Book Review: System Center 2012 Orchestrator Unleashed

I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time and when I finally got it can fairly say it is worth it. Two of the authors I had pleaser to meet in person – Pete Zerger and Anders Bengtsson. If you have a chance to be on a event where they have presentation do not hesitate to attend it, it is a must see. The other three authors are also well known in the community – Kerrie Meyler, Marcus Oh and Kurt Van Hoecke. So when you join the powers of these five great experts you get great book about Orchestrator.

I will not go into details but the book will explain you in very understanding way the concept of Orchestrator. Once you are done with the concept you will learn how to install it and implement it which will help you to design Orchestrator implementations for a real world scenarios. Also in this part you will learn how to make runbooks and how you can achieve the same goal in many ways and most important how to improve your runbooks. The last part covers integration with the other System Center components. In this part the focus in showing you examples on how to accomplish certain scenarios and explaining how the runbooks for these scenarios were created and the logic behind them.

As a summary the best part of the book is that in every chapter there are tips from the field that will learn you for the best practices not only about Orchestrator and runbooks but also for orchestration, automation and integration as concepts. If you are looking for a source to learn Orchestrator I recommend you this book:

Book Review: Microsoft System Center 2012 Orchestrator Cookbook

I am having the chance to review another Packt Publishing book about System Center component. As you can see from the post title this book will help you get started in the Orchestrator world. Authors of the book three very well know community members – Samuel Erskine (MCT), Andreas Baumgarten (MVP) and Steven Beaumont.

The book consists of 9 chapters which total 318 pages. The first two chapters deal with installing and designing Orchestrator. From them you will learn the architecture of Orchestrator, how to install it and how to plan Orchestrator for high availability. The third chapters takes to the heart of Orchestrator – the runbooks. Not only you will understand what is runbook but also you will learn how to plan them, document them and make them. Planning and documenting runbooks is significant part of creating them so this is important chapter. Next five chapters cover five different integration packs – Active Directory IP, Configuration Manager IP, Operations Manager IP, Virtual Machine Manager IP and Service Manager IP. These five IPs are probably the most used one also and definitely one of the first tasks that you will want to automate will be related to them. The good part about these chapters is that they provide very detailed steps on how to create more than a dozen runbooks covering different scenarios. You can use the instruction to create these runbooks in your lab environment by using minimum resources. The runbook examples are very close to real scenarios because not only the activities in the integration packs are used but also PowerShell. In real world PowerShell is leveraged a lot for accomplishing more advanced tasks. In the last 9th chapter are covered some advanced techniques like child runbooks, error handling, logging and looping.

As summary if you would like to learn Orchestrator this book is definitely a source for learning that you should consider. It will give you the initial knowledge and the advanced one you can have with creating more and more runbooks. If you like the book you can find it in one of these stored:

Book Review: Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 SP1

I haven’t reviewed a book from a long time but last month I noticed a new book for System Center component being published. This book is about System Center Data Protection Manager and as this component is not my strongest side I was particularly interested to read it and review it. The book is authored by four fellow MVPs – Steve Buchanan, Islam Gomaa, Robert Hedblom and Flemming Riis.

The book contains 12 chapters from which you can learn everything you need to start with DPM. The first two chapters introduce DPM as component and how DPM features fit in backup strategies. Next two chapters deal with the management of DPM where you will find information such as installation, calculating storage, reporting, managing disks, backup bandwidth management, self-service, event logging, monitoring and central console for managing multiple DPM servers. Chapters 5,6 and 7 are devoted to how to backup out of the box DPM supported workloads (AD, SQL, SharePoint, Exchange, Hyper-V and clusters) as well as DPM non-aware workloads (Dynamics CRM, Dynamics GP, TMG, Lync, Oracle and Linux). Next 3 chapters are going deeper in DPM by covering scenarios for managing tapes, backing up clients and backing up server in workgroups and untrusted domains. The last two chapters provide guidance on Disaster recovery strategies and automation of DPM.

