Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Renewed as an MVP for 2019 - 2020!

For all Microsoft MVP's around the world, yesterday (1st July aka 'F5 Day') was the day that we all receive notification as to whether or not we've been renewed as MVP's for another year. Thankfully someone in Microsoft thinks I'm doing a good job for the community and I was happy to see my inbox lighting up with the all-important email stating I'd been renewed as a Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP for 2019 - 2020!

I was awarded my first MVP (in the System Center category) in 2012 and no matter how long you're in the program, it's always a welcome relief to see that email land with confirmation that you're good to go for another year.

With many of my MVP peers moving over to the Azure specialty, the Cloud and Datacenter Management category that my award relates to gives me a unique opportunity to work on and present content to the community and my customers across the hybrid-cloud space. This category covers many on-premises management technologies (including SCOM 2019, which is still very much alive and kicking with our customers) and it also includes Azure management technologies and services such as Azure Monitor, Azure Governance, Azure Backup, Azure Site Recovery, Azure Migrate etc.

Through the MVP program, I also get to network and hang out with some very smart people across many different technical spectrum's and I'm very lucky to work for an employer (Ergo) that supports me and my colleagues on this journey (we also have two other MVP's working here!). Each year, Ergo have given us the projects, tools and learning time that we need to help us stay current within our specialist areas - which in turn, helps me to contribute back to the community through this blog and my public speaking engagements.

In the past year, I've kept myself busy in the community by presenting at events such as Experts Live Europe, the Cloud and Datacenter Conference Germany, the Global Azure Bootcamp and the Microsoft Tech Summit. I've also managed to squeeze in the time to complete the authoring process with some awesome MVP friends on our recently released 'Inside Azure Management' book.

Hopefully this coming year as an MVP will help me bring more of these contributions to the wider community!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

SCOM 2019 Prerequisites Script

I've recently been involved in deploying some new SCOM 2019 environments for our customers and I thought it'd be a good time to publish an updated version of my original SCOM Prerequisites PowerShell script.

This SCOM prerequisites script is a lot simpler than my previous one and I've updated it to remove the requirement for .NET 3.5 Framework components as well as grabbing the new download locations for the updated versions of SQLSysClrTypes and Report Viewer.

If you have internet connectivity, the script will automatically download and install the SQLSysClrTypes and Report Viewer files from Microsoft's download site.

I've created two scripts to assist you (specific to the SCOM role you're deploying) and you can download them directly from the TechNet Gallery here:



Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Presenting at CDC 2019 in Germany

Next week, I have another opportunity to head over to Germany and visit the lovely town of Hanau just outside Frankfurt - where I'll be presenting a session at the awesome Cloud & Datacenter (CDC) conference organised by my good friend and well-known MVP Carsten Rachfal.

I had a great time presenting over there last year and attendees at the conference were treated to sessions from some of the best cloud and datacenter-focused speakers from around the world.

This years event is being held at the same venue (Congress Park Hanau) and with over forty speakers announced, it's going to be another excellent few days of learning and networking.

Similar to last year, CDC 2019 will run over two days (21st & 22nd May) and span six different tracks with topics covering on-premises technologies such as Windows Server, Hyper-V and System Center along with cloud-based technologies such as Azure, AWS and Office 365.

I'll be presenting on Tuesday in Track 3 and I'll be going back to my System Center roots with a session titled 'Top Tips to Make Your SCOM Deployments Rock!'

Here's an overview of what I'll be talking about on the day:

SCOM can be a complex product to deploy and configure. In this session, we share our top tips and tricks to ensure your deployments and initial administration run smoothly and without issue. You’ll also learn about some of the new features to watch out for with the latest release of SCOM 2019.

If you haven't done so already, you can grab your ticket to attend CDC Germany 2019 here and I'll look forward to seeing some of you guys and girls over there! 😊

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Presenting at the Global Online Azure Bootcamp 2019

For the last number of years, the Azure community has come together on a single day to host simultaneous Bootcamp events across the globe - with the single goal of sharing our knowledge about what's new and cool with Azure.

