Free Cloud Resources for IT Pro’s

A couple of years ago Microsoft ended TechNet. A lot of IT Pro’s were unhappy with that decision. IT Pro’s used TechNet to practice in their own labs and get up to speed on new technologies. Well on April 20th, 2016 Microsoft has an answer for this (NOTE: this is my opinion not any official statement from Microsoft).

2016-04-21 01_58_40-Microsoft IT Pro Cloud Essentials

Microsoft has launched the “Microsoft IT Pro Career Center” and the the free “Microsoft IT Pro Cloud Essentials“.

The Microsoft IT Pro Career Center is a free online resource to help map your cloud career path. Learn what industry experts suggest for your cloud role and the skills to get you there. Follow a learning curriculum at your own pace to build the skills you need most to stay relevant.
Microsoft IT Pro Cloud Essentials is a free annual subscription for IT Pro’s that basically gives you Azure, EMS, O365 resources to practice and learn with. It even comes with a Pluralsight account. It includes:

Free Azure credits to try cloud scenarios like backup, disaster recovery, security & dev/test.
Free Pluralsight subscription for on-line training.
Free Priority support in the TechNet forums.
A free phone support incident for Azure or on-premises products.
A free certification exam voucher. [2]
Extended trials of Enterprise Mobility Suite and Office 365.

This is huge. Many of my IT buddies have said they want to jump in on cloud but could not afford to pay for the accounts out of pocket. Well this is no longer an excuse.

Recently Dice published a report that Azure was #2 on the list of the fastest-growing tech skills. Here is the link:

http://insights.dice.com/2016/04/12/dice-report-fastest-growing-tech-skills-2 . I would bet that with the pace Microsoft is moving with Azure this will become the #1 tech skill in the near future. As an IT Pro Azure is something you definitely want to be looking into.

If you are an IT Pro and you want to get started with cloud jump out there and get started today.

Microsoft IT Pro Career Center:

https://www.itprocloudessentials.com

Microsoft IT Pro Cloud Essentials:

https://www.itprocareercenter.com

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How to add SUSE Linux image to Azure Stack

In Azure Stack you can publish your own images essentially virtual machines that can be used when deploying a new virtual machine. This is handy for publishing servers that need to be pre-configured in a certain way for consumers of your cloud. In order for your published images to show up as an option in compute within Azure Stack the images need to be added to the Platform Image Repository (PIR) within the Compute Resource Provider (CRP).

SUSE has recently published a pre-built SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 SP1 image that has been prepped specifically for Azure Stack. This image is ready to go and can be published to the CRP’s PIR without any needed prep of the virtual machine. In this blog post I am going to walk through the steps I took to add this image to my Azure Stack.

SUSE already has an image out there for Azure. The SUSE image used on Azure does not work right now on Azure Stack. As of right now Azure and Azure Stack have different “initialization code”. In the future I would expect these to be the same. The SUSE image also includes SUSE/azurectl a command line tool that helps you manage SUSE updates from a Linux VM hosted on Azure. More info on this here: https://github.com/SUSE/azurectl. To download the SUSE Azure Stack image go to https://download.suse.com and complete the fields as show in the following screenshot.

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You will be brought to a login page to access the download. If you do not have a SUSE account sign up for one and login. You will see the actual download at that point. Go ahead and download it onto your Azure Stack Host.

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Extract the SLE-12-SP1-Server-Azure-Stack-x86_64.vhd and copy it to C:\ClusterStorage\Volume1\Share\VM.

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Microsoft has the steps for adding images to Azure Stack’s Platform Image Repository (PIR). The process is essentially running a PowerShell script. The script is included with Azure Stack. The script creates the image directory needed in C:\ClusterStorage\Volume1\Share\CRP\PlatformImages, the JSON file in that directory, and makes a copy of the VHD in that directory. The JSON file contains the meta data about the image that shows in the Azure Stack Portal. Here is the link to the Microsoft document: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/azure-stack-add-image-pir/

Here are the steps for running the script:

In PowerShell navigate to:

D:\CRP\VM\Microsoft.AzureStack.Compute.Installer\content\Scripts

Run this script in PowerShell:

.\CopyImageToPlatformImageRepository.ps1

NOTE: My DATAIMAGE drive letter was D. You may have a different letter.

