Monday, December 15, 2014

Another (Equally Cool) Way to Build Your Own SCOM MP Store!

Following on from my recent post about building a SCOM management pack catalog using SharePoint or SharePoint online, Microsoft's Dirk Brinkmann has put together his own solution to help you download, categorize and then store all of your management packs in one handy and automated way.

He's written a three-part blog series using PowerShell and some free scripts written by other SCOM community members and it's definitely worth a read - particularly if you manage environments with multiple management groups (Test/Dev/Production etc.)

Have a read of Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the series before downloading the relevant scripts from the TechNet Gallery from the links below:

A big thanks to Dirk, Tao and the rest of the guys for their work on bringing these solutions to the community!

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Building Your Very Own Internal or External SCOM MP Catalog

This is essentially a cross-post to highlight some of the awesome work that my buddy Tao Yang has been working on in his spare time.

Recently and for whatever reason, the official Microsoft Pinpoint Site has been missing some of the more recent releases of SCOM management packs. Now, before people start panicking and complaining that they can't get access to any new MP's for their SCOM environments, you can be safe in the knowledge that the Microsoft MP Wiki is the first place to check for all of the latest and greatest MP releases:

You can also get access to MP's by performing a quick Google (Bing) search for the MP name or by searching the Microsoft Download Center site.

The Microsoft Pinpoint site used to be a one-stop-shop for all your Microsoft (and even some approved third-party vendor) management packs and if nothing else, it was a handy place to go and quickly download what you're looking for.

The On-Premise Solution

As the Pinpoint solution isn't as reliable as it used to be, Tao first started working on his own private 'MP Catalog' for SCOM that leverages the power of Service Management Automation (SMA) and SharePoint 2013 to deliver a fully dynamic and up-to-date list of all available Microsoft MP's that looks something like this.....

Check out Tao's walkthrough on how to get this up and running here.

The Off-Premise Solution

Not content on delivering an internal version of his private catalog, he then got to work on creating a similar solution up in Microsoft Azure using Azure Automation and SharePoint Online as his preferred model.

You can see this second awesome post here.

Whether or not you ever intend on actually deploying your own SCOM MP Catalog onsite or off-prem, what Tao has done shows the automation extensibility that comes with both SMA and Azure Automation. I highly recommend you take a read over both posts as there's some very useful information and scripts that can easily be used or tweaked for different purposes to suit your needs.

Great work Tao and thanks for sharing this content with the community :)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cloud Platform Integration Framework (CPIF) for the Modern Datacenter

Microsoft has just released a new download for their Cloud Platform Integration Framework (CPIF) for the Modern Datacenter. The download contains six documents (twelve if you count the fact that each one comes in both PDF and Word format) that delivers integration guidance for onboarding your applications into a Microsoft Cloud Solution.

Here's an overview of CPIF taken from their website:

"CPIF describes how organizations, Microsoft Partners and Solution Integrator's should design and deploy Cloud-targeted workloads utilizing the hybrid cloud platform and management capabilities of Azure, System Center and Windows Server."

Aligning with Microsoft's CloudOS story, the various components of the CPIF have been broken down into the functions shown in this graphic:

Quoting the website again:

"By integrating these functions directly into workloads, “platforms” can be developed which allow for further configuration by tenants to implement extended software services."

The download includes foundation documents for the following CPIF architecture patterns:

  • Azure Search Tier 
  • Multi-Site Data Tier 
  • Offsite Batch Processing Tier 
  • Web Tier 
  • Hybrid Networking
Sound interesting?

If so, then download the CPIF here.

Performance Problems with your SCOM Console? This 'Might' Help....

My good friend Marnix has just blogged a very interesting post about a really slow performing SCOM console issue that he was having at one of his customer sites.

After a lot of searching to try and resolve the issue, he came across some information about editing the default 'Max Degree of Parallelism' setting inside the SQL instance that was hosting the SCOM databases. When he modified this SQL setting, the difference in performance of the SCOM console was HUGE! He even had staff at the customer site come up to him to see what he had changed because the difference in performance was so noticeable!

Now halt for just a second!

Before you rush off and go back to all your slow performing consoles and change the 'Max Degree of Parallelism' setting on every SQL server that your customers run SCOM on, just take note of some interesting points that Marnix and a few other SCOM 'enthusiasts' (i.e. MVP's and Microsoft staff) have been having offline about this topic in the last day or so....

  • Some MVP's modified this setting and encountered performance gains.
  • Other MVP's made the change and saw either no difference, or even a drop in performance of the SCOM console.
  • A very well respected Microsoft employee working in the SCOM space also chipped in with his thoughts and made some interesting observations about how modifying 'Max Degree of Parrallelism' in the same way that each MVP saw gains in their console performance SHOULD NOT make any difference whatsoever!
  • Another point was also made that, modifying this setting 'MIGHT' help with performance when using HyperThreading on VMware with CPU Gang Scheduling.

