Monday, April 30, 2012

MMS 2012- The Lowdown

Well, that's another week in Las Vegas finished with the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) 2012 closing off on Friday 20th April. All the attendees have packed their bags and travelled back home - some across several different time zones - and everybody (including myself) are back to the grind of normal working life from last week.

As I didn't get around to blogging too much while in Vegas, I felt it was only right that I create a post that contains all the highlights of the conference and also add in some additional resources to get more information on the sessions that went on throughout the week.


Day 1
In the keynote speech on Day 1, Brad Anderson (Corporate VP of Microsoft) made a number of announcements including the general release of System Center 2012 and the official name of their new server operating system - Windows Server 2012. This means that Windows Server 2012 will be due for release this year, with some speculation that it is due to RTM around September/October.

The new Private Cloud MCSE track was also announced and this is going to change the way people certify for Microsoft exams. If you want to achieve your Private Cloud MCSE, then you need to be up to at least MCSA on Windows Server 2008 and then pass the two new Private Cloud exams which take into account all the products within the WHOLE System Center suite. In a nutshell, you won't be easily able to double guess (or braindump) these exams and it'll definitely seperate the skilled engineer from the 'Paper MCSE' engineer that we have seen so often in the past.

As the focus for Day 1's Keynote speech was on the datacentre, we had some cool demonstrations from Ryan O'Hara and Vijay Tewari around self service provisioning using System Center Service Manager 2012 and bare metal deployment and cloud creation with System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012.

Day 2
The keynote on Day 2 was titled 'A World of Connected Devices' and had a strong focus on end user device management. Significantly it was announced that Windows Intune will now support Apple iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Bill Anderson (Principal Program Manager) demonstrated the live installation of an application onto an iPhone.

Brad Anderson also talked about the new User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) feature. This comes bundled with a new version of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) and it lets users retain their application experience between different Windows instances.

Along with a UE-V demonstration, we also had a demonstration on the rapid deployment of the Windows Server 2012 Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) within 60 seconds.

Finally, Brad announced that MMS 2013 would be held in June 2013 in New Orleans!

Breakout Sessions:

There were well over 150+ breakout sessions being held during the week and trying to make a choice as to which ones to attend was a nightmare! Even though we all had pre-configured our schedules before the conference, most people moved between sessions or changed their minds at the last minute due to the sheer volume of excellent technical content that was on show.

At the start of the week, the sessions were pretty much of the Level 100-Level 200 type and due to the participation of myself and a number of attendees in the excellent Community Evaluation Programs (CEPs) that led up to the conference, we had already seen and were familiar with most of the information on offer. If anything, this made us diversify our choice of session and choose sessions that covered products and solutions that were normally outside of our day to day work.

As an observation, last year at MMS 2011, it was interesting to see that the majority of attendees where Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) IT pro's and the amount of sessions dedicated to ConfigMgr was massive.

This year however, although the ConfigMgr sessions were plentiful, I noticed a large attendance in the Orchestrator and Service Manager sessions and this has to be representitive of the sway in focus towards these two technologies and the important roles they will play within future System Center deployments and designs.

This year Microsoft has opened up the Breakout Sessions to the public and they can be viewed at leisure through the new Digital MMS website.

Last year all attendee's received a DVD a few weeks after the event that contained all of the sessions and additional content. This year, due to the sessions being available for streaming online, we won't be getting a DVD in the post. If you don't like the idea of having to stream your sessions and would like to have them downloaded to your hard drive, then no problem - Stefan Roth over at has created a nice and handy little PoSh script that enables you to download the entire MMS 2012 video catalog direct to your hard disk! You can get your hands on this script from the link below:

Private Cloud BETA Exams

Along with the possibility for attendees to sit the normal Microsoft MCTS type exams, two new Private Cloud BETA exams were offered for free to any MMS 2012 attendee.

These exams were:

70-246 - Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012
70-247 - Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012

During the week, I attended an excellent Exam Cram session held by Gordon McKenna (UK based System Center Datacentre and Private Cloud MVP) and then on the Thursday I sat the 71-246 BETA exam. We don't get our results for around 8 weeks after the actual exam due to it being a BETA but I'm not holding out too much hope on having passed! I could blame the fact that I had hardly any sleep (totally my own fault) the night before and did very little preparation for the exam but in fairness, out of 60 questions asked, I counted 21 of them alone that were based on Service Manager of which so far, my real-world experience is minimal. The remaining questions took in the whole breadth of products within the System Center 2012 suite including System Center 2012 Advisor. The format of questions were also outside the norm and included a number of scenario type questions where you had to choose the correct number of steps to a problem and also the correct order in which these steps should be implemented. This new method of testing will only reinforce the need for real-world experience of the technologies being tested.

