Hyperbole, Embellishment, and Systems Administration Blog

Aug 22, 2011

Systems Administration is the art of operationalizing pessimism

If something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Usually at about 4.50pm on a Friday afternoon when you’ve got reservations for a meal at a nice restaurant with your partner at 7pm. Even more likely if you’ve organized a baby sitter for the evening. Nothing attracts bad luck like the possibility of extreme inconvenience. It’s at this time that the whole idea of the “Cloud” sounds awesome - because surely if you used the “Cloud” you wouldn’t have some storage array on the SAN in your datacenter try to chew itself to pieces in some sort of bizarre late Friday afternoon suicide ritual. Well it might happen - but that’s the “Cloud’s Problem” and wouldn’t be yours. Perhaps infrastructure outsourcing is a more direct method of redirecting bad systems karma to another team of geeks. I’m not sure how superstitious most systems administrators are, but I’m definitely one who assumes if that someone says “it can’t get any worse than this” then odds are that the universe is going to find a way to prove that statement incorrect. Systems Administration is the art of operationalizing pessimism. You think up ways that stuff can go wrong and you then come up with work arounds. You back up data so that in the event that it becomes corrupted or the disk hosing it fails, you’ve got a work around. You use clustered servers so that if one server fails spectacularly, you’ve got another server there to take the load. You use redundant networks so that if one switch or router decides to fry its internal electronics, you’ve got another one that will quietly keep the packets flowing. But you don’t need to cluster everything and you don’t need redundant networks everywhere. In some places you’ll be fine with the downtime it takes to pull a spare bit of network hardware out of storage and replace it, rather than spending money so that each piece of network hardware has a failover. You don’t need to host every SQL Server database on a failover cluster. In a lot of situations, just using replica...More
Aug 18, 2011

DPM Client Protection Poem

The following is a little poem I used to open my DPM client protection talk. Someone asked me to post it and I figured that the Windows IT Pro blogs didn’t get enough poetry related to System Center ;-)   --   Have you ever stopped to wonder, where corporate data resides On servers, on file shares, on laptops it hides. Business critical information, data your organization needs Sprouting in locations inaccessible to backup it breeds.   Data that users might work on, but never remember to save When their hard disk goes crash, the situation is grave. These mission critical documents, at risk once again, If only someone smart had deployed System Center D.P.M   So how much will your company need, to ensure that laptop data’s not lost The good news is if you have ECALs, is that DPM’s no extra cost. So autodeploy DPM to clients, with an opsmanager management pack You’ll protect servers and clients, you’ll protect the whole stack....More
Aug 4, 2011

Mike Resseler and Orin Thomas debate Consumerization of IT

Mike Resseler, System Center DPM MVP and Senior Technical Consultant for Infront Consulting Group Belgium and I have been discussing over twitter whether consumerization of IT is likely to be a growing trend in future. Microsoft has a page on the consumerization of IT here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/consumerization/default.aspx We thought that it might be interesting to have a written debate about the issue. Here is the result of that debate: Orin: I suppose we need to start with some definitions. Consumerization of IT is a way of labeling the trend of people increasingly using their own phones/tablets/and computers to perform work related tasks. While people have always taken work home with them, the consumerization of IT is something beyond allowing them VPN access from their home computer (or dial-up access as it was a decade or so ago). I think that the consumerization of IT was more of a growing trend back before the beginning of the “Great Recession” when people were more likely to purchase computer hardware that might have been more powerful than the hardware provided to them by their workplace. For example, someone buys themselves a brand new laptop and they’d rather bring that into the office and work on that than the older, less capable, computer that they are given by the company. Now oddly enough I’ve always been a part of that trend. When I’ve been working as a trainer or as a systems administrator, I’ve always had my own gear with me. That’s because I’m a gadget geek and have always had pretty good portable systems. However, even when I’ve worked with other geeks, I’ve found that my choice was the exception rather than the rule. Except for me, my fellow trainers, all geeks, at a company I recently worked for, chose to use the laptop computers allocated to them by the company rather than purchase their own computer. I used my own computer because I needed more RAM than the SOE laptops, and that I also would come in early and work at writin...More
Aug 3, 2011

Leverage Service Manager to allow end users to trigger Orchestrator runbooks

While you can think of System Center Orchestrator as the glue that binds the System Center suite together, System Center Service Manager (SCSM), especially with the upcoming 2012 release previewed at places like MMS and TechED, increasingly seems to be the front end that makes it straightforward enough that Joel from Marketing can initiate Orchestrator Runbooks. SCSM is one of those Microsoft products that most administrators aren’t aware of. If they know anything about it at all, it’s that it is some sort of service desk solution, something like Remedy. The current version of SCSM has a reputation that is shared by many first release products. That the product does some interesting things, but it needs to spend a bit more time in the oven before it finds itself more widely adopted. SCSM can do some very interesting things - primarily because it’s designed to fully integrate with other products in the System Center suite. It’s this integration, these synergies between management products, that lead me to believe that in the next few years we’ll see SCSM getting a lot more attention. Why do I think that? Let me come back to Orchestrator. For those not up-to-date on their Orchestrator nomenclature, a runbook is a set of automated tasks that administrators can put together. It’s sort of like writing a script, but instead of doing it all in PowerShell, you use a drag and drop interface to link specific tasks together. Administrators who have the sort of enthusiasm for scripting that a 4 year old boy has for cabbage can put together automated processes in less time than it takes to explain what the term “Declarative Provisioning” means to anyone who is buzzword aphasic . When you build a runbook, you draw these tasks together from Orchestrator IP. An IP is a collection of product specific tasks. Depending on the IP, one task might be to get Data Protection Manager (DPM) to go and protect a specific data source, another task might be to create a new VM from a template...More
Jul 29, 2011

