Monday, December 21, 2015

System Center Universe 2016 is Just Around the Corner!

At a time when the whole world is going crazy with inter-galactic theme tunes and costumes in anticipation for the new Star Wars movie, it's appropriate that the awesome System Center Universe (SCU) 2016 conference in Texas, USA is just around the corner.

Hosted by Catapult Systems, SCU is into its fifth year now and has grown significantly from the original one-off event that was hosted solely in the USA to becoming large multi-day events hosted in Europe (SCU Europe) and Asia (SCU APAC) too.

Have a read through Cameron Fuller's blog post here to get the low-down on the history of SCU along with some photo's from some of the previous events too.

With the long list of well known speakers at each event ensuring it takes its place as one of the best Microsoft-focused and community driven Cloud and Datacenter Management conferences out there, SCU is now always one of the first conferences that attendees want to pencil into their calendars each year to maximize the return on their company training budgets.

So what's in store for SCU 2016 you might ask?

Well, there's a live stream for anyone not able to jump on a plane and head over to Dallas with two separate tracks to choose from - Enterprise Client Management and Cloud and Datacenter Management. Each track has a who's-who of presenters including MVP's, Subject Matter Experts and Microsoft ninjas!. You can check out the full list of confirmed presenters here.

Here's a list of some of the technologies that will be presented throughout the event:

  • Azure Automation
  • Configuration Manager
  • EMS
  • Hyper-V and Failover Clustering
  • Intune
  • IoT
  • OMS
  • Operations Manager
  • Windows 10 Deployment
  • Windows Server 2016

If you run a local user group in your town, then you can sign up to host a free simulcast and join these other user groups around the world doing the same:

  • Austin, TX
  • Denver, CO
  • Houston, TX
  • Omaha, NE
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Seattle, WA
  • Tampa, FL
  • Amsterdam
  • Germany
  • Vienna

For more information on SCU 2016, check out the official website here and join in the fun on Twitter by following @SCU2016 and using the hashtag #SCU2016.

Looking forward to seeing many of you online during the event on January 19th!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Presenting at Experts Live 2015 in The Netherlands

Tomorrow morning, I'll be heading back over to The Netherlands as part of a three-man Irish contingent to present at the annual Experts Live conference.

This one day event features eight different tracks being presented by over 50 well known speakers in the Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter space.

I'll be presenting one session as part of the Operations Management Suite (OMS) track titled 'Monitoring.....the Next Generation'. In the session, attendees will learn about the latest developments and features coming in SCOM 2016 and I'll dive into the new OMS platform to show some handy use-case scenarios too.

If you're attending, bring the coffee and stroopwafels and I'll see you there!

Friday, October 16, 2015

SCOM - New SQL 2012 & 2014 Management Packs with Bug Fixes Released

Yesterday I noticed that a new release (version of the SQL 2012 & 2014 management packs has just landed and there's a lot of people out there who've been waiting on them.

Important Update - 21st October 2015: There have been a few reports about a bug in this latest management pack - which seems to have also been present in the previous MP release - where the SQL database logs on your DW server can fill up in certain scenarios. For this reason, it's a good idea to hold off deploying these MP's into production until Microsoft release a fix for this (as far as I know, Microsoft are aware of the issue and are working on a solution).

The previous release (version brought a new dashboard template and visualizations....

Unfortunately, many people (myself included) that deployed this MP ran into problems when viewing the SQL Server Summary Dashboard. As you can see from the comments section at the end of this TechNet post - this was a widespread issue...

Thankfully, Microsoft have identified this as an issue and have listed this as a fix in the latest release of the MP:

I've deployed this updated MP into my lab and so far, it seems to have fixed the issue for me - although it took a few days to manifest itself in the last MP so let's see how this one goes!

There's also a few new visualization options that you can choose from as you can see from Microsoft's post on the new MP's here.

You can download the new SQL management packs using the SCOM MP Wiki or directly from here (SQL 2012) and here (SQL 2014).

Note: As of the time of writing this post, these updated MP's are not available through the built-in catalog option in SCOM but I'd expect them to light up there in the coming days too.

Monday, October 12, 2015

My System Center Universe Europe 2015 Presentation Video is Now Live!

A few months back, I had the pleasure of presenting a session with my good friend Damian Flynn at the System Center Universe Europe 2015 conference in Switzerland and today I've noticed that the video recording for our session has just gone live.

Our presentation was titled 'What's new in OpsMgr?' and included information on what's new with the current SCOM 2012 R2 build as well as everything that we know up to now for the upcoming SCOM 2016 build.

You can check out our presentation video here -

As a side note, if you're watching our presentation and you're wondering why Damian keeps referencing 'glow sticks', then take a read of my 'Looking Back at System Center Universe Europe 2015' post to bring you up to speed!

Not all of the other videos from the conference have been uploaded yet, but along with our one, there's another 20+ awesome presentations to choose from and you can check them all out from the link below:

That's my spare time in the coming weeks used up watching and learning from all these new videos!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Awarded Microsoft MVP 2015 for Cloud and Datacenter Management!

With everything that I've had going on lately I nearly forgot today was my MVP renewal date. I say nearly, because as an MVP, when you notice the #MVPBuzz Twitter posts stacking up in your feed, you quickly go into 'DEFCON 1' mode.

In DEFCON 1 mode, you immediately begin to feel sorry for the poor F5 key on your keyboard that will undoubtedly feel the pain as the wait for the annual 'email' draws nearer and you can't help but keep frantically refreshing your email client until the mail finally arrives!

Thankfully, in between some customer presentations I was delivering this afternoon, the following email landed in my inbox....

This email brings confirmation from Microsoft that I've been awarded my 4th MVP in the System Center Cloud & Datacenter space and no matter how hard you work throughout the year, there's no guarantee that you will ever see that email coming in so it's always a very welcome relief.