I've presented at a number of these previous events - usually hosted in our local Microsoft office here in Ireland but this year unfortunately, we had some issues retaining an onsite location. After some brainstorming and hurried negotiations while at the MVP Summit in Seattle last month, my good friend and Irish Azure MVP Aidan Finn somehow managed to pull together a massive 24-hour online-only event - with sessions submitted from presenters all over the world and available to anyone who has access to an internet connection!

At 15:00 GMT, I'll be presenting a session titled 'Getting Started with Azure Monitor' and in it, I'll help you get familiar with some of the key features Azure Monitor and it's associated services have to offer.

To make this a truly global 24-hour event, each session will be made available on a phased basis via our YouTube channel and they'll only be accessible for the weekend of the event (so make sure to put aside some time to view the ones you'd like to see).

The agenda will follow these three primary time-zone cycles:
  • Perth / Beijing: AWST / Beijing Time which is +8 hours from GMT and +16 hours from PST.
  • Dublin / London: GMT, which is -8 hours from AWST / Beijing Time and +8 hours from PST.
  • Seattle / Los Angeles: PST, which is -16 hours from AWST / Beijing Time and -8 hours from GMT.

If you want to learn more about the Global Online Azure Bootcamp, then check out the official blog here - https://globalonlineazurebootcamp.wordpress.com/

Also, keep an eye on all the usual social media channels for the #GlobalAzureOnline tag and make sure to ping any questions you might have for the presenters with this.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Just Released: Inside Azure Management Book

Things have been pretty quiet on this blog over the last few months and the main reason is that I've been pushing hard with some of my awesome MVP friends to author and publish our new book titled 'Inside Azure Management'.

Our hope for this book is that it will become the market leader in the Azure Management space and when you consider the team of authors and technical reviewers that are involved, this should be easily achievable!

I had an epic time working on this book and it was a pleasure to collaborate again with my good friends and co-authors Stanislav Zhelyazkov, Tao Yang, Anders Bengtsson and Pete Zerger.

Pete was the 'ringmaster' who kept us all organised and on-track with deadlines and we were supported by the valued insights of the following technical-ninja reviewers:

This book is a complete re-write from it's predecessor (Inside the Operations Management Suite) and the goal is to bring our readers on a journey through the sometimes complex and always awesome Azure Management technology stack of services.

In the cloud game, it's nearly impossible to know everything about everything and I definitely learned some new tricks as I read through the chapters that my co-authors worked on. The chapters I wrote focused on Azure Migration, Azure Infrastructure Monitoring and Azure Disaster Recovery.

Here's the full list of topics we've covered across the book:

  • Implementing Governance in Azure
  • Migrating Workloads in Azure
  • Configuring Data Sources for Azure Log Analytics
  • Monitoring Applications
  • Monitoring Infrastructure
  • Alerting and Notification
  • Monitoring Databases in Azure
  • Monitoring Containers in Azure
  • Implementing Process Automation
  • Implementing Configuration Management
  • Monitoring Security-Related Configuration
  • Data Backup for Azure Workloads
  • Implementing a Disaster Recovery Strategy
  • Update Management for VMs

All of the authors and technical reviewers are strong advocates in the Azure Management community and to give something back, we've decided to release this book as a free download to anyone who wants it. Don't be fooled into thinking this lacks quality or effort by the fact that we're giving it away for free as we're confident that you won't get a better book than this on Azure Management from any of the usual paid-for publishing channels.

You can grab your free copy of the book from the Technet Gallery here:


Please report errata to insidemscloud@outlook.com and we'll work through any feedback we receive there.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

System Center 2019 is now Generally Available!

Following on from last weeks post, Microsoft has just announced the General Availability release of System Center 2019.

This release is part of the long term servicing channel (LTSC) license model and comes with a support bandwidth of 10 years.