So, taking all these points into account, my recommendation is to have a good read of Marnix' post here...

Then make your own judgement call on whether or not you modify the setting.

My view on this is that if you're already having bad SCOM console performance issues, then you've got nothing to lose by first bench-marking how long it takes you to open the console and perform certain tasks, then making the change to SQL and comparing the new performance load times with their originals. If you see much of a difference for the better, then you could be on to a winner - if not, then just change the setting back to it's default value of '0' and you're back to where you started with no harm done!

SCOM - Free eBook - Extending Operations Manager Reporting

The team over at Microsoft Press have been busy putting together another free eBook for your System Center reading pleasure. This one is 122 pages of goodness on how to work with and author reports in your SCOM environments.

Here's an introduction to its content:

The System Center Operations Manager data warehouse stores many objects, making it possible to report on performance, availability, configuration, and security. You can use data collected by Operations Manager for issue tracking, awareness, planning, and forecasting, all of which are important factors for maintaining and managing your environment. But understanding what to report on and how to do so is what actually contributes to the stability of your infrastructure.

If you're not using the data you collect about your environment, you're simply wasting space. If you use Operations Manager to monitor your environment, whether your infrastructure or a public, private, or hybrid cloud, this book is a good resource to help you understand the basics of reporting and how to build queries and stored procedures for your reports. It can also help you understand the various elements of Operations Manager management packs that are used when you create reports.

This book assumes that you have a good understanding of Operations Manager and the management pack structure required to create custom reports. It also assumes that you have a good working knowledge of SQL Server and tools like Report Builder, Business Intelligence Development Suite, and SQL Server Data Tools.

The book was authored by George Wallace, Chris Jones, Bill May, Fred Lee, edited by Mitch Tulloch and had contributions from Kevin Holman and Alban Montanera.

If you are in any way serious about delivering deep-level and easy-to-consume reports back to either your own or your customer SCOM deployments, then this book is as good a starting point as any to get you going.

Oh, and did I also mention it's FREE!

Download the book in your electronic format of choice from the Official Microsoft Press Blog here.

If this is something that interests you and you know that you'll have plenty of spare time over the upcoming Xmas holiday period, then why not check out all the other 'FREE' eBooks that MS Press have to offer from the link below:


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Just Released - All New Exchange 2013 Management Pack!

Microsoft has just announced the release of an updated version of their Exchange Server 2013 Management Pack for SCOM and it's a world apart from its predecessor.

The original iteration of this MP was released over a year ago and was one of the most underwhelming management packs that we've seen in a long time. For whatever reason back then, a decision was made to leave most of the monitoring of Exchange Server 2013 to itself in a kind of 'self-monitoring' role. This decision then resulted in us getting an MP that barely gave us more than an 'Up or Down' overview of our newly deployed and on-premise email systems - which meant that in a lot of cases, people didn't even bother installing the MP into SCOM at all.

Thankfully, the team over in Redmond that are responsible for working on SCOM management packs listened to feedback from customers and the community and put their resources together to come up with this all new and improved MP.

In a world where we're being told that hybrid-cloud is the way to go, it didn't make sense for customers that were deploying hybrid email scenarios (Office365 for some off-prem and Exchange Server 2013 for on-prem) to not have a fully centralized monitoring solution for them. This new MP thankfully should ensure that Exchange and SCOM admins alike will want to get this deployed and managed inside their SCOM deployments now.

Here's some screenshots of the new Exchange Server 2013 MP in action:

Organization Diagram

Organization Summary (using some of the new SCOM Dashboard Widgets)

Server Summary

Like what you see? If so, then you can download the new MP either for your lab environments through the built-in catalog (shown here)

For your production environments, download the MP directly from this link -

Note: I always recommend to only use the built-in catalog option if you want to quickly deploy your MP's into a lab as you don't get easy access to the MP guide when using the direct download link option. As is the case with all SCOM management packs, it's crucial that you read the MP guide from front to back (RTFM!) to ensure you understand everything that the MP monitors out of the box and how to get any discoveries turned on or off.

You can get more info on this new MP from some of my fellow MVP's here and here or you can check out the official announcement here.

Finally, a huge well done should be given to the MP team led by Daniel Savage that got this MP updated and released - I can see a lot of deployments putting this into production now - thanks!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

System Center Universe Europe 2014 Presentations Now Live on!

