to include management pack recommendations from certified external partners - such as NiCE and Comtrade to name a few.

The screenshot below shows this new capability in action where you can see a mixture of external partner management packs offered alongside the typical Microsoft ones.

How It Works

The Updates component of this feature periodically checks for updates to the existing management packs that you've deployed into your environment and then suggests which ones to upgrade.

For the Suggestions component, a discovery scans your monitored servers for workloads/technologies that are supported for monitoring with a SCOM management pack and then suggests which ones you should download for a better monitoring experience. It will also detect and suggest any dependent management packs that you might need to bring in so you don't run into any partial import problems.

This image shows an example of how this all comes together...

I've used the Updates and Recommendations feature a fair amount of times in SCOM 2016 and it's definitely a much better upgrade to the original 'Updates available for installed management packs' option that we had in SCOM 2012 R2 (which never really had a full up-to-date view of all current management packs anyway) and this extended capability for external vendors can only be a good thing going forward.

Here's what Microsoft had to say in their original post on this new capability...

"We are extending this feature to support Management Packs authored and offered by several external technologies and consulting partners of SCOM. Partners have extended their support by signing up with the SCOM team to onboard their Management Packs to ease the Management Pack discovery problem solved by this feature. With the partner support, this feature is now able to recommend Management Packs for both Microsoft and non-Microsoft workloads."

SCOM 1801 is now generally available and you can read all about it here and download an evaluation copy of it from here.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Speaking at CDC Germany 2018

Last year I had the opportunity to head over to Munich and present at the awesome Cloud and Datacenter (CDC) conference organised by my good friend and well-known MVP Carsten Rachfal and I'm delighted to confirm I've been invited back again this year to present at CDC 2018.

I really enjoyed my time presenting over in Munich last year and the conference was packed with some of the best cloud and datacenter-focused speakers from around the world (the plentiful food and quality local beer helped too!). The attendees also came well prepared with some excellent interaction and questions across all of the sessions that I watched or was involved in.

This years event is being held in Congress Park Hanau (just east of Frankfurt) and with nearly thirty speakers already confirmed, it has the makings to be an even better conference than last years one - which will be hard to top!

Held over two days (15th & 16th May) and across six different tracks, there will be a mixture of sessions to choose from - some in English, some in German.

You can register to attend CDC Germany 2018 here and I'll post back with an update closer to the event.

Hope to see some of you guys over there 😊

Monday, February 5, 2018

SCOM 2016 and OMS '101' Series

A few years back, Antoni Hanus (Microsoft PFE) released a really useful beginners guide for SCOM titled 'Operations Manager 101'.

This PDF-style guide contained over 100 pages of information and walk-through's designed to get people up and running with SCOM quickly. It was that useful, that I always recommended it to my SCOM customers as a great free learning resource and the feedback on it was always positive.

The only downside to the guide was that it was authored specifically for SCOM 2007 and along with the retro-style Microsoft logo that you can see in the image above, all of the screenshots and content looked way too out-of-date for people dipping their toes with SCOM 2016. There was also no reference to how SCOM can now connect to OMS.

Thankfully, over the weekend I came across a blog post from Antoni where he has taken the opportunity to update this guide and push it out as a combined web-series for SCOM 2016 and OMS.

He's already got over 20 new blog posts linked to this series with more to come and if you're deploying SCOM (or just want to ramp up your SCOM 2016 administration skills), then I encourage you to check it out at the link below:

Happy reading!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Dude, where's my 'Outside-In' monitoring gone?

If you've been working with SCOM for as long as I have, you'll most likely have come across the very cool Global Service Monitor (GSM) feature that Microsoft first demonstrated way back in 2012 during the release of SCOM 2012 Service Pack 1 at the awesome Microsoft Management Summit in Vegas.

GSM simulates the end-user experience of accessing a web application as it can schedule automatic synthetic transactions from locations around the world - providing an 'Outside-In' availability, performance and reliability monitoring view of your externally facing web applications.

If you purchased a Software Assurance license for System Center 2012, then you were entitled to deploy the GSM management pack into your SCOM environments and use the Global Service Monitor connector shown in the following image to connect GSM in the cloud back into your on-premise SCOM deployment.

I've deployed GSM to a lot of customers over the years and it worked exactly as it was meant to along with adding some nice value when we were modeling IT services that needed an end-user perspective of the availability and performance of specific web applications.

Fast-forward to when SCOM 2016 was first released and although the GSM management pack guide only specified support for SCOM 2012, it still worked and delivered that 'Outside-In' monitoring experience.

