Wednesday, February 25, 2015

MP Authoring Tool For MP Pro’s Updated To SP3!

Last September Silect released the update for the MP Authoring tool for IT Pro’s, MP Author SP2. Today Silect released the latest version, MP Author SP3. This is the mail I got today:

Updates and/or new features:

  • Improved knowledge viewing and editing in multiple language environments
  • Improved XML editing
  • New feature to "Check for missing display names"
  • Added ability to use base classes other than LocalApplication when creating new classes
  • Additional MP elements are displayed
  • Added a drop down list of $$ parameters for alert messages
  • Schedule property grid made more user friendly
  • Improvements to memory usage

This tool is FREE since it’s sponsored by Microsoft. For anyone out there looking for a way to author a MP and don’t want to use (or don’t know how) Visual Studio with the Authoring Extensions (VSAE), this is a great tool.

Want to know more? Go here.

OM12 R2 UR#5: Support For SQL Server 2014

With UR#5 for SCOM 2012 R2 SQL Server 2014 is supported. At least, sort of supported. Please keep in mind there are some ‘challenges’ to be addressed.

Want to know more? Read this posting on the SCOM Engineering blog. My own two cents: Only use SQL Server 2014 for SCOM 2012 R2 UR#5 when it’s a hard requirement. Otherwise use SQL Server 2012x.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Excel Power: Automatic Pull & Sort Microsoft MPs From Microsoft TechNet Wiki

I don’t know about you, but for myself the TechNet Wiki for the Microsoft MPs has become the one-stop-shop when downloading the Microsoft MPs. Even though it’s a great website it has one huge drawback: you can’t sort the MPs on date so you can see in a single glance which MP is the latest & greatest.

Yes, with PS you can do a lot and already there are many PS scripts out there which contact the Wiki. But as far a I know there isn’t a PS script which pulls all MPs, together with their download links and sort them on their date.

So therefore I decided to use another approach: Excel. This is a very powerful application and can do so many things for you, fully automated. So why not pull the list of all Microsoft MPs –with their download links intact - from the Wiki website, and sort them on their publishing date as well?

And as it turned out, it was very easy to make it work. In about 15 minutes I got it working. And no, it doesn’t have anything fancy. It does what I state it does and that’s it. So feel free to make it more perfect and give it a posh look.

Also know that your computer, where you run this Excel sheet from requires your computer to have the Short date set to US style (M/d/yyyy) since otherwise the automatic sorting won’t work.

So this is the setting your computer must be set to, at least during the time you run this Excel sheet:

Why you ask? Well, the same date format is used by the Wiki as well. And when your computer don’t use the same date format while sorting, it will sort the MPs on their month number only, resulting in a strange sorting Smile.

Another thing to reckon is that the Excel workbook uses a macro in order to sort the MPs on their date. I didn’t author that macro but found it on the web and modified it for this Excel workbook. So all credits for that macro go to Allen Wyatt who shares this macro on his blog.

But because this Excel workbook contains a macro, it has a different file format, xlsm, an Excel workbook with one or more macro’s. So when you open this workbook, you’ll get several security warnings.

One more thing: Since the data source pulls the WHOLE Wiki webpage into Excel, the first 60 rows are hidden, as goes for the rows after the last MP, in order to keep the Excel workbook a bit better looking.

I know, it’s really basic, but it works:

How to get it working:

  1. Download the file from my OneDrive to your system;
  2. When downloaded, unblock it
  3. Open the file, enable the content:
  4. On the computer: Check the Short date settings on the system running this Excel workbook and when required modify it to M/d/yyyy and don’t forget to APPLY these new settings:
  5. In the Excel workbook: Go to Data > click on Refresh All
  6. Excel will connect with the TechNet Wiki page, download all the information and pipe it into the Excel workbook. The previous mentioned macro will sort that data so the latest MP shows up on top:
    As you can see, the BizTalk Server 2013 R2 MP is the latest & greatest MP Smile.
  7. When you’ve modified the Short date setting (in Step 4) for running this Excel workbook, don’t forget to set it back to d/M/yyyy:

Hey SCOM! Automatic Alert Resolution Isn’t Working?!

Sometimes SCOM admins from different customers contact me stating Automatic Alert Resolution in SCOM is broken. However, there is something else at play here so I’ve decided to write this posting.

