Surviving the Future of IT as an IT Pro

At MMS 2015 we had some interesting discussions in the Ask the Data center experts session. One of the discussions was centered around how IT is changing and how to adapt. For a while there has been a paradigm shift happening in IT. It is hard hitting for those on the front line especially IT Pro’s.

With the advent of many technologies moving to XaaS (x as a Service) based and the challenges for IT pro’s to move from strictly the ops side of IT to more of a DevOps model as well as becoming an internal technology consultant to the business IT Pros can feel lost in the paradigm shift.

The goal of this blog post is twofold. 1. I want to expand on this discussion with my opinion of how an IT Pro can remain relevant in the future of IT. 2. My friends over at Savision asked me to write a blog post and I thought this would be a great topic for it because they have some tools that can help with this transition.

Here are key points and additionally skills/mindset needed as an IT Pro moving into the future of IT:

  • Accepting Shadow IT….. Ability to manage anyway.

Shadow IT is the practice of business units spinning up their own IT solutions without organizational approval. With the expansion of cloud Shadow IT is becoming easier for business units to undertake.

  • Technology Budgets are no longer 100% controlled within IT anymore. Many departments own their own technology budget.
  • For so long IT has had the reputation of being “No People” and a dinosaur that takes forever to get things done. Embracing Shadow IT is about enabling the business, moving faster from conception to solution. Embracing Shadow IT will also change the reputation IT to “Yes People”.
  • This will cause the business to come back to IT first as internal SME’s to help them select the right outside solutions bringing internal IT Pros back into the loop.
  • Instead of focusing on how to stop business units for spinning up the technology solutions they need, help them. At the same time look for solutions that can help put governance and management around Shadow IT. A good example of this are three solutions from Microsoft such as Cloud App discovery (Discovery of cloud applications used in an organization), Azure Active Directory (Single Sign On, Centralized log on to cloud based applications and much more), and OMS (Management of cross platform clouds i.e. Amazon, Azure, Rackspace etc.).

  • Embrace and accept heterogeneous environ...
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2015 MVP Summit and MMS 2015

The past two weeks have been full of tech awesomeness. The first week was the 2015 MVP Summit and the second week was MMS 2015. I will recap both of these in this post. Well for the MVP Summit I can’t actually say anything about it but I can post a couple of cool pictures from it. :-) Here are some pics from the Summit.

With PowerShell MVP Trevor Sullivan and my roommate/friend CDM MVP Jakob Svendsen during breakfast.

With the man! Mr. OMS/System Center Jeremy Winter.

Good discussion with a bunch of smart guys. CDM MVP Stanislav Zhelyazkov (Stan the man), CDM MVP legend Cameron Fuller, and CDM MVP Jedi Dieter Wijckmans.

My co...

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2 Sessions at MMS 2015

I am late posting this but better late than not at all. Next week I will be presenting at MMS 2015 on November 9th and 11th. In this post I will break down what each session is about. This is the second year of the community powered MMS event. The Midwest Management Summit is a 3-day conference purposely capped to just 500 attendees so that nobody gets lost in the crowd. Almost 60 Microsoft MVP’s will be presenting on System Center, cloud, PowerShell topics and more.

Areas the speakers will be presenting on are Operations Management Suite (OMS), Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, Orchestrator, Service Management Automation, Azure Automation, Service Manager, Data Protection Manager, Azure Backup, Azure Pack, Azure Stack, Hyper-V, Nano server, PowerShell, Desired State Configuration and more. I am lucky to be co-presenting with two awesome System Center experts Natascia Heil @NatasciaHeil and Chiyo Odika @mrchiyo. The first session I will be presenting is:

-Real world automation with Service Manager and Azure Automation-

Here is what to expect from this session:

Automation is not only requesting and building virtual machines through Service Manager and Orchestrator. Automation can do much more and Service Manager can be combined with Microsoft’s other automation tools such as SMA, Azure Automation, and DSC. This session will teach you how to identify areas of automation in your company. It will cover automation fits in the ITIL story. It will also show some real life automation examples utilizing Microsoft newest automation tool (Azure Automation) and Service Manager.

We have two demo’s planned for this session. The first demo will show how to use Service Manager and Azure Automation. The second demo will show automating patch management using SCCM, Orchestrator, and Service Manager’s change management.


Link to this session:

The second session I will be presenting is:

-OMS Strategies and Notes from the Field-

Here is what to expect from this session:

OMS is a comprehensive web-based cloud IT Management solution with monitoring, automation and other features and solutions that will provide you with greater control and new capabilities across your hybrid cloud.

In this session, you will learn about strategies for getting the most out of OMS, best-practices, and learn from our extensive experiences in the field, deploying, configuring, and troubleshooting OMS.


