Wednesday 23 November 2011

Vegas here I come!! Well, next year...

Registration for MMS 2012 (Microsoft Management Summit) opened last week, if you're planning on going then I'd suggest you head to quick and take advantage of the early bird offer before places run out.

And this e-mail really made me smile when it landed in my mailbox:

I'm expecting this years MMS to be huge, especially with the System Center 2012 wave just around the corner :)

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Service Manager 2010 - CU3 now available

**UPDATED: See last line**

It's time to start testing a new update in your Service Manager test environments as Cumulative Update 3 for 2010 SP1 has just arrived.

The engineering blog has a post up here that has a summary, but unfortunately the link to the KB article is the wrong one.

Instead of KB2542118 it should be KB2588492

From the KB Article:
This update includes fixes for the following issues:
  • Management Pack Import: When a data type is a decimal sometimes the decimal becomes an integer
  • Corruption of the Type ManagementEntity table when importing a type extension
  • Updates to properties are not brought forward to DW if updates to the instances happens in the same transaction or right before deleting the instance
  • AD Connector not bringing in new updates
  • When you create a new CR by using the new CR form, clicking the Apply button sometimes creates a duplicate record
  • Console intermittently freezes when you update/creating incident and clicking apply
  • HealthService does not stop at the end of SP1 DW update if previous start action takes too long
  • When opening the SCSM console on client computers and server the Reporting Wunderbar does not appear
  • High CPU in monitoringhost.exe when you create or updating an incident that triggers a notification workflow
You can download the CU update here:

This cumulative update applies to the following Service Manager components:
  • Service Manager Management Server (SM Server)
  • Data Warehouse Management Server (DW Server)
  • Service Manager Console
As with any update, RTFM and make sure you fully test it in a pre-production environment first.

*** UPDATE: I failed miserably... I got the links wrong too!!!  Updated with correct links ***

Friday 18 November 2011

Trustmarque wins Services Provider of the Year!!

Got some really good news this morning upon arriving at work.

Last night we won the CRN Services Provider of the Year award!!

Well done Trustmarque and everyone involved in making it possible!

Thursday 17 November 2011

Service Manager 2012 - Limit the "Assigned to User" list picker to IT Staff

One annoying part of Service Manager 2010 was when trying to assign a work item to a member of staff, you had to scroll through a list of all your Active Directory users.

Rob Ford developed a utility to be used as a task to help with this, but it could only be used after an incident had been created.

While trawling the Technet forums for something else today, I came across this thread, asking about how to do this using multiple connectors.

In Service Manager 2012 (Beta) there is now the ability to scope down the list first shown to a more manageable level "out-of-the-box". Sam Erskine happened to have been talking about this with me the other week, so in addition to my forum reply, I thought I'd pop a quick post on about it too.

  1. Navigate to the Libray wunderbar, and then to the Groups Node.
  2. Either Double Click the "Global Operators Group" or highlight it and select "Properties" from the tasks bar on the right.
  3. Leave the General section alone
  4. Use the Include Members section to add any direct members you require, either AD Users, or AD Groups
  5. Use the the Dynamic Members section to build the list on the fly.
    In the screenshot below I created my list based on users having the AD Attribute "Department" containing ICT
  6. Now when you use the list picker for Assigned User or Primary Owner the list will be filtered to just those users that are a member of the Global Operators Group. 
  7. Unticking the "Scope users by global operators group" will once again show you all users from your Active Directory. 

Wednesday 16 November 2011

System Center 2012 Orchestrator Integration Packs

I noticed on the Microsoft Download site today that there is presently a couple of integration packs available for SCORCH 2012.

System Center 2012 Orchestrator Integration Pack for Active Directory BETA

System Center Orchestrator 2012 Integration Pack for VMware vSphere RC

System Center Orchestrator 2012 Integration Pack for IBM Tivoli Netcool/OMNIbus RC

These are in addition to the ones released with the Orchestrator 2012 RC.
Configuration Manager 2007
Data Protection Manager 2010
Operations Manager 2007 R2
Service Manager 2010
Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2

Sunday 13 November 2011

System Center 2012 Wave

I thought I'd post a quick one on how the System Center 2012 stack is starting to line up and some bits to note for testing and in preparation for implementations.