Automatic Alert Resolution seems to broken…
This is the default setting for Automatic Alert Resolution (Administration > Settings > Alerts > 2nd tab):

The highlighted setting states that any active alert with the Resolution State New will be automatically resolved after 30 days. But the same SCOM admins who tell me this isn’t working show me SCOM Consoles with Alerts way older then 30 days, and yet their status is still New, like this:

The Alert Veeam VMware: VM Deploy Failed is 377 days old, and has the Resolution State New. So one might think the Automatic Alert Resolution functionality is broken indeed. But there is more to it.

What’s really happening here
There are Monitors and Rules. And both are capable of triggering Alerts. However, a Monitor will only generate an Alert once when it changes state, like Healthy > Warning, or Healthy > Critical or Warning > Healthy, depending on what kind of Monitor it is (2 or 3 state).

So a Monitor won’t flood the Console with the same Alert. However, a Rule will raise an Alert and keep on doing that when the same critical condition is detected. This is by design. But it has the potential to flood the SCOM Console (and the Notification Model) with many Alerts all about the same issue.

So a Rule uses an Alert Suppression technology. Instead of triggering Alert after Alert, the Rule checks whether it has already triggered an Alert and when it already did, it won’t fire a new one. Instead it will raise the Repeat Count by one increment of that same Alert.

Normally this Repeat Count column isn’t shown but you can modify the Active Alerts View so it shows that column as well (right click that View > Properties > 2nd tab > select the option Repeat Count):

And when you take a new look at the same Alert which is still New after so many days this is what you’ll see:

So this Alert which is fired for the FIRST time 377 days ago, has a Repeat Count of 22615 (!) times. And here it comes: Every time the Repeat Count is raised, SCOM looks upon that Alert as a fresh one, except for the Notification Model that is.

So every time the Repeat Count is raised by one increment the counting of 30 days starts all over. And after those 30 days SCOM will groom that Alert out of the OpsMgr database.

But some basic calculations learns us this: The Alert is 377 days old, with a Repeat Count of 22615, so it’s 377/22615 = 0,016 day. This is the average ‘life span’ of a single increment of that Alert…. So it will NEVER reach the 30 days and it will never be groomed out by SCOM itself. Instead it needs some help from YOU…

Automatic Alert Resolution works. But when an Alert is triggered by a Rule and the Repeat Count is raised by one increment every time, it will start the counter for Automatic Alert Resolution all over again. So stay on the ball and in control. Manage your Alerts in a normal manner and you’ll see everything works out as intended.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Cross Post: Windows Server & System Center Roadmap Update

Microsoft’s Enterprise Cloud Team has published a blog posting in which they reveal a bit more of the Windows Server and System Center Roadmap.

I must say, it isn’t much information but at least a small bit of it. Looking forward to the next posting which reveals more information about this roadmap.

Posting to be found here.

Azure Operational Insights: What About The Console?

Update 02-13-2015
Thanks to the community I’ve got screendumps of the AOI Console running on BlackBerry devices. A BIG word of thanks to Christian Heitkamp for his contribution to this posting. Awesome! Based on his contributions I’ve updated this posting.

How this posting came to be
I know, Microsoft Azure Operational Insights is work in progress. But looking at the effort, time and resources Microsoft has dedicated to it, I’ve the strong feeling it will become a very good service offering. I know some of the people working on it and they’re simply the best. Any time when I speak with them I feel humble and dwarfed by their knowledge and experience.

Back at TechEd Barcelona 2014 I had a short talk with one of them. He leads a team of developers for Azure Operational Insights so he knows what he’s talking about. The conversations with him are always good simply because we speak open and frank. No hidden agenda’s and no politics. So sometimes these conversations can become a bit intense since we both speak our minds. But I always learn a lot from it.

In this particular conversation I started to flog a dead horse: the SCOM Console. Whether we’re talking SCOM 2012x or the previous versions and UI or web based, these Consoles have never been that good. And that’s even a bit of an understatement. Snappy, fast consoles, running on ANY platform without the need to install additional software, aren’t candy anymore. They’re simply a hard requirement. And we all know that SCOM 2012x doesn’t really deliver here.

(In order to get to that level, additional third party software is required, like Savision Live Maps or Squared Up. Especially the latter is very interesting. Relatively new but their solution is awesome and SUPER FAST and affordable.)

So I spoke my mind. And his response was a good one. He told me that Microsoft has collected tons of information about what people like and dislike about SCOM. That information is used – among other information - to built Azure Operational Insights.