The great team over at System Center Universe (SCU) Europe have just announced the availability of all the presentations that were delivered over the three day event last month up on Microsoft's

I presented two sessions at the event on IP address management with Windows Server 2012 R2 and Application Performance Monitoring (APM) across your private and public clouds. Here's the links to both my presentations:

Stefan Roth has listed all sixty presentations on his blog here and for quick access to the ones you want, I've copied them all below too (you should still check out Stefan's blog for loads more cool Cloud OS info though!):

  1. Advanced Orchestrator Runbook Authoring and Management
  2. Author your own custom gallery item and deploy VM roles in Windows Azure Pack
  3. Building a Real self-service platform with SCSM, SMA PowerShell Workflows
  4. Building solid business continuity plans using System Center, Windows Server and Azure
  5. Compliance Management – the new orange in Client Management
  6. Configuration Manager 2012 R2 – a site review
  7. Creating awesome System Center Reports with PowerBI and PowerView
  8. Customer requirements first – Service Manager Customizations without limits
  9. Data Deduplication in depth
  10. Deploy the Microsoft Cloud OS in high available
  11. Deploy Windows Azure Pack across sites
  12. Disaster Recovery in a service provider cloud
  13. Disaster Recovery with Azure Site Recovery
  14. Enterprise Management Solution (EMS) – the full story
  15. How to build a service provider cloud
  16. How to deliver BaaS, RaaS and DRaaS in a modern datacenter using System Center & Azure
  17. Hybrid Cloud DevOps with APM
  18. Identity Management for Hybrid IT with Windows Azure and Windows Server 2012 R2
  19. Integrating the System Center components – your path to the galaxy
  20. Leaving the dark ages – Migrating from Configuration Manager 2007 to 2012 R2
  21. Manage your Azure through Service Manager and SMA
  22. Managing your IP Addresses the Easy Way with IPAM
  23. Microsoft Hybrid Cloud – Manage Azure with Microsoft System Center
  24. Microsoft Mobile Device Management from A to Z
  25. Multi-factor authentication for your clouds
  26. My top ten things in Windows Server 2012 R2 that will make your life easier
  27. OMI and DAL – Understanding the big picture
  28. OpsMgr Dashboards – new widgets and possibilities
  29. Optimize Azure Virtual Machines for performance and availability
  30. PowerShell’s Desired State Configuration – Resource authoring
  31. PowerShell’s Desired State Configuration – Notes from the field
  32. Self-service software provisioning with SCSM, SCORCH and SCCM
  33. Send your monitoring probes deep into unexplored space
  34. Service Management Automation – Introduction
  35. Service Management Automation (SMA) deep dive
  36. Service Manager – Performance and Scalability best practices
  37. Show me the reporting money with System Center
  38. Software Defined Networking – Comparison of different solutions
  39. Speed Lab – Deploy a Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 environment
  40. Sponsor Session OPSLOGIX & ITNETX – Conference Closing Note
  41. Sponsored Session BLUESTRIPE SOFTWARE – Using System Center and BlueStripe for dynamic application management across Azure and datacenter business applications
  42. Sponsored Session CASED DIMENSIONS – How to make Service Manager enterprise
  43. Sponsored Session CIRESON – Worldwide First – Unveiling Cireson Portal v3
  44. Sponsored Session CISCO – a Unified Data Center – Best integration for Microsoft Environments
  45. Sponsored Session COMTRADE – Deliver Citrix desktop virtualization confidently with Operations Manager
  46. Sponsored Session DERDACK – Never miss a critical IT incident again. Resolve IT incidents on-the-go. On-call duty redefined
  47. Sponsored Session MATRIX42 – Web Console for SCCM – easiness and delegation
  48. Sponsored Session NUTANIX – Automating Your Datacenter – Web-Scale Style
  49. Sponsored Session STEFFEN INFORMATIK – SCOM Manager
  50. Sponsored Session SYLIANCE IT SERVICES – Customizing System Center – Things you’ve never seen before!
  51. Sponsored Session VEEAM – Rock your Microsoft datacenter with Veeam
  52. Storage Spaces – Scale-out file server deep dive
  53. System Center Orchestrator – Runbook Design 101
  54. Unified Device Management – It’s all about the experience
  55. Upgrading to Configuration Manager 2012 R2
  56. VMware to Hyper-V Migration
  57. Welcome Note and Keynote Going beyond the borders – prepare yourself for the future!
  58. Windows Apps in the Cloud – Azure RemoteApp
  59. Windows Azure Pack – Usage Metering & Reporting Troubleshooting Guide
  60. Windows Azure Pack usage metering
So, between these sessions and the upcoming TechEd Europe ones that should be available from next week, I think I'll have enough to download to keep me occupied on the plane journey over and back to Seattle when I head to the MVP Summit in a couple of weeks!


Friday, October 17, 2014

System Center Advisor Just Got Even Better!

When I'm working with customers delivering System Center projects, a key component of those engagements always revolves around visualizing the data that we gather through the various products in the suite.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you should have noticed the buzz that's starting to build around the new System Center Advisor platform - which is currently available as a limited public preview here.

Even though Advisor is in preview, we've deployed it for a few customers when we wanted to super-charge SCOM 2012 R2 and get an extra edge on best practices and recommendations around some new (or even problematic) IT services that they were monitoring and it hasn't disappointed!

Anyway, similar to the speed at which the Microsoft Azure team are releasing updates to their platform, the SC Advisor team are doing their own hard work to make it better and better each week.

An example of this is yesterday's announcement by Joseph Chan that now empowers Advisor users to create their own custom dashboards and visualizations on-the-fly.

Here's an example of a custom dashboard that you can create yourself...

These new dashboards can be easily configured by clicking on the 'My Dashboard' option in the right-hand shortcut bar as shown here...

Pretty easy huh?

So, if you want to get started with these new visualizations today, then first have a quick read over Joseph's full post from the link below, then you should have everything you need to know to enhance your monitoring solutions even more than before!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Awarded Microsoft MVP 2014 for Cloud and Datacenter Management!

I've just seen 'the email' that all MVP's anticipate every 12 months - which is when their existing MVP is up for renewal.

I'd nearly forgotten that today was my own renewal day as I was busy delivering some webinars on DevOps to the community.

Thanks to all my friends and colleagues that I've worked with and shared knowledge on CloudOS with over the last year - it's great to see the 'Number of MVP Awards' counter on my profile go up by one each year!

I'll be at the MVP Summit in November and if you've been renewed or are a first time MVP awardee, then we might catch up over there for a beer! For now though, I'll just bask in my own glory for an hour or so!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Join My Upcoming "From Dev to the Datacenter" Webinars on October 1st and 2nd

Tomorrow (October 1st) and Wednesday (October 2nd), I'll be delivering two webinars in conjunction with Savision to discuss the content of our recently released free whitepaper titled: "From Dev to the Datacenter"

We will be presenting the same content in each webinar and you have a choice of timezone depending on where you're located:

US Timezone: Wednesday October 1st, 2014 at 5pm CEST/ 11am EDT

EU Timezone: Thursday October 2nd, 2014 at 3pm CEST/ 9am EDT

During the webinars, you'll see some cool demo's that should help to reinforce how System Center, Visual Studio Online and Savision can work with you to support your DevOps scenarios.

We'll also leave some time for Q & A so feel free to drop by and hit us up with any questions you have on these awesome technologies.

You can find more information on registration for either webinar here and if you haven't yet had a chance to download and read through the free whitepaper, then you can do so from this link.

Hope to talk to you all then!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Just Released - Free DevOps Whitepaper - 'From Dev to the Datacenter'

Things have been pretty quiet on this blog lately due to all my spare time being taken up with some really cool projects in work, preparing for my two System Center Universe Europe presentations and putting the finishing touches to a whitepaper collaboration that I've been working on with Savision.

The new whitepaper has just been released and in it, I speak about leveraging System Center and Visual Studio Online to help you with your day-to-day 'DevOps' scenarios. Here's an abstract:

"When your critical business applications start performing badly, it’s often difficult to quickly pinpoint whether the problem lies with the infrastructure or the developers’ code. 

If you’re tired of trawling through consoles and log files full of alerts to find the root cause of a service outage, then this white-paper will show you how to leverage Microsoft’s System Center and Visual Studio Online cloud solutions to get a full 360 degree view of your applications.

With this knowledge, you’ll gain the confidence to work with your developer teams to bring a rapid conclusion to your application problems."

Targeted at both IT Pro's and Developers, the aim of this whitepaper is to bring about a better awareness of how we can use components of Microsoft's CloudOS story to help make everyone's life a little bit easier!

Interested? If so, then you can get your hands on the whitepaper here:

When I return from System Center Universe, I'll be working with Savision to deliver two live webinars where we're going to expand a little on the topics covered in the whitepaper and we'll also give people an opportunity to get their questions answered.

Hope you like the content and if you're attending System Center Universe next week, make sure to check out my 'Hybrid Cloud DevOps with APM' presentation to see some of this cool stuff in action!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Useful Recent CloudOS News and Blogs

Well, after a few weeks away from work on vacation, I've finally managed to filter through the majority of my unread emails and Twitter feeds. What I've come across from browsing through just a few short weeks of them is a number of very useful and cool updates and community offerings for System Center 2012 R2, Windows Azure Pack, Azure and Windows Server 2012 R2.

I've broken my favourites down into categories to make things easier to reference and if you haven't seen some of these posts yet and are working with CloudOS products, then I'd strongly advise you to check them out:


Jalasoft – Xian SNMP Device Simulator V5

SCOM 2012 – Display & Download MPs Using PowerShell Widgets


Download the VMM Network Builder

Blog Series: Bare Metal Post-Deployment

So that's it in a nutshell for now - and although it's not a comprehensive list of everything that's been happening over the past month or so, there's still a lot of very impressive community content around CloudOS.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

TechCamp 2014 Dublin

Day 1 for our TechCamp 2014 event has just finished and each session had a great turnout of attendees. Microsoft Ireland's Art Coughlan kicked off with a keynote speech on how Microsoft can help people with their journey to the cloud and he gave some great real-world examples of well known global brands using Cloud Technologies such as Azure, Hyper-V and System Center.

After the keynote this morning, Aidan Finn gave a really interesting session on Windows Server Storage Spaces and Scale Out File Servers. He walked through building the solutions in his demo step-by-step to give people an idea of how easy it is to get started.

After Aidan's presentation, it was my turn to get down and dirty and shake with datacentre automation in my 'Service Automation Using System Center' session. I first spoke about getting your automation processes properly mapped out and including the right teams to plan the process. Then I went into a demonstration that incorporated System Center Orchestrator, Service Manager and Windows Azure Pack. Thankfully my themed Windows Azure Pack Tenant Portal went down well and I received some nice attendee comments during lunch about it:

The 'New Hire Onboard' process that I automated was made possible using System Center Orchestrator and Service Manager integrated into Windows Azure Pack. The secret sauce to surface the request management in the WAP Tenant portal was delivered using the awesome new GridPro Request Management - check it out here:

After lunch, Damian Flynn took to the stage and gave a full overview to the audience on how all the System Center components integrate with each other and then he went into the Windows Azure Pack Framework and all it's moving parts - a very enjoyable session for the attendees with the 'F Bombs' dropped kept to a minimum ;)

The final presentation of the day saw Aidan get back up for more heckling as he spoke about this time on Hybrid Cloud using Microsoft Azure. Some really interesting demo's delivered to the audience configuring public-cloud VM's and virtual networking on the fly.

That wraps up Day 1, tomorrow's track of 'Software as a Service' should be a blast!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

TechCamp 2014 - An Awesome Irish Cloud Community Event

After the success of our last TechCamp 2013 event, a week from tomorrow (Thursday 19th of June), we kick off TechCamp 2014 in Dublin's Citywest Hotel and Conference Centre.

This year we've decided to span the event out over two days and into two separate tracks - Hybrid Cloud & Software as a Service - and we have an awesome line-up of speakers presenting on some very relevant topics.

Day 1 (Hybrid Cloud Track)

I'll be delivering a session on Day 1 for the Hybrid Cloud track titled - 'Service Automation using System Center'. In it, you can expect to see some (hopefully impressive) demo's around System Center, Windows Azure Pack and Service Management Automation (SMA).

Day 1 also sees me share the stage with two good friends and excellent presenters - Aidan Finn and Damian Flynn. Aidan will be talking about Storage Spaces, Scale Out File Server and Hybrid Cloud and Damian will be digging into the new and seriously cool Windows Azure Pack in his presentation.

Day 2 (Software as a Service Track)

On Day 2 (Software as a Service), Nathan Winters - author, former Exchange MVP and now working for Microsoft UK - will be talking about Office365 Exchange & Lync. Later in the day there's a presentation from Sean O'Farrell - a colleague of mine in Ergo - who's making a lot of noise in the Office365 community and he'll be talking about using Office365 SharePoint & Yammer in the real world.

To finish off Day 2 and the overall event, we have Bob Duffy - who in his own words is an 'all-round SQL dude' but in my words - 'the one person on this planet that I've met that knows more about SQL than anyone else!'

Bob is an SQL Ranger/MVP/MCA/MCM/Maestro - so if you're interested in learning something new about SQL you'll definitely want to listen to what he has to say! His session is titled 'Power BI for Office365' and is sure to be filled with plenty of demo's and useful insights.

Registered Yet?

If I've got your attention and this event sounds like something you'd like to attend, then check out the agenda here and purchase your tickets from this link:

Like at TechCamp 2013, all proceeds from ticket sales are going to the very worthy charity - Camara. Also, none of the sessions will be recorded or streamed so if you don't attend, you don't get to see the sessions online at a later date - not to mention missing out on some excellent networking opportunities with peers and presenters alike.

So, like Aidan says - Don’t Be An IT Dinosaur – Attend TechCamp 2014 On June 19/20!

See you there :)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Attending TechEd North America 2014

After a few weeks away from blogging due to work and family vacation time, I thought it was about time I got the laptop out and started talking about my visit to TechEd North America 2014.

The Lowdown

TechEd is Microsoft's flagship conference aimed at the IT Pro and Enterprise Developer. It's a large scale event that will see thousands of nerds come together for the best part of a week of technical presentations and networking.

For me, I'm a newbie when it comes to TechEd. Over the last few years, the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) was where you'd find me hanging out as this was the place to be in the Cloud & Datacenter Management space. This year however, Microsoft have made a decision not to run MMS as a stand-alone event and to instead, integrate it into the TechEd conference to bring the whole CloudOS story to the table. There's been a lot of debate over the past year about whether or not this was a good move by Microsoft and as a result, a number of newer Cloud & Datacenter Management focused conferences have gained prominence - System Center Universe and IT/Dev Connections for example.

One things for sure, TechEd NA 2014 is completely sold out now and I guess a lot of people are expecting big things from the coming week due to the MMS integration so fingers crossed it'll live up to expectations!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

TechEd North America is being held in Houston, Texas this year and my journey over has started a few days early and taken a little bit of a detour on the way. The reason for this is that I have family living in south Texas that I haven't seen in a long time so thought that it'd be a sin if I didn't make the effort to visit - seeing as though I'm in the same state as them. That being said, Texas is the second largest state in the USA and is nearly three times the size of Ireland!

I left my house on Wednesday morning at 6am with a drive up to Dublin, enjoyed a very comfortable flight over to Chicago, had a 4.5 hour layover there (hotdogs and beer are an excellent way to pass the time in Chicago airport), jumped on another plane to Houston and finally managed to check-in to a hotel close to George Bush International Airport close to 11pm local time. All-in-all it was approximately 21 hours total journey from when I closed the front door back in Ireland!

I then managed 5(ish) hours of sleep before getting back on the road with a shuttle bus over to the airport, a connecting train between two terminals and a short-hop 45 minute flight from Houston down to Corpus Christi. In stark contrast to the massive scale of the airport in Houston, the tiny one in Corpus Christi was more reminiscent of something that we're used to in Ireland - think Knock Airport and you'll get the idea! A final 45 minute drive down to Alice, Texas and I've reached my destination and base for the next few days.

Hooking up with family and friends (of which I haven't seen in 13 years), consuming copious amounts of Mexican food and beer (this city is pretty close to the border and I'm known as a Gringo in these parts) - and life is good!

On Saturday afternoon I'll be flying back up to Houston to meet up with all of my buddies that are starting to make their way over for TechEd next week.

The Conference

Like myself, most people will be arriving into Houston from tomorrow and after some (quiet) drinks that night, on Sunday, a few of us are going to try and head over to NASA and see if we can give them any advice on how to manage their IT infrastructure with System Center.......

Also on Sunday, ten pre-conference sessions are kicking off TechEd NA 2014 and there's a nice mix of technical goodness between them to keep everyone happy.

At 9am on Monday morning, Microsoft's Brad Anderson delivers the Keynote presentation that will kick off the conference proper and immediately following that, we get down and dirty with a full day of sessions right the way up until 18:00. After a long day's work, I'm sure we'll have one or two things to do at night to keep us occupied and stave away the hunger and thirst :)

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will follow pretty much the same agenda as Monday without of course a keynote presentation so it'll be a pretty full-on week of deep-dive sessions and fun. The graphic below shows the available tracks that attendees have to choose from for each day.

I'll be keeping this blog reasonably up-to-date throughout the week based on some of the sessions, vendor offerings and new announcements that I've seen and heard. If you're looking for a live 'up-to-the-minute' update of some CloudOS sessions, then I highly recommend you check out my buddy Aidan Finn's blog over the few days that the event runs. Aidan always has some great tips and tricks to take on board when attending these conferences and loves to live-blog his way through the sessions he attends.

As a side game, if you want to try and win a copy of Aidan's excellent Hyper-V book, then check out his Hyper-V Amigo Selfie Game for some fun (note to Aidan, that's a pretty old-school mallet head picture of me you have up there!)

#TE14D5 (a.k.a Friday)

Unfortunately for me I'll be returning home on the Friday - unfortunate purely from a nerd perspective but to be fair, I don't think I'd get a sick-note from my ever-suffering wife for any more than the 11 days I already have away from her and our two kids! As I booked my tickets so long ago in advance, I wasn't aware of the plans that my pals Cameron Fuller and Maarten Goet had put together to keep people entertained on a day when the official four-day conference ended.

They came up with the ingenious idea that seeing as there would still be many attendees floating around Houston on Friday and many MVP's still there too, why not have a side-event uniquely titled 'Day 5', whereby a number of MVP's and community leaders would present some sessions that couldn't be squeezed into TechEd around two different tracks. These tracks will focus on System Center, Hyper-V, Azure and Device Management.