Link to this session:

For more information on MMS 2015 and a full list of speakers and sessions visit:

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Early Look: Service Manager HTML 5 Portal

***UPDATE 11-10-2015****

****UPDATE END****

Today the Microsoft Service Manager team announced that Service Manager’s UR8 will include the new HTML 5 self-service portal. Here is the link to that blog post:

This is very exciting news as we know a new improved portal for Service Manager has been highly requested for a long time. In this blog post I will give a quick tour of the new portal that is coming. Here is what you see when you first login with some descriptions of the different areas:



You will find the fly out menu on the left side of the portal. On the top half are the navigation menu with contact info on the lower half.



The Service Manager team has brought announcements back to the portal.


Service Catalog

Below is a screenshot of the Service Catalog the core of the self-service portal. You will see the Service Offerings listed in an easy way. As you click on a Service Offering you will see its Request Offerings pop out on the right.


Here is what a Request Offering looks like:


Notice on the request offering that you can favorite them by clicking on the heart icon.


My Requests

End users have the ability to access requests they have submitted as shown in the screenshot below.


My Activities

There is an area for activities to approve/reject, mark as completed/failed etc.


Help Article (Knowledge Base)

The Help Articles area is a huge improvement over the last portal. Now the help articles show right in the web browser. They also can be rated and or favorite.


The following screenshot shows that you can use keywords to scope down the help articles. This is helpful to narrow down to a specific topic.


The next two screenshots show what an internal and external help article looks like in the new portal.

An In...

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Unpacking The Operations Management Suite Android App

A while back there was a suggestion on Azure Operational Insights (Before renamed to Operations Management Suite) User Voice for an Android APP. You can see that here: . This would allow us to access our OMS data from our Android mobile device! It is no secret I am an Android user so I was excited for this. On the User Voice thread Microsoft commented that we could expect an app in the fall of 2015. Well on October 15th one of my colleagues Rob Plank tweeted that there the OMS Android app was available in the Android market ( They kept their word and now we have an Android App for OMS! In this post we are going to take a tour of the new OMS Android App.

On your phone you can search Google Play for Microsoft OMS or click this link Operations Management Suite to find the app. Go ahead and install it.


Once installed you will find it with your other apps.


You can also place a shortcut to it on one of your main screens.


The first time you launch it you will need to either sign in or sign up.


Here is a screenshot of the sign in screen.


After you are logged in you need to select your workspace. You can see that I have 3 workspaces. Yes only a true geek would have multiple workspaces in OMS. LOL


After selecting your workspace you will have a similar look and feel to the web based version of OMS. You will also notice 3 main areas Dashboard, Overview, and Search. The first one you will land on is Dashboard. To access the other 3 main areas just scroll to the right. NOTE: I did not see a way to add solutions to OMS from the mobile app. You will need to do this from the web application itself.

The Dashboard view is equal to My Dashboard in the full OMS web application. So whatever you added to your My Dashboard is what you will see here.

Android OMS App Full OMS Web Application
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Now if we go the Overview area this is the same view as we have on the full OMS web application. Overview has the solutions that you have added to your OMS. To see them all just scroll down.

Android OMS App Full OMS Web Application
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You will notice the Searches view also matches what is in “Log Search” in the full OMS web application.


Android OMS A...
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Blog Dive: SQL Protection with DPM

Background for this post

Since version 2006 DPM has been able to protect SQL databases. Often in environments that are using DPM I still see they are using DPM for backup of all workloads but not using it for SQL backups. There are reasons for this such as a lack of understand of how DPM protects SQL or lack of trust in DPM to protect SQL. The goal of this blog post is to lay out why you would want to use DPM to backup SQL, what SQL versions and functionality (such as AlwaysOn) are supported, what happens under the hood when DPM protects SQL and that you can use DPM as your sole solution for protecting SQL. This is an effort to convince those that don’t use DPM for SQL Backups today to start using it or those that don’t trust DPM for SQL backups that it is a great option to consider. This blog post is targeted directly at DBA’s or DPM admins that need to give information about SQL protection to their DBA’s.

One major challenge I had when I set out to write this blog post is that I am not a DBA or a SQL expert. So I don’t have any SQL “street cred” so I needed to fully understand what a SQL DBA would require to ok DPM being the sole backup solution for SQL in an organization.

I have the fortunate opportunity to work with an awesome SQL MVP named Jes Borland at Concurrency. As a part of my research for this blog post I reached out to Jes Borland to have a discussion around SQL protection. One of the important questions I asked her was “What things do you look for in a SQL backup solution?“. Her response was “What I look for in a backup tool: the ability to do all types of SQL Server backups – full, differential, log, copy-only. Ability to take advantage of built-in backup compression.” as well as “As a DBA, my main question is, “How do I restore?“. This was perfect as they are key things I should look out for to make sure DPM can do.

Now that we covered the background let’s look at what DPM can do when it comes to SQL protection.