With full support for Windows Server 2019 across the stack, here's some of the additional capabilities that you get with System Center 2019:
  • VMM integration with Azure Update Management for simplified patching of virtual machines.
  • Better SCOM integration with Azure services such as Service Map to create automatic Distributed Application models based on server dependencies.
  • Azure Management Pack brings comprehensive alert and performance metrics from Azure resources into SCOM.
  • Along with a modernized and extensible SCOM full HTML web console, subscriptions and notifications are now modernized with support for HTML based email.
  • Maintenance schedules in SCOM with SQL server AlwaysOn are now supported.
  • SCOM Update and Recommendations feature for Linux workloads enables discovery of up-to-date MPs for Linux environments.
  • Linux monitoring is now resilient to SCOM management server failover.
  • All Windows Server Management Packs now support Windows Server 2019.
  • Dynamic Storage Optimization in VMM enables higher availability of workloads.
  • VMM now provides health and operational status of storage disks in Hyper Converged as well as disaggregated deployment.
  • New RBAC role in VMM ensures that IT admins can be provided access commensurate with their role and no more.
  • Support for latest versions of VMware in VMM (to enable migration to Hyper-V).
  • Faster backups with DPM with a 75% increase in speed and a monitoring experience for key backup parameters via Log Analytics.
  • DPM further supports backup of VMWare VMs including to tape.
  • Orchestrator supports PowerShellv4+.
  • Service Manager has an enhanced Active Directory connector.
  • Support for service logon across the System Center suite aligning with security best practice.
You can get your hands on this latest release from all of the normal download channels including Volume Licensing Center, my.visualstudio.com and also the Microsoft Evaluation Center.


Friday, March 8, 2019

SCOM 2019 Lands This Month and Semi-Annual Channel Is No More!

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that System Center 2019 would be made Generally Available this month (March 2019) and sandwiched into the same announcement came some interesting news about last years previously released Semi-Annual Channel licensing model.

The upcoming release of System Center 2019 is licensed as part of the traditional Long Term Services Model (LTSC) and provides the typical 5 years of standard support and 5 years of extended support that we've come to expect with previous LTSC releases.

New Features and Enhancements

Looking through the list of new features and enhancements to each of the products in the System Center 2019 suite, it's clear to see that the likes of SCOM, SCVMM and even DPM are being shown some developer love by Microsoft but the sheer lack of updates to both Orchestrator (better PowerShell support) and Service Manager (improved AD connector) should now clearly lay down a marker for where these products lie in the priority list going forward.

SCOM 2019

Here's a high-level list of all the new features and enhancements you get with SCOM 2019:

  • Service Map integration with System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) to automatically create distributed application diagrams based on the dynamic dependency maps in Service Map.
  • New Azure Management Pack allows viewing of Azure performance and alert metrics along with integration for web application monitoring in Application Insights. Also, support for monitoring more PaaS services, such as Azure Blob Storage, Azure Data Factory, etc.
  • Full HTML5 dashboards and drill down experiences in the SCOM web console.
  • Modernized HTML email notifications.
  • New alerts experience for monitor-based alerts.
  • Enhanced Linux monitoring leveraging Fluentd and now is resilient to management server failovers in your Linux environments.

SCVMM 2019

Here's a high-level list of all the new features and enhancements you get with SCVMM 2019:

  • VMM 2019 now includes a new role, VM administrator, which provides just enough permissions for read-only visibility into the fabric of the data center, but prevents escalation of privilege to fabric administration.
  • Manage and monitor HCI deployment more efficiently.
  • VMM 2019 storage optimization.
  • Simplified patching of VMs by integrating with Azure Update Management.

SCDPM 2019
Here's a high-level list of all the new features and enhancements you get with SCDPM 2019:

  • Improved backup performance (75 percent increase in speed).
  • Monitoring experience for key backup parameters via Azure Monitor Logs.
  • Backup of VMware VMs to tape.
  • SharePoint 2019 and Exchange 2019 backup support.

Old vs New Release Cadence

Only as recently as the Microsoft Ignite conference last September, we saw a presentation  that planned out the release cadence of System Center for the coming year (see the following screenshot), which included a direct branch for the Semi-Annual Channel release model up to 190x.

For any of our customers that had Software Assurance on their licensing model and who needed to upgrade, our advice was to go directly to the new Semi-Annual Channel release of SCOM 1801 (and then to SCOM 1807 once that was released). The main reason for this recommendation was that this release contained loads of new features and enhancements compared to older versions and we found it to be much more stable too.

However, with this latest announcement from Microsoft about System Center 2019, if you've previously jumped onto the Semi-Annual Channel model, you'll need to ditch this and move back to the LTSC model instead.

Should You Upgrade?

You might be looking at this announcement for System Center 2019 and wondering if you should upgrade and before you do, there's a few things to consider as the new features and enhancements in this release have to be taken with a certain amount of context.

