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ConfigMgr Toolkit 2012 R2 – Collection Evaluation Viewer

8:56 am in Configuration Manager by timdk

A while back I have blogged about the DP Job Queue Manager. Today we will have a further look into another great utility in the Configuration Manager 2012 R2 toolkit: the Collection Evaluation Viewer (CEViewer.exe).

The main purpose of the Collection Evaluation viewer is to assist in troubleshooting issues related to collection evaluation. We will now test drive the tool in a lab to further explore the possibilities.

In case you did not download the toolkit yet, you can get it from the Microsoft download site here. The installation is really straightforward and we will not outline those details during this post. Instead we will fire up the utility straight away.

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Before doing anything else I would recommend to first have a look at the last tab entitled about Collection Evaluation. This tab contains details on how to collection evaluation process runs and will help you to better understand the other queue tabs.

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Now that we have some insights on how the queuing works, lets go to the first tab and provide the connection details to connect to the primary site. Connection details are shown at the bottom of the window.

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Moving on to the Full Evaluation tab – this is where things become interesting. When looking specifically into performance issues the columns Run Time (Seconds) and Percent will be the most interesting ones: the first one logs how long the last evaluation took and the Percent column shows the percentage of evaluation time for this collection over the total (all collections) evaluation time. This should help you spot problematic collections straight away.

Additionally we can also find more details about the last time the collection was evaluated, when the next evaluation time will be, and what the result of the last evaluation was in regards to membership and when that change took place.

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The Incremental Evaluation tab show information similar to the Full Evaluation tab, but this time for collections that have the incremental evaluation setting enabled. Also here we can easily spot problematic collections based on the Run Time and Percent columns.

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The All Queues tab gives a complete overview of the different queues. Before taking the screenshot above I triggered a membership update on a few demo collections. As this is a manual action the collections are listed in the manual update queue. Notice that an estimated completion time is listed for both collections of which the membership is currently being evaluated.

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The remaining (color-coded) tabs each represent a different queue. The screenshot above for to the manual update queue and lists a set of collections for which I had triggered a membership update. Here we can see the estimated run time and estimated completion time for each of the collections.

The remaining tabs are for the queues for new collections, collections with full updates or collections with incremental updates and work in the exact same way.

To finish up this post I would like to add that this tool can only be used with Configuration Manager 2012 R2. It will not work with previous versions. On an SP1 site we were able to connect to the site but when browsing to any of the other tabs in the tool it errors out as shown in the screenshot below.

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That concludes our overview and test drive of this very interesting tool in the Configuration Manager 2012 R2 Toolkit. I hope this information was useful and will encourage you to download the toolkit and start using these tools.

See you around!

Tim

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Post-CU3 update released for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1

10:23 pm in Configuration Manager by timdk

Yesterday Microsoft has released an update to address issues that occurred with Cumulative Update 3 (CU3) for Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 (SP1).

The issues the update resolves are the following:

  • The SQL Update part of the Cumulative Update 3 installation fails when the date format on the instance of Microsoft SQL Server is defined in the DD/MM/YYYY format.
  • The All Windows RT and All Windows RT 8.1 Preview entries should not appear in the supported platform list for new configuration items.
  • Task sequences that contain Windows 8.1 as a condition on the Options tab generate an exception when they are changed or accessed.

Full details and download information can be found here.

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Creating a Software Update Group based on an input file

3:29 pm in Configuration Manager by timdk

Depending on your patching process the way you structure and create Software Update Groups in Configuration Manager 2012 may vary. At quite a few customers I see a scenario where the monthly patch review board spawns a spreadsheet with the Updates to be released into the environment. Having to create a Software Update Group based on that spreadsheet manually can be a time consuming task for the Configuration Manager administrator.

With the new powershell cmdlets available in Configuration Manager 2012 Service Pack 1 I found out it was really straightforward to automate the creation of the Software Update Groups and populating them based on a csv input file. For someone like me, having very little experience with Powershell and scripting in general, it only took a few hours of playing in my lab to accomplish this. Lets have a look at the steps I’ve walked through.

Step 1 – The input file

 

20130520-SUGwithPowershell_01

Example of a .csv input file.

As a source for input we will use a csv file. As you will see later on, this type of file is very easy to use with powershell. If you need to start from an Excel (.xls, .xlsx) file you can easily save it in csv format.