After speaking to other attendees who sat this BETA exam and the 71-247 one, we all agree that once the new MCSE Private Cloud qualifiaction becomes available to the masses, it will definitely require exposure and hands on experience for the whole suite of System Center products and it's my guess that there will be very high failure rate for those trying to aquire it. This can only be a good thing as it will increase knowledge and understanding of the suite and should go a long way to ensuring that those who do achieve MCSE status will have earned it through hard work and real-world experience.

People Networking:

For me, the week at MMS 2012 represented an excellent opportunity to link up with some old friends that I met at MMS 2011 and also to meet in person the many people that I've interacted online with via Twitter, LinkedIn and the Community Evaluation Program. The only downside though was that everyone was so busy each day/night, that we didn't all get longer to chat - however, the CEP meetup that was held on the Wednesday night was excellent and it was great to put a face to so many of the online persona's.

Out and About in Vegas:

It goes without saying that "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" but apart from the Casino crawls, the visit to The Gun Store and the numerous pubs and clubs we dropped into (on that note-why do Irish people always seem to end up in an Irish bar when abroad though?), one of the highlights of the week for me was the MMS 2012 closing party that was held in The Chateaux Nightclub. Microsoft booked out this amazing venue which is located on 3 different levels just under a replica of the Eiffel Tower and directly across from the dancing water fountains of The Bellagio. The fact that there was a free bar for 4 hours just added to the fun!

MMS 2012 Resources:

MMS doesn't just end after a week in April. Instead, it's an invaluable source of information on System Center throughout the year and the organisers, speakers, attendee's and general community churn out endless amounts of excellent blogs, tweets and resources as a result of the content they digested during the conference. Below is a list of  some of my favorite websites, blogs and twitter hashtags that are worth checking in on over the year for the most up to date System Center 2012 information that you are to find on the web:


Official MMS 2012 Site


System Center Team Blog

Damian Flynn

Aidan Finn

Kristian Nese

Dieter Wijckmans

Christopher Keyaert

Adam Hall

Cameron Fuller

Marnix Wolf

Mike Resseler

Travis Wright

Steve Beaumont

Flemming Riis

Twitter Hashtags

#mms2012, #sysctr, #systemcenter, #privcloud, #cloud,  #opsmgr, #scom, #scom2012, #scsm, #scorch, #sco, #appcontroller, #scvmm, #scvmm2012, #configmgr, #sccm, #sccm2012, #dpm, #scdpm, #scdpm2012

Hopefully you'll find this reference and brief overview of MMS 2012 useful and all going to plan, we're going to do it all again next year in New Orleans!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

MMS 2012 is well and truly under way!

So, another year, another Microsoft Management Summit (MMS). Some of the great things about this conference are the quality of speakers, the opportunity to meet with your community peers and of course, the small fact that it is held in Las Vegas doesn't do it any harm either!

I'm over here this year with a decent contingent of Irish System Center enthusiasts and we are linking up with new people and friends every day as the conference progresses. I had the privilege to come over here last year for MMS 2011 and as an 'Alumni' this year they have really ramped up on the little extras for people who have previously attended. There is a closed off 'Alumni' lounge that we can hang out in which is fully stocked with refreshements, we get a really cool MMS 2012 Alumni (Nike) T-Shirt and I even got my hands on a (nerdy) "Get Your Geek On" pin badge which I'm proudly showing off pinned to my Ireland jersey today!

It's Day 2 of MMS 2012 today and this is when the first of two Keynote speeches by Brad Anderson - Microsoft Vice President takes place. Brad has just announced the General Release of System Center 2012 and highlighted the commitment of Microsoft to build and support the Private Cloud model. It was also announced that Windows Server '8' becomes Windows Server 2012 and will be released in this financial year for Microsoft.

If you want to have a look over todays Keynote or even watch tomorrow's one live, then you can access all of the keynotes and sessions from the MMS 2012 website here:

I'll try to keep the blog and my Twitter account as up to the minute as I can on the goings-on over here (only business related of course!), but if you're looking for some real-time blogging on some of the sessions, then check out Aidan Finn's blog to see what he's getting up to:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

SCOM 2012 - Console Keyboard Shortcuts

A nice feature of System Center 2012 Operations Manager (SCOM) is the keyboard shortcuts available to help you quickly navigate your way around the console.

Edit: It has been pointed out to me (by people who've had their hands on the RTM bits a lot longer than I have..cough, Damian!), that this new keyboard shortcut feature is a standard part of the Unified Console Experience on all of the new System Center 2012 products (RTM of course) -nice!