Why would you want to use DPM to backup SQL?

  • DPM understands SQL and was designed to protect the advanced configurations of SQL.
  • DPM can protect SQL up to every 15 minutes.
  • Reduce potential conflicts between backup tools and schedules of SQL protection.
  • DPM can protect SQL at the instance level or the database level. When protection at the instance level is turned on DPM will detect new databases on that instance and automatically add them to protection.
  • DPM is an affordable option for protecting SQL. It is a good fit for small SQL shops and can scale for large enterprise SQL shops.
  • DPM has self-service recovery of SQL databases using the Self-Service Recovery Tool (SSRT) that can be extended to DBA’s.

What SQL versions and functionality does DPM support?


  • 2005
  • 2008
  • 2008 R2
  • 2012
  • 2014


SQL Clustering

When protecting a SQL cluster DPM is cluster aware. DPM is aware of the clusters identity as well as the nodes in the cluster. In a SQL clustering scenario if the SQL Server is changed to a different node, DPM will continue to protect the clustered SQL without any intervention from backup administrators.

SQL Mirroring

If the SQL you are protecting is mirrored DPM is aware of the mirrored databases and will protect the shared data set properly.

SQL Log shipping

In scenarios when SQL log shipping is being used DPM will automatically discover that log shipping is being used and DPM will auto-configure itself to co-exist ensuring proper SQL protection.

SQL AlwaysOn

When protecting SQL AlwaysON DPM will automatically detect Availability Groups and detects when a failover occurs and will continue protection of the database.

What happens under the hood with SQL protection in DPM?


When SQL protection is first setup an express full copy of the database is created and this is the initial backup of the database. Express full backups bring over block level changes of the databases themselves. This would be the entire database on the very first backup.

Express full backups leverage a filter technology. This filter technology is what identifies changed blocks instead of needing to read all of the data or use checksums. This filter technology is known as volume shadow services (VSS). Specifically the SQL Server VSS Writer is used during SQL protection. This does two things: DPM backup of SQL will not impact databases and it will only backup changed blocks after the initial backup of the database reducing the storage footprint. Backing up the block level changes also has a significantly lower impact of the protected server during backup.

After the initial backup of the SQL database DPM will perform subsequent express full backups and synchronizations between the express full backups. Synchronizations copy over SQL Transaction logs. A recovery is possible from both an express full and synchronization backups. DPM does truncate the SQL transaction logs as a part of the backup process.

DPM can be set to protect SQL databases as often as every 15 minutes so that you can have frequent protection of SQL throughout a day. As a part of the DPM SQL protection recovery points are created for each incremental synchronization and express full backup. DPM can maintain up to 512 shadow copies of a full SQL Server database(s) by storing only the differences at the block level. In a scenario where you have one express full backup per week, stored as one of 512 shadow copy differentials between one week and the next, plus 7 days x 24 hours x 4 (every fifteen minutes), DPM would have over 344,000 recovery points (what you restore from) of SQL.

The following screenshot is an example of SQL protection in DPM. The top half in red shows an example of auto protection of SQL at the instance level while the lower half in blue is an example of individual database protection.



A good friend of mine System Center MVP Robert Hedblom always says “backup is about the restore”. I subscribe to the same principle in that “restore should always be the focus of any backup solution”. In a disaster recovery situation DPM can be used to restore from a loss of the database down to within 15 minutes of the failure. DPM can recover the database to original instance, a separate instance to a folder, or even copy to a tape. You can see those options reflected in the following screenshot:


When recovering to original SQL instance or a alternate SQL instance you can specify what state you want to leave the database in. Restoring the database in a non-operational state will allow you the ability to restore transaction logs in addition to the database restore.


You also have the option to specify where you want to place the database files (.MDF) and log files (.LDF) during the restore.


The DPM Self-Service Recovery Tool (SSRT) can be deployed on the client computers of the DBA/s. When recovering a database using the SSRT the experience is much like it is when recovering directly from DPM. When the New Recovery Job button is clicked a Recovery Wizard window will open with the same options as recovering directly from DPM. A screenshot of the SSRT shown below displays the UI with a restore job that has completed.


Details of a recovery job in the SSRT are shown in the following screenshot.


Hopefully this article has shed some light on SQL protection with DPM and will help you consider using DPM to protect your SQL instances/databases. For further information on SQL protection with DPM visit the following links on TechNet:

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Service Manager SCCM Remote Control Management Pack

Configuration Manager has a Remote Control tool. This tool is often used by service desks to conduct remote support sessions with end users. More information about this tool can be found here:

A common ask in any Service Manager deployment is to use this tool within Service Manager from Incidents. For some time there have been many blogs out there with the steps on how to setup this integration. A quick search on your favorite search engine will bring back many results. The steps to set this up are relatively easy to do however they can be prone to errors.

