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.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Presenting at Cloud Camp 2018

It’s coming around to that time of year again when conference season kicks into full swing and over the coming months, I’ll be attending and presenting at some of the best Cloud and Datacenter conferences on the planet.

First up is Cloud Camp - Ireland’s best Microsoft Cloud and Windows Server conference. Put together by MicroWarehouse and kicking off on October 17th in Dublin’s National Convention Centre, this inaugural event plays host to 20 speakers over 4 different tracks -all in 1 day! Topics covered include the latest about digital transformation, IT modernization, productivity, security, compliance & governance, private cloud using Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365 (Office 365, EMS, and Windows 10), hybrid cloud scenarios – and there's loads to learn about the new features of Windows Server 2019.

Throw in the fact that there’s an after-party hosted in an Irish brewery with a specially commissioned recording of the super-popular Windows Weekly podcast (hosted by Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott) and you just know this will be an awesome event!


The speaker line-up is one of the best I've seen in recent years for an Irish event and the selection brings a number of Gal├íctico-style presenters from the Microsoft world over to Dublin for a day of discussions and learning. With a mix of current and past MVP's, along with some very well-known Cloud-Ninja's presenting on the day - I'm already anticipating the challenge of trying to attend multiple sessions at the same time!

Breakout Tracks

Due to the sheer breadth of cloud-content available to choose from, it makes sense for the organisers to create the following four breakout tracks to run simultaneously throughout the day:
  • Azure IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service): Focusing on infrastructure solutions built in Microsoft Azure.
  • Azure PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service): Complete the digital transformation using platform and serverless features of Azure for modern business solutions.
  • Productivity & Security: Microsoft 365 is the focus area, covering productivity, security and compliance solutions based on Office 365, EMS, and Windows 10.
  • Windows Server 2019 & Hybrid: This track is a launch for the latest version of Windows Server, and will include hybrid cloud scenarios and solutions such as Azure Stack private cloud.

My Session

On the day, I'll be presenting a session titled 'All-In with Azure Monitoring' and I'll show you everything you need to know to get started using Microsoft Azure to monitor your IT estate.

You can read the session highlight of my presentation - with write-up from Aidan Finn (event co-organiser and good friend) here.

Tickets and Registration

If you haven't yet purchased your tickets, you can get sign up for them here.

Registration will begin at 08:15 on Wednesday October 17th. The keynote will start at 09:15. Breakout sessions will continue throughout the day with breaks for morning & afternoon coffee, lunch, and sufficient time to move between the tracks. A closing keynote, with special guests Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott, will start at approximately 16:30 and continue until approximately 17:30.

Hopefully I'll see some of you guys there!

Monday, September 17, 2018

SCOM - Global Service Monitor Heads to the Retirement Home

Last week, Microsoft announced that Global Service Monitor (GSM) -  the cool add-on for SCOM that gave us 'Outside-In' monitoring capability - will be hanging up its synthetic transactions and heading to the legacy solutions retirement home on 7th November 2018.

This solution was a very useful addition to our SCOM deployments when we wanted to get an external perspective of the health and performance of our web applications from locations across the globe and I've been blogging about it on and off for the best part of six years now.

The retirement announcement doesn't come as a massive surprise though as earlier this year, myself and a number of other MVP's began to notice that the tool had stopped working due to DNS resolution errors and although those issues were resolved, the writing was on the wall for its end-of-life.

So What Happens Now?

To be fair to Microsoft, they might be retiring GSM - but they're not removing the 'Outside-In' monitoring capabilities that we've become accustomed to and as part of the retirement announcement for GSM, they've also announced a new tool/script that will help you migrate your existing GSM tests over to the awesome Azure Application Insights platform.

This is a nice alternative to have as Application Insights supports the same single URL ping and multi-step web tests that GSM supported, the same frequency of the tests can be configured and the same geo-locations are also supported.

In true Microsoft monitoring fashion and as a final nod to GSM's integration with SCOM, after the expiry date in November, you'll receive an alert in the SCOM console notifying you that GSM will no longer work and that it has been retired!

Integrating the Migrated Tests with SCOM

If you're thinking that this all sounds well and good but a migration away from GSM and into Application Insights means you no longer get visibility of your external web application tests in SCOM, then Microsoft have you covered here too.

Using the brand new CTP version of the Azure Management pack (accessible here), you can integrate with your Application Insights resource group and view the alerts from the newly migrated web tests directly within the SCOM console.

How Much Will It Cost?

The nice thing about this migration process is that Microsoft have committed in their original post on the retirement of GSM that any web application tests that get migrated over to Azure Application Insights will not incur any additional costs! Here's a couple of snippets about this free-of-charge offer that I've taken directly from that post:

"GSM was provided as a software assurance benefit of your System Center purchase. When you migrate to Azure Application Insights, Microsoft will transition migrated tests and alert rules at no additional charge."

"Only the tests which are migrated using the script, would be provided at no additional charge in Azure Application Insights."


I think that with the rapid pace of cloud adoption, the sheer power and scale of Azure and factoring in the guarantee from Microsoft that these migrated tests won't cost anything extra in your Azure subscription, migrating them to Application Insights is a no-brainer.

You can download the new GSM to Azure Application Insights migration script and its associated documentation from here.

In my next post on this topic, I'll walk through the process of configuring and deploying the new script to ensure a smooth migration of those GSM web application tests to Azure. Click the link below for more information:

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