The input file usually contains a lot of information on the updates to be deployed. The most common ones are the Article ID, Bulletin ID and the description of the update itself. I decided to use the description field as it is most likely a unique field. Fields like the Article ID and Bulletin ID can be applicable for multiple updates (eg for different updates per CPU architecture).The screenshot shows an input file from my lab.

Final part of this step is to copy the file on a dedicated folder on the site server.

Step 2 – Building the script

 

To automate the import we will be using 3 powershell cmdlets: Import-csv, Get-CMSoftwareUpdate and New-CMSoftwareUpdateGroup. Below is a short summary on what the cmdlets can be used for:

  • The Import-Csv cmdlet creates table-like custom objects from the items in CSV files. Each column in the CSV file becomes a property of the custom object and the items in rows become the property values. Click here for more details: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh849891.aspx
  • The Get-CMSoftwareUpdate cmdlet retrieves configuration settings for one or more software updates. More details on the cmdlet can be found here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj850180.aspx
  • The New-CMSoftwareUpdateGroup cmdlet creates a software update group for Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager. More details can be found here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj821751.aspx

The Import-csv cmdlet will be used to read the information from the input file. Based on the Displayname of an update we will use the Get-CMSoftwareUpdate cmdlet to determine the CI_ID that each update has in Configuration Manager. We will need the CI_ID’s as input for the New-CMSoftwareUpdateGroup cmdlet to populate the newly created Software Update Group.

There are two pieces of information we will need as input for the script: the path and name of the input file and the name of the new Software Update Group to be created. We should be able to provide these as parameters for the script and prompt for them in case the administrator forgets to specify them.

Putting all these elements together results in the script shown in the screenshot below:

20130520-SUGwithPowershell_02

The CreateCMSUG.ps1 script.

Save the script in the dedicated folder on the site server where the input file was saved previously.

Step 3 – Connecting via Powershell and running the script

 

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Connecting to Powershell via the Console.

Connecting to the Configuration Manager site with powershell can be done via the console. Click the blue tab in the top left corner and select Connect via Windows Powershell. A new window will open and the prompt should look like PS %Sitecode%:\>

When running the script you can provide the required parameters immediately: the first one is the name and location of the input file and the second one is the name of the new Software Update Group. In case you do not provide them you are prompted.Notice that upon succesful creation of the Software Update Group the details of that SUG are shown. The LocalizedDisplayName property shows the name that was provided as input parameter for the script.

Step 4 – The result

 

20130520-SUGwithPowershell_06

The newly created Software Update Group

Open the Configuration Manager console and go to the Software Library workspace, then click Software Update Groups. Your newly created Software Update Group should be listed. If

it is not make sure to refresh the view. Optionally you can change the name of the Software Update Group by modifying its properties.

 

 

 

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Current members of the Software Update Group

To check the membership you can either double-click the Software Update Group or right-click and select show members.

Conclusion: given the fact that I am not a scripting expert, there is probably much room for improvement on the script. As I am eager to learn more on Powershell with ConfigMgr I will further work on optimizing the script in the future. For now I have a quick and easy solution to create my Software Update Groups and save a lot of time.

The script can be downloaded here:CreateCMSUG Powershell script (1895)

Hope it helps!

Tim

 

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System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Cumulative Update 2 released

10:21 pm in Configuration Manager by timdk

Last week Microsoft has released Cumulative Update 2 (CU2) for Configuration Manager (Article ID: 2780664).

The download link, and full details on the issues that were fixed are available here.

This release replaces the previously released Cumulative Update 1 with article ID 2717295. All the fixes in the update 2717295 are replaced by this update..

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Configuration Manager 2012 Technical Documentation download

10:30 am in Uncategorized by timdk

The May 2012 product documentation for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager is now available for download.

There are two formats available which allow you to have all the Configuration Manager 2012 documentation available at your fingertips.

Additionally you can download the Help Update Wizard to install a local copy of the System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Documentation Library (CHM) which contains a copy of the guides in the TechNet documentation library. This is useful if a computer running the Configuration Manager console does not have Internet access or if you want a standalone copy of the documentation in CHM format.

Download the files here.

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ConfigMgr 2012 Day

4:00 am in Uncategorized by timdk

System Center User Group Belgium invites you to Configmgr 2012 day on July 4th 2012 !

It has been a few weeks since the official Configuration Manager 2012 release in Las Vegas at MMS 2012. So it’s time to provide the Belgian Configuration Manager Community a nice off-line event to share information about the new release.