So far over the past 12 months, I've started working on another book, been to Chicago to attend the Microsoft Ignite conference, had the opportunity to present two sessions at the awesome System Center Universe Europe conference and have been invited to present alongside some friends at the Dutch WMUG NL group.

Next month I'll be heading over to Seattle to attend the MVP Summit and will then take another trip back to the Netherlands to present a session at the Experts Live 2015 event.

The amount of work you have to put in blogging, tweeting, writing books, working the forums and presenting at events to obtain and hold onto an MVP is not easy (most of it is carried out on your own time after the day job is finished) but it's certainly worth it!

Thanks to my family, to everyone in the MVP community for their help and advice over the last year and also thanks to my friends and work colleagues at Ergo for giving me the opportunity to work on some epic System Center projects this year too!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Presenting at Experts Live 2015 in The Netherlands

I've just been confirmed as a speaker at the Experts Live 2015 conference in the Netherlands.

The one-day event kicks off on November 19th and has a wide range of speakers delivering over 40 breakout sessions across the following seven tracks:

  • Azure
  • Office 365
  • Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS)
  • Operations Management Suite (OMS)
  • Azure Stack
  • Hyper-V
  • Windows

With speakers travelling from far and wide and a large number of presentations being delivered in English, don't be fooled into thinking this is a conference exclusively just for our Dutch-speaking friends - it definitely has an international flavor to it.

My presentation is titled 'Monitoring.....the Next Generation' and in it, I'll be talking about what's new in the Microsoft monitoring world with some (hopefully) cool demonstrations on OMS and SCOM vNext.

If you're thinking of attending, then you can register here where you can still avail of some early bird pricing and there's even a chance for attendees to win a test drive of a Tesla!

I'm really looking forward to heading back to the Netherlands to present again as I had an awesome time over there a few weeks back meeting up with friends and members of the System Center community and taking in some of the lovely sights the country has to offer.

I'll post more here as we get closer to the event and until then, check out the official Experts Live Twitter account to keep up to date with what's happening.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

SCOM - Updated Active Directory and DHCP Management Packs Available

Microsoft has just announced the update of two important SCOM management packs - Active Directory and DHCP.

Active Directory

The Active Directory MP (6.0.8321.0) update includes the following bug fix that should help out my German-speaking friends:

Fixed “AD_Op_Master_Response.vbs” which fails if the region local system is set to German.

You can download the MP and it's associated guide from here.


The DHCP MP (6.0.7295.0) update includes the following bug fix:

The properties view of Failover Server Relationship does not display all the IP addresses, with this fix the properties view of Failover Server Relationship will display all IP addresses.

You can download this MP and it's associated guide from here.

Remember to Test First!

As is always the case, make sure that you test these new MP's out in your lab/test environments and unless you're experiencing the exact problems listed above, then maybe hold off for a few weeks before putting them into production.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Presenting at the Windows Management User Group in the Netherlands

Next week I have the pleasure of taking a short trip over to the Netherlands to present a couple of sessions on OpsMgr/SCOM with my friends over there from the Windows Management User Group (WMUG NL).

This community-driven event kicks off on Tuesday 8th September at 16:00 and runs until 21:30 that evening. The event is being hosted at the Naarden premises of well known IT services and consulting company - Pink Elephant.

I'm really excited about this event for a number of reasons - I get to co-present for the first time with my good friend and MVP colleague Bob Cornelissen whom I know well since we worked on our first book together. Also, the rest of the team running WMUG NL - are collectively, some of the best in the business when it comes to System Center and Cloud technologies.

Throw in the fact that the event is hosted in the Netherlands and we're onto a winner already!


Here's the full agenda:

16:00 - 16:30 -  Reception and Kick-off

16:30 - 17:30  - Top Tips to Make Your OpsMgr Deployments Rock
(Kevin Greene, Bob Cornelissen)

17:30 – 18:30 - Food break

18:30 – 19:15 - Extending OpsMgr through Microsoft Management Services and Partner Solutions (Christian Heitkamp, NiCE IT Management Solutions)

19:15 – 19:30 - Quick Break

19:30 – 20:30 - Essential OpsMgr Management Packs, Dashboards and Tools
(Kevin Greene, Bob Cornelissen)

20:30 -21:30 - Drinks and networking

Session Info

The first presentation we will deliver (Top Tips to Make Your OpsMgr Deployments Rock) is targeted at the IT pro/admin/consultant whose role is to deploy different OpsMgr builds on a regular basis or who is preparing for a deployment of the upcoming OpsMgr 2016 release. In the session we will share our top tips and tricks that we've learnt along the way to help ensure your deployments and initial administration run smoothly and without any problems.

In our second presentation (Essential OpsMgr Management Packs, Dashboards and Tools) we will discuss and demonstrate some of the 'must-have' OpsMgr management packs, dashboards and tools that are available for free and which we think everyone should know about to help them with their day-to-day monitoring tasks.


If you're in the Netherlands and are using (or thinking about deploying) OpsMgr, then this free community event is definitely for you. More information about the event can be viewed from the WMUG NL site here.

There are still some places left but the audience size is limited so make sure to register soon if you're interested and the direct link for registration can be found here.

Hopefully I'll see some of you over there next week!

Chatten binnenkort!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Looking Back at System Center Universe Europe 2015

Last week I had the opportunity to attend and present at my third System Center Universe conference in Switzerland and it certainly lived up to the hype as one of the best System Center and Microsoft Cloud focused events in the world.

The following is a run through of what I got up to during my time over there (I've used some of the photos below from the official SCU Europe Facebook page)

Update October 2015: I've added the links for the recorded video's to my own presentation and ones I attended into my post below and you can access the full library of videos as they come online from here. 

Day 1

The first day of the conference kicked off on the Monday morning with Marcel Zehner setting the scene for the week ahead and encouraging everyone to wave their glow-sticks (these were provided at each seat in the keynote room) during the country rundown!