As a summary I can say the book will be very useful for engineers who are looking for a way to start with DPM especially if most of the backups they will do are for Microsoft workloads. It can be useful also for the owners of workloads which are backed up by DPM in order to understand better how their workloads are backed up and how can be restored. The only thing I think this book is missing a chapter on backing up and restoring all System Center components as they are essential part in many environments.

If you like the book you can find it here:

TechEd 2013 Recap

I was not at the TechEd 2013 conference but I’ve watched closely like you. And based on what I’ve seen so far with announcement and TechEd videos from Channel 9 (I haven’t watched them all) there are some conclusions that can be made.

Certainly this is a big change for both Windows Server teams and System Center teams. Such big synchronization in work for so many teams can be beneficial but also very hard to achieve and because of that I expect some challenges to be met. On TechEd the focus was primary on Windows Server 2012 R2 and the times where System Center 2012 R2 was mentioned was because of SCVMM or Windows Azure Pack. All the new features that were shown are in SCVMM and Windows Azure Pack (WAP) and WAP is not even System Center component but it seems it is more related to System Center than to Windows Server. But why only VMM is announced with new features? The answer is actually very simple and I am sure you have found it even earlier. Windows Server released a major release last in year in September. They were even ready in August. System Center teams released 2012 SP1 at the beginning of the year in January. The release was ready in December but actually UR1 which was much needed was released also in January. So simply said System Center teams had less time to introduced new feature in the new R2 release. In this R2 release for Windows Server and System Center teams the second ones are followers. And do not get me wrong this is normal. The real benefits of this release will actually come in the next big release for Server and System Center. Showing only SCVMM at TechEd probably means that the other System Center components are not ready to be publically shown and probably there are not so many new features that will be announced for them. But that does not mean that these teams are just not working. Than what to expect from these other System Center components? For some of the components there might one or two new feature that could be announced, there will be definitely enhancement in the integration between the components like SCCM and SCOM supporting the same Linux operating Systems, SPF interacting better with System Center components. I also expect performance and scalability features (probably in the SCSM space), some new activates in Orchestrator and new integration packs. Based on these conclusions you can see one of the reason why Microsoft didn’t put these components in front at TechEd. Performance and scalability features usually do not WOW the audience at a conference.But I think that taking in consideration the short period for development System Center specialist would certainly would appreciate these features. At least I would. May be at TechEd Europe we will see more announcement when Preview versions of the products are expected to be released for download.

P.S. Now that it seems more likely that MMS will not be continued as event I just hope that next year we will see equal sessions for System Center and Windows Server at TechEd 2014 North America which was announced to take place between May 12 and May 15 2014.

Installing and Importing Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Management Pack 15.00.0620.030

After yesterday’s release of Exchange Server 2013 Management Pack I’ve managed to install it in a development environment. Here are the steps I’ve went trough:

1. Start installation and Accept License Agreement:


2. Choose installation location:


3. Import the installed MP into SCOM:




4. After the successful import you will start see you exchange servers appear in the default views:



5. After 5-10 minutes you will see all services appear as monitored:




So these are the steps. Pretty easy and simple. There are no special requirements or configurations. The MP uses the default action account for the monitoring and discovery.

Here are some of the bad news about this MP:

  • I’ve received an error a couple of hours after the deployment. The error wasn’t very descriptive. It had only the error description and a link (to Technet Library) that you can visit to find more information. I couldn’t opened the link  as the page still does not exists. I guess Microsoft still hasn’t uploaded all information about the MP in TechNet.
  • The MP does not collect performance data for Exchange 2013.
  • The MP does not contain any reports.

Here is what I’ve used in the environment:

  • SCOM 2012 SP1 UR2;
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Management Pack 15.00.0620.030;
  • Windows Server 2012 with latest updates;
  • Exchange 2013 CU1 in multitenant mode;