During this event we will be joined by Wally Mead, Senior Program Manager for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager. Wally Mead has been with Microsoft for 20 years, he’s been in the Configuration Manager product group for the past 11 years, working on all versions of the SMS/Configuration Manager product. Wally will provide you with 2 in depth sessions and one surprise session that will be worth the whole trip!

The other sessions will be presented by the Belgian Configuration Manager MVP’s and SCUG members with in depth technical knowledge about System Center technologies. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to socialize with fellow Configuration Manager administrators to exchange knowledge and meet with one of the most popular Microsoft speakers of all time and have a nice lunch with the SCUG product experts. Join us for an event designed to stimulate new thinking and forge lasting relationships among a rema rkable group of IT professionals

I expect this is going to be the best ConfigMgr event of the year! If you are unable to attend the Best Of MMS event one month earlier, or you do plan to attend best of MMS but are up for some more deep diving into Configuration Manager 2012, this is an opportunity you cannot afford to miss.

Event Details:

Date: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 from 9:15 AM to 7:00 PM (GMT+0100)

Location: Business Faculty Brussel
St. Lendriksborre 6
1120 Brussels
Belgium

Click here to register. Do it now before it is too late!

See you there!

Tim

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Building a lab environment with System Center Unified Installer – Part 3

4:00 am in Uncategorized by timdk

This post is the last part of this series. After defining the lab layout in Part 1 and doing the necessary preparations in Part 2. It is now time to run the System Center Unified Installer and watch our lab environment being built for us.

The installation needs to be ran with an account that has administrative permissions on all target computers. As such we will logon to the installer PC –OR1 in our case- with a domain administrator account and run the setup.exe from the UnifiedInstaller folder.

Now we need to walk through the wizard:

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Click Install System Center and click OK on the pop-up.

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Enter your product registration info and accept the license agreements before clicking Next.

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Select the product you wish to install. For our lab we select Orchestrator, Configuration Manager and Operations Manager.

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Specify the locations where the product installation sources can be found.

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Accept the license terms and click Next.

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Accept the license terms for the prerequisites and click next again.

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Specify the location where the binaries for each prerequisite are stored.

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Leave the default installation locations and click Next

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Specify the target server names and click Next

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Specify the domain administrator account as the service account and click Next.

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Specify the name for the management group and the site code/site name for the CM site.

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Decide whether to join the CEIP or not and click Next

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Review the settings and click Install.

And now the beauty of the Unified Installer kicks in: you can leave the lab environment and spend some time away from your desk. When you return in a few hours your entire lab will be up and running. For our reference environment the installation took approximately 4 hours.

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Once the setup is completed a summary page is shown. Verify all components were installed successfully and click close to exit the wizard.

Now would probably a good time to take a full snapshot of the environment again. At a later point in time, when you have completed specific tests, you can then always return back to this initial clean state.

All done!

Post installation note:

  • The Unified Installer installation process does not configure the memory for the backend SQL instances. You might want to configure the memory settings for each of them as per the best practices.

Conclusion: the Unified Installer offers a nice and fully unattended approach for deploying lab and demo environments for System Center 2012 products. Use it to start building your lab environments now!

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Building a lab environment with System Center Unified Installer – Part 2

4:00 am in Uncategorized by timdk

In the first part of the series we have outlined the requirements and the topology for the lab environment. Now we will start preparing the environment in which the System Center Unified Installer will be run.

Server Preparations

Except for the DC1 all virtual servers are configured with the following specs:
– 2 x CPU
– 2 Gb RAM
– 40 GB Hdd (SYSTEM)
– 1 NIC connected to the virtual switch (private)

Note: do not configure these systems with less then 2 CPU’s and 2 Gb of memory or the Unified Installer configuration wizard will not allow you to continue with the installation.

The DC1 server is configured as follows:
– 1 x CPU
– 512 Mb RAM
– 40 Gb Hdd (SYSTEM)
– 1 NIC connected to the virtual switch (private)

Base configuration for all 4 machines:
– Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1
– Networking configured (see topology figure in part 1 for details)
– .Net Framework 3.5.1 feature is enabled

Domain Setup

The DC1 server is promoted to become a domain controller for the Sandbox.Lab domain. DNS is installed and configured at the same time. For future purposes DHCP is also installed on the DC1 server.