If you're around on the Friday and are looking to hear some of the best speakers around do their thing again, then you can still register for Day 5 here.

Make Sure to Say Hello

So, that's it from me for now, if you're coming over to Houston, make sure to say hello if you see me rambling around and I'll be glad to try and answer any CloudOS questions you might have to help you get ahead in work.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Global Service Monitor Gets Some Location Changes!

I've just seen a post up on the official SCOM Engineering Blog about some changes to their Global Service Monitor (GSM) offering.

Due to changes in the GSM cloud infrastructure, four of their monitoring nodes will be moving to another location within the same geo-area.

These are the locations that are affected and where they're moving to:
  • London to Dublin
  • Taipei to Hong Kong
  • US: Newark to US: Ashburn
  • US: Los Angeles to US: San Jose

(Finally, we're getting Dublin on the monitoring map!)
All this means is that if you've configured some GSM tests originating in any of the four locations above, these same tests will be automatically moved during April and May 2014. The GSM template will reflect these new location names and will be available for all new tests that you want to create, but your display names for existing tests will not change until you re-save your template.
Check out the original posting here:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Walkthrough of the New Microsoft Azure Dashboard

Today at the Microsoft BUILD conference in San Francisco, Microsoft announced a major update to their Microsoft Azure portal. They've added a new interactive dashboard and after I've had a chance to play around with it using my own Azure subscription, my first impression - it seriously rocks!

Here's a screenshot of what they've done:

The first thing that gets you with this portal is the vibrant colours and the different tiles - which have obviously been designed with touch compatible devices in mind.

The main tile in the middle shows a real-time health state of each of the various Microsoft datacentre's around the globe...

Clicking on this tile will open up a scrollable list of all the various Azure services and their associated health states as shown here..

The tile at the bottom-left.....

 gives you access to the Azure Gallery as shown here...

The Billing tile below gives me a good reminder of how little credit I have left to use up for my demo environments!

The new navigation bar on the left-hand side is really slick too and the Notifications link will give me information on any problems or things that need my attention as part of my subscriptions...

Clicking the 'Browse' view, you can get access to the newly announced 'Resource Groups' feature as shown here.....

Which expands out to...

One of my favourite areas of this new dashboard is it's integration with the recently released Application Insights feature of Visual Studio Online, which can be accessed from the 'Websites' option inside the 'Browse' link from the navigation bar as shown here....

This expands out to...

Scrolling down through your website information gives you more Usage data like this...

 You also get your Operational data and information from these tiles...

Note: If you want to learn more about some of the data analytics and insights behind the website tiles, then check out my step-by-step walkthrough series of deploying Application Insights in Visual Studio Online here:

 Application Insights Deep Dive Part 1 - Getting Started


All things considered, I think Microsoft has done an awesome job of getting these types of visualisations into Azure and as a SCOM consultant, it's this type of value-add that draws customers to the product.

I read a tweet today during the BUILD conference where someone mentioned that this new Azure dashboard makes Amazon's AWS offering look like Notepad - I have to say, on the surface of it, that sounds like a pretty good analogy!

If you like what you see and have an Azure subscription, you can give the new dashboard a test drive yourself from the following link:


Friday, March 28, 2014

MVP Cloud OS Online Event

I've just finished recording a video session for next week's UK & Ireland MVP Cloud OS Online event that will see nearly 20 different presentations being delivered online via YouTube over the course of two days by a number of MVP's.

Ireland is well represented at this event with myself, Aidan Finn, Damian Flynn and Paul Keely all entering a session. Our UK friends have a strong showing too with speakers like Gordon McKenna, Patrick Lownds, Steve Beaumont and Simon Skinner to name but a few.

Here's a snippet about the event from our UK & Ireland MVP lead - Claire Smyth:

What is MVP Cloud OS Online?

On the 31st March and the 1st April 2014, MVPs will be releasing a series of online training videos that articulate how to rapidly build and deploy apps, flexibly manage IT services, and support real-time analytics across all forms of data. They will also highlight how the Cloud OS supports people-centric IT, allowing employees to bring their own devices and enhancing anytime, anywhere productivity.

The videos (all 25-30 minutes in length) will go online consecutively from Monday 31st March through to Tuesday April 1st and you can view them using the following info:

How to get involved?!
If you're watching the videos on the Monday or Tuesday, then you can contact us using the #UKMVPCLOUD hashtag with any questions you might have.

Here's the agenda:

31 March: Transform the datacentre

1 April: Empower People Centric IT


Check out this article for more info:


Friday, March 21, 2014

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 8 - Alerting & Administration

This is the final post in my 'Application Insights Deep Dive' series and if you haven't already seen the previous posts, then you can check them all out here:

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 1 - Getting Started

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 2 - Building A Demo Server

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 3 - Deploying A Demo Web Application

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 4 - Monitoring Availability

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 5 - Monitoring Performance & Using Diagnostics

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 6 - Monitoring Usage

Application Insights Deep Dive Part 7 - Working with Dashboards

In this post I'll first show you how to configure e-mail alerting so you can be sure that you're kept in the loop in the event of any availability or performance related issues that might arise with your web applications. After that, you'll see how you can use the administration area to view any configuration changes to your applications and get quick access to keys and downloads relevant to your Application Insights account.

It's recommended that you have already worked through the demo's in my previous posts before working through the tasks in this one.

Configuring E-mail Alerts

There are two categories of e-mail alerting that you can configure within Application Insights:

Availability alerts - When you create a synthetic monitor availability test (as we did in Part 4), an e-mail alert can be configured to inform you of any problems with the test.

Performance alerts - Once performance monitoring has been configured (check out Part 5 to learn how), e-mail alerts can be fired when any of your thresholds are breached.

Like most things in Application Insights, configuring e-mail alerting is pretty easy and to get up and running for availability alerts here's what you need to do:

Open the console and browse to the Availability\Synthetic Monitors view.

Select the web application and synthetic monitor that you want to receive alerts on, then hit the edit button (the pencil icon) to open the 'Edit Synthetic Monitor' dialog box. From there, modify your alert criteria and enter a valid e-mail address to send the alerts to, then click OK. (see below):

To configure e-mail alerting for performance alerts, follow these steps:

Browse to the Diagnostics\Metrics view and choose the application that you want to get alert notification from.

Now click on the metric that you wish to receive alerts from and then hit the 'Configure Alert' button as shown below:

At the 'Edit Alerting Rule' dialog box, check the 'Alert if' box, change the rule options and then input a valid e-mail address. When you're ready, uncheck the 'Alert if' box, then hit the 'Save rule' button.

You can test e-mail alerting from your application by temporarily stopping the website in IIS and causing an availability outage (obviously only if your using a non-production application for testing). In a short few minutes, you should then receive an 'Alert Activated' e-mail similar to this...

Clicking the 'View Online' links from inside this e-mail will open up a scoped view of your Application Insights console to help you quickly understand the resultant issue.

When the issue is resolved, you'll then receive an 'Alert Resolved' e-mail like this one..

I think the simple visualisations in these 'Alert Activated' and 'Alert Resolved' e-mails are very useful and easy to quickly consume the status of your application - especially if you're using Application Insights in tandem with SCOM or another monitoring solution and are getting a number of e-mail alert notifications into your inbox on a daily basis.

The Administration Area

If you want to edit your alerting rules, then you can do this from within the Administration area by clicking on the 'Administer account' option (gear icon) in the top right of the Application Insights console as shown below..

Click on the 'Alerting Rules' tab and you will see all of the alert rules that have been configured for your selected application. From this view, you can then highlight an alert rule and hit the 'Configure Alert' button to get quick access for changing alert thresholds and e-mail addresses.

If you want to carry out wholesale batch updates of your alert rules, then this can be achieved by downloading a configuration file from the 'Configuration History' tab, making your changes to the file, then uploading it again to refresh the configuration and alert rules to reflect your changes.

Here's what the Configuration History tab of my application looks like....

You'll notice the Upload Configuration and Download Configuration options and if you click the Download one, you'll be presented with an XML file that contains your configuration and alert rules. If you open this file you'll find all synthetic monitors contained in the <SyntheticMonitors> section and your alert rules located in the <Rules> section as shown here..

If you want to get quick access to all of the relevant tools, agents, instrumentation keys and configuration samples, then click on the 'Keys & Downloads' tab of the Administration Area. Here, you can scroll through a centralised list of everything you need - including Java agents like the example in this screenshot:

Additional Resources

If you like what you see in my series of posts, you can get more information on Application Insights from the following Channel 9 videos that Microsoft's Charles Sterling (aka AI ninja) has put together to help give everyone an understanding of what it can do:

You can post questions and get answers for all your Application Insights problems on the TechNet forum here:

Also, you can have a read through all of the available MSDN documentation on Application Insights here:


This wraps up my 'Application Insights Deep Dive' blog series and hopefully, if you've been working through all the demo's and examples over the past eight posts, you'll now have a far better understanding of what this really cool new offering can do. Although it's just in its infancy in terms of a mature solution, I'm expecting big things for this over the coming year or two and it really does feel to me like it's the next generation of Microsoft's monitoring platform.