When the giddiness subsided, we had some words from the conference sponsors before Microsoft's Sascha Corti took to the stage for his 'Internet of Things and Machine Learning' presentation. This was an interesting, humorous and very cool session where we got a glimpse into where Microsoft are positioning themselves to prepare for a future of all our day-to-day electronic devices being connected to the Internet.

When the keynote was over, I needed to head over to the speaker room to prepare and rehearse with my good friend and uber-geek Damian Flynn for our 'What's New in OpsMgr?' presentation.

After some last minute additions to the demo's and slide deck, we were ready to go on stage....

The hall we presented in was the same hall used for the keynote and it was massive....

but once we got going - it was hard to keep us quiet again...

When we were finished answering attendee questions at the end, I had to rush over to my second presentation of the day with Savision titled 'Are ITIL and System Center BFF's?'

This was a much more intimate and informal session that was hosted by Jonas Lenntun from Approved Consulting. I had the opportunity to join my fellow MVP friends Thomas Maurer, Kristian Nese and Robert Hedblom for this one and in it, we discussed the pro's and con's of implementing ITIL within the business alongside System Center.

The discussion was a worthwhile one to be had as presenters and attendees all chipped in with some great real-world examples of when ITIL works and when it doesn't.

Later that evening, we headed over to the uber-cool Bar Rouge for the speakers and sponsors party - which brought back fond memories of last years SCU Europe event ;)

Day 2

Being the sensible one of our gang, I didn't stay out too late the night before and after a Starbucks, was ready to rock for Day 2!

My first session of the day was titled 'Data center reporting and analysis using Power BI' and was presented by my MVP buddy Kurt Van Hoecke and Stijn Callebaut. This was an awesome session about how to leverage PowerBI to deliver top-drawer reports and dashboards for your System Center environments.

Next up was the 'Lessons learned from Real World Deployments of Windows Azure Pack' delivered by Michael Rüefli and Michel Lüscher. If you're using Windows Azure Pack, then I'd advise you to check out the recording of this session when it becomes available to hear some of the great tips and tricks the guys have to offer.

The last session before lunch brought me over to Ronny de Jong's 'Got your Hybrid Identity in 4 steps with Azure AD Connect'. This was a detailed and very useful presentation with some nice demo's on how to connect your hybrid identities using Azure.

After lunch we attended the very informative 'What's New in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V?' presentation from Thomas Maurer and Carsten Rachfahl. These two guys have been working in the trenches of Hyper-V for years now and when they present on this topic, it's certainly one you don't want to miss. There were some really useful nuggets to be gleaned here and another one that you should download the recording for once it becomes available.

The penultimate session of the day was delivered by one of my favourite presenters on System Center - Pete Zerger - and his partner in crime Anders Bengtsson. Their presentation was titled 'Migrating from Orchestrator to Azure Automation' and was packed full with demo's and advice on moving your automation workflows from on-premise to Microsoft Azure.

Towards the end of this presentation, myself and Damian had to head down to the 'Ask the Expert's' area where we were scheduled to be on-hand to answer questions from attendees about monitoring and all things System Center!

To close out Day 2, after our Ask the Experts session, I headed over to the small gathering of SCOM dashboard enthusiasts who had come together in one of the side-session rooms to hear Richard South deliver his 'Squared Up: Whisky Tasting (and insider info…)' presentation.

The fact that this session involved everyone drinking small shots of whisky while getting the inside track on what SquaredUp are planning next had honestly nothing to do with this being voted my favourite session of the day........

Later that evening we had the attendee networking party - which was held in the conference centre and we helped ourselves to the free food and drinks while listening to the DJ and Beatbox artists do their thing!

Day 3

The final day of the conference kicked off for me with a refreshing presentation delivered by Sam Erskine and Lee Berg. This session was titled 'IT Pro to IT Scientist' and featured demo's using a mix of webcam's, Raspberry PI's and Intel NUC devices! A very entertaining session that had everyone laughing and learning at the same time.

After that, it was over to see two more good MVP friends - Stefan Koell and Stefan Roth do their thing on stage with their aptly titled 'Speed Dating SCOM - Make it Sexy' presentation. In this session the guys demonstrated over 30 different tools, tips and tricks to help you keep your SCOM deployments ticking over nicely.

The last session before lunch brought us into another presentation from the dynamic duo - Pete Zerger and Anders Bengtsson which was titled 'Deep Dive into MS Operations Management Suite'. Here, the guys took a dive into the lesser known areas of OMS and discussed things like automation, log analytics and on-demand recovery.

For the final slot of the day before the conference closing note, we decided to visit the many vendors around the exhibition hall to get the low-down on what they had to offer and we had some interesting conversations with some members of the MPx Alliance from NiCE, Comtrade and Veeam.

Closing Note and Announcements

It's a credit to Marcel and the team over at itnetX that they kept one of the most entertaining demonstrations until the final closing keynote speech - where they rolled in two souped-up Tesla's to the main conference hall!

Here's me and Stefan Roth checking out one of them....

As part of his closing demonstration, Marcel created a PowerShell module that enabled him to carry out basic tasks on the Tesla - things like starting it up, turning on the air conditioning, honking the horn etc.

From there, he created a management pack for SCOM to give him monitoring capabilities of the Tesla direct from System Center..awesome!

When Marcel finished with the super-cool demo's, it was time for Maarten Goet to take the stage and present his super-funny and awesome annual SCU Trivia Quiz - where essentially he's compiled a list of 20 questions (some easy, some really difficult!) and then hands out prizes to the audience for correct answers!

When the quiz ended, Marcel came back onstage to make some announcements - the first was the unveiling of the new website - which has been created to bring together both speakers and user group communities that are focused on Microsoft System Center and Cloud technologies. This is an awesome idea and one which I'm registered as a speaker. I'll post more about this in the coming days though.