Why System Center 2012 could be as important to your career as Windows Server 2012 1

You’re probably peripherally aware that more and more details about Windows Server “8” are leaking out of Redmond. But Windows Server “8” isn’t the only news out of Redmond to which you should be paying attention. You should also keep an eye on the System Center 2012 suit as this suite promises to be as important, if not more important, to your career. The reasoning behind it is as follows. It’s all down to economics. The most expensive part of an organization’s IT infrastructure is not the software licensing, not the electricity, and not the hardware. The most expensive part of an organization’s IT infrastructure is the cost of the people who manage that infrastructure. System Center 2012 is as important to your career as Windows Server “8” because it provides you with a comprehensive set of tools that allows you to manage a greater number of servers, applications, and desktops. The administrator who knows how to fully leverage Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, Data Protection Manager and Orchestrator is able to manage a far larger IT infrastructure than and administrator who only knows the ins-and-outs of a server operating system like Windows Server “8”. An Administrator who knows System Center backward provides more bang for the buck for an organization than an Administrator who is ignorant of these technologies. While there are products out there that do the same things as individual components of the System Center stack, there are two substantial advantages to using system center products: · Each system center product is specifically designed to work with the other system center products. Configuration Manager is designed to work with Operations Manager, Orchestrator, Service Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, and Data Protection Manager. · System Center is designed specifically to support Microsoft workloads. The 2012 revision of the System Center suite is designed not only to support Microsoft applications running on Mic...More
Jul 27, 2011

Why you should get on theOps Manager 2012 CEP - 27 Jul 2011

The Operations Manager 2012 Community Evaluation Program (CEP) is still open for applicants. CEPs involve regular hour long meetings where the product team takes you through the features of the new product and gives you access to a special form where any questions you have about the product will be answered. If you want to get a guided tour of all the new features of Operations Manager 2012 before the product releases next year, you should get involved with the Ops Mgr CEP. The initial topic list involves the following: Deploying Ops Mgr 2012 and upgrading from Ops Mgr 2007 R2. Presented by Rob Kuehfus and Nishtha Soni RMS Removal and Pooling.Presented by Rob Kuehfus and Nishtha Soni Configuration Service. Presented by Vitaly Filimonov Dashboard visualization with widgets, alerts, performance metrics and state. Presented by Ake Pettersson and Dale Koetke Performance and Reliability driven SLAs with Application Performance Management. Presented by Michael Guthrie Network Monitoring. Presented by Vishnu Nath Cross Platform – JEE & Unix/Linux (tomcat, websphere, apache, jbos). Presented by Peiron Liu and Kris Bash You can sign up for the Ops Mgr 2012 CEP through the following page https://connect.microsoft.com/site1211...More
Jul 19, 2011

Operations Manager 2012 Beta Available 1

The System Center Operations Manager 2012 beta is available now for download from Microsoft’s website. Operations Manager 2012 will be a substantial piece in any systems management strategy. A Community Evaluation Program is for the product is set to launch in the next few weeks. All of Microsoft’s System Center products will have 2012 editions, with betas for Orchestrator, Virtual Machine Manager, and Configuration Manager 2012 already released and betas for Data Protection Manager and Service Manager coming sometime in the next few months.   Operations Manager 2012 offers the following new features: Application performance monitoring and diagnostics for .NET applications JEE application health monitoring The ability to monitor heterogeneous environments Integrated network device alerts and monitoring Streamlined management infrastructure You can find out more about Operations Manager 2012 at the Operations Manager 2012 beta page. You can download the beta from the following location:  http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=26804...More
Jul 14, 2011

Orchestrator and wheel reinvention

One of the most common questions that seems to come up on the System Center Orchestrator Community Evaluation Program (CEP) calls is “when will we get an integration pack or a task that does X”. Adam Hall, the Orchestrator mentioned as a response that while integration packs did provide simple tools for creating Runbook automation, Orchestrator itself, with its included activities, actually allowed you to already configure a lot of products to do what you wanted them to do. For example, one of the attendees asked why there wasn’t a folder copy task amongst the list of standard tasks that could be added to a Runbook. The answer was straightforward and simple – instead of having a separate activity devoted purely to the copying of folders, use the Run Program activity to execute the robocopy.exe command line utility. Part of the elegance of Orchestrator is that it doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Robocopy.exe has a plethora of options. Rather than come up with a task item that include some way of copying files and folders, but only includes a tenth of the options robocopy.exe has, use the Run Program item to leverage an awesome pre-existing tool to accomplish what you want through the Runbook designer. The activities that ship with Orchestrator allow you to run Programs, commands, .NET scripts, SSH commands, and PowerShell scripts. Although it’s a lot easier to use an activity from an IP, pretty much everything you need to get automation going is already included out of the box.   Follow me on twitter: @orinthomas...More
Jul 12, 2011