Additionally an Organizational Unit called Servers\SC2012 was created. This is where the following computer objects will be placed: OR1, CM1 and OM1.

As this is a lab environment I decided to turn off the Windows Firewall on the machines. For this I implemented a GPO called “SC2012 srv config”. The FW configuration is done as follows: go to Windows Settings > Security Settings > Windows Firewall, then open properties and on the domain profile tab set firewall state to "Off".

Preparing the installer PC

The Installer PC will be the actual Orchestrator machine in the lab environment.

To make it possible for the remote boot strap process to complete successfully, some local policies need to be modified:

  • Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / System / Credential Delegation / Allow Delegating Fresh Credentials
  • Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / System / Credential Delegation / Allow Delegating Fresh Credentials with NTLM-only Server Authentication

The detailed procedure on how to do this is available here.

Preparing the target PC’s

Keep in mind that the Orchestrator machine in our scenario is not only the Installer PC, at the same time it is also a target PC.

Also here some local policies will need to be modified, for this we will update the “SC2012 Srv Config” GPO that was created earlier:

  • Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Windows Remote Management (WinRM) / WinRM Service / Allow automatic configuration of listeners
  • Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Windows Remote Management (WinRM) / WinRM Service / Allow CredSSP authentication
  • Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Windows Remote Shell / Allow Remote Shell Access
  • Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Windows Remote Shell / Specify maximum amount of memory in MB per Shell

The detailed procedure on how to implement is available here.

Additionally you will need to run the following commands on each machine:

  • winrm qc –q
    winrm set winrm/config/service/auth @{CredSSP="True"}
    winrm set winrm/config/winrs @{AllowRemoteShellAccess="True"}
    winrm set winrm/config/winrs @{MaxMemoryPerShellMB="2048"}

This concludes the preparations – at this point I would recommend to take a snapshot of the entire virtual environment.

Preparing the installation sources

Once the basic infrastructure is ready we need to prepare the installation sources. We will need all System Center 2012 product binaries and all binaries for any prerequisites needed to complete the installation of those products. Additionally we will need the binaries for SQL Server 2008 R2 binaries plus Service Pack 1 and CU4.

At MMS 2012 the attendees were handed out a USB stick with all the required sources to deploy a lab environment. So we were lucky enough not having to download and prepare all sources. This is how the layout of the USB stick looks like. It gives an idea on how you could structure the binaries as you download them:

This is the root of the drive, you will only need the marked folders:
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These are the contents of the prerequisites folder, the names are self-explaining:
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And these are the contents of the SystemCenter2012 folder. For our lab scenario only the marked ones are required:
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Make sure that all binaries are available on the installer PC, in our lab this will be the OR1 machine which will be running System Center Orchestrator.

That’s it for now.

In the final part of these series we will walk through the Unified Installer installation process.

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Building a lab environment with System Center Unified Installer – Part 1

4:00 am in Uncategorized by timdk

With the RTM release of System Center 2012 came the time to dispose my RC2 lab/demo environment and build a brand new one. To rollout my new environment as quickly and effectively as possible I decided to explore the capabilities of the System Center Unified Installer.

This blog series will outline my experiences building the lab, and will contain the following parts:

  • Part 1 – Designing the lab
  • Part 2 – Preparing the infrastructure
  • Part 3 – Deploying using System Center 2012 Unified Installer

Proceeding directly with the first part, lets outline the objectives and come up with a small design for the environment.

The current specs of my Hyper-V host machine do not support the full-blown installation of the entire System Center 2012 suite so my lab will run the following components:
– System Center Orchestrator
– System Center Configuration Manager
– System Center Operations Manager

Each of these components will get a dedicated machine. Additionally I will need a server to support the Domain Controller role and also the DNS and DHCP services. The following figure shows the topology of the lab:

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No additional machines are required for hosting the databases. The backend databases for the System Center products will be running on the same server as the actual product.

That’s it for now. In the second part of the series we will start preparing the environment.

ConfigMgr 2012 Prereq Checker warning: Verify site server permissions to publish to Active Directory

4:53 pm in Uncategorized by hakkktgfdeUG

Scenario During installation of Configuration Manager 2012 RC2 the prerequisite checker lists a warning for the prerequisite: Verify site server permissions to publish to Active Directory although the required permissions are in place. As the environment might expand and more site servers could be implemented it was opted to grant the permissions using a domain […]