Recently however, the GSM connector has stopped working for SCOM 2012 and also for SCOM 2016. If you had GSM running in your SCOM environment, you will probably have noticed an alert relating to a DNS resolution error - which on investigation looks like there's a DNS zone missing on the Microsoft side.

While no official statement has been released by Microsoft as to this connector being deprecated and this DNS issue may still be resolved, it's probably a good time to start thinking of an alternative option to GSM. This is where the Azure-based Application Insights platform comes in.

A few years back I wrote a few blog posts (here and here) that discussed an alternative to GSM when using Application Insights and last week after a discussion between a some MVP friends relating to the Global Service Monitor DNS resolution error in SCOM, Cameron Fuller (Cloud and Datacenter Management legend) put together an awesome walk-through blog post on using Application Insights as an alternative to GSM in SCOM.

Along with showing how to create a web availability test in Application Insights, Cameron also dives into some examples around custom dashboards and automatic application mapping. If you want to learn more, then I totally recommend checking out his post at the link below:


Monday, December 4, 2017

Update Rollup 14 for SCOM 2012 R2 Now Available

Last week Microsoft announced the release of Update Rollup 14 (UR14) for SCOM 2012 R2.

The Fixes

This latest update is as lightweight as they come and contains just a single key fix/enhcancement:

Update Rollup 14 for System Center components adds support for Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol version 1.2. For more information about how to set up, configure, and run your environment to use TLS 1.2, see the following article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

4055768 TLS 1.2 Protocol Support Deployment Guide for System Center 2012 R2

The Gotcha's

The Web Console component of this update has the same known issue that we've seen with both UR13 for SCOM 2012 R2 and UR4 for SCOM 2016 whereby, after applying the update your web console's Silverlight configuration breaks! Here's a description of the issue:

When you access Silverlight dashboards, a “Web Console Configuration Required” message is displayed.

To work around the Silverlight dashboard issue, you'll need to work through the following steps:
  1. Click Configure in the dialog box.
  2. When you are prompted to run or save the SilverlightClientConfiguration.exe file, click Save.
  3. Run the SilverlightClientConfiguration.exe file.
  4. Right-click the .exe file, click Properties, and then select the Digital Signatures tab.
  5. Select the certificate that has Digest Algorithm as SHA256, and then click Details.
  6. In the Digital Signature Details dialog box, click View Certificate.
  7. In the dialog box that appears, click Install Certificate.
  8. In the Certificate Import Wizard, change the store location to Local Machine, and then click Next.
  9. Select the Place all certificates in the following store option and then select Trusted Publishers.
  10. Click Next and then click Finish.
  11. Refresh your browser window.

My Advice

As usual, my advice for deploying this update is to head over to Kevin Holman's blog and check out his handy step-by-step guide to get this up and running in your non-production environments first.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Update on the Roadmap for SCSM and Orchestrator

Back in June, Microsoft announced a change to the release cycle of System Center - where customers with an active Software Assurance license will see two new version releases a year. This change follows a similar track to how Microsoft now offer Configuration Manager - which has moved to a three-times-a-year release model - and it also brings the release cadence for System Center in line with Windows Server.

In the original announcement here of the new release cycle, you might have noticed that there was plenty of talk about how SCOM, SCVMM and DPM would be invested in but no mention of anything related to Service Manager (SCSM) or Orchestrator.

Over the last year or two, all of the messaging coming out of Microsoft has been that both SCSM and Orchestrator are essentially an abandoned ship - with no development or investment love coming their way as the move to cloud-based alternatives accelerates their demise.

Well, if you're currently working with SCSM and Orchestrator (or have a valid reason to not look at the cloud-based alternatives), then you'll be happy to know that Microsoft have recently clarified their position on their support and investment for both products in their 'SCSM Roadmap and Future' blog post here.

An encouraging quote directly from the blog post reads:

"System Center Service Manager and Orchestrator are still being developed and are part of this new release cycle along with the rest of System Center. Some semi-annual updates will only have fixes and some will have additional functionality. The features that get added to the entire suite each cycle will depend on customer demand and will be prioritized as such. The products which receive enhancements will likely vary each time. All products are therefore still fully supported.

Like many on-prem product groups, the SCSM team is currently working on incorporating more Azure and cloud service components into SCSM."

This should help allay fears that SCSM and Orchestrator are completely dead in the water but in the spirit of innovation, if you haven't yet looked at and tried out solutions such as Azure Automation, Azure Logic Apps and the ITSM integration with Azure Log Analytics, then you're missing a trick and need to check them out sooner rather than later!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

SCOM 2016 Update Rollup 4 (UR4) Now Available

Yesterday Microsoft announced the release of Update Rollup 4 (UR4) for SCOM 2016.