I recently collaborated with fellow System Center expert Sam Erskine ( to package this in a management pack as an effort to reduce the steps needed to set this up. I use it myself on Service Manager projects and it saves me time. I can import a management pack on a new SCSM deployment and then it is ready to be used. If you are using User Affinity in SCCM and the SCCM connector in Service Manager users primary device will automatically be assigned. This relationship flows over to Service Manager through the SCCM connector. When you click on the SCCM Remote Control Task it will attempt to connect to the primary device. Here is what it looks like:


Download the solution here:

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Agent Pending Management Ghost

One of my clients recently had an issue with SCOM 2012 R2 latest UR. They were trying to install the SCOM agent on a server. It did not work through the console they would receive the following warning:

One or more computer you are trying to manage are already in the process of being managed. Please resolve these issues via the Pending Management view in Administration, prior to attempting to manage them again.”


The server was not displaying under SCOM Console>>Administration>>Pending Management. They installed the SCOM agent manually but it still did not show in SCOM Console>>Administration>>Pending Management. I jumped into PowerShell and ran the following:

Get-SCOMPendingManagement | ft AgentName,AgentPendingActionType



NOTE: You can also run this query “select * from agentpendingaction” against the OperationsManager database to see a list of agents in a pending state.

I ran

Get-SCOMPendingManagement | where {$_.AgentName -Like “”} | Deny-SCOMPendingManagement

It gave this error:


I then ran:

Get-SCOMPendingManagement | where {$_.AgentPendingActionType -eq “ManualApproval”} | Deny-SCOMPendingManagement

This gave the same error. I then ran Get-SCOMPendingManagement | where {$_.AgentName -Like “”} and this worked fine. So PowerShell was not helping me here except for showing me some servers are in the pending state even though they do not show in the console.

To resolve this issue I was able to fix this by removing the stuck agents in SQL. To do this I ran the following stored procedure (blog on this here) against the OperationsManager database:

exec p_AgentPendingActionDeleteByAgentName ‘’

After that I ran

Get-SCOMPendingManagement | ft AgentName,AgentPendingActionType in PowerShell again and the server was no longer listed.

I then went back to SCOM Console>>Administration>>Pending Management and now the server shows as pending. I clicked Approve and the SCOM agent was fine after that.


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Update: SCSM Discovery Report v1.3

I have made some more updates to the SCSM Discovery Report script. It is now version 1.3. The updates include:

First: Updated the SCSM Version Checker code to version 2. Microsoft MVP Steve Beaumont worked with Samuel Erskine to optimize the PowerShell in the SCSM version checker. This optimization is now a part of the SCSM Discovery Report script. This also detects up to UR7 now.


Second: Fixed Service Manager Management Group Name section not displaying the name.


Third: Updated the Display Data Warehouse Information section to use UR7’s Get-SCDWInfraLocation CMDlet.


The script can be downloaded here:

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System Center 2012 R2 UR7 Highlights

Its been a while since I have posted a new blog. I have been busy working on multiple System Center projects and other behind the scene activities. Today update rollup 7 for System Center 2012 R2 was released and this is definitely worth a post. This UR includes DPM, SCSM, SPF, VMM, , SCORCH, Azure Pack, but not Operations Manager. UR7 for Operations Manager will be coming within a few weeks. More info here.  It is interesting that SCOM is not in this UR and we actually see SCORCH included. Here are some highlights from UR7:

For Orchestrator The Monitor SNMP Trap activity has an issue fixed and there is a fix for Stop Job and Stop Runbook. The SCORCH UR also includes some fixes for SMA.

For Service Manager we see a bunch of fixes. Some fixes I want to call out are MPSync Data Warehouse job stop responding and the Get-SCDWInfraLocations cmdlet introduced in update rollup 5 have been fixed. Great work from the Service Manager team. Keep it up.

Beyond just fixes we see new features in two of the System Center components VMM and DPM. As always its exciting to see new features added via UR’s.

In VMM we see support for Windows 10, the ability to provision and customize Debian 8 Linux as a Guest Operating System, support for VMWare vCenter 5.5, the ability to have Multiple External IP Addresses per Virtual Network, the ability to re-associate orphaned virtual machines to their service or VM role, and support for VMM DHCP Extension PXE/TFP Forwarding. There also is a ton of great fixes for issues in VMM. This is great work from the team and should make VMM more stable.

In DPM we see support for Windows 10 client protection, and a really cool feature being the ability to use alternate DPM servers to recover backups from Azure Backup vault. These means if you sent your backup data to Azure from one DPM server and it croaks you can connect a different DPM server to your Azure Backup subscription and recover data from Azure! I have a feeling we will continue to see greater collaboration between on premise backup/DR (DPM) and cloud backup/DR Azure Backup in the future.

To access update rollup 7 visit this link:

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