At present we have the following table that shows the parts of the System Center stack available and their current release stage:
Configuration Manager Release Candidate 1
Operations Manager Release Candidate 1
Service Manager Beta 1
Virtual Machine Manager Release Candidate 1
Data Protection Manager Beta 1
Orchestrator Release Candidate 1
App Controller Beta 1

All of the System Center solutions are undergoing a branding change.
If you haven't noticed, the branding has now changed to:
"System Center 2012 Product Name"

So this makes it:
  • System Center 2012 Configuration Manager
  • System Center 2012 Operations Manager
  • System Center 2012 Service Manager
  • etc etc etc....
A small change I'm sure you'll agree, but important in the long run as we start to see really tight integration between all the solutions, and the development and release schedules of all the parts of the System Center align up.
(Hopefully we'll also see the Start Menu program groups be consolidated together unlike the random scatterings it is at present)

SQL Collations between the solutions are also drawing together with the need for the following collations per solution:

Configuration Manager SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS
Operations Manager SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS
Service Manager See:
Virtual Machine Manager SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS
Data Protection Manager Unsure - Doesn't seem to specify
Orchestrator SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS
App Controller SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS

Anyone else see the running theme here?
SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS seems now to be the de-facto SQL Collation for the System Center 2012 wave.

You can also expect SQL 2008 R2 to be the prefered SQL version, 2008 may be supported for some of them, but 2005 is definitely a no go.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Operations Manager 2012 Release Candidate Released

Not a day after I was demoing SCOM 2012 Beta, do Microsoft go and release the RC!

You can find the download here:

Couple of things of note from the Release Notes:

Install hotfix before installing the Operations console

Before you install the Operations console, install the hotfix from article 976898 ( in the Microsoft Knowledge Base. You have to contact Microsoft Customer Support Services to request the hotfix download. This hotfix helps prevent performance problems with the Operations console. After you install the hotfix, you must restart the computer.

This hotfix might not be required for all servers. The Operations console prerequisite checker checks for this prerequisite and alerts the user if it is not there. The hotfix has to be installed if the prerequisite checker finds that the hotfix is missing.

Upgrading from System Center 2012 – Operations Manager Beta to Release Candidate is not supported for installations upgraded from System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2. You can upgrade from System Center 2012 – Operations Manager Beta to Release Candidate but only if the Beta installation was a new installation. You cannot perform the upgrade if the Beta installation was upgraded from System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2.

There is a ton of information in the release notes, so please read thoroughly before installing to know what to expect.

Monday 7 November 2011

Configuration Manager 2012 - A day with Wally Mead event

On Friday I had the pleasure of attending an Event at the Microsoft UK headquarters in Reading titled, A Day of System Center Configuration Manager 2012 with Wally Mead.

The event was sponsored by the WMUG and Cliff Hobbs and Rob Marshall did a fantastic job of pulling the event together.

Let the event begin!
Cliff Hobbs opened the event, explained the background to the event etc and also mentioned some swag to be had :)
First up was Dan Pilling, Marketing Manager at Microsoft with a couple of minutes about "How can Microsoft help?"
He goes on to mention two useful areas of help that MS provide.
MS Virtual Academy - Free training around "The Cloud", soon to be hands on training camps in regions around the UK.
MS TechNet roadshows - System Center 2012 Launch Events: 16th Nov, 6th Dec, 14th Dec, 18th Jan

Here's Wally!!!
Wally Mead takes to the stage for the Configuration Manager 2012 Overview and What’s new since Beta 2 session.
He tells us we're to suffer 2 sets of Death by PowerPoint this morning, with all the demos coming this afternoon, however with the speed that Wally goes at, this just simply flies by.

Wally starts off by talking about the major themes for ConfigMgr 2012 with this usual slide for those that haven't seen it:

Microsoft really are trying to help customers understand that ConfigMgr 2012 is all about putting the user first, moving to a user centric model for deploying software, along with the fact that the new 2012 version helps simplify the administration of the system, and reduce the complexity usually associated with the ConfigMgr infrastructure required.

Empower Theme
A formulae that keeps popping up when Microsoft talk about Configuration Manager 2012 and User Centric management is F(x): User(x) -> App(y)
This is based on the premise that an Administrators intent when delivering an application should be to ensure that the user can access the application they require.  This is regardless of the endpoint or the access method, all the user is bothered about is that they can get to the application they want, wherever they are so that they can work.

To enable this, Microsoft have introduced a new "Application Model".  Gone are the days of packages, programs and advertisements (Actually they're still there, but only for legacy and migration purposes).
This new application model helps admins to manage the application, not scripts used to install an app.
The application model brings with it some of the following features:
  • Detection Methods - Are applications Required or Prohibited and do they already exist on the device, if so, why bother re-installing.
  • Requirements - E.g. Device must have x memory, this model hardware, must be users primary device.
  • Dependancies - E.g. Application must have App-V client, if not, auto install first
  • Supersedance - E.g. Office 2010 replaces Office 2003. Update an application with supersedance links and get automatic revision management
Application model with multiple deployment types:
Dependency Viewer:

This new application model really helps support the abstraction model by allowing multiple deployment types to be assigned to an application (MSI, App-V, RDS, Citrix, Mobile) and delivered to the user dynamically depending on the type of device and access method (Corporate LAN FAT Client Vs. Home PC via Citrix/RDS)

The RDS & Citrix connectors which will provide the ability to assign those deployment types to applications are looking like they will be available shortly after RTM.

Operating System Deployment (OSD) is looking for the most part to be staying the same in terms of features etc, apart from a new ability to install apps for assigned primary users during a task sequence based on device affinity rules.

System Center Mobile Device Manager was discontinued a while ago and remains part of ConfigMgr 2012 which now provides both Depth and Light Management of devices.
Depth Management requires an agent on the phone and at the moment this is available for Window Mobile devices and Nokia Symbian devices but there are more announcements regarding more devices still to be made before/at RTM.

Light Management allows for any ActiveSync capable device to be inventoried, have some settings managed (PIN, Idle Time, failed logons etc) and enables remote wiping.  This means iPhones, Androids etc can be centrally managed and controlled more easily by the teams that support them rather than having to put the burden on the Exchange team.
Light Management requires Exchange 2010, and also takes over ActiveSync management - beware manually changing settings

The good old Run Advertisements program has been replaced with a new Software Centre in 2012 (It's no longer Control Panel item, it's now found in the Start Menu)
This makes it easier for users to run software that isn't enforced and shows details such as install time/date, progress and allows for some settings to be changed (if allowed) such as working hours, remote control capabilities, power management settings.

There is also a new web site for Self Service, allowing for the finding and requesting of software.

Simplify Theme
Finally we have a new administration console, the MMC is gone!!!
The new console is in the Outlook style, consistent now with the other System Center products.  ConfigMgr 2012 also has the Ribbon Bar and provides easier searching, easier scoping and automatic custom views depending on role.

ConfigMgr 2012 now has Role Based Access Control (RBAC) allowing for the system and the console to be easily secured and locked down to only show/allow access to areas that staff require.
This gives the ability for example to separate out Server and Desktop management using roles rather than sites, and giving safety for admins. No more accidentally deploying an update meant for desktops to servers and rebooting them all in the day (Because I've never ever ever done that! /cringe)

Using collections as an organisational method and writing lots of queries to scope out the devices to deploy to should now be a thing of the past. There are no more sub collections, but now we get folders for organisation and the queries should now transition to "Requirements" that are on the deployment types with the application.

Unify Theme
Distribution Points now mainly replace the need for Secondary Sites as they have scheduling and throttling. Secondary’s are only really needed if you want to control the upload of client information.

In ConfigMgr 2007 your hierarchy could get very deep and complex with multiple Primary sites being child layered below each other, in 2012 we will see a maximum depth of 3 layers:
CAS - PRI - SEC is the maximum 3 layers.

