Patching Orchestrator Runbook Servers while Maintaining High-Availability

May 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Balancing server patching with maintaining the availability of the services that run on these servers can be a difficult task for an IT Pro, with lots of repetitive, time-consuming, and error-prone steps. Luckily, Orchestrator has emerged as an effective automation tool to help IT Pros manage the patching process. But what about when the Orchestrator service itself needs to be patched? How can an IT Pro ensure their enterprise automation continues to function despite the patching of the servers running Orchestrator components?

Joe Levy has published an interesting post to expose all steps to follow to be able to maintain high availability when patching Runbook Servers. Read the original post here


System Center 2012 Orchestrator–RunBook Basics

May 10, 2013 Leave a comment

System Center Orchestrator 2012 which is a new member of System Center 2012 family and next version of Opalis, takes place at the center of Private Cloud scenarios. During automation of your dynamic datacenters, Orchestrator can move your operations one more step forward and can integrate with Microsoft and non-Microsoft solutions with just a few clicks.

Let me give you a few examples;

  • You can trigger Orchestrator workflows through an incident management system such as Service Manager 2012.
  • Periodic installation processes can be automated. For example during installation you can take actions on active directory, stop load balancer pools, check service status etc.
  • Active directory operational tasks such as user create, user delete, group create, change memberships etc. can be moved to the orchestrator RunBooks.
  • You can monitor SCOM alerts and trigger custom RunBooks. For example when a virtual machine run out of disk, SCOM generates an alert and orchestrator can assign additional disk through triggered RunBook.

In this blog post series we’ll cover of how to design RunBooks from basic to complex. And at end of the series you will understand what Orchestrator 2012 can do and how can you integrate it into your current environment.

For the first part “RunBook Basics” I’ll mention basic RunBooks concept and activities that resides within RunBooks.

A RunBook consists of automated tasks and process steps. Also each automated step within RunBooks is called activities.

Here is the very basic RunBook design;


That RunBook reads a static text file and maps each line to the server names then restarts a service for each remote server automatically.

Before going into the RunBook creation details, let’s look at the RunBook properties.


Right click a previously created RunBook and click Properties.



On the General tab, you can customize name and description fields. Name is an important field because if you decide to import your RunBooks into the Service Manager as activities, you will recognize each RunBook with its name. (Yes you can import your RunBooks into the Service Manager!)

Also on general tab, you can set a schedule to allow RunBook runs only on dates and times you specify.



Each RunBook needs a RunBook server to run. In case of requirement High Availability , you must add additional RunBook Servers. For each RunBook, primary and standby RunBook Servers can be set.

Failure of primary RunBook server will trigger standby RunBook server to act as primary.


To set Primary and Standby RunBook Server for RunBooks, click Add and specify your RunBook servers.


In this section you can choose more logging options to store in Orchestrator Database and show up within Orchestrator Console.

I’ll talk about in more details in future posts.




On event notification tab, additional log file can be generated when a RunBook fails to run or run for more than specified seconds. Related log files can be viewed with Designer Console or Web Console.



One of the most critical option is Job Concurrency. Even you configure this setting for one single RunBook, in fact it has impact on overall Orchestrator RunBook Servers. Main purpose is specifying concurrent jobs for this RunBook. A RunBook server can have maximum 50 concurrent jobs. So that if you need more than this limit you must deploy additional RunBook servers.



If you finalize your activities with “Return Data” activity, this RunBook can carry out defined data to the other RunBooks.


In this blog post we cover basic RunBook concept. For the next parts we’ll drive in more detail about designing and deploying RunBooks over multiple RunBook servers.

System Center Adviser is now a FREE service !

April 17, 2013 Leave a comment

One month ago, an exciting new for System Center Advisor users has been published : Advisor is free to Microsoft customers in supporting countries . Trial periods are a thing of the past and Software Assurance is no longer required for taking advantage of the Advisor service

What is Advisor?

System Center Advisor is a cloud service that enables IT Professionals to proactively avoid problems resulting from server configuration issues. It can help you resolve issues faster by providing access  to current and historical configuration data for a deployment. Additionally, System Center Advisor reduces downtime by providing suggestions for improvement and notifying users of key updates specific to their configuration

 How does Advisor work?

The Advisor environment is made up of the Advisor web service, hosted in the cloud, and the on-premise software, installed in your local environment. The on-premise software consists of one gateway and at least one agent. The agent collects data from your server and analyzes it using a set of rules (similar to a management pack in System Center Operations Manager) known collectively as Advisor knowledge. The analyzed data is regularly sent from the agent to the gateway for upload to the Advisor web service. If the data indicates an issue or a deviation from best practices, an alert is generated. By connecting a web browser to the Advisor portal, you can view the alerts and the associated remediation guidance.

System Center Advisor environment

What workloads does Advisor support?

Advisor supports analysis of the following workloads:

  • Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2:
    • Active Directory
    • Hyper-V Host
    • General operating system
  • SQL Server 2008 and later
    • SQL Engine
  • Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and later
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and later
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2010

Where can I learn more about Advisor?