The final announcement of the day involved the location and dates for next years System Center Universe Europe conference.

SCU Europe 2016 will be held in Berlin, Germany next August!

This was probably one of the best conference closing notes I've attended in a long time and to finish off the evening, we all headed across Basel to attend the official Closing Party to unwind before the journey back home.

All-in-all - it was the best SCU I've attended so far and this conference just seems to get better and better each year. I'm looking forward to seeing how Berlin can top this one next time!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Automating SCOM to Make Your Life Easier!

My buddy Tao Yang (the Tim-Tam distributing, management pack creation machine) has been at it again and has released Part 6 of his 'Automating OpsMgr' series.

If you work as a SCOM administrator or consultant in any way, shape or form, then you really need to read through each of these posts as they are awesome! You'll come away with heaps of tools, tips and tricks that Tao has spent tireless hours scripting and putting together for the community and they'll save you loads of time with your deployments.

As an example of how much effort he put into this, take the first post in the series. In this post Tao looked at the PowerShell module that comes bundled with the SCOM installation and also took a look at what was on offer with the System Center Orchestrator integration pack for SCOM and the SMA portable integration module.

These offerings are useful in their own right, but still lack a lot of functionality, so Tao decided to spend 5 months of his own time (on and off)  to write a new extended PowerShell module for SCOM! This new module contains administrative tasks for managing agents, configuring management group references and backing up management packs. It also contains some super tasks to assist with basic and advanced management pack authoring.

The module can be run on its own or as part of SMA and each function of the module contains some very detailed help references.

The other 5 posts (so far) build on this new extended SCOM PowerShell module and leverage SMA for automation to carry out tasks such as collecting logs from ConfigMgr, creating management pack runbooks and managing groups in SCOM.

I know Tao has many more of these posts to put up in the coming months so make sure to check out the whole series so far and download the module and scripts so you can start playing around with them today.

Use the following tag on his blog to access all his posts:

A big thanks Tao for yet another awesome contribution to the SCOM community!

System Center Universe Europe is Just Around the Corner!

It's that time of year again that the biggest and best System Center Universe (SCU) conference in Europe is getting ready for take off in Switzerland.

I've had the honour of presenting at the inaugural SCU Europe held in Bern in 2013 and then again last year in Basel. Thankfully, I've been asked to present another session at this year's event - where the conference will be run in the same excellent venue in Basel as last years one.

If you're working with System Center or Microsoft Cloud Technologies and are wondering what exactly SCU Europe is, then take a quick read through some of these FAQ's from the official website:

What is System Center Universe Europe?

System Center Universe is a community conference with a strong focus on systems management and virtualization topics such as cloud, datacenter and modern workplace management. We present top content with top presenters around Microsoft System Center, Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Hyper-V and want to build the number one conference for those kind of topics across Europe.

Who should attend SCU?

SCU is a technical conference for administrators, engineers, architects, technical project managers and other technical-oriented people that are focused on Microsoft products and technologies. Less technical oriented people can still benefit from a conference attendance by getting a broad overview of problem-solving solutions and of course by connecting to exhibitors and community specialists.

Why is SCU different from other conferences?

SCU is a first-class community conference that lives from inputs and ideas from people that are part of the community and that know about real-world requirements and solutions. That said, we are not marketing-driven but try to present the latest and greatest content with the best speakers. Sessions are presented with lots of live demos and go technically deep, mainly down to level 300 or 400 (advanced and expert). Attending SCU gives you ready-to-use knowledge and allows you to connect and build long-term relations with speakers and attendees from all over the world.

With some of the best Cloud and Datacenter Management focused technical presenters around, epic parties and great food, this years conference aims to be even bigger and better than the last one.

The session planner is available here and if you're thinking of attending, then you can register here.

So what are you waiting for?

See you over there!

Quickly Check Build Numbers for Common Microsoft Applications

If you ever have a problem trying to identify which version of your application its build number relates to, then I've got something pretty useful to help you out.

For the past year I've been referencing a community-authored blog that posts current build number references for common Microsoft applications and provides a download link to each cumulative update or service pack.

The list of applications that are referenced include System Center and SQL (definitely one you'll use a lot here). It's regularly updated (the new 2016 Tech Preview releases are all there) and goes back quite a few versions - MOM 2000 is even listed!

There's a handy navigation ribbon to choose your application or if you like, just use the tags.

Here's the blog URL:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Whitepaper - Is Operations Manager Still Relevant in the World of the Cloud?

Last week my good buddy Cameron Fuller, in collaboration with Savision, authored a whitepaper which tackles a topic that is becoming more and more relevant as the global push towards the cloud accelerates.

He asks simply - 'Is Operations Manager still relevant in the world of the cloud ?'

Instead of just adding his own perspective to this question, Cameron has put in the ground-work to thoroughly research the validity and longevity of Microsoft's on-premise monitoring solution that, for me as a Cloud OS consultant, is currently the product that's consuming the majority of my working weeks.

Here are some of the key points that he discusses in the document:
  • A history of Operations Manager and what conclusions we can draw from that history
  • Cloud first, mobile first, and it’s impacts on System Center
  • The Microsoft Operations Management Suite and how it compares with Operations Manager
  • Monitoring available within Azure, and solutions to monitor Azure
  • The Cloud Platform Stack, WAP, and Azure Stack
  • Architecting Operations Manager to run in the cloud 

If you've read any of Cameron's OpsMgr Unleashed books or attended his presentations, you'll know that he has an excellent way of getting his point across and this whitepaper is no exception.

So, if you're working with SCOM (or plan to in the next year or so), then I'd highly recommend you have a read of this whitepaper to gain an insight into where things are going and where we're at now. 

You can download it directly from Savision's website at the following link:


SCOM - Updated Community Windows Azure Pack MP V2

A few weeks back, I published a post about Oskar Landman's awesome new community MP for Windows Azure Pack and the big man's been at it again - this time giving us a fully redesigned Version 2.