ConfigMgr 2012 now has Bi-Directional SQL Replication between the CAS and Primary with SQL replication from the Primary - Secondary being one way replication.
Data is now processed at Primary and replicated up rather than processed on each server in hierarchy as in 2007. File based replication is still only used between Secondary’s and DP's and for file contents (Software Packages, Updates, Boot Images etc)

When do you need a Primary site?
  • Scale
  • Reduce impact of Primary failure
  • Local Connectivity
  • Political issues
  • Regulation compliance

Primary Sites are NOT needed for:
  • Decentralised Admin
  • Logical Data Segmentation
  • Different Client Settings
  • Different Languages
  • Content Routing for deep hierarchies

There is one Distribution Point (DP) type only now, no more branch DP's as the same DP works on Windows 7.
DP Groups now auto distribute content to new DP's when they are added to the group.

Boundaries can now be auto discovered from Active Directory Forest information.
The auto discovery finds:
  • AD Sites
  • IP Subnets
  • IPv6 Prefixes

What's new?
Client Health and Activity now fully integrated into ConfigMgr 2012 along with Auto Remediation.
21 different checks are now performed daily with remediation tasks such as:
  • Restart service
  • Dependency checks
  • Repair WMI
  • etc
Client Health remediation can be turned off using a Registry Key this is important for mission critical servers etc where for example a WMI rebuild could potentially be bad news.
You can now setup Alerts and Reporting subscriptions based on thresholds for things like % of unhealthy clients, malware detection etc.

Software updates now have auto deployment rules, mainly to be used for EndPoint Protection definition updates, but could be used for any update type, bringing back one feature WSUS users missed when migrating to ConfigMgr for updates.

State based update groups, deploy updates individually or in groups.  Think ConfigMgr 2007 lists & Deployment Packages combined, where you can now add new updates and deploy straight away.

OSD now has Offline Image Servicing for updates, saves time during deployment rather than waiting for 60+ updates to install during a task sequence!!!

Boot Media is now hierarchy wide, update once for the entire site.

The Task Sequence Media Wizard includes steps to add prestart command files (formerly pre-execution hooks) to prestaged media, bootable media, and stand-alone media.

Power Management has more options, users can opt out of PwrMgt if the Administrator allows it and PwrMgt settings don't auto apply to VM's.

Custom Client Settings can be applied to collections, removing multiple site needs for e.g. Servers and Desktops that needed different settings.

Desired Configuration Management (DCM) now has auto remediation along with version and auditing checking - who changed what?

Remote Control gets Ctrl+Alt+Del back!! Also option to disable the users Mouse and Keyboard to prevent them interfering with the support session.

Phew, there was a lot to take in, most of which was already known about, but Wally presented it brilliantly, answered a ton of questions throughout and personally helped me with a query during the break.

The demos in the afternoon were around doing a migration from 2007 (Must be SP2 and no 2003 migration) and the System Center 2012 EndPoint Protection integration.  I'll hold off blogging about them in anymore detail yet, as they're a bit too visual to talk about.

All in all a brilliant day, and if you haven't already downloaded the release candidate to play with, what are you waiting for?!?!?!

Error when trying to access ConfigMgr 2012 Self Service Application Catalog

After installing the Application Catalog Web Service and Web Site the other day I was presented with this error when trying to access it:
"Could not load type 'System.ServiceModel.Activation.HttpModule' from assembly 'System.ServiceModel, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b77a5c561934e089'"

I thought this was a little strange as this is usually related to when IIS is installed after .Net Framework 4, which I had definitely not done as this was the same server that I had previously had the ConfigMgr Beta 2 installed on, with a working Self Service Portal before uninstalling ConfigMgr Beta2 and re-installing the Release Candidate.

But I thought I had best try the simple fix first, which involves just simply running the aspnet_regiis.exe -iru command.

And would you believe it, it fixed it!

So if you do run into this error, even if you're pretty sure you installed IIS & .Net Framework in the right order, give this simple fix a quick try first.