Note to Readers

My name is Steve Buchanan and i've been in Information Technology for 13 years. I have been attending the Minnesota System Center User Group for a couple of years. I have been working with System Center products for the past several years starting out with Microsoft DPM and System Center Essentials. Today I am a System Center MVP, author and consultant focused on System Center and Private Cloud. I run a blog about Microsoft and Open Source technology at www.buchatech.com. I plan to share posts from my blog here that discuss System Center topics.

Stay Tuned.....

The System Center 2012 Service Manager Unleashed book is finally done! I received some copies of it on Friday. It is set to publish on Monday October 6th 2014. Here is the link for it and a picture below.

http://www.amazon.com/System-Center-Service-Manager-Unleashed/dp/067233707X

SCSM 2012 Unleashed

There was a great team of people behind this book consisting of well-known folks in the Service Manager community from MVP’s, MCT’s, expert consultants, and even Microsoft staff. Authors included me, MVP Kerrie Meyler, MVP Kurt Van Hoecke, and MCT Sam Erskine. Contributors include MVP Jakob Svendsen, Microsoft employee Kathleen Wilson, MCT Ken Surksum, Oskar Landman, MVP Patrik Sundqvist, and Peter Quagliariello. Even the foreword was done by former Microsoft program manager and now MVP Christian Booth and Service Manager program manager Srikanth Ranganathan.

This book is packed with tons of “why” and “how to” content for Service Manager. If you have Service Manager deployed or you are about to embark on a Service Manager project add this book to your library. Here is an overview of the content in the book:

This comprehensive resource will help you automate and optimize all facets of service management with System Center 2012 Service Manager.

Expert consultants offer deep “in the trenches” insights for improving problem resolution, change control, release management, asset lifecycle management, chargeback, and more. You’ll learn how to implement high-value best practices from ITIL and the Microsoft Operations Framework.

The authors begin with an expert overview of Service Manager, its evolution, and its new capabilities. Next, they walk through overall planning, design, implementation, and upgrades. Then, to help you focus your efforts, they present stepwise coverage of all topics in each feature area, linking technical information about Service Manager with essential knowledge about the technologies it depends on.

Whatever your role in deploying or running Service Manager, this guide will help you deliver more responsive support at lower cost and drive more value from all your IT investments.

• Leverage MOF and ITIL processes built into System Center 2012 Service Manager
• Plan and design your Service Manager deployment
• Install Service Manager or upgrade from earlier versions
• Efficiently administer work and configuration items
• Use connectors to integrate with Active Directory, Exchange, and System Center components
• Create service maps
• Enable end user access through Service Manager’s self-service portal
• Implement incident, problem, change, and release management
• Utilize workflows to automate key support processes
• Create service level agreements with calendars, metrics, and objectives
• Provide quick access to a standardized catalog of services
• Use notification to ensure that Service Manager items are promptly addressed
• Secure Service Manager and its data warehouse/reporting platform
• Perform maintenance, backup, and recovery
• Manage Service Manager performance
• Customize Service Manager

http://www.amazon.com/System-Center-Service-Manager-Unleashed/dp/067233707X

For some time DPM reporting has been an area within DPM that has needed improvement. Since DPM version 2007 the community has asked for improved reporting or an easy way to create custom reports to fit their needs.

I have teamed up with a buddy of mine that is a business intelligence expert. His name is Brooks Lindall and he is one of the smartest guys I know. A HUGE thanks goes out to him for joining me in trying to solve this problem. Together we created a solution that is the DPM Backup Summary Report. This report was designed with the community in mind.

One goal was to make the report portable to any DPM environment so backup administrators could easily drop it in their environment and start reporting on their DPM data right away. With that in mind this report was built in a generic way so that no modifications to SQL are needed when it is installed. We also set out to incorporate as many of the data points that we could that DPM admins in the community have been asking for. We wanted to fit all of the data in a single view. The last goal was to give this report to the community for free. Here is a screenshot of what the report looks like:

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For more information about the features of the report and to download visit: http://www.buchatech.com/2014/04/free-dpm-backup-summary-report/

 

I recently ran across the question of “How Can I Launch a Runbook from a Console Task?” in this forum thread:

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/systemcenter/en-US/5cd957fa-5114-41fe-a727-3294df74a7b0/how-can-i-launch-a-runbook-from-a-console-task?forum=customization .

