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:

SCOM APM for Orchestrator, SPF, SMA and WAP

Orchestrator, Service Provider Foundation, Service Management Automation and Windows Azure Pack are all web applications or web services or both. They are all monitored by IIS 8 Management Pack in Operations Manager but that MP can only provide monitoring to certain levels to solve these limitations in SCOM (SP1 and R2 for IIS8) we have Application Performance Monitoring (APM). This blog post does not aim to show you some advanced features in APM but rather to show you how to enable some advanced monitoring for those services. As SMA and WAP are available only in R2 I will use the R2 wave. Let’s start with enabling APM for every service:

Service Provider Foundation

Open SCOM console. Go to Authoring pane. Start Add Monitoring Wizard.

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Select .NET Application Performance Monitoring

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Give a friendly name to the application and create new management pack where the settings for this application will be saved.

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Select Add.

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Click on Search and add the two web service in SPF – VMM and Admin. Click OK.

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It is always a good practice to put Environment.

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Accept the default settings. The idea is to fine tune these settings depending on the performance of the application in your environment. If you have more than one environment (development, test, production and etc.) these settings can be different because some environments will have less resources than other and the application can perform slowly because of that. SPF is only web service and because of that does not have portal so client-side monitoring is not relevant. On summary page click Create and wait until the APM for SPF is created.

And the result is:

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From now on when you have data for a long term period you can fine-tune the APM settings. You can even set exceptions for some methods.

Orchestrator Web Service and Console

Orchestrator has Web Service and Console (Web Application).

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One Web service and Web application (portal) added,

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Orchestrator has web application but do not enable client-side monitoring for now.

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To enable client-side monitoring you need first have to check if the web application could be enabled for this client side monitoring. This is done trough a task Check Client-Side Monitoring Compatibility which is available in Monitoring Pane –> Application Monitoring –> .NET Monitoring –> IIS 8.0 ASP.NET Web Application Inventory View. Select the web application you would like to test and execute the task from the Task pane.

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I’ve enabled the client-side monitoring for the Orchestrator console but even I didn’t received any error in SCOM or on the Orchestrator portal no performance counters were shown from client-side:

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Windows Azure Pack

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You need to add all found Web Applications for Windows Azure Pack:

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I am not using WAP intensively in this environment  so I do not have so much data:

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Because I do not have even database created for WAP you can see the performance exception created for that:

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APM can very useful to public user portal like Tenant Site in WAP:

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Because of that I’ve tried to check if client-side monitoring can be enabled but unfortunately the check returned negative results:

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Service Management Automation

Service Management Automation is part of Orchestrator setup but can be connected to WAP.

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Only one web service is available so no client-side monitoring will be available:

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As a summary I hope this will help you in providing advanced monitoring for these Web Services and Application as they are of the Microsoft Cloud OS and critical for Cloud Providers. What I would like to see in the future instructions or possibility from Microsoft on how to enable client-side monitoring for at least the Tenant Site.

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:

Some Tips on Upgrading System Center 2012 SP1 to R2 Preview

After covering the installation of the R2 wave for System Center 2012 I will now cover the upgrade from SC 2012 SP1 by providing some tips.

Note: Do not upgrade your production environment to R2 Preview. Only try to upgrade in lab environment.

So let’s start. With System Center we need upgrade sequence for upgrading the different components. Currently there is not such publically available but we can use the upgrade sequence for SC 2012 SP1:

1. Orchestrator

2. Service Manager

3. Data Protection Manager (DPM)

4. Operations Manager

5. Configuration Manager

6. Virtual Machine Manager (VMM)

7. App Controller

I will not be able to cover Configuration Manager, Data Protection Manager and App Controller as I do not have them in my lab. Also Service Provider Foundation is not listed in the upgrade sequence list but as it is part of Orchestrator I am putting it also on first position.

Upgrading to Orchestrator 2012 R2

In order to Upgrade to R2 you have to remove all Orchestrator 2012 SP1 roles. By removing them, retaining the database and starting the R2 installation you will be able to upgrade without data loss. Unfortunately after upgrading I’ve stumbled upon on the bug with the not working web service. Besides that bug runbook designer was working OK and all my runbooks were intact. After upgrading Orchestrator you have to upgrade your Integration Packs also to R2. You can download them from here. As my web service was not working and I couldn’t fix it even with my own workaround in the end I’ve end up on creating a new Orchestrator 2012 R2 and migrating all my data.

Upgrading to Service Provider Foundation 2012 R2

SPF 2012 R2 requires to be installed on Windows Server 2012 R2. So I’ve created a new WS 2012 R2 server hoping that I will start the installation pointing to my old database so SPF can upgrade it. Again unfortunately when I’ve done that the installation stuck on Updating Database for more than 40 minutes at which time I’ve decided to cancel the installation. Installation wasn’t responding to cancel command so I’ve ended up killing it. In the end I had to install completely new SPF server with a new database. I’ve couldn’t migrate my old data.