You can get started with Advisor at  and get more detailed information in the System Center Advisor help pages.
Categories: System Center Family

[MMS 2013] Session in video are available

April 13, 2013 Leave a comment


The Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) brings together the brightest IT professionals from around the world to increase their technical expertise through an intensive week of training led by experts in desktop, device management, datacenter, and cloud technologies.

Microsoft published the videos of the sessions and you can watch them on Channel9 :

Service Manager 2012 Self Service Portal Empty “doesn´t show the content”

March 13, 2013 Leave a comment

One of the big news in the SCSM2012  is the new Self-Service Portal with the Service Catalog.

If you have installed it successfully, but can´t see anything when you click on the menus, maybe you have the same scenario that I had? This happens(or can happen) when you installs the SSP with a SSL certificate.

So if you have the same problem, it can look like this:



To solve it, open the IIS on the server where you installed the SSP.
Open Sites\Service Manager Portal and double click on Application Settings:2

Double click on the Application Setting called SMPortal_WebContentServer_URL:



Under Value, change the server name to FQDN.



Go to your SSP again and refresh the site. Now you will hopefully see the content:


Demo OpsMgr 2012 network monitoring with Network device simulator

February 25, 2013 Leave a comment

There has been discussion lately around running SCOM 2012 and other SC products in the cloud for DEMO and POC purposes. One problem with running SCOM in a cloud solution is not having access to network device/s. There is a solution to this. You can run a network device emulator. This is available as software and will simulate a full network device that SCOM can then discover and monitor. You will find several network device emulation software packages out there with from a quick internet search. Here is a good tool that is free. It is called Xian SNMP Device Simulator and can be downloaded here:

SNMP Simulator Screenshot

The devices it can simulate are:

  • Cisco Switches
  • Cisco Router
  • Cisco Firewalls
  • Cisco VPN Concentrators
  • Cisco Wireless devices
  • 3Com Switches
  • HP Pro curve Switches
  • F5 Big Ip Nortel

You can simulate up to 15 devices with Xian SNMP Device Simulator . This same company has another tool that can be used as well that actually simulates network devices and traffic. This tool is called Xian NetFlow Simulator  and can be downloaded here:

The Xian NetFlow Simulator is not free but you can obtain a trial. The Xian NetFlow Simulator sends packets between a given source and a destination. You could use SCOM to monitor actual network traffic using this second tool.

The first tool has been around for some time but I thought I would post about it again with talk of running SCOM in the cloud for demos. Here is a reference to an old blog post on setting up Xian SNMP Device Simulator and monitoring it with SCOM.

Test/Demo OpsMgr 2012 network monitoring with Jalasoft’s network device simulator

Monitoring the Hybrid Microsoft Cloud

February 25, 2013 2 comments

he Microsoft Hybrid cloud, as it stands currently, is a mixture of a Hyper-V private cloud with an Azure public cloud, managed by System Center App Controller (formerly Concero).  One of the key pieces of the Microsoft solution is monitoring the health of the application (that the business really cares about) using System Center Operations Manager (OpsMgr).

Management packs make monitoring of Hyper-V, Windows, SQL, Exchange, CRM, hardware, storage, etc, easy.  You can put together end user perspective monitoring from the basic ping test to the advanced synthetic transaction, build service-centric distributed application models, and provide SLA monitoring of the LOB applications.  That’s got the private cloud covered.

There is also a management pack for Azure.  This allows you to monitor the availability, health, and performance of your public cloud services.  Let’s face it – even if Microsoft does/did provide a monitoring solution within Azure – can you really use a monitoring solution that is a part of the thing you are monitoring, i.e. the Microsoft public cloud?  I say no – and that’s the first reason why you should use OpsMgr and this management pack.  The second reason is that it allows you to integrate your monitoring of public and private clouds, giving you that mythical single pane of glass for monitoring.

  • The features of this management pack are:
  • Discovers Windows Azure applications.
  • Provides status of each role instance.
  • Collects and monitors performance information.
  • Collects and monitors Windows events.
  • Collects and monitors the .NET Framework trace messages from each role instance.
  • Grooms performance, event, and the .NET Framework trace data from Windows Azure storage account.
  • Changes the number of role instances via a task.

The prerequisites of it are:

  • The management group must be running Operations Manager 2007 R2 Cumulative Update 3.
  • The Windows Azure role must be published with full trust level. For more information about Windows Azure trust levels, see Windows Azure Partial Trust Policy Reference.
  • Windows Azure Diagnostics must be enabled. For more information about Windows Azure Diagnostics, see Implementing Windows Azure Diagnostics.
  • Windows Azure Diagnostics must be configured to forward diagnostic data to a Windows Azure storage account. For more information about configuring Windows Azure Diagnostics, see Transferring Diagnostic Data to Windows Azure Storage.
  • Microsoft .NET Framework version 2.0 or newer must be installed on the computer that you designate as the proxy agent when you configure the Monitoring Pack for Windows Azure Applications.