Looking at an upgrade purely from a supported workload perspective and if you're still running System Center 2012 R2 (which we find most existing System Center customers still do), then Mainstream support for this release ended in 2017 (see here).

Also, if you're running System Center 2012 R2, then the following quote from the announcement might give you some headaches if you plan on performing an in-place upgrade:

"Based on the learnings, we will start to focus our resources on innovation plans for System Center in LTSC releases and stop SAC releases. System Center 2019 will support upgrades from two prior SAC releases so customers running System Center 1801 or System Center 1807 will be able to upgrade to System Center 2019; just as System Center 2016 can be upgraded to System Center 2019."

Taking this statement as-is, I read into it that System Center 2019 won't support an in-place upgrade from System Center 2012 R2 and as such, you'll need to first go to either System Center 2016 or System Center 1801 and then up to System Center 2019 - which is essentially two upgrades that you'll need to perform and validate.

If you're OK with the fact that mainstream support has ended for System Center 2012 R2 or you're currently running System Center 2016 in your datacentre, then to be fair, the features that you get with System Center 2019 are an excellent reason to upgrade. Also, System Center 2016 was my least favourite release of the platform that I've worked with due to lack of new features and agent bugs. Wherever possible, I had recommended to our customers that they skip the 2016 release and wait for the next one!

Those of you who jumped onto SCOM 1801/1807 to take advantage of the new features and enhancements that these releases brought, will probably be disappointed to know that you have no choice but to upgrade to the SCOM 2019 LTSC release and as most of the new capabilities announced for this release were previously available through Semi-Annual Channel, then an upgrade won't bring as much value as you would have expected at this point in time.


For me, this announcement is kind of bittersweet. In one way, I feel that the lack of information and previous heads up about this licensing change from Microsoft could have been handled better (remember, it was only in September that they were all-in with the Semi-Annual Channel release model).

On the other hand, the fact that we're back to only having to manage and promote a single System Center release model makes life easier and Microsoft have also committed to delivering new features to LTSC through the use of regular update rollups (these were previously only used to deliver bug fixes) - which is great news.

Hopefully this announcement and change in release model won't cause too much disruption for those running SCOM 2012 R2 or the SCOM Semi-Annual Channel releases and for more information you can read the official announcement here:


Thursday, November 29, 2018

SCOM - New Version Agnostic Naming Convention for Microsoft Management Packs

Microsoft today announced a change for the naming convention of future SCOM management packs.

In the past, when you wanted a management pack for a specific operating system or application version, you would search for something like 'Windows Server Operating System 2008 Management Pack' or 'DNS Server 2016'.

Going forward, all new Microsoft management packs will follow a new version-agnostic naming convention whereby the name will detail the minimum supported version and higher (plus) versions.

For example, the Windows OS MP will be named like - "Microsoft System Center Management Pack for Windows Server Operating System 2016 and 1709 Plus".

This change is required due to the new licensing options people have for Windows Server and System Center where the same management pack has to support two very similar and current versions of the same workload (e.g. Windows Server 2019 and Windows Server 1901).

You can see these new version-agnostic naming conventions already in place for some of the more common Microsoft management packs listed on the SCOM MP Wiki here.

If we look on the SCOM MP Wiki site for the DHCP Server Management Pack, we can see that the older 2008 R2 and 2012 versions are still there as separate downloads but the newest version is listed as "Windows Server DHCP 2016 and 1709 Plus".

This new naming convention isn't exactly a show-stopper that you need to consider when deploying or managing your SCOM environments but it should hopefully help you quickly identify the the most current supported workloads that management packs can monitor.

You can read the full post from Microsoft on this topic here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Speaking at Experts Live Europe 2018

This week, I'm over at the Microsoft Ignite conference learning as much as I can about the many new releases announced in the Azure and System Center world. All this information is an excellent way to prepare for my upcoming presentation at the awesome Experts Live Europe conference in Prague next month.

If you haven't heard of Experts Live Europe or just haven't had a chance to attend in previous years, this is a community-driven conference with a focus on Microsoft cloud, datacenter and workplace management. Hosted this year from October 24th -26th in the amazing city of Prague, Czech Republic - it really is one of the best Microsoft-focused conferences in Europe where attendees get to hang out and learn with top speakers from around the world.


