Friday, July 26, 2013

Holiday – Vacance – Urlaub – Vakantie – Semester – праздник - Maintenance Mode

For the next three weeks this blog will be silent. Simply because I am on holiday Smile.

The car is packed, the holiday residence prepared:

Thanks everyone for visiting my blog and your comments. After my holiday I’ll be back with many new postings all about the R2 releases for Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012. For any one going on holiday as well: enjoy yourself and have a good time. Until next time.

System Center Advisor Connector For SCOM 2012 SP1 Preview Released

Yesterday Microsoft released version 2.0 of the System Center Advisor Connector Preview for SCOM 2012 SP1 Update Rollup 3.

What it does? Taken directly from the website: ‘…enables Operations Manager users to receive ongoing assessment of configuration for their windows computers. After installing the connector and selecting computers to be analyzed, Operations Managers users will be able to receive Advisor alerts in the Operations Manager console…’

The connector can be downloaded from here.

Support SQL Script For SCOM R2 CU#7 Data Warehouse Database

Yesterday Microsoft released a support script for the SCOM R2 CU#7 Data Warehouse database which resolves these issues:
  • Data warehouse fails to drop partitions, and limit is reached.
  • Availability Time report shows monitoring resource available even though it is not.


This script for SCOM R2 CU#7 can be downloaded from here.

Some additional advice
Before you run this script, make a backup of BOTH SCOM R2 CU#7 databases, meaning not only the Data Warehouse database but the Operational database as well. When you’ve to roll back, both SCOM R2 databases have to be of the same time frame. Otherwise changes are you end up with synchronization issues.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Additional Information On KB2775511 Warning

Yesterday I sent out a tweet about NOT to install KB2775511 since it may cause serious issues in your SCOM environment. Also I blogged about it, to be found here.

The blog posting and tweet got much valuable feedback. Therefore I have decided to share the three most important ones.

01: How about KB2775511 itself?
As it turns out this KB is a rollup package containing 89(!) hotfixes. This KB is rolled out in May 2013 by using the WSUS mechanism. So basically this KB itself is nothing but a package, meaning the package itself doesn’t cause the possible deadlock. Some of its content causes this issue. It might be only one of those hotfixes or a certain combination of multiple hotfixes.

I have contacted Microsoft asking them more detailed information about what hotfixes exactly may cause this issue. As soon as I get feedback I’ll update this posting.

02: What SCOM components may be affected?
As far as I understand it, all components running the SCOM Health Service may be affected. So this means SCOM Agents running on monitored/managed Windows Servers, SCOM Gateway Servers and SCOM Management Servers.

03: Does KB2775511 always cause a deadlock?
One of the readers of my blog, John Bradshaw, reported that KB2775511 is installed a month ago by WSUS on all the servers of his company. All those servers are monitored/managed by SCOM and until now no extra issues have been noticed.

I know John for a long time and he knows what’s he’s talking about. Also the environment he works with is a serious one, looking at scale and diversity. So his feedback on this topic is gold.

Apparently this KB may cause a deadlock under certain conditions – which are still unknown – generating heart beat failure, resulting in greyed out SCOM Agents, Gateway Servers and Management Servers.

Hopefully Microsoft will soon come out with more detailed information since the current situation is uncertain and remains unclear. Skipping or – even worse – rolling back 89 hotfixes is a companies and system engineers nightmare. Even more the reason: it MIGHT cause a deadlock. But as seen in bullet 03, it doesn’t need to happen at all…

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Updated UNIX/Linux MPs For OM12 Released

With the release of Update Rollup Package 3 for System Center 2012 SP1, the UNIX/Linux MPs are updated to version 7.4.4263.0.

MPs can be downloaded from here.


As it turns out KB2775511 has a regression. Taken directly from this posting on the System Center: Operations Manager Engineering Blog:

After installing KB2775511 on Operations Manager Management Servers, agents or servers may be affected by a deadlock.

Once in deadlock, Management Servers will generate Heart Beat failures and will go into a “greyed out” state. grayed out. As a result, devices managed by these Management Servers will also go into a “greyed out” or “not monitored state.”

When in this state:

  1. No new events will be generated in the Operations Manager Event Log
  2. Errors in State Change Events will appear frequently
  3. Alerts will be generated during state change

Removal of KB2775511 will correct the issues introduced. The OpsMgr team recommends that Operations Manager users refrain from installing KB2775511 until this deadlock issue is resolved. New information will be posted as it becomes available.

So DON’T install KB2775511 since it will render your SCOM environment useless. This KB affects SCOM Agents, SCOM Management Servers and SCOM Gateways!