The Fixes

This latest update contains bug fixes for the following 12 known issues:
  • This update resolves an issue that causes a crash of IIS application pools that are running under CLR 2.0 when the APM feature is installed on the server as part of SCOM Agent. The code now uses appropriate memory instructions, based on the CLR version.
  • When a log file is being monitored by SCOM, Monagent locks the file and won't allow it to be renamed.
  • Adds support for TLS 1.2.
  • Addresses an issue in which the APM AppDiagnostics console fails to create a Problem Management rule due to a FormatException. The appropriate string is now used for formatting, and the Problem Management wizard is able to run without issues.
  • Failure of GetOpsMgrDBWatcherDiscovery.ps1 script causes the Monitoring Host to crash.
  • WMI Health monitor doesn't work if WINRM is configured to use https only.
  • WMI Health monitor doesn't work if SPN http://servername is set to a user account.
  • Product knowledge of "Windows Cluster Service Discovery" includes an incorrect reference to "Windows NT."
  • SCOMpercentageCPUTimeCounter.ps1 script generates WMI errors that are caused by Service Principle Name (SPN) configuration issues.
  • After a network outage, the management server does not reconnect to the gateway server if the gateway server was installed with the /ManagementServerInitiatesConnection=True option.
  • A configuration change to the network device triggers a rediscover of the device, and this process changes the SNMP agent address.
  • The UseMIAPI registry subkey prevents collection of custom performance rules data for all Linux servers.

I've highlighted the two issues that I've been waiting to be resolved for a while - with the agent APM feature crashing IIS application pools issue also being the top ask from customers and the community since the initial release of SCOM 2016 late last year. This issue was supposed to be fixed in UR3 and although I've seen a decrease in the number of people reporting the issue in UR3 environments, it still wasn't completely resolved so hopefully they have it nailed in UR4.

The WMI Health Monitor issue is widely anticipated too and this should supersede the recently released 'Inbox MP Hotfix' Microsoft released for scenarios where WINRM was configured to use https only.

The Gotcha's

For the first time in a long while with these Update Rollups, Microsoft have released a list of known issues that you need to consider when deploying UR4.

Here's what they say to watch out for:

  • During Audit Collection Services (ACS) update or removal, the Audit Collection Services Collector Setup wizard is incorrectly titled "System Center Operations Manager 2012 Audit Collection Server."
  • When you access Silverlight dashboards, a “Web Console Configuration Required” message is displayed.
To work around the Silverlight dashboard issue, they've listed the following steps:
  1. Click Configure in the dialog box.
  2. When you are prompted to run or save the SilverlightClientConfiguration.exe file, click Save.
  3. Run the SilverlightClientConfiguration.exe file.
  4. Right-click the .exe file, click Properties, and then select the Digital Signatures tab.
  5. Select the certificate that has Digest Algorithm as SHA256, and then click Details.
  6. In the Digital Signature Details dialog box, click View Certificate.
  7. In the dialog box that appears, click Install Certificate.
  8. In the Certificate Import Wizard, change the store location to Local Machine, and then click Next.
  9. Select the Place all certificates in the following store option and then select Trusted Publishers.
  10. Click Next and then click Finish.
  11. Refresh your browser window.

My Advice

All in all, Update Rollup 4 seems like it will solve some important outstanding issues but the journey to deploying it and potentially having to manually import certificates seems like a pain. Outside the UR4 deployment I've already completed in my lab and on our internal corporate SCOM 2016 environments, I don't have enough hands-on experience with this UR to confirm if it solves all the problems it is supposed to.

My advice is that unless you're being screwed with the APM agent crash issue, then just hang tight on deploying this into production until more people across the SCOM community have pushed it out and until Kevin Holman gets a chance to put together another one of his awesome step-by-step guides to getting this installed.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

SCOM Day Sweden 2017

Next week I 'll be on the road again and heading over to Gothenburg in Sweden to present at the awesome SCOM Day event.

Organised by the team at Approved Consulting, I presented at this event last year and really enjoyed the networking and talking to attendees about all things SCOM. This year, I'll be talking about what's new with SCOM (including some of my favourite community management packs) and I'll also be discussing some new features and changes that are coming to SCOM 2016 over the next few months.

I'll be looking forward to a presentation on the day from Microsoft's Kevin Holman (aka SCOM Ninja/Guru/Legend). Kevin is one of the most prolific SCOM bloggers around and there's always something new to learn from his blog posts and presentations.

If you're based in Scandinavia and want to attend the event (it's kicking off on Wednesday 4th October), then you can register using the link below:

Hope to see some of you there!