With over 40 speakers flying in from across the globe, you'll be treated to deeply technical and highly engaging presentations from Microsoft MVP's, Microsoft Regional Directors, Microsoft employees and well-know Community Champions. You can check out the full list of speakers here.

Pre-Conference Day

For the first time at an Experts Live Europe event, this year will host a Pre-Conference Day on October 24th with the following three parallel all-day deep-dive sessions:

  • Cloud & Cloud Security (delivered by Microsoft MVP Pete Zerger)
  • DevOps (delivered by Microsoft MVP Damian Flynn)
  • Enterprise Client Management (delivered by Microsoft MVP's Kent Agerlund and Marius Skovli)

Each of the pre-conference day instructors are highly skilled experts in their chosen fields and well-placed to set you on your learning journey over the full day.


The main conference (running from October 25th - 26th) gives attendees 6 parallel tracks to choose from. With over 70 breakout sessions, plenty of community theater sessions and a packed exhibitor area, this conference has you covered for what you need to take your career to the next level.

My Session

On the Friday morning, I'll be presenting a session titled 'What’s New in the World of Microsoft Monitoring?' and in it, I'll help you get up to speed with all of the latest happenings in the Microsoft Monitoring world. There'll be loads of demo's to see on the newest Azure monitoring capabilities  and we'll also cover what's new in the latest release of SCOM.

Getting Registered

With over a month to go, there's still time to submit your business case to your boss so you can attend this really cool learning event. There's a number of registration options that you can choose from (depending on whether or not you wish to attend the pre-conference day) and there's also an opportunity to get access to the exclusive VIP Party in the Cloud event on the Wednesday.

To choose your ticket and get registered for Experts Live Europe, check out all the information you need here.

If you're attending, please take some time to chat with me and some of the other presenters during the conference. See you guys there!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

SCOM - GSM to Azure Application Insights Migration Walkthrough (Part 1)

In my previous post, I talked about the recently announced retirement of the Global Service Monitor (GSM) feature and the need to start migrating your existing web application tests to Azure Application Insights. In this post, I'll walk through the migration process to help get you started.


The migration script has the following prerequisites:
  • Azure Subscription -  your subscription name can be found in the Subscriptions view within the Azure portal.
  • ResourceGroupName - refers to the resource group in Azure where all the tests will be migrated to. If you don't have a resource group created in Azure, the script will create a resource group with the name you provided in the parameters.
  • ResourceLocation - refers to the location of the resource group metadata in Azure.
  • Azure PowerShell Module - needs to be installed (download available here). Be aware that his module requires PowerShell version 5 or higher to be installed so if you're installing on a Windows Server 2012 R2 server, there's a good change that you'll need to reboot to meet this requirement.
  • SCOM PowerShell Module - needs to be installed if you're running the script from anywhere other than a SCOM server (installer can be found on the SCOM media).
  • Internet Connectivity - you'll need a working internet connection on the computer that you choose to launch the migration script from.


You'll also need to be aware of the following limitations in Application Insights:
  • Application Insights has a maximum capacity of 800 web availability tests per resource group and there's a limit of 100 web availability tests for each application component you need to monitor.
  • GSM allows you to enable alerts based on a specific HTTP status code. For HTTP status code 200 in Application Insights, you will see a Success returned and for all other codes, they will show a Failure.
  • GSM allows you to create Alerts on content match. Application Insights only supports the 'Content must contain' parameter.
  • GSM allows Performance monitoring for a website based on a number of performance metrics (shown in the following screenshot) however, Application Insights does not have a mapping to automatically collect these performance metrics for websites. You would only see the Response Time for tests; the other Performance metrics on the list will not be monitored.

Reviewing GSM Test Configurations

Before you kick off the migration script, it'd be a good idea to take a note of the existing configuration settings of your GSM tests in SCOM so you can validate those configuration settings come over to Azure Application Insights. For my demo SCOM environment, I've currently got the following two GSM web application tests configured....

One of these GSM tests performs external monitoring for a legacy demo web application (DinnerNow) that I sometimes use in my Application Performance Monitoring (APM) presentations and the other GSM test is monitoring the URL to this blog. In the following few screenshots, we'll dig into the configuration of the GSM test that's monitoring my blog URL.

