Monday, March 30, 2015

New Book: ‘Microsoft System Center Reporting Cook Book’

A new book is available. No, it’s not free but still it contains good information about how to plan, create and manage good reports for ALL the System Center 2012x components.

Why should I even care?
Yeah, I know. There are MANY books out there all about using SQL Server Reporting Services and creating your own reports. So why even bother about this book?

Well this book is kind of special. I’ll tell you why:

  1. Yes, there are many books all about report authoring. But none of them is about System Center Reporting. And as we all know, the SC related SQL databases are a special breed of their own. And the difference between a GOOD report and a bad one is mostly the data it shows. So when you know where to find the required data for your report, you’re in good shape.

  2. This book is written by people who work in the System Center ‘trenches’ on a daily basis. So they know – just like you – how big a challenge it can be to get that right set of data in order to create the report the customer or management is asking for. And – just like you – many times they bumped their noses finding that data. Yes, you KNOW it’s in one of those SC databases. But where? What table? What query do you need in order to get your hands on it?

  3. This book is aimed at YOU, the IT Pro and not the developer guy/girl who eats and drinks code. So this makes this book far more easier to understand. You’ll quickly learn that creating good reports isn’t that hard at all. Of course, you’ve got to know what to do and what tools to use. But this book is going to help you out BIG time on those two items!

  4. This book contains 40+ practical SC reports. Yes, you’ve got to build them yourself, but that’s because you want to LEARN something, remember? So you can build reports for SCCM, SCVMM, SCOM, SCDPM, SCSM and SCOrch. On top of it all, you’ll learn how to create posh dashboards from basic reports.  And this isn’t where it ends. You’ll even learn a thing or two about Power BI (Business Intelligence) and PowerPivot in order to analyze and visualize your SC data.

  5. I do have my contacts. So I know some of the people who wrote this book rather good. Kurt van Hoecke and Samuel Erskine are people I highly respect. For their knowledge and experience. They are two of the authors of this book. Besides that I do know some of the reviewers rather good as well. Andreas Baumgarten for instance but also Natascia Heil. And believe me when I tell you these two people are real IT Pro’s as well so when they review something and attach their name & fame to it, it has to be good!

Why are you promoting this book so much?
No, I am not offered a fancy new car or even a tablet or a smart phone. And no, I am not getting paid for it in any kind of way.

But it’s just that this book makes me happy since it unveils the covers of SC Reporting and Dashboarding in a very good kind of way. No fancy developers ‘talk & walk’ but aimed at the IT Pro who’s got many things on his/her plate and just want to get the reporting job done in a good manner.

Should I buy this book?
Let me ask you these questions:

  1. Do you have one or more SC components in place?
  2. …and your organization requires good reporting but has stated many times they lack certain information from the reports which are available out of the box?
  3. …and your colleagues have complained about lacking good dashboards?
  4. …and you would like to build the required reports and dashboards yourself but don’t know where to start?
  5. …and you like to boost your career?

if you answer two or more of these questions with YES, this book should be part of your own SC library.

Where can I get this book?
You can buy this book at Amazon (USA) and (UK). Also the publisher (Packt Publishing) offers this book from their web shop.

This book will be soon available as an ebook. At this very moment I only see the paperback edition on the internet.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Alert: ‘Script Based Test Failed to Complete’

A SCOM MG reported the Alert Script Based Test Failed to Complete for all its Domain Controllers. The AD Helper Object was in place however, so this couldn’t be the issue at all.

Funny thing, sometimes the scripts ran just fine and the other time they failed. And different scripts were involved, some examples:

  1. AD Replication Partner Count : The script 'AD Replication Partner Count' failed to initialize correctly.
    The error returned was: 'Object required' (0x80000000);
  2. While running 'AD General Response' the following consecutive errors were encountered:
    Failed to bind to 'LDAP://<DOMAINCONTROLLER.y.z>/rootDSE'. This is an unexpected error.
    The error returned was 'LDAP://<DOMAINCONTROLLER.y.z>/rootDSE' (0x8007203A);
  3. AD Replication Monitoring : encountered a runtime error.
    Failed to bind to 'LDAP://<DOMAINCONTROLLER.y.z>/RootDSE'.
    The error returned was: 'The server is not operational.' (0x8007203A)

Even though SCOM reported issues, nothing was wrong. AD worked as intended. These DCs are WS 2012 R2 based. When looking at those servers I noticed that IPv6 was unbound on the NICs:

However, unbinding or disabling IPv6 on WS 2012 R2 has consequences, like this posting tells us: Known Issues with Disabling or Unbinding IPv6.

IPv6 is unbound on the related NICs of the DCs.

Enable IPv6 or bind it again on the NICs of the DCs and the script Alerts won’t show up again.

Friday, March 13, 2015

New FREE ebook: Microsoft System Center Software Update Management Field Experience

A few days ago Microsoft Press released a new FREE ebook, titled Microsoft System Center Software Update Management Field Experience.

Since I am working with SCCM on a weekly basis, I am very happy with this book. Because it’s written by Premier Field Engineering it contains good advice and best practices.

So for everyone working with SCCM and using the integrated updated feature, this book is a must have and should be read at least once.

Want to know more? Go here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Exchange Server 2013 MP Report Error: Cannot Initialize Report. Value Cannot Be Null. Parameter Name: GroupList

The Exchange Server 2013 MP is imported and many Reports fail with this error: Cannot initialize report. Value cannot be null. Parameter name: GroupList.


Date: 10-3-2015 15:27:18
Application: Operations Manager
Application Version: 7.1.10226.0
Severity: Error
Message: Cannot initialize report.

System.ArgumentNullException: Value cannot be null.
Parameter name: GroupList
   at Microsoft.EnterpriseManagement.Mom.Internal.UI.Reporting.Parameters.Controls.Monitoring.ReportMonitoringObjectXmlEditorBase.LoadValues(ReportParameterInfoCollection reportParameters)
   at Microsoft.EnterpriseManagement.Mom.Internal.UI.Reporting.Parameters.ReportParameterBlock.LoadValues()
   at Microsoft.EnterpriseManagement.Mom.Internal.UI.Console.ReportForm.SetReportJob(Object sender, ConsoleJobEventArgs args)

Reports affected:

  1. Exchange 2013 - Mailbox Database Copy Performance;
  2. Exchange 2013 - Organization Performance;
  3. Exchange 2013 - All Performance;
  4. Exchange 2013 - IIS Application Pool Performance;
  5. Exchange 2013 - Windows Service Performance;
  6. Exchange 2013 - Server Storage Performance;
  7. Exchange 2013 - Server Mail Process SMTP Performance;
  8. Exchange 2013 - Server Mail Process Performance;
  9. Exchange 2013 - Server CPU and Memory Performance.

This one took me a long time to crack. I contacted my fellow MVPs in order to see they experience the same issues. But all of them had no issues what so ever with these Reports. For them these Reports run just fine.

Since this customer had a brand new Exchange Server 2013 environment I first thought the cause could be found there. Perhaps certain Groups, required by these Reports were still empty, causing these Reports to fail.

But the more I thought about it, the less viable it seemed to be the case. Also the Exchange administrators showed me everything is in place and running smoothly. So back to SCOM it was.

And suddenly it hit me. Could it be that the regional settings on the SCOM Management Servers were at play here? When Reports aren’t programmed that good, they can’t handle it because the decimal symbol, digit grouping symbols and short/long date are different, causing the Reports to fail with all kinds of exotic errors…

Time to check it out in my own test environment since I could repro this issue there as well.

Okay, the regional settings are set to Dutch (Netherlands) on both SCOM Management Servers:


As you can see, here in the Netherlands (and many other European countries for that matter) use a comma as decimal symbol and a dot as a digital grouping symbol, exact the opposite as the US does…

So I changed it to English (United States):
Also the short/long date are different. In many countries in Europe we start with the day, followed by the month. In the US it’s the other way around…


This causes the decimal symbol to become a dot and the digit grouping symbol to become a comma.

I applied these settings, closed the SCOM Console and started it again. And tried to run the same Exchange Report which failed the time before these modifications. Let’s keep our fingers crossed:

Tadaa!!!! I tested all the Reports which failed on me before this modification and ALL those Reports run fine now! Awesome!!!

When you’ve got many of the Exchange Server 2013 Reports failing on you with the error Cannot initialize report. Value cannot be null. Parameter name: GroupList, please check the Regional Settings on ALL your SCOM Management Servers.

Modify them to English (United States) and changes are those Reports will run as intended.

It’s common practice to have your production servers set to English (United States) unless there are strict issues preventing that.

AOI IP: Security & Audit

One of the latest Azure Operational Insights (AOI) Intelligence Packs (IP) is the Security and Audit IP. This IP is updated by Microsoft on a periodically basis in order to provide you with the latest security intelligence.


This IP is a special one since it works best when you’ve got a proper Audit Policy in place. But because of that same Audit Policy, it can create a large volume of security event data uploaded to AOI, potentially causing to reach the daily data transfer.

So use this IP wisely and test it thoroughly in order to see whether it delivers good information which can be used by the security auditors. And when it does, write a business case for this IP, allowing for a move from the Free Tier to the Standard or even Premium one.

AOI: New IP: Active Directory (AD) Assessment

For a couple of weeks now the Active Directory Assessment Intelligence Pack (IP) for Azure Operational Insights is available.


This MP scans on a WEEKLY basis the risk and health of your AD environments, whether on-prem, in the cloud or hybrid. It will present the information a monthly rollup. On top of it all, it will create a report with a prioritized list of recommendations, so you know exactly what issues need to be addressed first.

Since every AD environment differs from the other ones, the recommendations are categorized across different focus areas, allowing you to choose what’s more important for your organization.

IP and IP?
Yeah, this is kind of fun. Because in this case IP doesn’t only stand for Intelligence Pack but also for Intellectual Property when you ask me.

Why? Because the recommendations found in this IP are based on the knowlegde and experiences by the Microsoft Customer Support Services Engineers, all around the globe. So all the cases they’ve worked on, all the issues they bumped into, all the fixes they applied and all the recommendations they’ve given, is poured into this IP.

So when that ain’t IP and IP, I don’t know Smile.

My own test lab is running now and being assessed by the AD IP as well. As soon as I get some results, I’ll let you know.

When you want to know more about this latest IP, read this posting written by one of the program managers of AOI and – even better – sign up for the free trial and experience it yourself.

New MP: BizTalk Server 2013 R2

Last month Microsoft released a new MP for monitoring BizTalk Server 2013 R2 with SCOM. Please be aware that this MP is solely written for SCOM 2012x. So it won’t run in SCOM 2007x environments…

This MP can be downloaded from here.

Hopefully this MP isn’t as noisy as the BizTalk MPs which monitors the older version of BizTalk (2006/2009) and 2010. Gladly for both older versions there are community driven efforts in order to bring down the noise:

  1. BizTalk 2006/2009:
  2. BizTalk 2010:

Updated MP: Workflow Manager MP, Version 1.0.2015.0

About a week ago Microsoft released an updated version of the Workflow Manager MP, version 1.0.2015.0. This MP supports Workflow Manager CU#2 and fixes a discovery bug as well.

MP can be downloaded from here.

Updated MP: Exchange Server 2013 MP, Version 15.0.665.19

A week ago Microsoft released an updated version of the Exchange Server 2013 MP, version 15.0.665.19.

This MP contains a fix for not discovering Edge servers properly. MP can be downloaded from here.

Updated MP: Lync Server 2013 MP, Version 5.8308.871

A few weeks ago Microsoft released an updated version for the Lync Server 2013 MP, version 5.8308.871.

Please note that the download page has a minor issue. The version stated on the webpage is 8308.871 but it’s version 5.8308.871. This prevents the MP to be updated through the SCOM Console (MP Catalog) since SCOM thinks it’s an older version.

MP can be downloaded from here.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cross Post: Reset Manually Closed Monitors

When you close an Alert which is raised by a Monitor, you’re basically ‘undermining’ the proper working of SCOM. Simply because the related Monitor is still in an unhealthy state.

So when the unhealthy condition happens again, the related Monitor won’t act. Simply because it’s still in an unhealthy state. So no state change which means NO ALERT.

The best way to go about it is to TRAIN the people involved. To make sure they know how SCOM works and what the differences are between Rules and Monitors. How they function. How Alerts should be handled.

So that’s the starting point. But how about it when people are making mistakes? And Alerts get closed even though they’re generated by Monitors? Sure, more training and making people aware is required. But still there are Monitors out there in an unhealthy state, requiring a ‘fix’.

So why not use the Task Scheduler which runs a PS script which checks for unhealthy Monitors with closed Alerts, and resets them for you? Of course, this doesn’t create a situation where people can close Alerts without giving it a second thought, but it will help you out as an additional safe guard.

In some SCOM environments a scheduled script like this is a no-go area where as it will be a welcome safe guard for other environments. So make up your own mind Smile.

The PS script
I am not a PS hero. But I know how to Google. So I found this posting on the blog SystemCenterTipps which provided me a GREAT script.

And indeed, as the same posting states, even though it’s written for a Runbook in Orchestrator, with some minor adjustments, it can be used a standalone PS script as well, used by a plain Scheduled Task.

For this customer it turned out to be a great help. So a BIG word of thanks to the author of this posting Smile.

Dirty Server Shutdown. EventID 41. ‘The System Has Rebooted Without Cleanly Shutting Down First’

Servers are getting randomly dirty reboots. The System log shows EventID 41 with the message ‘The System Has Rebooted Without Cleanly Shutting Down First’.

After the dirty reboot this screen is shown (when running WS 2012 R2 of course Smile):

There is an incompatibility issue between VMware hosts running ESXi 5.0 prior to Update 3 and Windows Server 2012 R2/Windows 8.1.

For a real fix apply Update 3 to those VMware hosts. As a work around use this KB article of VMware.

Hey SCOM! Why Are The Display Names Of My Monitored Network Devices IP Addresses?!

SCOM monitors a certain set of network devices. But instead of showing display names they also show IP addresses which makes it hard to differentiate between those devices.

DNS registrations aren’t as they should be. Besides the regular host records (A-records), for solving FQDN’s to IP addresses, there also needs to be a Pointer record, enabling reverse lookup, for solving IP addresses to FQDN’s.

When both are in place for ALL monitored network devices, SCOM will show the FQDN’s as display names instead of the IP addresses.

When SCOM monitors a network device, the entries like Display Name are static. So only solving the DNS issues won’t do it. Besides fixing DNS – and making sure all is okay – one needs to remove all monitored network devices and rediscover them.

Now the monitored network devices will get proper display names.