The current status of the Azure Operational Insights Console
And yes, the Console is getting a lot of attention as well. Time to check the current status of it. Since Azure Operational Insights is a cloud based service, it will be accessed by using a web browser. So what I want to know are these items:

  1. No more dependency of IE and a PC running Windows only;
  2. Does it work on Safari running on a PC?
  3. Does it work on Firefox running on a PC?
  4. Does it work on Chrome running on a PC?
  5. Does it work on Safari running on an iPad?
  6. Does it work on Safari running on an iPhone?
  7. Does it work on Chrome running on an iPad?
  8. Does it work on the default browser of Android 4.4.2 (KitKat)?
  9. Does it work on BlackBerry devices? (Thanks to Christian Heitkamp.)

As I see it, this is the litmus test for Microsoft. Their new CEO has stated that they want presence on any device/platform. So let’s see how this new approach works out for Azure Operational Insights. The PC being used here runs Windows 8.1 with all latest updates and patches applied. The used browsers are also the latest versions. The iPad (gen 3) used in this test runs the latest iOS version, 8.1.2. The iPhone 5 runs also the same iOS version. And the Samsung phone runs Android 4.4.2.

Test 01: No more dependency of IE only
Yes! The Console runs on other browsers as well. Finally! As stated here, on the System Requirements web page for Azure Operational Insights:
Note: The yellow high lighted part is important. More about that later on in the second test. Tests 5,6,7 and 8 will tell us whether the dependency of the Windows platform is gone as well.

And yes, the Console runs perfectly on IE (duh!):

Test 02: Safari, running on a PC
This one isn’t going to fly. Logging on goes well but then the Console isn’t loaded at all. It keeps on cycling for ever but nothing happens:
Was to be expected, but I wanted to test it none the less. Most likely cause here is Silverlight which doesn’t work with Safari running on a PC. It should work on Mac OS however. This information is found here, second tab System Requirements.

In this test I don’t mind since Safari for Windows is an outdated browser and surpassed by Google Chrome and Firefox. So I was more than happy to delete it from my test box Smile.

Test 03: Firefox on a PC
As expected, it runs like clockwork:

Test 04: Chrome on a PC
And YES! It works, even though the earlier mentioned System Requirements webpage doesn’t state it:

Test 05: Safari on an iPad
And YES! It works, even though the earlier mentioned System Requirements webpage doesn’t state it:

Test 06: Safari on an iPhone
Not surprisingly, since it works on an iPad, it runs on an iPhone as well (screenshot taken from the iPhone in landscape mode):

Test 07: Chrome on an iPad
Another score for Microsoft! It works:image

Test 08: Default web browser included with Android 4.4.2 (KitKat)
KitKat runs on many smart phones AND tablets. So it would be nice when the Console runs here as well. And guess what? It does!!!

Test 09: BlackBerry devices
Yes! On BlackBerry devices the AOI Console runs as well:


What Microsoft has done so far with the Console for Azure Operational Insights is very good and impressive. No more dependency of the Windows platform nor IE. As you can see a wide range of platforms AND browsers are already supported. So this is a HUGE improvement compared to the SCOM 2012x Console.

Guess the new CEO is serious when he stated that Microsoft’s services will run anywhere. Awesome!

How about mobile apps?
For now only a Windows Phone app is available for download. BUT Microsoft will bring out mobile apps for other platforms (Android, iOS and BES) in time as well. And YOU can help here by letting Microsoft know for what other mobile platform you want them to develop an app:

Simply go this website, scroll all the way down and click on the link Interested in a mobile app for Android, iOS or Blackberry? Now you can fill in this form and send it to Microsoft:

UR#9 System Center 2012 SP1 Released

A day ago Microsoft released Update Rollup package #9 for System Center 2012 SP1, KB3023167.

The ‘fix’ this UR contains is nothing more but a cosmetic modification: System Center Advisor is no more and replaced/rebranded by Azure Operational Insights (AOI):

However, when you’re monitoring SLES with your SCOM 2012 SP1 environment this UR contains an exciting update:

UR#5 System Center 2012 R2 Released

A day ago Microsoft released Update Rollup package #5 for System Center 2012 R2.

This time the KB approach is different, compared to previous UR releases:

  1. KB3021802
    Describes which components are updated in UR#5 for System Center 2012 R2. Per component another KB is available.
  2. KB3023138
    Describes UR#5 for SCOM 2012 R2.

