Tuesday 25 September 2012

Technical Documentation for System Center 2012 SP1 (Beta)

Very quick blog just to list the links for my reference to the technical documentation downloads for System Center 2012 that have been updated for the Beta release of SP1.

Technical Documentation Downloads for:

Windows Embedded Devices and Configuration Manager 2012 SP1

Managing Windows Embedded Devices has always been possible with Configuration Manager, either with a lot of manual effort and scripting or more preferably using Windows Embedded Device Manager (WEDM) 2011 on top of ConfigMgr 2007.

When System Center 2012 was released back in April we were promised an updated WEDM 2012 version would be coming along shortly.

With the release of Service Pack 1 (Beta) for System Center the decision has been made to combine the features that would have been in WEDM directly into ConfigMgr.

This is brilliant news as it now means that out of the box with ConfigMgr SP1 we will now be able to manage and deploy to Embedded Devices without having to install any extra clients or infrastructure.

Here are a couple of bits of information around some of the new embedded features.

Within the different deployment wizards you'll now start to see various options related to Embedded Devices which will help control the disabling and enabling of write filters.

Along with utilising ConfigMgr features such as Maintenance Windows, WED client management is optimised in areas such as content download/reducing reboots.

EndPoint Protection gets some specific Embedded device settings...

OSD for Embedded Devices will now allow images to be deployed purely from the distribution point (due to the low storage on thin clients) as well as allowing for a last step to be run after deployment, such as a script to enable auto-logon or enable write filters.

Non-admins will be blocked from logging onto devices during servicing.

Software Center will block self service installations when write filters are enabled to stop users getting into Ground Hog Day scenarios.

Best Practises:
  • Maintenance Windows will become more important/heavily advised to simplify management of embedded devices
  • Plan for your persistence strategy
  • Make deployments Required rather than available for embedded devices
  • Look to use file write filters moving forward to make life simpler

Supported Operating Systems:
  • Windows XP Embedded,
  • Windows Embedded 2009 Standard
  • Windows Embedded Standard 7
  • POS 2009
  • POS 7
  • Windows Thin PC
In short.. WEDM 2012 is no more!!  Long live ConfigMgr 2012 SP1!!

Friday 21 September 2012

Cloudy Day for ConfigMgr 2012

While more and more news on the new features in Service Pack 1 for System Center 2012 keep coming, I happened to miss the mention about this one.

With ConfigMgr SP1 we will get a new feature, Azure Cloud-Based Distribution Points.

More information can be found in the TechNet Documentation library here:

With the upcoming Intune connection as well, it's starting to look like a very cloudy day in the ConfigMgr world (Sorry, I couldn't resist that one!)

Monday 10 September 2012

Intune and System Center 2012 Configuration Manager

Today an announcement was made around Service Pack 1 Beta availability for System Center 2012.  While this will steal a fair amount of attention, it's worth paying attention to another VERY important bit of information that went alongside it with relation to some Intune changes.

I've heard rumblings about a possible gateway solution to allow for interaction between the two products for a while and today that information was lent some official credence.

From the Server & Cloud Blog:

Microsoft offers two separate endpoint management solutions – System Center 2012 Configuration Manager for on-premises management, and Windows Intune for management through the cloud.  With System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 and the next version of Windows Intune, Microsoft is taking the first step in delivering interoperability between these products through Configuration Manager’s administration console.  This will enable customers to add mobile devices managed through the cloud with Windows Intune into their System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 console and manage all the devices through one tool.

Hopefully (I'll find out some more info ASAP) this will allow for inventory information to be pulled down from Intune regarding the clients it manages and absorbed it into the ConfigMgr database allowing for seamless inventory reporting across both client bases.  We may even see more seamless management features!

There are also to be some license changes that mean customers that already own ConfigMgr client ML licenses will get even more discount towards Intune licenses and those with Intune licenses already can use these to manage devices through ConfigMgr.
Also the licensing model will shift away from per-device to a per-user model with rights for up to 5 devices per user!

All in all, some interesting news and I'll post back soon with more details when I've hunted them down.

System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 Beta Available

Updated documentation has been popping up on TechNet the last couple of days and now the downloads for SP1 Beta for System Center 2012 has turned up.

Before you go running off to install, remember this is Beta software and is not supported for production use unless working with Microsoft on the TAP program.

The main SP1 download can be found here:

This contains the updates for:
SC2012 ConfigMgr & EndPoint Protection - 377.3 MB
SC2012 App Controller - 15.1 MB
SC2012 Data Protection Manager Part 1 - 818.6 MB
SC2012 Data Protection Manager Part 2 - 1.5 GB
SC2012 Orchestrator - 68.6 MB
SC2012 Operations Manager - 905.9 MB
SC2012 Service Manager - 400.2 MB
SC2012 Virtual Machine Manager - 756.4 MB

N.B. Both parts for DPM are required, download and extract to the same folder before running setup

There are also additional ConfigMgr clients for more Operating Systems to be found here:

  • AIX Version 7.1 (Power)
  • AIX Version 6.1 (Power)
  • AIX Version 5.3 (Power)
  • HP-UX Version 11iv3 (IA64 & PA-RISC)
  • HP-UX Version 11iv2 (IA64 & PA-RISC)
  • RHEL Version 6 (x86 & x64)
  • RHEL Version 5 (x86 & x64)
  • RHEL Version 4 (x86 & x64)
  • Solaris Version 10 (x86 & SPARC)
  • Solaris Version 9 (SPARC)
  • SLES Version 11 (x86 & x64)
  • SLES Version 10 SP1 (x86 & x64)
  • SLES Version 9 (x86)
 There are also some more SP1 Beta Integration Packs for Orchestrator:

Brief summary of Service Pack 1 features from the download page:

  • Virtual Machine Manager
    • Improved Support for Network Virtualization
    • Extend the VMM console with Add-ins
    • Support for Windows Standards-Based Storage Management Service, thin provisioning of logical units and discovery of SAS storage
    • Ability to convert VHD to VHDX, use VHDX as base Operating System image

  • Configuration Manager
    • Deployment and management of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012
    • Distribution point for Windows Azure to help reduce infrastructure costs
    • Automation of administrative tasks through PowerShell support
    • Management of Mac OS X clients and Linux and UNIX servers
    • Real-time administrative actions for Endpoint Protection related tasks

  • Data Protection Manager
    • Improved backup performance of Hyper-V over CSV 2.0
    • Protection for Hyper-V over remote SMB share
    • Protection for Windows Server 2012 de-duplicated volumes
    • Uninterrupted protection for VM live migration

  • App Controller
    • Service Provider Foundation API to create and operate Virtual Machines
    • Support for Azure VM; migrate VHDs from VMM to Windows Azure, manage from on-premise System Center

  • Operations Manager
    • Support for IIS 8
    • Monitoring of WCF, MVC and .NET NT services
    • Azure SDK support

  • Orchestrator
    • Support for Integration Packs, including 3rd party
    • Manage VMM self-service User Roles
    • Manage multiple VMM ‘stamps’ (scale units), aggregate results from multiple stamps
    • Integration with App Controller to consume Hosted clouds

  • Service Manager
    • Apply price sheets to VMM clouds
    • Create chargeback reports
    • Pivot by cost center, VMM clouds, Pricesheets

  • Server App-V
    • Support for applications that create scheduled tasks during packaging
    • Create virtual application packages from applications installed remotely on native server
  • Friday 7 September 2012

    Recommended WMI Hotfixes

    Microsoft today released an updated KB Article detailing the recommended WMI hotfixes that should be deployed to your Windows clients.

    This is especially relevant in environments using System Center components as these make heavy usage of WMI.


    It doesn't mention it within the KB Article, but I think it's safe to say these hotfixes are assuming that you're also running the latest service pack for the relevant OS but even if that isn't the case, I would certainly recommend it.

    N.B. Thanks to Marnix Wolf for the tweet that highlighted the updated KB to me!

    SCOM Data Access Service Fails to Start

    I was speaking to an old colleague the other day who is in the middle of migrating his production Operations Manager 2007 R2 environment to a nice new shiny 2012 setup.

    Things were initially going well but he explained that he ran into a rather strange issue just after migrating the first batch of agents across to just talk to his live 2012 infrastructure, what made it stranger was these had been talking to his test infrastructure (dual homed) fine for quite a while.

    When he moved them across, shortly after, the System Center Data Access service stopped and refused to start.

    No matter what he tried it wouldn't work and he had to fall back to restoring a backup.

    This left him a little hesitant about the stability of his live environment and whether something wasn't quite right underneath it all somewhere, but it seemed to be fine after the restore so he thought he'd see how it went.

    Well the same problem reared it's ugly head again the other day so he did some more digging.

    Eventually he stumbled across this post from Travis Wright explaining an issue seen in Service Manager.

    Since Service Manager and Operations Manager share the same code base and the problem described is essentially a SQL problem anyway he took a look to see if it was indeed the same issue affecting him, turns out it was!

    It finally turned out to be something one of the developers were doing with custom reports and scheduling that was adding a local SQL account to the security roles as DBOwner (Dev to be taken outside and shot...)

    So in summary, if you're using SCOM and your System Center Data Access Service refuses to start and you're seeing event log errors such as:
    • 26325 Authorization store exception
    • 26339 Exception thrown while initializing the service container
    • 26380 Unhandled Exception
    then take a look at the Service Manager blog link above and check your SQL security logins to see if something/someone is flipping the Authentication mode to Mixed-Mode.

    Good find Rob, now get your blog back online and start sharing things like this again ;)

    Wednesday 5 September 2012

    Preparing WSUS for Windows 8 and Server 2012

    Now that Windows 8 and Server 2012 are RTM and available to download from the usual places (VLSC, TechNet, MSDN, Intune etc) various other Microsoft solutions are getting updates to prepare them to support the Operating Systems.

    Yesterday it was Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) turn and a hotfix to add support for Win8 and Server 2012 was released in the form of KB2734608.

    You can read the knowledgebase article here:

    This also appears to be a bit of a rollup update with it also including/replacing the following updates:
    • 2530678 System Center Update Publisher does not publish customized updates to a computer if WSUS 3.0 SP2 and the .NET Framework 4 are installed
    • 2530709 "Metadata only" updates cannot be expired or revised in WSUS 3.0 SP2
    • 2720211 An update for Windows Server Update Services 3.0 Service Pack 2 is available

     One thing to take note of is this section in the known issues about existing clients:

    If you have Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 clients that synchronised with WSUS 3.0 SP2 before you applied this update, wait for the update to be applied to the WSUS servers, and then follow these steps:

    On the affected client, open cmd.exe in elevated mode Type the following commands.

    Net stop wuauserv
    rd /s %windir%\softwaredistribution\
    Net start wuauserv

    Chances are that you haven't got too many Windows 8 or Server 2012 clients deployed yet in production, but if you have then this seems like something to get scripted, packaged and deployed via Configuration Manager... oh wait, you'd need System Center SP1 for that to be supported in production... time to break out PowerShell 3 instead ;)