This screenshot shows the actual URL that is to be monitored with GSM....

Here, we can see all of the external locations that GSM is configured to monitor my blog URL from. I've chosen five different locations around the globe and my expectation would be that if I migrate this test up to Azure Application Insights, these locations would be configured there as external monitoring points for the test.

In the next screenshot, I get a summary of the test locations along with an understanding of the Test Frequency (1 hour) and estimated monthly external transaction count (3,600). The lower I configure the Test Frequency setting here, the higher the number of monthly transactions. Again, these configuration settings are something that I would expect the migration over to Azure Application Insights to retain.

Here's a final summary of the configuration settings for my external blog URL monitor....

Once you've confirmed the configuration settings of your existing GSM tests, it's time to get down to the migration stage.

Note: Keep in mind that if things go horribly wrong with the migration, your existing GSM tests still remain unchanged in SCOM and there's no 'point-of-no-return' stage whereby you have to confirm deletion of them.

Running the Migration Script

The following steps will walk you through what you need to do to get the migration of your GSM tests to Azure Application Insights kicked off (these steps assume you have all prerequisites configured and in place)..

Login to your subscription in the Azure portal and create a new resource group to be used for the newly migrated GSM tests.

Note: Manually creating a new resource group is an optional step and the migration script will do this automatically for you if you have specified a resource group name that doesn't exist. For testing purposes, I prefer to keep control of where my resources are created and if things go wrong with the migration, I can always then just delete the resource group and start again.

Here's a screenshot of a new empty resource group titled GSM2AppInsights - which I've created specifically for this migration demo...

Save the script from the Microsoft Download Center here to a local folder on the machine that you want to run the tool from (we’ll use a SCOM Management Server in this example).

Launch a PowerShell session with Administrative permissions, browse to the directory that you’ve saved the script to and run the following command (example shown in the following screenshot):
.\MigrateGSMToAI.ps1 -SubscriptionName "<AZURE_SUBSCRIPTION_NAME>" -AzureResourceGroupName "<RESOURCE_GROUP_NAME>" -ResourceLocation "<RESOURCE_LOCATION>"

At the Security Warning prompt, type R to run the script once as shown here....

When the Sign in window presents itself, key in the relevant credentials with access to the Azure subscription you wish to migrate the GSM test to.

After the script launches, you'll be presented with various pieces of information on its progress - similar to what's shown in the following screenshot....

The script shouldn't take too long to run (dependent of course, on the number of GSM tests you have to migrate) and soon, you should be presented with a message stating that everything has been migrated successfully along with a reference to where you can find the migration log file.

If I browse to the location on my server where the log file can be found, I can see that there's a specific log file for each migrated GSM test as well as the MigrationLog.txt file shown here...

Clicking in to MigrationLog.txt gives me confidence that my tests have all been migrated to Azure Application Insights successfully.

Confirming the Migration

Once the script has completed and the log files have been checked, it's time to jump back into the Azure portal to take a look at our newly migrated GSM tests.

In the following screenshot we can see that the script has created two new Azure Application Insights web application tests within my GSM2AppInsights resource group.

After a short while of waiting, I can see each of my GSM tests light up with availability data. Here's the two migrated GSM tests now actively monitoring web availability within Azure Application Insights...

From there, I can pivot into the specific web availability test that I had configured to monitor my blog URL. All of the external locations that the original GSM test was configured for can now be seen as monitoring locations within Application Insights as shown here....

If I edit this test, I can see all of the original settings that I had in GSM have been migrated over.

Clicking on any of the green (or red) dots from within the Application Insights availability test view, I'm presented with an End-to-End view of the transaction - including details about each of the response headers the test has encountered (awesome!)


After working through this migration process from start-to-finish in less than an hour, I can confirm that the GSM migration script works really well and as expected. The script leaves your existing GSM tests in place and working back in SCOM so if things don't quite work out for you the first time round, you can always delete the resources in Azure and start it again.

In my next post on this topic, I'll walk through configuring Azure alerts for the newly migrated web application tests along with demonstrating how to get visibility of these tests back in SCOM using the latest Azure Management Pack.