You will be prompted for the following:

  • PlatformImageRepositoryPath use this \\SOFS\Share\CRP\PlatformImages\
  • ImagePath I put C:\ClusterStorage\Volume1\Share\VM\SLE-12-SP1-Server-Azure-Stack-x86_64.vhd
  • Publisher I put SUSE
  • Offer I put LinuxServer
  • Sku I put SUSE-Linux-Ent-12-SP1
  • Version I put 12.0.0
  • OsType I put Linux

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NOTE: These prompts are used to populate the JSON file for the image. Here is an example of the JSON file:

{

“Publisher”:”SUSE”,

“Offer”:”LinuxServer”,

“Sku”:”SUSE-Linux-Ent-12-SP1″,

“Version”:”12.0.0″,

“PlatformImage” :{

“OsDisk” : {

“OsType”:”Linux”,

“FileName”:”SLE-12-SP1-Server-Azure-Stack-x86_64″

}

}

}

Alternatively you could run the script as:

.\CopyImageToPlatformImageRepository.ps1 -PlatformImageRespositoryPath ‘\\SOFS\Share\CRP\PlatformImages’ -ImagePath ‘C:\ClusterStorage\Volume1\Share\VM\SLE-12-SP1-Server-Azure-Stack-x86_64.vhd’ -Publisher ‘SUSE’ -Offer ‘LinuxServer’ -Sku ‘SUSE-Linux-Ent-12-SP1’ -OsType ‘Linux’

As long as the script worked you should have the following as an end result in C:\ClusterStorage\Volume1\Share\CRP\PlatformImages:

AS-Suse-5

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If you have the Azure Stack portal open close out of the browser and go back in. It should be listed as an available image in Compute as shown in the following screenshot.

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Notice the difference between a Windows image and a Linux image. The Linux image gives you an authentication option of Password or SSH Key.

Windows Linux
 AS-Suse-8  AS-Suse-9

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Service Manager vs. ServiceNow

I am often asked how does Service Manager compare to ServiceNow. I don’t have a solid canned response for this. I often respond that you really have to compare System Center to ServiceNow because you get the entire suite when you buy System Center not just Service Manager. Also it would be a bad decision to not consider using the other components such as Operations Manager, Orchestrator, and Configuration Manager given the tight out of the box integration with Service Manager and these components.

With ServiceNow you get an ITSM solution but have to pay additional monthly fee’s when you want to add on other functionality such as automation, event management (monitoring), CMDB, or asset management. With System Center you get all of this for the price of System Center and you simply have to turn and configure the additional functionality you want. One more point is that many organizations own and utilize Configuration Manager and or Operations Manager and will often already own the licensing they need to deploy Service Manager.

On December 9th 2015 System Center MVP’s Chris Ross and Pete Zerger held an awesome webinar on System Center + Cireson vs ServiceNow. This was a must see webinar. It covered the often asked about topic of “Service Manager vs ServiceNow“.

These guys did a great job covering the topic. One of the most important areas they covered was Real-world Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Comparison. TCO is one of the top data points that matter to businesses when they are considering a new ITSM solution.

In this blog post I am going to look at some of the key topics that stuck out to me from the webinar in regards to Service Manager vs ServiceNow. Keep in mind that these comparisons also include Cireson’s software.

One of the setbacks for some organizations on going with Service Manager is that they believe there is no cloud option for it. That is wrong Service Manager can be deployed in Azure cloud. Also there are a couple of companies that have a SaaS offering for Service Manager. The following graphic looks at the different types of Service Manager deployments and their options.

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This first chart looks the numbers of the TCO of Service Manager vs ServiceNow if you don’t already own the System Center ECAL licensing.

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You will notice that over a 5 year period System Center including Cireson and Azure is lower TCO over ServiceNow. Wow. If this did not include Cireson or Azure the TCO of System Center would be even lower compared to ServiceNow.

This next chart looks at the TCO of System Center vs ServiceNow if your organization already owns the ECAL licenses or has an Enterprise Agreement (EA) with Microsoft.

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This has even deeper savings compared to the first chart. Now remember this includes Cireson software and having Service Manager deployed in Azure.

This chart looks at the TCO of System Center vs ServiceNow with System Center being deployed on-premises.

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Again the TCO savings with System Center goes even lower. This chart still includes Cireson with System Center. This does not include the cost of the data center fabric storage, VM’s etc… which would typically already be in place before deploying System Center.

The following table compares feature sets of System Center and ServiceNow.

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Notice ServiceNow does offer features such as automation and system management but they come at an additional monthly cost. One more item to point out from this slide is that System Center offers functionality that ServiceNow does not such as enterprise and cloud backup through Data Protection Manager and Virtualization and Private cloud Management through Virtual Machine Manager and Azure Pack. ServiceNow does offer Event Management it requires an additional purchase and plugin install.

So I pulled out information from the webinar that stuck out to me. There is much more information in the webinar and context behind each of the charts I included in this blog post. I recommend you watch the full webinar. You can watch the entire webinar right here:

System Center + Cireson versus ServiceNow: A Head-to-Head Comparison from Team Cireson on Vimeo.

NOTE: Below is a link to another blog that covers Service Manager vs ServiceNow.

http://blog.navantis.com/reduce-it-spend-and-increase-performance-choosing-the-right-it-service-desk-tool/

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What is Microsoft Azure Backup Server?

Want to have DPM without having to buy System Center? Now you can. It is called Microsoft Azure Backup Server (MABS). Well MABS is not really a full DPM but a scaled back DPM. Microsoft released Microsoft Azure Backup Server on October 7th, 2015. In this post I am going to break down what Microsoft Azure Backup Server is.

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Microsoft Azure Backup Server’s goal is to solve some problems that have existed with Azure backup for a while. These problems are:

  • -No centralization of protected servers with Azure Backup. Historically if you did not have DPM and you only had Azure Backup but needed to protect on premises server you would install the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services Agent (MARS) agent on your on premises servers. They would then be protected up to Azure.
  • -Without DPM Azure Backup can only backup files and folders. To protect workloads like SQL, Exchange up to Azure you needed to protect with DPM first and then send the data up to Azure.
  • -Purchasing a System Center license is not economical for some organizations.

Microsoft Azure Backup Server solves these issues because it is an on premises backup server. Under the hood it is a scaled back DPM so it gives you similar functionality. It lets you protect the same workloads as DPM to disk on premises first and then up to Azure or you can backup directly to Azure. Essentially it gives you two types of protection:

  • – Disk (D2D), giving high RTOs for tier 1 workloads
  • – Azure (D2D2C) for long term retention

Tape protection with Microsoft Azure Backup Server is not possible. This is not included in the product.

MABS also gives you a centralized location on premises to backup your on prem servers to, manage the backup agent of your on prem servers and see the status of their protection. MABS does this without the cost of a System Center license. It can be used when you subscribe to Azure Backup. MABS will require you to provide backup vault credentials during the setup.

From the Microsoft site on MABS pricing: “Microsoft Azure Backup Server will continue to bill customers as per their existing Azure offers (e.g. Pay-as-you-go, EA, Open).” You can learn about Azure Backup pricing here: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-in/pricing/details/backup/

Now to get Microsoft Azure Backup Server you can either go download it directly here:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=49170

Or you can download from the Azure portal. Go to:

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Then click on the “Download Microsoft Azure Backup Server for Applications” link as shown in the following screenshot.

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Microsoft Azure Backup Server is great for organizations that need a backup solution without the cost of the entire System Center suite. Keep in mind this does not provide tape backup. However backup up to Azure for offsite is a cost effective solution and also now gives you on premises backup to disk as well.

Here is an official blog post on Microsoft Azure Backup Server along with “how to” videos. These videos will help you install and configure Microsoft Azure Backup Server. https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/announcing-microsoft-azure-backup-server/

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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: http://feedback.azure.com/forums/267889-azure-operational-insights/suggestions/6686744-android-mobile-app . 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 (https://twitter.com/rob_plank/status/654706738222907392). 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.

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Once installed you will find it with your other apps.

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

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

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Here is a screenshot of the sign in screen.

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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

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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.