If you liked the original MP, then this one gives you so much more - he even took the time to use some of my Visio stencils for Windows Azure Pack that I released last year (you can get the stencils from the following link):

This MP comes with all the classes, discoveries, monitors and rules that you should need to deliver comprehensive monitoring of your Windows Azure Pack environments.

Check out Oskar's full blog post on at the following link:

You can download the MP directly from the TechNet Gallery here.

Awesome work again Oskar - thanks for this super contribution :)

SCOM - New Community MP to Monitor SMA Runbook Instances

My buddy Stefan Roth has been hard at work putting together a new community management pack for anyone running both Service Management Automation (SMA) and SCOM in their environments.

This new management pack will monitor SMA runbook instances to alert you on whether or not an instance is running. It uses a PowerShell script to run an SQL query against the SMA database to return this type of information.

To get a full walk-through of this MP, check out Stefan's blog post at the following link:

You can also download the MP directly from the TechNet Gallery here.

Thanks Stefan!

Friday, June 12, 2015

SCOM - Alert Widget Template Using Logical Expression Filtering

OK so I'll admit that if you're not very familiar with the new dashboard widgets of SCOM, then the title of this post might seem like I've just swallowed a dictionary!

However, this is merely a cross-post to bring yet another awesome new community contribution from Wei H Lim to your attention.

Let me give you some context to this first though...

When you've deployed SCOM, imported your management packs and pushed out your agents it'll just be a matter of time before than empty console view becomes full of alerts. This can be a good and bad thing. Good because you are now seeing the issues that exist within your environment and bad because not all of those alerts might be relevant to you.

When you want to stop the alerts that aren't relevant to you from appearing in your console, you need to tune them out (or create overrides to disable or modify them). What you don't want to do is to just close all those alerts with a swift stroke of the CTRL + A keys and a click of your mouse. This is because some of those alerts will have been created by monitors and others will have been created by rules.

The Old Alert Filtering Method

A few years back, Cameron Fuller (Yoda-level SCOM consultant and System Center MVP) wrote a blog post explaining why you don't want to do this and I'll encourage you to take a quick read of his post before continuing on with this one:

OpsMgr: Never close an alert for a monitor – the exception to the “Rule of the monitor”

That post was written for SCOM 2007 R2 and the general recommendation was that you could bulk-close alerts that were generated by rules but not ones generated by monitors - once you had managed to identify which ones you could close first!

The New Alert Filtering Method

Since then, we have access to the new dashboard widgets - one of which is the 'Alert Widget'. A little known trick to help you with alert tuning is to use the 'Is Monitor Alert' display column to quickly sort alerts generated by monitors from alerts generated by rules.

Cameron has written another post on this topic:

QuickTrick: Find alerts from a monitor or rule in OpsMgr 2012

The introduction of this widget has given us a taste of how we can filter alerts into a customized and relevant view for whatever scenario we might have.

An Even Better Alert Filtering Method

Although the original Alert Widget solves the problem of displaying alerts generated by monitors and alerts generated by rules, it's still limited in how it can filter those alerts in the first place. This widget has three different Criteria options to choose from - Severity, Priority and Resolution State and sometimes these options just aren't enough.

This is something that Wei H. Lim noticed and decided to remedy with a new sample Alert Widget that makes use of custom fields to give you filtering through logical expressions.

Confused? Don't worry, all will become clearer when you check out his full post here:

You can download the sample alert widget from the TechNet Gallery here (although you'll need to read his post first to understand how to configure it):

Cheers Wei for another cool community offering!

SCOM - Automating Run As Account Distribution

If you're an IT Pro and anyway involved in deploying SCOM on a regular basis, then you'll know the pain of having to manage Run As account distribution to various Run As profiles.

The SQL management pack is one example where in large environments, this can quickly turn into a time-consuming nightmare!

Well, Kevin Holman (Microsoft's SCOM Ninja Master Elite) has come up with an awesome PowerShell script to solve these problems :)

His script uses a SCOM group to determine Run As account distribution and makes delegation of this task super-easy when working with more than one SCOM administrator/operator.

Kevin explains all in his post here (where you can also grab the PowerShell script):

I've tested this script now in a few different SCOM environments and it works exactly as promised but if you run into any problems with it or want to say thanks to Kevin directly, then just leave a comment on his blog from the link above.


SCOM & MSOMS - Collecting ConfigMgr Logs with the NiCE Log File MP

Although I don't work much with ConfigMgr, I can appreciate the difficultly people have when they try to collect and analyze the various logs that it can generate and it was only a matter of time before someone sat down and worked out how to make this collection easier.

That's what my Australian friend and fellow MVP Tao Yang has been spending his spare-time on for the past few weeks. The result is a mashed-up collaboration of SCOM, the Microsoft Operations Management Suite (MSOMS), ConfigMgr and the ever-useful free NiCe Log File management pack.

Tao has written a comprehensive blog post on how he managed to get all these solutions working together to collect ConfigMgr logs and you can check it out from here:

Great work as usual Tao!

SCOM - PowerShell Script to Enumerate Management Servers, Gateway Servers and Agents

When it comes to authoring PowerShell scripts from scratch, I wouldn't be the most prolific or creative but I am an obsessive hoarder of them. Like learning any new language, the more examples of that language you have to reference, the easier you will find it is to speak it yourself.

With that in mind, this week, my buddy Marnix Wolf has written a new PowerShell script to give you a quick overview of all your SCOM Management Servers, Gateway Servers and the agents reporting to them.

You could run a report to get this information or just check it out in the console but as Marnix says, PowerShell is always going to be quicker once you have a script like this at your disposal.

Check out his post at this link:

You can download the script from here.

Thanks Marnix - that's another script to add to my ever-growing collection :)

SCOM - Agent Remediation Tool

Admittedly, I'm a little late to the party with this one but last week, I came across another useful community resource for SCOM called the 'Agent Remediation Tool'.

Here's a description of the tool taken from the authors blog (I can't track down their name unfortunately to give them more credit!):

"This is a proof of concept script consisting of a mix of PowerShell with some .NET for a GUI that can serve as an automated playbook for agent remediation.

Typically I prefer to remediate agents via the SCOM console, but there are instances where an agent is locked down such that remote management is not possible, and the SCOM Team may not have access to remote a server and fix an agent. This script empowers non SCOM sysadmins, DBA’s et cetera to be able to perform basic troubleshooting on their agents without the fear of accidentally deleting the wrong thing."

The tool comes in the form of a PowerShell script and when you run the script you'll get the handy little UI shown here....

If you or your customers have remote branch offices or DMZ's with manually deployed SCOM agents and with the 'Remotely Manageable' option disabled, then this little utility can be a useful addition to your toolkit. I've tested this tool on SCOM 2012 R2 and SCOM 2016 Technical Preview builds and it works a treat.

Check out the original blog post here and download the tool from the TechNet Gallery at this link:

SCOM 2016 & 2012 R2 Prerequisites Script

Lately, I've been working a lot in my lab with the Tech Preview build of the upcoming SCOM 2016 release and as is always the case when you deploy new builds of SCOM, there's a load of prerequisites to install before you can get stuck in.

I've updated my original SCOM 2012 SP1 PowerShell script from here to include the relevant prereqs for SCOM 2016 and SCOM 2012 R2.

This version has some new aesthetics built-in and will download and install the SQLSysClrTypes and ReportViewer utilities to a folder location of your choice (modify the $dwnld variable to specify a folder).

You can download the updated script from the TechNet Gallery here:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

SCOM - Sample OS Summary Dashboard

One of the reasons I love working with SCOM is the extensibility it has around dashboards and other visualizations. With the right know-how and PowerShell Kung-Fu, you can create some pretty cool solutions right out of the box.

This is what Microsoft's Wei H. Lim has been doing for the last year or so and if you're on Twitter and not following him, then you'll miss all this cool stuff!

Wei's latest post involves him creating a new management pack bundle (.MPB) for SCOM that contains a sample dashboard for displaying a summary of Operating System KPI's using the new 'blue bars' that have been introduced in SCOM 2012.

Check out the full post and download from the following link:

Keep up the great work Wei!

Free eBook - System Center Operations Manager Field Experience

A couple of months ago, the guys over at Microsoft Press released a new free ebook titled 'System Center Operations Manager Field Experience'.

At 128 pages, it delivers some 'quick-hit' tips and tricks on deploying and managing SCOM in the real world and after reading through it today, I can confirm that there's some very useful pointers that you should take note of - particularly related to enhancing SCOM performance.

You don't have to read this book from front-to-back right away and instead, it can be used as a guide whenever you need to get some additional advice from the team of Premier Field and Support Escalation Engineers that authored it.

You can download it in a number of electronic formats from here:

SCOM - Updated Hyper-V 2012 R2 Community MP

The SCOM MP authoring machines that are Daniele Grandini and Tao Yang have joined forces to create a super-charged management pack for Hyper-V 2012 R2 environments. The requirement for this community released MP has come about due to the lack of functionality and engineering effort gone into the existing Microsoft Hyper-V MP.

Here's a list of some of the features this new MP has:

Comprehensive discovery with at least the same information you can get from the SCVMM MP integration:
  • OS and platform 
  • Farm (very useful to create dashboards and groups)
  • Hardware configuration
  • Connected VHD(x)
  • Connected NICs 
An optimized discovery that gets triggered when virtual machines are moved, started or stopped.

A complete replica monitoring scenario with diagnostics, recoveries (disabled by default) and tasks to resume replica.

A couple of monitor related to GPUs and remoteFX inherited from the MS provided MP, disabled by default since I consider them not useful. But in any case I didn’t want to lose monitoring capabilities.

Integration services obsolescence (only for Windows VMs since I don’t know how to update *nix VMs now that MS isn’t releasing anymore IS for platforms that have the services included in the kernel).

VHD(x) fragmentation level monitoring, this one can be noisy, but if you have fragmented VHDs you better know it, since the performance impact can be significant.

VM uptime in % in the observation period -  this can useful to bill on uptime.

VM measures as performance counters for enabled virtual machines (Enable-VMMeasure).

You can learn more about this MP from Daniele's blog post here and you can download it directly from GitHub or the Technet Gallery using these links:

When you give it a test drive, feel free to add your comment's or requests to Daniele's blog posting or on GitHub.

SCOM - Free Log File Monitoring MP from NiCE

If you use SCOM regularly, you'll know that it can monitor just about anything in some way shape or form once it's connected to a network! This extensible capability is greatly enhanced by the various management packs that Microsoft, third-party vendors and System Center community authors release and our friends over at NiCE have just recently released an awesome one to add to your collection.

The SCOM Log File Monitoring management pack enables you to dive into those log files from bespoke line-of-business applications and garner useful information to help you better understand how the applications are performing.

Best of all about this management pack - its FREE! (that was NiCE of them....)

Here's an overview taken directly from their website:

As we all know, business critical applications write health and performance information to log files and this data is often left unattended and simply archived. It is time to tap into the pool of information that is contained in the log files. The NiCE Log File MP is THE product to scan and analyze the information contained in your log files. It provides more than 100 custom wizards to the SCOM Authoring console to create rules and monitors with ease. Additionally, all parts of the NiCE Log File MP leverage native SCOM capabilities and provide a powerful tool that analyzes log content in full detail.

My good buddy and fellow System Center MVP Marnix Wolf wrote up a super blog post on a real-world example where this management pack can be used to solve problems and you can check out his post here.

If you haven't already downloaded the Log File Monitoring MP, then you can get it from this link:


SCOM - URL Genie Management Pack

If you're working with SCOM and have a requirement to monitor a large number of URL's, you'll understand the pain of how long it takes to get them under monitoring using the built-in Web Application Transaction Monitoring Wizard.

Well, Microsoft's Tyson Paul (Premier Field Engineer), has come up with an awesome management pack to speed up this process and after him spending the best part of 2 years on and off developing it, you know you're going to get a quality end-result.

He's created the URL Genie Management Pack and here's an overview of what it does (taken from his original post):

The URL Genie Management Pack provides a fast and easy way to implement monitoring for a large numbers of URL instances from only a few instances up to many thousands! In addition there are some special features which allow monitoring sites which require client certificates in addition to pages that use forms-based authentication. With URLGenie you can easily configure monitoring for thousands of standard URL instances in less than a minute.

For a full description and walkthrough of this awesome MP, check out his blog post at the following link:

You can download it directly from the TechNet Gallery here.

Even if you don't have a requirement to manage large numbers of URL's, this MP is definitely worth taking a look at and I'll be putting it to good use in the coming months as I come across the need to use it.

Thanks for the effot in putting out this great free contribution to the SCOM community Tyson!

SCOM - New Community Health State Synchronization Library MP

The management pack authoring machine that is Tao Yang has been hard at work again.

This time he's written an MP to synchronize the health state from a monitoring object managed by a remote management group into a local management group to support managing multiple SCOM management groups.

Having this multi-management group management scenario is seriously useful - particularly if you're working with multi-tenancy in your datacenter.

Read through Tao's detailed post on his blog here:

Then if you're working with multiple management groups in SCOM, make sure you download it to make life so much easier for you :)

SCOM - New Community Windows Azure Pack MP

Another super community contribution - this time from my buddy Oskar Landman - here's a picture of me towering over him at the MVP Summit a few years back...

Noticing that the existing Windows Azure Pack MP was seriously lacking functionality, Oskar took it on himself to rewrite it completely and then release a new version to the community for free!

He's added diagram views, performance views and enough state views to keep everyone happy..

If you or your customers have deployed Windows Azure Pack and are using SCOM, then this MP is an absolute no-brainer to import.

Check out Oskar's full post on from the link below:

You can download the MP directly from the TechNet Gallery here.

SCOM - Various Ways to Find the ID of a Monitoring Object

A while back, my buddy Tao Yang (underground purveyor of Tim Tam's and System Center MVP) wrote an awesome post on how to find the ID of a particular object that's monitored with SCOM.

In his post he demonstrates several methods to retrieve the ID and if you're responsible for creating dashboards, management packs or reports, then this post is a must-read.

Check it out here -

SCOM - Microsoft Platform Ready Test Tool for Management Packs

It's been way too quiet on this blog lately - mainly due to a new book project that I'm in the middle of  - but over the coming few days, I've cleared some time to catch up on the long list of cool blog posts, tools and management packs that have been released in recent months by the System Center community for SCOM.

First up is a handy tool for anyone that's involved in developing management packs for SCOM called the Microsoft Platform Ready Test Tool.

With this tool, mp authors can ensure they are meeting best practice compliance and recommendations for their management packs.

Check out the following screenshots....

You can download this tool for free here:

Friday, May 15, 2015

SCOM Customer Feedback Survey

If you've been paying attention to any of the SCOM sessions that were delivered at the recent Microsoft Ignite conference, you'll notice a number of new features that are due for release either in the next Update Rollup or in System Center 2016 - (scheduled maintenance mode and MySQL monitoring for example).

These new features have been added as a result of feedback that Microsoft has taken on-board from the general SCOM community and customers that are using the product.

Today, Microsoft have released a new call for customer feedback in the form of an online survey and if you have anything that you want to add to a wish-list for SCOM 2016 or have any complaints about the existing version, then here's your chance to be heard!

Have a quick read of the original post from the System Center team and click on the survey link to get started. It shouldn't take you longer than 5 minutes and I can guarantee you that your feedback will be heard.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Geeking Out at Microsoft Ignite 2015

Last week, I was one of the 23,500 attendees that visited the Windy City of Chicago to geek out at the inaugural Microsoft Ignite conference.

As the desynchronosis finally subsides this week, I wanted to take a look back through all of the announcements and experiences that were relevant to me and share them on this blog.

About Microsoft Ignite

So what's all the fuss about Microsoft Ignite? Well, it's Microsoft's first attempt at creating a mega supernova-type conference - bringing together their previous biggest TechEd conference along with also amalgamating smaller events such as Microsoft Management Summit (MMS), SharePoint Conference and the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) to name a few.

With a combined total of around 23,500 attendees and as an alumni from multiple tours of duty of MMS and TechEd, Ignite definitely felt like the largest conference I've attended so far.

I didn't think that a conference center could be much larger than Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center (where last years TechEd was hosted), but Chicago's McCormick Place must have been at least twice the size to host Microsoft Ignite.

It was fair to say that Microsoft took over the whole of this massive venue for the best part of a week and everywhere we went looked the part.


The conference kicked off for us on Monday morning with a 30 minute coach journey navigating from the hotel to the conference center through the traffic bedlam that seems to be the norm for Chicago (more on this later). When we got to McCormick Place, we were shepherded down to the main hall for the Keynote. I'm just glad we got there early to get a seat and avoid the overflow rooms.

Microsoft's Joey Snow warmed up the massive crowd before the keynote began with some lively dance tunes and you could feel the buzz of anticipation around the room.

Satya Nadella came onstage around 9am and immediately set the tone for the week when he talked about delivering hybrid solutions and empowering IT pro's. The announcements came quick and fast as the keynote speakers interchanged for a marathon 3 hours!

Although most people were happy with all the new stuff being announced and demonstrated, the general feeling was that the keynote was at least an hour too long. Huge numbers had decided enough-was-enough well before the keynote speakers were finished and there were queues to leave the hall with still more than 30 minutes to go.

For me though, I was really impressed with the whole production, professionalism and use of new technology throughout the keynote show and it was certainly a step up from previous keynotes that I've attended.


A plethora of new announcements were made during the keynote and as a Cloud OS consultant, the upcoming releases of Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 along with the new Microsoft Operations Management Suite were my highlights for sure.

A new on-premise offering of Microsoft Azure called 'Azure Stack' was also announced. This will include a new version of Windows Azure Pack but will come with a lot more capabilities to bring it inline with what customers have in the public cloud.

Office 2016, SQL 2016 and Skype for Business all got a shout-out along with a new Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics offering which is available as a public preview release.

Also, the new 'buzz' phrase on every server administrators mind for the week was 'Nano Server'. This is a version of Windows Server that has a footprint 20 times smaller than the current Server Core edition!

Presentations of Note

Throughout the week, I attended or downloaded some excellent presentations and these are some of my favorites (I've linked to the Channel 9 download for each one):


Windows Server & System Center Futures—Bring Azure to your Datacenter (Platform Vision & Strategy)

Azure Operations: Enabling IT Organizations to Leverage Microsoft Azure


Minasi's Guide to Managing Windows 10: New Windows, New Tools

Platform Vision & Strategy (6 of 7): What’s New in System Center for Management

Enterprise Backup: Custom Reporting, BAAS and Real-World Deployments in Data Protection Manager

The Hidden Treasures of Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V?


Operating the Microsoft Cloud Platform System

Building Highly Effective Dashboards in Microsoft System Center Operations Manager

Troubleshooting Windows Azure Pack Providers


Log Analytics and Visualization Using Microsoft Azure Operational Insights

Automating Operational and Management Tasks Using Azure Automation

Security Threat Analysis Using Microsoft Azure Operational Insights

Mark Russinovich and Mark Minasi on Cloud Computing


Windows 10 Management Scenarios: Mark Minasi Helps You Have Total Control for Every Budget

Automation Overview and Roadmap for Windows Server and System Center

Microsoft System Center Operations Manager: Monitoring in a Modern World

The Expo Hall

The sheer size of this conference meant that to navigate the Expo Hall (where third-party vendors show off their wares) you'd have been well advised to use a sat-nav!

To be fair though, I thought this was a good expo with tons of vendors and product group teams available to answer questions and show you demo's of their products.

The free swag was pretty good too and I had to get hold of an additional carry bag by the end of day one to carry it all around with me!


For me, these conference events are all about the person-to-person networking and Microsoft Ignite had that in abundance. I got to meet up with a good few of my MVP friends along with product group members and some other Irish attendees.

It was also cool to see Microsoft had added our names to the MVP wall in the Expo...

Getting Around Town

With a population of nearly 3 million residents living within the city of Chicago alone (the overall metropolitan area of Chicago has nearly 9.5 million residents), in hindsight, it shouldn't have been surprising to us that the traffic in this city was some of the worst we've ever experienced. From 6am onwards, the roads leading in and out of the city were jammed.

Thankfully, getting a coach to the event in the morning was no problem and there was a dedicated network of underground roads for coaches that led directly to McCormick Place. The overall journey from our hotel took approx. 25 minutes on a good day.

The way home however, was a different story. For some reason, Microsoft decided that the coaches would only run between the conference center and the hotels until 10am and they didn't start back up again until 6pm! This meant that 20,000 plus attendees were all scrumming to get a lift back home at the same time each day and with waits of anywhere between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, this was a right pain.

Attempting to grab a taxi instead wasn't much better as there was a similar wait and queue at all taxi ranks! When a taxi did pull up eventually, you had to be on your guard to ensure you weren't being ripped off by some unscrupulous drivers - some where looking to charge $35 for a journey that typically cost no more than $15!

Hopefully next year the coach time restrictions will be lifted and the taxi companies will be made aware that they need more cabs down at McCormick Place when there's a conference going on.

Rick Claus and Joey Snow mentioned in one of their excellent Microsoft Ignite Countdown shows that you should break in your walking shoes/trainers before coming to Chicago. I can certainly vouch for that tip and I haven't walked so much in a single week in a long time! This is a good thing though as Chicago is a really cool city to visit and there's loads to see and do.

We managed to take a visit to the John Hancock Center and take the lift up to the 94th floor for some spectacular views...

There's so much we didn't get a chance to do and things like the architecture boat tour, Navy Pier and Millennium Park were highly recommended by other attendees for a future visit to the city.

The Food

Now to the food. There were some good and some bad experiences with food during our week in Chicago. For a start, the lunches that were served down at the conference were terrible. By the Wednesday, we'd given up hope of getting something half decent to eat and ended up in McDonald's or one of the cafe's for our lunch. The breakfasts and mid-session snacks weren't too bad though and a similar standard to previous conferences I've attended.

Out and about in Chicago at night-time, we really had the opportunity to sample the various dishes that were on offer and I made sure to eat my fill of Chicago-style Pizza and HotDogs while in town!

Having Fun

There was plenty of fun to be had during the week with Monday and Tuesday in particular being the busiest nights for vendor-sponsored parties. With loads of free food and beer on offer, I think everyone had a good time after-hours. For me, I took it relatively easy though as we had an early start each day to kick-off the first presentations.

The 'Friends of Service Manager' meetup party in Streeters Bar was a great opportunity to catch up with all my SCSM Lync-up pals too.

I really enjoyed the attendee party this year which was held in McCormick Place on the Thursday night. It was a massive venue that easily catered for the 23,500 attendees and with food and beer in abundance, the various live acts on show made the night very enjoyable.

Next Year.....

During the week it was announced that Ignite 2016 would be hosted again in Chicago so, taking everything into account, would I want attend next years event?