Update Rollup 3 for SC2012 SP1 Is Available

Yesterday Microsoft released Update Rollup 3 for System Center 2012 Service Pack 1. Some might say a bit late but I prefer quality over speed.

KB2836751 describes this new Update Rollup and contains installation instructions as well.

For OM12 SP1 nine issues are fixed, among them one of the most annoying bugs ever and present since SCOM 2007 RTM. When some one uses the Operator Role in SCOM/OM12, tons of EventID 26319 are generated in the OpsMgr event log of the SCOM/OM12 Management Server running that session.

Many years ago I filed it as a bug. It got confirmed and then closed without being fixed. However, the annoyance didn’t go away. Simply because it makes the event logs noisy, filled with crappy CRITICAL events because of a bug. So this Update Rollup removes this clutter from the event logs.

For monitoring UNIX/Linux systems, 3 issues have been fixed.

Want to know more? Read KB2836751. It contains all the information you need, download links included.

When you want to download these files separately from the Microsoft Update Catalog, go here (select only the appropriate files).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Case Solved: Veeam Reports Not Functioning Properly

Bumped into this strange issue. The latest version of the Veeam MP was imported and configured properly. Everything worked just fine. But when trying to run some of the Veeam VMware Capacity Planning Reports, I got this error A valid value for parameter ‘Aspects to be Analyzed’ must be specified:

But that field in the Report parameter area is greyed out so I couldn’t do anything with this message:

Another thing I noticed was that even though the Report Details stated the Scope field to be populated by default:


However, in my demo environment everything worked as intended:

So I found myself in a situation where I have confirmation the Reports are working as described by Veeam (demo environment) and a production environment where an issue was at play. Time for some investigation.

After some experiments with other Reports I noticed everything to be just fine. The issues was limited to the Veeam Reports only. Time to take a look under water, at the SSRS side of things.

When I ran IE and opened the web based SSRS instance on the related SQL Server, and compared both environments (my demo environment and the customers production environment) I noticed these differences:
Production Environment

Demo Environment

As you can see, the Objects field for the Report in the production environment has only a close statement <Data />, so not a single Object is selected, whereas the demo environment has a whole string, resulting in a selection of Objects.

As a result the SelectedAspects field for production is empty and for the demo environment properly filled.

But no matter what I tried, the issue remained the same.

Issue solved
Time to contact Veeam support. Within a day the issue was solved. One of their employers contacted me and I demonstrated the issue. Told what my findings were, how I tried to solve it myself but didn’t succeed in it. Also told him my conclusion, the issue was limited to the Veeam Reports only and that in some conditions this situation occurred. Still had the demo environment running like clock work.

Within an hour Veeam contacted me and gave me an updated version of the Reports. And the problem was solved!

So whenever you find yourself in this situation, contact Veeam support and ask them for the updated versions of the three Veeam MP Reports, version and you’ll be just fine.

This is the main reason why I prefer Veeam. Of course, with so much coding and supporting many different SQL versions, changes are there might be some minor issues. No problem.

However, the way these minor issues are addressed is what differentiates a good vendor of software from a bad vendor. And until now Veeam has shown clearly not only to deliver good software but also to have a highly qualified support group in place which addresses reported issues quickly and professionally.

Sign The Petition For TechNet Subscription Replacement With New & Affordable MSDN Subscription

07-23-2013 Update: More than 6500 supporters! 3500 needed and we hit the 10K mark!!!

This is AWESOME news! Contact your IT Pro peers and get them involved. The more the better! SIGN this petition so we hit the 10K mark!

07-16-2013 Update: More than 4200 supporters! Let’s make it 10K!!!

Let’s show how resolved we are. As Cody Skidmore – petition organizer – states: ‘…We need to double down on the pressure…’.

When you’re an IT Professional, changes are most likely you’re affected as well. So please SIGN this petition and show how resolved we are.

07-09-2013 Update: More than 2000 supporters! Awesome! Let’s DOUBLE it! Go here.

Found this petition, aimed at asking Microsoft to create an affordable MSDN subscription comparable to TechNet.

I signed it myself. And I want to ask ALL the readers of this blog to do the same. Retiring TechNet subscriptions without any REAL alternative isn’t the way to go. When you feel the same, please sign this petition.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New MP: VMM Fabric Dashboard 2012 R2

Yesterday Microsoft released a new MP for close integration between System SCVMM 2012 R2 and SCOM 2012 R2. This MP introduces cloud hybrid monitoring of physical and virtual layers for hybrid private cloud environments.

Taken directly from the website:

Want to know more? Go here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Updated MP: BizTalk Server 2010 Monitoring MP

Some weeks ago Microsoft released an updated version of the BizTalk Server 2010 Monitoring MP, version 7.0.391.0.

As it turns out, this MP has still some very serious issues. Gladly my fellow MVP and much respected friend Bob Cornelissen has written a noise-reduction MP for it, to be found here.

MP can be downloaded from here.

New MP: BizTalk Server 2013 Monitoring MP

Some days ago Microsoft released the initial version of the BizTalk Server 2013 Monitoring MP, version 7.0.1033.0.

Compared to the BizzTalk Server 2010 Monitoring MP is slightly better. Much of the noise has been taken care off. However, for what I’ve heard from the community, the Display Names in both MPs are the same. So when you have BizzTalk Server 2010 and 2013 in place and want to monitor both, you’ll end up with DOUBLE names in the SCOM Console Sad smile.

MP can be downloaded from here.

Updated MP: Extended SQL Server MP

Some days ago the updated Extended SQL Server MP is released, version 7.1.8570.3. This MP works with SQL Server versions 2008, 2008 R2 and 2012.

Taken directly from the website:

This management pack augments the existing SQL Server management pack by monitoring for the following changes in your environment:

  • New - Removed the "Collect Process Working Set (SQLServr)" performance collection rule as it was incorrectly configured, targetting the SQL 2008 and 2012 DBEngine class. 
  • New - Created a new class "SQL Server <Version> Computer Role" with discovery rule to support targetting of custom performance collection rules that are not aligned with the SQL instance, but the OS. 
  • New - Created new performance collection rules for SQLServr instance process - Private Bytes, % Processor Time, and Working Set.
  • Monitors database backup status and only alerts for databases which are not part of an Availability Group.  Any database hosted on a secondary replica in an Availability Group is excluded from monitoring for database backup status.
  • Removed all alert rules that monitor the health of mirrored databases as this is adequately covered in the latest release of the SQL management pack.
  • Removed an alert rule which monitors filegroup free space exhaustion, as it is adequately covered in the latest release of the SQL management pack. 
  • Created an additional performance report for database engine instance metrics collected by performance collection rules included in this management pack.

Want to know more? Go here.

IBM Storage MP Released

Taken directly from Microsoft System Center Market Place: ‘…The IBM Storage Management Pack for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) is a set of software modules, or management packs, which you can use to access and monitor IBM storage systems by using the host-based Microsoft SCOM interface.
Each individual management pack includes modules for monitoring the storage system’s alerts, events, health state, physical components, and logical components. In addition, graphic diagrams show a visual representation of the hierarchy and relationship of selected storage system components, with more detailed information.
The plugin operates with IBM DS8000, Storwize V7000, SVC, and XIV systems

Want to know more? Go here.

21(!) Preview MPs For Windows Server 2012 R2 Available

For some weeks now there are a lot new MPs available for Windows Server 2012 R2. Please know these MPs are PREVIEW versions.

As far as I understand is Microsoft striving to release the RTM versions of these MPs in the same time line when Windows Server 2012 R2 goes RTM and becomes GA. This is a huge improvement.

The PREVIEW versions of the Windows Server 2012 R2 MPs can be downloaded from here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

SCOM 2012 And Anti-Virus Exclusions…

Bumped into a very annoying issue of an unstable SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Group.

After some deep investigations I thought to have found the issue. But still it didn’t feel right. Some readers left good comments and besides that, the Management Group was far from stable. Resource Pools were highly unstable.

Yesterday we (a colleague of mine and me) took a deep dive but at the end of the day no results. Still the same issue at hand.

The REAL cause…
This morning I had a bright moment. I knew an additional SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Server was added to the Management Group and the issues started from that moment on. Everything was in place on that server like certificates, X-plat certificates as well and so on.

BUT… how about Anti-virus exclusions?! Yes, the default ones were in place but NOT the SCOM 2012 related ones! As soon as those exclusions were arranged, the SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Group became healthy again and all is working like a charm.

Whenever your SCOM environment shows erratic behavior and SCOM itself seems to be configured properly and by the book, check for GPOs running on those SCOM Management Servers / -Agents AND check for the anti-virus exclusions required by SCOM as described in KB975931.

The Unstable Resource Pools & Greyed Out Network Devices

Update 07-12-2013
This posting isn’t correct. Please checkout this posting about the REAL issue. Apologies for the misunderstanding here.

An OM12 SP1 Management Group monitoring a couple of hundreds of Windows Servers, almost hundred UX computers and almost 500 network devices became highly unstable.

All the Resource Groups were failing and many network devices entered an unmonitored status. No matter what I did, flushing the cache, restarting the Health Service of all OM12 SP1 Management Servers and so on, the situation remained highly unstable. Also the whole OM12 SP1 Management Group turned grey.

And almost – be ‘default’ many of the network devices turned grey as well WITHOUT generating any Alert. This happened BEFORE the Management Group as a whole died…

And restarting the Health Service and clearing the cache on the OM12 SP1 Management Servers only helped for a few minutes, three at max…

Investigation & cause
Time for a deep dive since this is a bad situation. Since this Management Group contains many customizations like custom made Management Packs it was suspected that a certain MP was causing all these issues.

After going through the change logs (we keep track of what we do) we soon found a potential culprit. A new Monitor was recently added, using VBScript in order to calculate some collected SNMP data to some values which make sense for a human being. At the same time frame the issues started…

When taking a deeper dive into this particular Monitor we found that is was disabled by default and had no override against it. So even though it was targeted against the Class Node, it was inactive. It didn’t have a status what so ever.

However, as it turned out, this Monitor had an error in its VBScript. And the OpsMgr event logs showed this error. So this Monitor – even though it was disabled by default and no overrides were in place to enable it for a particular custom made Class -  wasn’t good at all.

Problem solved
So we decided to remove this faulty Monitor and restarted the Health Services on all OM12 SP1 Management Servers without clearing the cache. Within 5 minutes everything came back to life again. All Resource Pools reported a Healthy status and the greyed out network devices were back to life again. Soon the Management Group as a whole reported a healthy status again and became rock solid.

Lesson learned
Even when a Monitor is disabled by default but isn’t made right, it can wreck havoc in your Management Group. So be careful here. Somehow this particular Monitor slipped through our regular checks resulting in an unstable Management Group.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Getting Rid Of EventID 1202: ‘…Condition indicates wrong server configuration…’

Bumped into this issue at a customers location. When a SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Server had its Health Service stopped, cache removed (~:\Program Files\System Center 2012\Operations Manager\Server\Health Service State) and Health Service restarted, this server froze for some minutes.

And then the OpsMgr event log started to log many events with EventID 1202, stating: New Management Pack with id:"ZXYZ", version:"A.B.C.D" conflicts with cached Management Pack. Condition indicates wrong server configuration.

These events occurred right after EACH event with EventID 1201, stating a new MP had been downloaded. So basically EVERY downloaded MP wasn’t right! That’s bad! So it was time for an investigation.

All the SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Servers are VMs running on VMware. And until now I have never seen this issue at any other customer. But SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Servers being VMs using VMware isn’t new at all. I see it many times and until now never ever had this issue.

So together with the VMware guru of this company we started to investigate the issue. We took one SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Server and ran it multiple times through the steps causing the EventID 1202:

  • Stop Health Service
  • Remove Cache
  • Empty Eventlog for SCOM
  • Start Health Service

Soon we noticed with Resource Monitor that a minute after the Health Service was started, the CPU went flat to 100% utilization for about three to five minutes. While this happened there were 76(!) threads WAITING to be processed!

We stopped this VM and added some more vCPUs to it. This isn’t an issue at all since the VMware hosts had enough CPUs to share and only 5% of the total CPU capacity is being used during production. Based on the waiting threads we decided to bump up the total amount of vCPUs for this SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Server to 8.

When the VM was up and running again, we ran the same test again. Now the CPU spiked to 100% but didn’t flat out any more. And yes, multiple events with EventID 1201 (MP received) but NOT A SINGLE event with EventID 1202!

All SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Servers were given 8 vCPUs. And yes, most of the time these servers don’t use it at all. But when a refresh of the cache takes place these vCPUs are really needed and make the difference between good and faulty SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Servers.

So whenever you see EventID 1202 happening on your SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Servers AND you’re sure the configuration of these servers is by the book, simply add additional vCPUs to those servers and be done with it.

During ‘normal’ business hours most of these vCPUs won’t be used at all, as you can see here, screendump taken from one of the SCOM 2012 SP1 Management Servers:

It’s just that these servers have ‘some’ capacity reserves when they really need it. Which isn’t that often but a crucial process none the less.

Interviewed By Veeam - YouTube

While I was attending The Best of MMS 2013 as speaker, organized by SCUG Belgium, I was interviewed by Veeam. It was a good interview and for anyone interested, it can be viewed on YouTube:

The interview was about monitoring in general, the cloud (of course), virtualization and the MVP award.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gartner Magic Quadrant x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure: Microsoft Is Positioned As LEADER!!!

This is awesome news. Gartner, the world's leading information technology research and advisory company, has positioned Microsoft as LEADER in their Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure.
(Picture taken directly from the website of Gartner. They’re the owner of it.)

Thinking back about how Microsoft started when entering this market and where they stand now this is a remarkable feat, showing their sheer force and capabilities. When they set their mind to it, they make it happen!

Want to know more about it? Go here to read the blog article written by Brad Anderson.

Cross Post: Windows Azure Pack

With the R2 preview releases of System Center 2012 and Windows Server 2012 Microsoft also released the Windows Azure Pack preview.

I am already working with it in my test lab and was about to write some postings on this topic. But as it turns out, two fellow MVPs, Cameron Fuller and Stanislav Zhelyazkov, have beaten me to it and posted already tons of good information!

So instead of repeating their findings I save myself a lot of time by simply referring to their postings. Good work guys and thanks for sharing, awesome!

  • The new blogger on the block, Stanislav, has written a whole series about it, start here.
  • Cameron picks up where where Stanislav left off with this posting.

All credits go to Cameron and Stanislav. I am only referring to their work.

Top 3 Question: ‘Does SCOM 2012 R2 Support SQL Server 2014?’

Another question which I get on a regular basis since System Center 2012 R2 preview and SQL Server 2014 preview are released, is whether SCOM 2012 R2 (or any other System Center 2012 R2 component for that matter) supports SQL Server 2014 as a platform for its SQL databases.

As far as I know this is NOT the case. For instance, the Supported Configurations webpage for SCOM 2012 R2 shows that for both SQL databases (Operational Database & Operations Manager Data Warehouse) the supported SQL Server versions are: SQL Server SQL 2008 R2 SP1, SQL Server 2008 R2 SP2, SQL Server 2012, SQL Server 2012 SP1.

And this makes sense. Simply because SQL Server 2014 will become General Available in 2014 where as System Center 2012 R2 will be released in Q3/Q4 2013. And until now not a single Microsoft product supported a release of another product which wasn’t GA on the date of its own release.

Will SCOM 2012 R2 ever support SQL Server 2014 as a platform for its SQL databases?
And yes, in the future, when SQL Server 2014 is GA a future update of System Center 2012 R2 will add support for it. But until then, SQL Server 2014 won’t be supported as a platform to host the SQL databases.

How about monitoring SQL Server 2014 with SCOM?
Basically Microsoft delivers within 90 days of the GA date of any Microsoft product the relevant MP for it. The SQL team delivers a good SQL MP and have been on top of things with all other SQL MPs. So personally I expect the related MP to be released pretty soon after SQL Server 2014 becomes GA.

Upgrade Paths To System Center 2012 R2

Already I got many questions about the upgrade paths to System Center 2012 R2. Since I want to be sure I share correct information on my blog, I contacted Microsoft and double checked it. Soon I got the answers, so here it goes. (Thank you Travis Smile).

This is the upgrade path to any System Center 2012 R2 component:
System Center 2012 RTM > System Center 2012 SP1 > System Center 2012 R2.

As you can see, you need to upgrade to every major version, there are NO shortcuts here.

Translated to System Center 2012 – Operations Manager R2 (SCOM 2012 R2 / OM12 R2) this is the upgrade path:
SCOM 2012 RTM > SCOM 2012 SP1 > SCOM 2012 R2.

And when you’re running SCOM 2007 R2 and want to upgrade to SCOM 2012 R2, this is the upgrade path:
SCOM 2007 R2 > SCOM 2012 RTM > SCOM 2012 SP1 > SCOM 2012 R2.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Farewell To An Old Friend…

Just got this news in my mailbox. All about the scheduled retirement of TechNet Subscriptions.

This makes a ‘bit’ sad, simply because thanks to the TechNet Subscription I was able to learn all I wanted to know about the available Microsoft technologies, growing from a total newbie to an experienced systems engineer and on to a technical consultant. Back in those days DVDs had still to be invented and the download speed was limited to the analog modems.

So no downloads, but one received a whole set of CDs instead which were put in a special case, like this one:

Soon this case became my personal IT treasure and test drove all the software I got. Built myself many test labs and maintained them very well for a long long time in order to test all kinds of different scenarios. These were really test labs and lived on one of the many PCs I had back then. Somehow these test labs evolved around my profession so I was always able to test drive production based scenarios. Couldn’t do that when that software would expire in half a year. Simply because it would take too much time to rebuild a whole lab for a single test.

And now Microsoft has decided to retire the TechNet Subscription on the 31st of August 2013. Existing subscriptions will continue until they expire and can’t be renewed anymore after the 31st of August 2013.

On this webpage – the Subscriptions Retirement FAQ – Microsoft states: ‘…In recent years, we have seen a usage shift from paid to free evaluation experiences and resources.  As a result, Microsoft has decided to retire the TechNet Subscriptions service…’

Instead Microsoft advices the current TechNet Subscription users to go for these alternatives:

  • Free, but time limited versions of the software
    This software has no feature restrictions but has a limited time of use. Ranging from 30 to 180 days.
  • Microsoft Virtual Academy
    Here you can train yourself in mastering the latest Microsoft technologies. However, watching video’s, downloading slide decks and/or PDF files isn’t the same like installing the software yourself and putting it through its paces on your own account.
  • TechNet Forums
    Here you can post questions about all the available Microsoft technologies. The TechNet Forums are a powerful community driven area in order to learn how to fix certain issues. However, IMHO, TechNet Forums are NO alternative for the software one can download and install using a TechNet Subscription.
  • Download Center
    For downloading service packs for the time limited software.
  • MSDN Subscriptions
    More about this one later on.

The metaphor
To me many of these alternatives don’t sound like real alternatives at all. Let me clarify it with this metaphor:

Suppose you’re a professional car driver. And there are many different types of cars. Like ones to deliver the mail (Exchange), cars to monitor the traffic (SCOM), cars which transport many cars at once (Hyper-V and VMM) and cars which can carry a huge load (SQL Servers). All of these cars are highly specialized and require a total different set of skills in order to operate them on a professional level.

On themselves these cars are very expensive to buy. So the factory building those cars (Microsoft) offers you a way to test drive these cars without having to pay the full price. Of course, you’re not allowed to drive these cars professionally but still you’re being enabled to learn the special required skill sets for a very affordable price (TechNet Subscriptions).

This isn’t because the factory loves you and the world but simply because they want to increase their footprint in the car industry. And the realize they can’t do that by simply building better cars but also by delivering people who are trained to operate them professionally. What usage do their cars have when there is no one to operate them? So it’s all about sales. In itself nothing wrong with that.

Suddenly the factory decides to pull the plug on that special offer simply because they notice an increased usage of the test vehicles which will stop running after a certain mileage. Instead the same factory offers you these ‘alternatives’:

  • The already mileage limited test vehicles (time limited editions of this software). You can drive them for a short time but afterwards they simply stop running. You have to get a new one, tweak and tune it (again) and continue your learning journey.
  • Free training about driving those cars by watching some videos and answering some basic questions (Microsoft Virtual Academy);
  • Sending your questions about how to drive those cars to a special e-mail address (TechNet Forums);
  • Buying spare parts for a vehicle you don’t have or which is about to stop functioning because the limited mileage is nearly reached (Download Center).

No rocket science is required here in order to see how the next generation of drivers will do when operating those specialized cars…

How about the MSDN Subscriptions?
Apparently MSDN Subscriptions aren’t affected by Microsoft’s previous statement why to retire TechNet Subscriptions. So MSDN Subscriptions are here to stay and even offered as an alternative for all the people who have a TechNet Subscription.

When looking at the price tags for the available TechNet Subscriptions compared to the available MSDN Subscriptions there are some huge differences to be found. And yes, MSDN Subscriptions are considerable more expensive:

  • TechNet Professional €373,64
  • Visual Studio Professional with MSDN €1.283,65

IMHO, this makes the previous statement why Microsoft has decided to retire TechNet Subscriptions far less solid and makes me wonder what the real reasons are. Even more so because MSDN Subscriptions offer much of the same software available through TechNet Subscriptions.

And the winner is…
Let’s take it a bit further. We all know Microsoft is moving away from it’s role as a manufacturer of boxed software and transitioning to the role of services provider. In that transition much has to change. Also the way software is being tested and learned how to operate it.

However, as it is today Microsoft is still delivering boxed software and many companies around the globe are still using that kind of software. Cloud and cloud based services like Azure and even Office 365 don’t play such a big role to them at this moment. In situations like these, TechNet Subscriptions play a significant role.

Another scenario is simple and very black and white. No shades of grey involved here. And personally I can’t (or perhaps I won’t let myself accept it) believe it to be so simple: MSDN Subscriptions deliver more money and TechNet Subscriptions don’t. So TechNet Subscriptions have to go. Period.

What do YOU think?
Of course, this is just me here. No one else. So I am wondering what YOU have to say about this topic. Feel free to comment on this posting. Please know that any comment needs moderation by me before it’s shown. Reason is to avoid spam. I can’t modify your comment, only accept it or mark it as spam.

OM12 R2: What’s New?

First of all, when comparing the speed of the release cycles with trains, Microsoft is becoming a high speed train. In order to make it more clear, simply take a look at these SCOM 2007 products and their GA dates:
  • SCOM 2007 RTM: April 2007
  • SCOM 2007 SP1: February 2008
  • SCOM 2007 R2: July 2009

And compare those dates with the GA dates of OM12:

  • OM12 RTM: April 2012
  • OM12 SP1: January 2013
  • OM12 R2: Q4 2013

As you can see, the R2 edition comes out way much faster compared to the R2 release for SCOM 2007!

This posting is about the new or updated features of OM12 R2 in a nut shell the most important ones:

Fabric monitoring > Cloud Hybrid Monitoring
VMM 2012 R2 and OM12 R2 will be better integrated, enabling Cloud Hybrid Monitoring, basically meaning the monitoring of the physical and virtual layers of hybrid cloud environments. For this an additional MP is required which I haven’t found on the download location yet. When I have located this MP I’ll update this posting accordingly.

Microsoft Monitoring Agent
This is a new version and a stand alone edition of the OM12 R2 Agent which includes the full functionality of Visual Studio IntelliTrace Collector. This tool can be used with OM12 R2 or as a standalone tool for collecting application traces locally.

IPv6 support
Network devices running IPv6 can be discovered now by OM12 R2. Their IPv6 addresses will be shown as well in the related views.

Integration with System Center Advisor
System Center Advisor (SCA) is a product which is based on the same architecture as SCOM/OM12. Only the functionality is different.

Where as SCOM/OM12 are real time monitoring products, SCA is more like an advances Best Practices Analyzer tool. It scans the monitored systems and uploads once per 24 hours the collected results to a cloud based solution running in Azure.There the uploaded results are compared to the best practices AND the findings of Microsoft Customer Support Services (CSS). When any differences are found, you can check them out in a sharp looking web based dashboard which is also hosted in Azure.

So it wasn’t a question whether SCA and SCOM/OM12 would be integrated, but when. Now with OM12 R2 SCA will get it’s own place in the OM12 R2 Console.

Application Performance Monitoring for Java
Microsoft means business with cross platform support. So APM is extended to Java as well now.

Not listed, but present as well: fixes for known bugs
And yes, OM12 R2 will contain a list of bug fixes as well.

Overall impression
Looking at the speed of the release cycles (OM12 RTM > OM12 SP1 > OM12 R2) it’s surprising to find that many new or improved features in the R2 release. It makes clear Microsoft means business with System Center 2012 as a product, OM12 being the component for monitoring all the aspects related to running one or more clouds or on-premise hard- and software. When looking at the new features it makes clear Microsoft aims at the cloud, application development and cloud based services. This makes OM12 R2 more and more a product for the enterprises.

Check out this website for more detailed information about what’s new in OM12 R2.

!!!TechEd 2013 Gift: 13 FREE Hands-on Labs!!!

Yes, TechEd 2013 has ended. And many of us didn’t attend it. But no reason to be sad since Microsoft provides 13 FREE hands-on labs, all about the cloud OS, Windows Server 2012!

Want to know more about these labs? Go here.

These are the labs you can do (taken from the same website):

Lab Description
Implementing Storage Pools and Storage Spaces

Download the lab manual
In this lab, you work with the new storage spaces technology in Windows Server 2012. You first create new storage pools and virtual disks, and then work with those virtual disks in both Server Manager and Control Panel.
Building a Windows Server 2012 Storage Infrastructure

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In this lab, learn how new storage technologies in Windows Server 2012 enable you to create a next generation storage infrastructure and highly available file server. Key tasks/topics include: 
  1. Create and manage a storage space,
  2. Format as ReFS,
  3. Install Deduplication and implement deduplication on the storage space,
  4. Present the storage space to a new file server cluster,
  5. Create a new file server cluster using ISCSI Shared Storage,
  6. Create a highly available file server,
  7. Implement SMB MultiChannel on the file server,
  8. Configure a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Instance to use the file server,
  9. Perform a transparent failover,
  10. Validate SMB Multi-Channel, and
  11. Perform a cluster aware update with transparent failover.
Configuring Hyper-V over Highly Available Storage

Download the lab manual
In this lab, learn how to configure a file server cluster to support running Hyper-V virtual machines from SMB file shares. Create the file share, configure delegation, and then create a new VM on SMB storage.
Getting Started with Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Replication

Download the lab manual
Asynchronous, application-consistent virtual machine replication is now built into Windows Server 2012. It permits replication of Hyper V virtual machines between two locations for business continuity and failure recovery. In this lab, learn how to configure and manage this technology.
Creating a Resilient Network Infrastructure with Windows Server 2012

Download the lab manual
You are updating your network implementation for core Windows servers. As a standard practice you want to have redundancy in DHCP so you implement DHCP Failover. You then configure IPAM to track IP address allocation of your DHCP servers. Next you implement DNS Sec for DNS resolution. Finally you configure all servers to have at least a two NIC teams to ensure failover in the event of a switch failure. Featured: topics include:
  1. Deploy DHCP Failover,
  2. Deploy IPAM, and
  3. Create a new DHCP Scope with IPAM,
  4. Implement DNSSec,
  5. Validate DNS traffic is encrypted, and
  6. Validate that single DCHP failover does not affect address acquisition.
Introduction to DirectAccess in Windows Server 2012

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DirectAccess gives users the experience of being seamlessly connected to their corporate network anytime they have Internet access. In this lab, learn how to configure this now easy-to-install technology and provide greater mobility and ease of access for your users.
Introduction to Windows PowerShell Fundamentals

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Windows PowerShell is a command-line shell and scripting language that helps you achieve greater control and productivity. Using a new admin-focused scripting language, more than 230 standard command-line tools, and consistent syntax and utilities, Windows PowerShell enables you to more easily control system administration and accelerate automation.
What’s New in Windows PowerShell 3.0

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In this lab, explore some of the new features and functionality in Windows PowerShell 3.0 that enable you to more easily control system administration and accelerate automation.
Deploying and Configuring Windows Server 2012 Servers with Server Manager, Windows PowerShell and MinShell

Download the lab manual
In this lab, perform the initial configuration for a new Windows Server 2012 server by leveraging new capabilities in Server Manager and PowerShell. Topics include:
  1. Complete the initial configuration of a full GUI server,
  2. Convert server to MinShell and validate functionality,
  3. Install server as a secondary DC in domain using Server Manager and PowerShell,
  4. Explore Server Manager features such as groups, configuration files, tiles, performance, etc.
Desired State Configuration with Windows Server 2012 R2 and PowerShell 4.0

Download the lab manual
In this lab, use a new feature in Windows Server 2012 R2 called Desired State Configuration to deploy fully functional websites to multiple unconfigured Windows servers. Get familiar with Desired State Configuration by creating and deploying basic configuration to a single server. Then use a Desired State Configuration Data file to deploy a website to multiple servers; cause a configuration drift and correct it by redeploying configuration.
Managing Branch Offices

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In this lab, learn how the branch office scenario has been improved in Windows Server 2012 including new branch cache enhancements.
Active Directory Deployment and Enhancements

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In this lab, learn how to deploy Active Directory Domain Controllers with Windows Server 2012. Deploy domain controllers using the new Server Manager, as well as deploying remote domain controllers using Windows PowerShell. Also, explore the new Active Directory Management Tool and use its PowerShell History Viewer.
Using Dynamic Access Control to Automatically and Centrally Secure Data

Download the lab manual
In this lab, you explore Dynamic Access Control in Windows Server 2012. You learn how to create Central Access Policies, explore the new Access Denied Remediation features, as well as learn how to use the audit capabilities built into Dynamic Access Control.

Teaser: System Center 2012–Operations Manager 2012 R2

Yes, I have built myself a few new labs based on System Center 2012 R2 Preview, among them OM12 R2 Preview of course.

Soon I’ll post a series of articles all about OM12 R2, so stay tuned!

System Center 2012 & The Cloud

Apparently not only Microsoft knows the added value of the System Center 2012 product related to the cloud, whether it’s public or private.

Recently Amazon released an MP for monitoring Amazon Web Services (AWS) with SCOM 2007 R2 or OM12. On top of it, a few days ago, Hortonworks announced they’ll be bringing ‘…Windows-based Hadoop Operational Management functionality via Management Packs for System Center…’

And: ‘…These management packs will enable users to deploy, manage and monitor Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) for both Windows and Linux deployments. The new management packs for System Center will provide management and monitoring of Hadoop from a single System Center Operations Manager console, enabling customers to streamline operations and ensure quality of service levels…’

In this case however, the products Hortonworks is about to release in the near future will touch two components of the System Center 2012 product (taken directly from their website):

For monitoring and managing HDP deployments, Hortonworks will provide a free management pack for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager. The Operations Manager management pack will utilize Apache Ambari APIs to monitor HDP service uptime, view cluster resource utilization, report on job and operational metrics and manage all HDP services deployed in the cluster.

Virtual Machine Manager will configure a cluster of virtual machines and deploy HDP in an optimized configuration for that virtualized cluster. Through Virtual Machine templates, customers will be able to seamlessly add slave and master Hadoop nodes to take advantage of the scalability of the virtualized infrastructure.

Want to know more? Go here.