Issues which are fixed or newly added features

  1. Monitoringhost process crashes because of bind failures against Active Directory;
  2. RunAs accounts cannot be edited because of "Specified cast is invalid" exception;
  3. Application crashes when a search is finished without filter criteria on Distributed application designer;
  4. MonitoringHost crashes with the exception - System.OverflowException: Value was either too large or too small for an Int32;
  5. Support to troubleshoot PowerShell scripts;
  6. Operational Insights through Operations Manager;
  7. Reset the Baseline," "Pause the baseline," and "Resume the baseline" tasks fail when they are run against an Optimized performance collection rule;
  8. An exception occurs when you edit subscriptions that contain deleted monitors or objects;
  9. You can't set Widget column width;
  10. Event 4506: Data was dropped because of too much outstanding data (editing of certain registry keys required!);
  11. Support for handling Datawarehouse time-outs;
  12. Can't continue scan with NOLOCK because of data movement;
  13. $ScriptContext.Context does not persist the value in PowerShell widgets
    Evaluation version alert.

Installation order and instructions
Since Kevin Holman has written excellent postings about this topic in the past, there is no need to repeat myself. Here you can find Kevin’s posting about how to apply UR#3 for SCOM 2012 R2. This method is exactly the same for applying UR#5, so you can use that posting as an excellent reference for applying UR#5.

Be careful
Like I stated before with other Update Rollups, be careful. Test it first before you apply this newest UR. And when you don’t have a test environment or your test environment isn’t a good enough representation of your production environment, simply wait a few weeks before applying it.

Another advice: Download the UR pieces on the day you’re going to apply the UR and not weeks before. This way you’re 100% sure you’ve got the most recent UR bits and not an old set of it which has been replaced by a new set containing fixes for reported issues.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Installing SCOM 2012 R2 & Using Default SQL Server Instance? Avoid The Dreaded EventID 29112

When installing a brand new SCOM 2012 R2 Management Group one has to enter information about the SQL Server Instances as well. When these are default SQL Server Instances (so NO named SQL Server Instances) PLEASE DON’T ENTER it in the format server name\instance name, e.g. DB01\MSSQLSERVER:

Because when you do, changes are the Config service can’t connect to that SQL Server Instance, resulting in a SCOM MG NEVER getting any configuration.

Instead the Operations Manager event log will log Event ID 29112, source OpsMgr Management Configuration with these details: OpsMgr Management Configuration Service failed to execute bootstrap work item 'ConfigurationStoreInitializeWorkItem' due to the following exception:


I haven’t seen this happening many times, but somehow the installer accepts this kind of information, even validates it and installs SCOM. So far so good. But when the installation is done and SCOM is started for the first time, the System Center Management Configuration stumbles and fails to connect to the SQL Server Instance because it’s a default SQL Server Instance where the only the server name should suffice.

The Fix
This is relatively simple, when you KNOW where to look. When you don’t it will take ages (when you’re lucky Smile to fix it…). There are two places requiring a fix:

  1. The registry (duh);
  2. And not so obvious: the config file ~:\Program Files\Microsoft System Center 2012 R2\Operations Manager\Server\ConfigService.config

Solution, step 01: The registry
Open the registry editor and check these TWO entries and fix them so they only have the server name as entry:

  1. HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Microsoft Operations Manager\3.0\Setup
    Key: DatabaseServerName
  2. HKLM\Software\Microsoft\System Center\2010\Common\Database
    Key: DatabaseServerName

Now it’s time for step 02, the config file

Solution, step 02: Fixing the file ConfigService.config
Go to the folder ~:\Program Files\Microsoft System Center 2012 R2\Operations Manager\Server copythe file ConfigService.config (so there is a way back!) and open the original file with Visual Studio or Notepad++.


Go to the section  <Category Name="ConfigStore"> and look for the entry ServerName:

Modify the entry ServerName so it only contains the Server Name:

Save the changes and restart the Config service. And soon SCOM will get it’s configuration, Event ID 29113, OpsMgr Management Configuration Service successfully completed bootstrap procedure:

And now SCOM will get it’s configuration and work as intended.

Whenever installing SCOM 2012 using a DEFAULT SQL Server Instance, just enter the name of the server hosting the operational database, NOT THE NAME OF THE SQL SERVER INSTANCE as well. So this is what it should look like:

Repeat this step for every other SCOM 2012 Management Server you add to this MG as well and you’ll be fine.

Log File Monitoring? Download The Free NICE MP

Ever tried to monitor log files with SCOM? Sure, it can be done but the default tools are quite limited.