If you find yourself using the console and want to quickly switch between tabs on the wunderbar, Microsoft have provided us with five keyboard shortcuts that can help you to change between tabs. These shortcuts require simply holding down the CTRL key and pressing any number between 1 and 5 to get to the view you want.

The screens below show the different shortcuts and the tabs they take you to and if you hover the mouse pointer over any of these tabs, you will see a flashout window appear with a description of the shortcut

My Workspace

Just another neat feature added to the new 2012 interface that I thought was worth sharing!

Monday, April 2, 2012

SCOM 2012 - Configuring the Service Level Dashboards

With System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) 2007 R2, we had very little to work with in the line of out-of-box- dashboards. As a result of this, I along with other members of the System Center community had to make do with customising solution accelerators and SharePoint sites to bring the data within the Operations Console into a transparent and easy to digest view. I wrote a series of posts on SCOM 2007 R2 Dashboards and you can check them out from the link below if you haven't already seen them:

Things have changed a lot since those posts though, and with the upcoming release of SCOM 2012, we have a huge amount of dashboard configurations to choose from (widgets, vicinity view etc.), right out-of-box. I'm not going to re-hash all of the functionality of these new dashboards as other community members have already done so but one type of dashboard I will post about is the new and vastly improved Service Level Dashboard. This dashboard is a drastic improvement on the last one and is so much easier to install and configure too.

For the purposes of this post, I'll presume you have already installed SCOM 2012 with all of the relevant agents and management packs and have configured at least one Distributed Application. It is worth pointing out that unlike the previous SLD version 2.0, you don't need to install any specific management pack and this feature is available as soon as you have installed SCOM 2012.

We know that Operations Manager helps deliver IT as a Service (ITaaS) and it does this through the Distributed Application (DA) model. When you have modeled your IT service into a DA, you then have a holistic view of your whole service that presents the service into a single entity within Operations Manager. If we have a single entity, it's logical to then assume that we can attach a Service Level Object to that single entity to report back on it's percentage uptime or downtime over any given period.

To begin, click on the Authoring tab of the wunderbar in the SCOM console, expand 'Authoring' and then click on 'Distributed Applications'. This should then give you a list of the Distributed Applications that you have configured and you can confirm here if the one you want is named and configured properly before you proceed.

Once you are happy that the DA is configured as you want it to be, expand the 'Management Pack Objects' view then right mouse click on Service Level Tracking and select 'Create' to open the Service Level Tracking wizard. This is where we will be creating a new SLA and assigning it to our DA.

From the first screen, enter a name and description, then click Next

At the 'Objects to Track' window, first click at the 'Targeted Class' section on the Select button and choose your DA from the list provided. Then in the 'Management Pack' section, choose an unsealed management pack to save the SLA into and then click Next

In the 'Service Level Objectives' screen, click on the Add button and then select the 'Monitor State SLO' option from the drop down menu

Now input a name for your Service Level Objective, leave the monitor type on Availbility and then choose the percentage of uptime that you want to assign for the SLA that is to be attached to your DA. Specify what states you want to be counted as downtime (or just leave the default of Critical) and then click OK to close the window and then click Next to move on

Confirm your Service Level Objective information is correct and then click Finish

 When the wizard is complete, you will be presented with the screen below confirming all is good to move on

Now, click on the Monitoring tab in the wunderbar, right mouse click on the folder or location that you wish to create the new Service Level Dashboard into, highlight 'New' and then click on 'Dashboard View'

This will open up the 'New Dashboard and Widget Wizard' and from the templates provided, choose the new Service Level Dashboard option, then click Next

Type a name and description for your new dashboard, then click Next again

At the 'Specify the Scope' window, click on the 'Add' button to bring up the 'Add SLA' window. Then choose the SLA(s) that you want to add to the dashboard, click the 'Add' button and when finished, click on OK

Back in the 'Specify the Scope' window, select the timeline that you want the SLA to apply from (I've chosen 1 month), then click the 'Finish' button

In the final two screens, click on the 'Create' and 'Close' buttons respectively to finish the process

When the wizard has completed, you can then click on your new Service Level Dashboard and see the results as below

Much easier than the old Service Level Dashboard configuration!

SCOM 2012 (OpsMgr) Sizing Helper Tool

Download the new SCOM 2012 Sizing Helper Tool from Technet to assist with your new Operations Manager 2012 deployments.

The tool is basically an Excel spreadsheet that requires input on the environment you want to monitor and then returns recommendations based on best practices.

I've tried it out for a few different scenarios and it seems pretty comprehensive and if followed correctly, should make your deployments run nice and smooth from the beginning.

The screenshots below shows the tool in action

You can download the tool from the following link: