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MMS 2013: day 4

10:50 pm in Uncategorized by Jan Van Meirvenne

Hi guys


I am back in Belgium after an amazing week at MMS, Las Vegas! I got to know some cool people, got to see some nice sceneries and most importantly, had a great first long distance business trip!


I’m a bit late with my final diary entry for the event, but it got late Thursday with the closing party, forcing me to delay this post 😉 The party itself was great, although a bit crowded.


Now I am back in Belgium and got a good night’s rest, I can present to you the final topics I followed on the last day:


Managing Linux and UNIX in a System Center Private Cloud

This session was a good overview of the cross-platform capabilities of the System Center stack. While it did know the abilities of SCOM, it was interesting to see how you could also use SCCM and SCVMM on Linux and Unix devices. Being able to deploy a Linux-based workload by using the templating (both VM and service) system in SCVMM is a great functionality. SCCM has an equally interesting feature pack: deploying software or updates and being able to collect hardware inventory is a great advancement in the configuration management space. For those who don’t yet know: SCOM can monitor Linux and Unix environments using a set of management packs by Microsoft and a special Linux agent. There are only a few distro’s supported, but the number was expanded by the SP1 release: CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu, and Oracle Linux.

It is nice to see that Microsoft is committing to enable the management of any type of cloud setup, whether homo- or heterogeneous, private or public. I believe however that if you have a big number of non-Microsoft workloads, you might need to get some 3rd party extensions in order to have a comfortable experience. I think of specialized management packs for Oracle, MySql,… or addons for SCVMM and SCCM, these are a must if you want to maintain a holistic overview of those workloads.


Advanced Real World System Center Data Warehouse and Reporting

The next session was a presentation of how Microsoft used SCOM and SCSM data to improve the efficiency of their helpdesk dramatically. By building a cube that integrates and correlates SCOM alerts and SCSM tickets, it was possible to quickly distinguish actionable events from non-actionable ones. This enabled the service desks to stop wasting time on events that they could not resolve, and focus more on the ones that mattered. This cube also enabled excellent reports like ‘top helpdesk performers’, ‘tickets fixed in SLA/out of SLA’,… The future rodmap had plans to also add SCCM data, to look which systems generated the most events etc. The cube is an impressive example of the power of datawarehousing in System Center. The only bad thing was that it was an internal solution, and any documentation is not available at the moment.


Automating System Center Deployment with the Powershell Deployment Toolkit

From an automation standpoint this was a very impressive session. It showed how the Powershell Deployment Toolkit replaces the Universal Installer that was presented previous year. By editing the accompanied XML-files, a System Center stack implementation can be done in under one hour! The system is still somewhat difficult to use, as XML knowledge is required and all actions start from a script execution. A decent front-end to this would make it even nicer, but the true power of it is already present!


DevOps: Azure Monitoring & Authoring Updates for Operations Manager 2012 SP1

I was a bit afraid that this would be another iteration of the whole TFS integration story, but luckily I was wrong. It presented the new features of the updated Azure management pack. Afterwards the new Visual Studio plugin was showcased. The most notable change is that Visual Studio 2012 is now finally supported. Another nice announcement was that the authoring documentation will receive a major update by this summer:

– The MP authoring documentation will be updated for 2012 and cover the usage of the new tools

– An integration guide will be made available, providing an overview of the available components for all System Center products

– An authoring hub will house all community creations regarding System Center authoring


Augmenting Your Windows Management Strategy with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Task Sequences

This was a session I randomly picked, and it didn’t disappoint. It was a showcase of how and when Task Sequences should be used in SCCM. It was very interactive with a quiz, and some nice demonstrations showed several useful scenario’s. A great tips and tricks session!


Well this was it, my first MMS event! I will follow up on this post with my top sessions of the event, with some technical posts later on on the new features that were presented. In the meantime, you can check out all sessions on Channel 9.

While its future is uncertain, I really hope to see an MMS 2014!


See you later!

MMS 2013: day 3

5:55 am in Uncategorized by Jan Van Meirvenne

Hey guys, I’m finally over my jetlag! Here is what happened at the 3rd day of my MMS experience:


IM-B402 Debug Production Application Issues using System Center Operations Manager

A great session with a dynamic team of presenters: Mickey Gousset and Brian Randell. They used a roleplaying technique to illustrate how developers and operations uys could work together to resolve application issues using Application Performance Monitoring, Intellitrace and TFS Workitem Sync in Operations Manager. By debugging the application in a production environment, and sharing the information from this process between Operations tools and Dev tools, being able to have the best of both worlds becomes reality! The workflow was demoed like this:

– Operations receive an exception alert for a live application using APM

– Using TFS sync, the alert is assigned to the developer team

– The developer team receives a new work item in the TFS portal, complete with a small trace of the issue which they can debug in Visual Studio

– The developers want to have an IntelliTrace file, they request this in the work item and set the status to ‘Awaiting Evidence’

– The operations team notices the request and use SCOM to enable IntelliTrace on the application (it is recommended to do this using a fileshare, which is an overridable setting, because trace-files can become really big). After the issue is reproduced, the trace is collected and the alert is re-assigned to engineering

– The developer team receives the update and can fully debug and fix the issue!


SD-B314 Mission: IT Operations for a Good Night’s Sleep

This was a nice overview session about how different System Center products can be brought together to form a rigorous supporting platform for your IT Operations processes. The good thing about this session was that it went further than only the technology and also talked about the necessity of decent, standardized processes (like MOF) to leverage the technology. Most notable demo was the shared datawarehouse of SCSM (with SCCM, AD and SCOM data) with the ability to create some nifty reports.


AM-B201 Monitoring Applications Using APM, Global Service Monitor, and Visual Studio Web Testing

I can be short about this: it was the exact same presentation as the first session of the day, only presented a bit less good. Lessons learned: MMS sessions can overlap 100%.

SD-B313 Effective Capacity Planning of Your Infrastructure Resources

One of the best Operations Manager sessions of the event. One of the major pain points in IT management is the question how and when the infrastructure must grow. Operations Manager is the goto product to collect all the metrics from all the different layers of your infrastructure to make accurate forecasting possible. And by using analytic tools like SQL Analysis Services and Performance Point the data SCOM provides can be molded in a readable, advising document which can be used to perform capacity management.


IM-B316 Monitoring and Managing the Network and Storage Infrastructure with Operations Manager 2012

This presentation provided a good overview of the advancements of SCOM regarding network and storage monitoring. In SP1, a lot of new network devices are supported. Also the virtual Hyper-V switch can now be monitored and used in the network vicinity dashboard!

Regarding storage, all the major vendors have updated their MP’s for their storage products. The ability to monitor storage usage in VMM is also very neat!

Furthermore capacity management and dashboarding were mentioned. Savision Live Maps was presented as well as a decent (and rightfully so) tool to create your custom dashboards!

After the sessions I joined the Provance party, where I hanged out with some fellow SCUG members, but also met up with a lot of guys working with various Windows technologies. It is nice to see the different perspectives and priorities people have regarding what’s presented at MMS, and some knowledge discussion and sharing is always fun!



See you tomorrow!

MMS 2013: day 2

3:47 am in Uncategorized by Jan Van Meirvenne



Hey guys, it is still jetlagged me again using his last powers of the day to get this post online Winking smile


Today was a big day regarding announcements. It all started when I went to my first session: IM-B202 System Center 2012 SP1 Operations Manager Overview.

What I expected was a basic overview of all new features in SCOM SP1, but it turned out a lot of statements were made regarding new and upcoming features.

The small announcement was that the Operations Manager data warehouse now supports up to 25000 managed computers. It is nice to see that the supported capacity keeps increasing even after release.

The big announcement was that System Center Advisor will now integrate into SCOM! That’s right, no more gateway setup and split management! Advisor will use a connector to obtain and publish data from/to SCOM, without requiring any changes or addition to the existing infrastructure. Best of all, Advisor is now FREE! So what is stopping you from trying it out?

Another great announcement that a new Azure management will be soon released, which can monitor a lot more Azure-based items like storage, virtual machines, certificates,… Distributed Applications will also be automatically created for each set of resources belonging to the same service. Cameron Fuller took a picture of the storage monitoring. The new MP will become available this Friday.

The last announcement was the availability of System Center 2012 SP1 Update Rollup 2! For Operations Manager there are some major fixes like the group rename bug, the missing path in the dashboard widgets and other long existing issues.

Daniel Savage also promised to improve the quality of the Microsoft MP’s using the new sustained engineering process. Even better, if you have an issue with a MP and cannot get it fixed through regular channels, you can contact him at, and he’ll look into it! It is nice to see the commitment of the product managers to improve their product.

The roadmap for SCOM contains more crossover dashboarding between fabric and application management, reduced overhead of monitoring and more abilities to leverage SCOM data.

Next stop was IM-B318 Panel Discussion: System Center Operations Manager. A lot of SCOM product managers where ready to answer questions from the crowd. Some interesting things were discussed like:

– Correlated alerting (do not alert if alert x and y already exist), simplified management pack management (only import the monitors I select from this MP)

This is a discussion point internally, so it is something they are working on.

– More specific RBAC options

For example: giving read-only access to authoring rules to view configuration. This was taken as a feature request.

– How to implement and scope Advisor in a multi-tenant SCOM environment

Setting up one Advisor integration for a management group is all you need, and Advisor alerts can be scoped using roles.

-  Mobile Application

There are internal talks if a mobile app must be developed.

– Replacement of the 2007 R2 authoring console

There is a lot of negative feedback regarding the complexity of the new Visual Studio authoring process. Microsoft is aware of this and looking into it.

A PM also dropped the fact that GSM will also become available as a privately hostable entity, so you can specify your own intervals and such. This gives more control over the way it works.

The third session was IM-B313 Workloads: Managing Windows, IIS & SQL Technologies. This was a howto, best-practice session about how to monitor SQL Server with SCOM. It also showcased  new, upcoming feature of the next SQL MP. The big eyecatcher was an extensive dashboard providing snap performance information for SQL Servers. Release date is unknown at this point.


The fourth session, IM-B315 Business Continuity with System Center, which was presented by among others our fellow SCUG-member Mike Resseler! While my main focus is not DPM, I could follow the session without any difficulties, making it a good one! The big announcement for DPM was that it now can backup workloads to Azure! The other feature presented to secure data and continuity was Hyper-V replica, a cool and easy technology built right into Hyper-V, allowing you to replicate VM’s to an offsite hypervisor effortlessly.


The last session of the day was about IM-B401 Utilizing and Developing Dashboards in Operations Manager 2012 SP1. It was a deep dive into custom dashboarding for SCOM, something that was (and still is not) very well documented. The in-depth demo was nice to see but hard to follow. Luckily, Microsoft will provide more documentation and samples in the coming months regarding dashboarding!

To conclude the day I went to the Meet-and-Geek. It was a really nice concept: put some people around a table (and there were a lot of tables) and let them get to know each other (not unlike speed-dating). It was a very nice concept and worked very well. I got to talk to some interesting people with evenly interesting stories! The only bad thing was that is was a bit short.


So much for my second day, I ‘m signing off for today. I hope to catch you and a glimpse of Vegas tomorrow, until then!


ps Not so much booty today!


MMS 2013: day 1

4:58 am in Uncategorized by Jan Van Meirvenne

Hello guys

I didn’t mention it earlier, but I’m currently attending MMS! It is my first time both in the US and at this event, so I’m very excited to be here!

All I can currently say is ‘wow”, and ‘yawn’ (considering my bio-functions are 9 hours out of sync). Las Vegas is an incredible place with its scale, outlook and entertainment options.




I hope to get to do some sightseeing, but I am primarily here for some knowledge transfer and networking of course (and gadget hunting Smile).


I’ll try to make a short post each day outlining the important things I learned, in order to provide you a glimpse of what you are missing Winking smile.


The first day started with (naturally) the keynote with Brad Anderson. The theme of this edition is ‘CLOUD OPTIMIZE YOUR BUSINESS’. It is the typical story of moving from a traditional IT model towards a private/public cloud model. The concept wasn’t new, but I felt it was brought more complete than the version that was presented previous year.


The demonstrations were to the point and showed the right scenario’s (application monitoring, byod security, storage performance, automation,…). An impressive case study was that of Domino’s pizza being now able to have 2 admins manage 15000 vms while reducing service call with 99%, just  by using Server 2012 and System Center!

See the keynote opening video here.

Afterwards I attended a session that described in more detail how the keynote demos were setup and why specific scenario’s were chosen. This was interesting to see because it helps to select your own scenarios for your own demos. It was very technical, the conceptual story was already told during the keynote.


Btw, the infrastructure for MMS is running the 2012-stack (of course), and this is how it looks like:


Small, isn’t it?


My first real session was ‘AM-B303 DevOps: Global Service Monitoring with System Center Operations Manager 2012 SP1’.

It was about the integration between TFS & Visual Studio and Operations Manager. I didn’t have first-hand experience with it and it was very nice to see the feature in action. The DevOps principle works as follows:

– A monitored applications generates an alert which the Operations team picks up
– Operations notices that it is an application error and send it to the developer team
– The developer team uses the attached debug data to solve the issue and close the event

By integrating TFS and SCOM, you have a single platform capable of bridging the everlasting gap between the two teams (Dev and Ops). Some nice details are the ability to import Visual Studio tests into SCOM, and to have SCOM send various files (test results, intellitraces) back to TFS, where a workitem is generated. The Global Service Monitor was also presented shorty: an Azure principle that enables you to run application tests from Microsoft’s public data centers all over the world!

The second session I attended was ‘IM-B392 Hacking the Data Warehouse: Mastering the Reporting Experience in System Center 2012 Operations Manager’. It was a session presented by Veeam and it started off very promising: how do we query the SCOM data warehouse?

I am relatively novice with SQL and SCOM, and have built some custom reports on my own. The demo’s that were given were of a very deep technical level, to the point were even I (not exactly a manager-type) was baffled. A couple of people left because they underestimated the technical level of the session.

It was interesting to see how Veeam used a tool icw Excel to generate custom reports, but I felt that the information was somewhat too specific and complex to take in in one hour.

That concluded my day regarding sessions. I did one quick handson lab were I created a management pack using Visio. Ironically I am pretty knowledgeable with the Visual Studio extension, but Visio eluded me still. The lab guide was clear and I quickly understood how it all fit together.WP_20130408_048

To finish it off, I attended the reception where I went on some ‘gadget and info hunting’ in the expo hall. It is a place were you can have a lot of fun (contests, prizes, …) but also can network a lot.



So far my MMS experience, see you tomorrow!