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System Center Futures 2016 and Beyond

UPDATE 9-4-2015:

***There is an upcoming FREE event covering the Future of System Center. This will be held on Sep 25, 2015 at the Microsoft MTC in Minnesota (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/mtc/locations/minneapolis.aspx). This is a must attend event for any company running System Center. For more info on this event visit: http://bit.ly/1JIHS48***

Last week I was able to attend the first ever Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago. There was a lot of exciting news announced at this conference around the many Microsoft products and technologies. Everything was covered from SharePoint, Exchange, Unified Communications, Office, Windows server, Windows 10, all things Azure and more. This post is focused for any System Center professional that was unable to attend the MS Ignite 2015 conference but what’s to know what’s up with System Center. If you had any concern about System Center going away or just want to know about the future of System Center in general this post is for you.

During conference there were many sessions related to the various System Center components however there were a couple of critical sessions that covered the future of System Center. These are the Platform Vision & Strategy sessions. These are titled:

Windows Server & System Center Futures—Bring Azure to your Datacenter (Platform Vision & Strategy)

And

Platform Vision & Strategy (6 of 7): What’s New in System Center for Management

These sessions are important because they featured System Centers top guy Jeremy Winter and he talked about future direction of the management solutions. In this post I will sum up key information from each of these sessions.

NOTE: This post is my perspective on the Platform Vision & Strategy sessions from Ignite and do not represent the opinions of Microsoft.

Traditionally System Center has been a complete management stack for IT Operations. This is not going to change but will continue to get better. The stack consists of: Managing endpoints (PC’s/Mobile device/servers) – *SCCM/Intune* | Monitor – *SCOM* | Automation – *Orchestrator (SMA)* | Provision – *VMM* | Service Management – *SCSM* | Protection – *Data Protection Manager* | Self-service – *Azure Pack* also represented in the following screenshot from one of the session slides.

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So we are now in the year 2015 and have not had a new major version of the entire stack since 2012. However since the release of System Center 2012 we have seen a steady progression of enhancement to the stack. We have seen it move from SP1 to R2 and now updates and new features through update rollups.

These update rollups have been released on a faster cadence at a speed we have not seen from Microsoft before. In fact we have recently seen a round of new features in update rollup 6 and more announced at Ignite. Below is a list of key features that stuck out to me along with slides from one of the Platform Vision & Strategy sessions giving insight into where the System Center components are headed next.

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Microsoft Private & Public Cloud Poster

On August 1st Microsoft released a new Cloud Ecosystem poster. Microsoft has a great Public and Private cloud story. With Microsoft technologies On-premises and public Azure and other Microsoft public cloud technologies such as Intune are really tied together. Microsoft Private and Public cloud consist of Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and … Read more

DPM Azure Cloud Backup – Setup, Config, Recovery

This topic has been blogged about a few times already. Some of the posts I have seen just contain information about the service and not the setup, are no longer current, or are missing information on generating a certificate.

I have decided to go ahead and blog about this to detail my experience in the setup. In this post I am going to walk through deploying Azure backup for DPM 2012 SP1.

Here is what will be covered: setup of Azure cloud backup, adding Azure cloud backup to a protection group, and recovering data from Azure cloud backup in DPM.

Setup of Azure cloud backup:

This is what the Azure management portal looks like and the first screen you will see when you go create a backup vault. To create the backup vault click on Recovery Services and add cloud backup.

You will notice that it gives you the steps you need to get started with Azure cloud backup.

AzurePortal

The first thing we need to do is create a certificate for our local DPM server and upload this to Azure.

Use the Makecert tool to create a local cert or use an existing local CA to generate the certificate for your DPM server.

Makecert can be found here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsserver/bb980924.aspx as a part of the Windows SDK.

To install makecert.exe only select the option Tools under .Net Development in the SDK install wizard.



Here is the process to create a certificate for your local DPM server.

Open an elevated command prompt (with Admin privileges) and CD to the location where makecert.exe is stored.

On my server it was here:
C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v7.1\Bin Once are there type the following syntax:

makecert.exe -r -pe -n CN=YOURDPMSERVERNAMEHERE -ss my -sr localmachine -eku 1.3.6.1.5.5.7.3.2 -len 2048 -e 01/01/2016 YOURDPMSERVERNAMEHERE

After you create the certificate properly it will be created and stored in the same location here:
C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v7.1\Bin.



NOTE: The expiration date of your certificate has to be no more than 3 years from today’s date or

Azure will not like the cert and you will receive this error:


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