I started thinking about how this could be useful in certain scenarios and how this would work. I decided to figure this out and blog about it so here it is. First you will need a tool that can connect to Orchestrators web service and start runbooks. There is such a tool called Orchestrator Remote Tools 2.51.

With this tool you also have the ability to discover information about runbooks on an Orchestrator server, pass parameters to the tool and see the status on if the runbook started successfully or failed. This tool has a GUI and command line interface.

This tool only discovers runbooks that have an “Initialize Data” activity. This tool launches runbooks looking to a generated .XML template with information about the runbook or it can launch runbooks directly without the XML template file (CLI mode only). for The tool consists of three components:

  1. UI Generator (ORTUIGenerator.exe): This is what discovers all your runbooks and allows you to browse them. You also use this component to generate the XML template files.
  2. Remote Runbook Launcher (ORTRunbookLauncher.exe): Is the graphical way to launch runbooks.
  3. Remote Runbook Launcher CLI (ORTRunbookLauncherCLI.exe): Is the command line way to launch runbooks.

You can learn more about the tool here:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/yasc/archive/2011/11/17/orchestrator-remote-tools-2-0-fka-the-opalis-ui-generator.aspx

It can be downloaded here:

http://orchestrator.codeplex.com/releases/view/76983

Let’s work with the tool to prepare for using it with Service Manager. Create a share on your Service Manager management server. This can be something like \\SMSERVER\ORT\.

Copy the Orchestrator Remote Tools into it. You should have the following:

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Now click on ORTUIGenerator.exe . You will see this popup message:

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Click OK. This is telling you it is the first time you have run the tool and you need to put in your Orchestrator settings.

You will see the following window and will need to complete all the fields.

NOTE: Once you put in the data base server it will automatically pull in the Orchestrator database. If your SCORCH DB is not named Orchestrator you will be able to click the drop down and select it.

Click Save when you are done. Clicking Save will create a Config.xml file in your ORT directory.

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Now the UI Generator window will pop up. This is the window you use to generate the .XML template file.

On the left hand side you are able to browse through the discovered runbooks. Keep in mind it only finds runbooks that have an “Initialize Data” activity. To configure the template for a runbook browse to it on the right hand side, select it and click the “Get details for the selected runbook” button. It will then expose the settings of the “Initialize Data” activity for the runbook on the right hand side. Here is where you can configure values for the parameters and give the runbook a description for those that will be running it. Note you are not required to configure values for the parameters. When you are ready to generate the .XML template click on the “Create Runbook Launcher configuration file” button.

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You should now have a policy_template.xml in your ORT directory. By default when you run ORTRunbookLauncher.exe or ORTRunbookLauncherCLI.exe the policy_template.xml will be used allowing you to only have settings for one runbook at a time. You can elect to use another file by using the /ORTXML switch. What this does is allows you to store multiple XML templates in the same directory by different names and launch the specific one you want.

The /ORTXML switch only works using ORTRunbookLauncherCLI.exe as it is passed as a parameter. Another way around this if you are stuck on using the GUI component is to create multiple folders and put the exe’s, config file in each folder as it will have its own policy_template.xml file. That however could become a nightmare to manage and requires more space. I recommend using the /ORTXML switch.

Let’s look at the GUI component. In the ORT folder launch ORTRunbookLauncher.exe. The Runbook Launcher window will pop up. It should look similar to the following screenshot.

Input the parameters and click “Start Runbook” button.

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It is that easy to remotely launch a runbook using this tool. Using the ORTRunbookLauncherCLI.exe is basically doing the same thing except it is running from a command line allowing you to pass in the values for the parameters right in the command. The syntax for starting a runbook using the ORTRunbookLauncherCLI.exe would look like this:

ORTRunbookLauncherCLI.exe /LastName=Sinatra /Location=”Building 45″ /Department=Sales /Title=”VP of Sales” /FirstName=Frank /SamAccount=Franks /”Reporting To”=”John Adams”

NOTE: If the parameters’ names or values have spaces, you need to enclose them using double quotes.