Upgrading to Service Manager 2012 R2

With Service Manager in most cases you will have at least one Service Manager Management Server and one Service Manager Data Warehouse. To upgrade to R2 you have to start with the Data Warehouse server first. Before upgrading it is best to stop all data warehouse jobs. I haven’t met any issues with upgrading the Data Warehouse server. After DW you can continue with the Management Server. Before upgrading it is good idea to disable all connectors. Again I was having no troubles with this upgrade also. Keep in mind that in a new installation of SCSM 2012 R2 System Center Management Service is renamed to Microsoft Monitoring Agent. This is not the case with upgrade that service stays named System Center Management. After upgrade start the DW jobs and enable the connectors. Make sure all are finished successful.

Upgrading to Operations Manager 2012 R2

Operations Manager upgrade also went flawless. The one thing I’ve done before upgrading is to brake the SCOM-SCVMM integration and remove the VMM MPs.  I’ve upgraded Management Server and Reporting server without issues. After the upgrade you need to upgrade the SCOM agents on all servers you are monitoring. If you have somewhere Service Manager Console installed (like terminal server) you will need to uninstall the console and than upgrade the agent. You may also need to update some of your MPs to the preview versions. VMM 2012 R MPs are located in a folder of the VMM 2012 R2 installation. Do not import only the Dashboard MP from there but rather download it from here. If you have data that is synchronized between SCOM and SCSM and you’ve updated some MPs in SCOM that are also imported in SCSM you will need to update them there also.

Upgrading to Virtual Machine Manager 2012 R2

VMM also does not support in-place upgrade. You have to uninstall VMM and retain the database. Before uninstalling VMM first uninstall any Update Rollup if you have such. After uninstalling VMM, ADK (Windows Assessment and Deployment Toolkit) 8.0 also have to be uninstalled. Before starting the VMM 2012 R2 installation you have to install ADK 8.1. After VMM 2012 R2 installation is easy. You have to point a few settings, the installation will detect that you want to make upgrade to existing database and after a few minutes you will be upgrade to R2. After successful upgrade you need to start the console and update your VMM agents also.

Overall the upgrading experience to R2 is good but there are few serous bugs that needs to be fixed or at least upgrade documentation to be available to help you when RTM arrives which today was announced that it will be 18th of October. Mark you calendars.

Request Error on Calling Freshly Installed SCO 2012 R2 Preview Web Service

For some weeks I am having this issue with System Center Orchestrator 2012 R2 Preview. When I install the web service and the console and try to call the web service (http://localhost:81/orchestrator2012/orchestrator.svc/) I receive the following error:

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Request Error

The server encountered an error processing the request. The exception message is ‘An error occurred while executing the command definition. See the inner exception for details.’. See server logs for more details. The exception stack trace is:
at System.Data.EntityClient.EntityCommandDefinition.ExecuteStoreCommands(EntityCommand entityCommand, CommandBehavior behavior) at System.Data.EntityClient.EntityCommandDefinition.Execute(EntityCommand entityCommand, CommandBehavior behavior) at System.Data.EntityClient.EntityCommand.ExecuteReader(CommandBehavior behavior) at System.Data.EntityClient.EntityCommand.ExecuteScalar[T_Result](Func`2 resultSelector) at System.Data.Objects.ObjectContext.ExecuteFunction(String functionName, ObjectParameter[] parameters) at Microsoft.SystemCenter.Orchestrator.WebService.OrchestratorContext.OnContextCreated() at invoke_constructor() at System.Data.Services.DataService`1.CreateProvider() at System.Data.Services.DataService`1.HandleRequest() at System.Data.Services.DataService`1.ProcessRequestForMessage(Stream messageBody) at SyncInvokeProcessRequestForMessage(Object , Object[] , Object[] ) at System.ServiceModel.Dispatcher.SyncMethodInvoker.Invoke(Object instance, Object[] inputs, Object[]& outputs) at System.ServiceModel.Dispatcher.DispatchOperationRuntime.InvokeBegin(MessageRpc& rpc) at System.ServiceModel.Dispatcher.ImmutableDispatchRuntime.ProcessMessage5(MessageRpc& rpc) at System.ServiceModel.Dispatcher.ImmutableDispatchRuntime.ProcessMessage31(MessageRpc& rpc) at System.ServiceModel.Dispatcher.MessageRpc.Process(Boolean isOperationContextSet)

I think the problem is how connected to that I am using remote clustered SQL instance but as I am not IIS expert it is hard to me to troubleshoot it. But I’ve found workaround.

The Workaround

Uninstall the SCO 2012 R2 web service and console and install SCO 2012 SP1 web service and console (all other SCO roles are 2012 R2). So far it seems this solution is working for me. I do not recommend using this solution but if you are in a stuck situation you can try it.