So when you require more sophisticated log file monitoring, like catching certain log entries, phrases or more monitoring intelligence, you’re facing a real challenge and soon you must use all kinds of scripts in order to get the job done simply because out-of-the-box this functionality is lacking in SCOM.

image image

The FREE NiCE Log File Monitoring MP delivers much more intelligence, enabling you to build sophisticated log file monitors in your SCOM environment. Compare this MP with the out-of-the-box log file monitoring capabilities in SCOM and be amazed:

Yes, you’ve to register in order to download this MP. But that’s an easy process and it might take some time before you’re granted access to their download portal. But once you’re allowed access, you can download this FREE MP – no strings attached! – and import it in your SCOM environment.

A good friend of mine – Stefan Roth - has written an excellent posting about the power of this MP by demonstrating it. Read his posting in order to get a good understanding of the capabilities of it.

Why does NiCe do this?
Good question! Well, NiCE delivers high quality MPs and they want the world to know that. So what better way to show that than delivering a FREE MP which does an awesome job like the log file monitoring MP?

Other MPs they deliver – not free but reasonably prized – are MPs for monitoring:

  1. zLinux;
  2. Oracle;
  3. IBM Domino;
  4. BES 10;
  5. BlackBerry;
  6. IBM DB2;
  7. SAP.

As you can see, these MPs cover non-Microsoft based workloads, many times found in enterprise environments. These MPs enrich SCOM and convert it to a single glass of pane when it comes to monitoring your enterprise based workloads.

Updated MP: Monitoring Data Protection Manager 2012 R2, Version 4.2.1276.0

A few days ago Microsoft released the MP for monitoring DPM 2012 R2, version 4.2.1276.0. MP can be downloaded from here.

Azure: Where Microsoft Stands Today? Visit The Cloud Platform Roadmap!

Cloud, cloud and cloud. That’s more than just a buzz word. It has become the very core of Microsoft itself and they’re investing BIG time in it. I myself know a few people working for Microsoft and one way or another, they’re all in.

So Microsoft means business and is working hard to make it even bigger, better and more diverse. But when you’re asking yourself where Microsoft stands today, what’s in development, has become recently available, what’s released in public preview and perhaps canceled, it’s quite a challenge to get to the bottom of it.

Therefore it’s good to know that Microsoft has launched a new website, delivering that kind of information, titled Cloud Platform Roadmap:

Per tab (Recently Available, Public Preview, In Development) the latest Azure services are grouped, enabling you to quickly see where Microsoft stands:

And I must say, this is VERY impressive. So anyone who was still thinking ‘da cloud’ is just marketing but nothing more, this website is a WAKE UP CALL!

Want to check it for yourself? Go here and be amazed AND impressed, just like me.

AOI: Upcoming URL Change For Connected SCOM 2012 Management Groups

Very important information for users running SCOM 2012 Management Group (s) connected with Azure Operational Insights (AOI) behind proxies with specific ACL or rules to only allow traffic to specific destinations.

Taken directly from the AOI blog run by Microsoft: ‘…In order to align the way that OpsMgr and direct agent send data to the service, and as we are making preparations to have a presence in more Azure regions, we have to make a ONE-TIME change to the URLs that the management packs use to post data to AOI:

…where in the past OpsMgr would be talking to , with an upcoming deployment (possibly mid next week, we will update this post closer to the deployment as we have a more specific date) OpsMgr will instead start reporting to <yourworkspaceid> We recommend you update your firewall/proxy’s ACLs/rules to allow traffic to the new destination * or your data would start either queuing up on OpsMgr and/or eventually being dropped if the new destination can’t be reached…’

For everyone using AOI I strongly advise to read this posting for more details, including an unsealed MP containing Overrides in order to buy yourself more time reconfiguring your proxies/firewalls.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New FREE ebook: Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure

Microsoft Press has released a new FREE ebook, titled ‘Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure’. As the title states, it’s all about the fundamentals of Azure, targeted at developers and IT Pro’s who’re new to this cloud service offering of Microsoft.

And even when you’re in Azure this book also contains good information. If only to see how fast the Azure service offering of Microsoft is expanding in it’s capabilities and variety.

The FREE ebook can be found here on Microsoft Virtual Academy, among many other free ebooks.

Updated MP: Office 365 Monitoring, Version 7.0.5115.0

A few days ago Microsoft released an updated version of the Office 365 MP, version 7.0.5115.0. As far as I can tell contains this MP a bug fix.

MP can be downloaded from here.

Updated Windows Server OS MP, Version 6.0.7296.0: Issues Fixed

A few days ago Microsoft released the latest version of the Windows Server OS MP, version 6.0.7296.0. In this latest version the previous issues are fixed:

Already tested this MP myself and indeed, the issues are fixed! So download this MP ASAP and import it in your SCOM environments. MP can be downloaded from here.