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Ok, so now let’s combine the tool with Service Manager and its CMDB. Think about all the possibilities. There are a lot of useful scenarios in which these two could be utilized. A couple of possibilities I can think of off the top of my head are: Pass a user from Service Managers CMDB to this tool as a parameter and have a runbook disable a user in AD, pick up a computer from the CMDB pass it as a parameter to a runbook and move the computer from one OU to another in AD.

I don’t see this tool as a replacement for using Runbooks with Service Requests in Service Manager. I see this as more of a way to give the administrative team a quick and easy way to launch runbooks without ever leaving the Service Manager console.

Let’s look at how we can bring the Orchestrator Remote Tools and Service Manager together, create a console task and accomplish a task.

For this blog post we are going to use a very simple disable user runbook. To do this we need to create a console task using the ORT tool. Use the following steps to do this:

More free training coming soon on Hyper-V and System Center from Microsoft Virtual Academy (www.MicrosoftVirtualAcademy.com). This is going to be one event you don’t want to miss. I am also happy to announce I(@Buchatech) will also be a part of this event answering questions during the System Center 2012 R2 Datacenter session. Here is the list of what will be covered:

Details about the event:

If you’re new to virtualization, or if you have some experience and want to see the latest R2 features of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V or Virtual Machine Manager, join us for a day of practical (and free!) online training. Learn how to build your infrastructure from the ground up on the Microsoft stack, using System Center to provide powerful management capabilities. Microsoft virtualization experts Symon Perriman and Matt McSpirit (who are also VMware Certified Professionals) demonstrate how you can help your business consolidate workloads and improve server utilization, while reducing costs. Learn the differences between the platforms, and explore how System Center can be used to manage a multi-hypervisor environment, looking at VMware vSphere 5.5 management, monitoring, automation, and migration. Don’t miss this information-filled virtualization event!

Sessions:

  • Introduction to Microsoft Virtualization
  • Host Configuration
  • Virtual Machine Clustering and Resiliency
  • Virtual Machine Configuration
  • Virtual Machine Mobility
  • Virtual Machine Replication and Protection
  • Network Virtualization
  • Virtual Machine and Service Templates
  • Private Clouds and User Roles
  • System Center 2012 R2 Datacenter
  • Virtualization with the Hybrid Cloud
  • VMware Management, Integration, and Migration

Instructors:

Registration information:

  • Feburary 19, 2014
  • 9:00am-5:00pm PST
  • What: Fast-paced live virtual session
  • Cost: Free
  • Audience: IT Pro
  • Prerequisites: For IT pros new to virtualization or with some experience and looking for best practices.
  • Register here: http://aka.ms/virtDC

There are plenty of blogs out there about issues with Microsoft products and focus on when something in them needs to be fixed. I wanted to post about a recent positive experience using SCOM and show a real world scenario of how SCOM served as more than just a monitoring tool.

On a SCOM project I was configuring and tuning Dynamics AX monitoring. As a part of the project the client had a long time issue they were trying to solve. The problem was that the Dynamics AX developers needed access to the Dynamics AX servers with the ability to stop/start services so they could deploy new code and the ability to see when AX was back online. The only way to accomplish this was for the developers to have administrative access to the AX servers. The system administration team did not want to give the developers administrator access to the AX servers. The solution to this problem was simple but a big win!

Within SCOM we created a new role for the development team, scoped the security to the Dynamics folder, and gave them access to the SCOM web console. When the development team logged in all they could see were objects for Dynamics AX. When in the instances view the development team was able to view real time up/down status of the AX instances, start/stop the AX services, see how many users were online with AX in real time and more. Doing this enabled the development team so they could stop an AX instance, push the new code to that AX instance and start the AX instance again when they were done. They could do all this after hours on their own without any staff from the system administration team and without administrator access to the server.

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This solution was a huge win because it satisfied both the develop teams need and the administrative teams need. Let’s just say both teams and IT management were very happy with the outcome and SCOM had a chance to shine!