Windows Server 2012 peeks its head over the wall

Microsoft provided a first look-see at Windows Server 8 at WPC this week. We’ve been hearing all about Windows 8 Client, so it’s good to finally know something, even if it is very brief, about the successor to Windows Server 2008 R2. At the moment it looks as though Windows Server 8 will RTM at the same time that Windows 8 Client does. The focus, at this stage, is on the updates to Hyper-V – ostensibly to provide support for Microsoft’s increasing focus on the private cloud. The heavily promoted feature at this stage is Hyper-V Replica. Hyper-V Replica allows you to replicate your VMs from one Windows Server 8 host to another. I’m guessing that this will be some sort of block level replication, but at this stage we’ll have to wait until Build to get more info on this product. Windows Server 8 apparently has 100 new features, most of which we’ll probably find out about over the coming months. I’m hoping that we might see a public beta at around the same time that Windows 8 Client goes into public beta – mostly because while the client stuff gets all the attention, the server stuff is actually more interesting....More
Jul 12, 2011

New Windows Intune beta available

The next version of Microsoft’s cloud based management suite for SMBs, Windows Intune, has been released as a beta. The beta itself can be used on up to 10 computers until 30 days after this version of Windows Intune becomes commercially available. If you’re interested in finding out more about Windows Intune, which has been getting a lot of positive buzz recently, you should get on the beta to see whether or not this cloud based management service might improve the way you manage small numbers of Windows based PCs.   The new beta offers the following features: Software Distribution. Allows you to deploy Microsoft and third party applications to Intune managed PCs. Remote Tasks. Allows you to remotely run full and quick anti-malware scans, update definitions and restart Intune managed PCs. License Management. Allows you to manage Microsoft retail, OEM, and volume licenses. Also supports license management for third party software. Enhanced Reporting. Allows you to generate hardware reports, detailing the hardware configuration of Intune managed PCs. Alerts and Monitoring. Alert types can be configured to trigger when a specific threshold is reached, or a specific percentage of Windows Intune managed computers become affected. To find out more about getting involved with the beta, check out this post on the Windows Intune Team Blog: http://blogs.technet.com/b/windowsintune/archive/2011/07/11/windows-intune-beta-now-available.aspx Follow me on twitter @orinthomas...More
Jul 11, 2011

Is “The Cloud” another fizzling fad? 3

Is the cloud another fad, promoted only by buzzword happy consultants, or is it the future of IT? I don’t think anyone really knows. Things certainly aren’t helped by the contradictory and sometimes incoherent definitions of what the cloud actually is. At the moment not enough organizations have moved into the cloud for anyone to make a determination as to whether or not it’s a really great idea. It takes a few years until after a revolutionary change before people work out whether they’ve improved the process or driven themselves over a cliff. It’s a bit like outsourcing. When outsourcing came along, a lot of buzzword happy consultants could only say positive things about it. Save money! Outsource! Get rid of that pesky bunch of nerds in the IT department! A decade down the track and we hear a lot of organizations that were gung-ho about outsourcing early on have pulled a lot of stuff back in-house. The efficiencies that looked like they were there often turned out to be phantasms. It doesn’t help that the “cloud crowd” can be maddeningly short on detail when it comes to explain how a cloud deployment will benefit an organization more than a traditional deployment. Sometimes the messaging seems really off. If you’ve been to enough presentations I’m sure you’ve heard the one about “the executive with the credit card who does an end run around IT and buys a cloud service to run what becomes a business critical app”. (Whatever it’s meant to do, this story is part of the reason that a lot of IT people see the cloud as something that will take their job away as the story is designed to appeal to the exec and not the IT person.) Whether or not the cloud takes over IT comes down to efficiencies. Cloud providers have vast resources that allow an organization to spin up and spin down capacity as it is needed. You leverage efficiencies as you only pay for that capacity that you use. The cloud provider’s vast resources lead to economies of scale. Just like outsourcing...More
Jul 5, 2011

Orchestrator 2012 and Blue Collar / White Collar IT Professionals 1

In a recent presentation, PowerShell creator Jeffrey Snover talked about the coming bifurcation of the profession of Systems Administrator into what he called “Blue Collar” and “White Collar” IT. His argument is that the ongoing trend in the industry is towards fewer people being responsible for more and more servers and that roles that would likely see wage growth were the ones that drove that consolidation.   Snover prophesized that IT Pros who had the ability to heavily automate proce...More
Jun 30, 2011

Minimizing the problems caused by personal Laptops used on the organizational network

Back in the mid 90’s when I worked on the helpdesk at an Australian University, the University organized for site licenses of anti-virus software so that anyone that was a student or a staff member at the University was able to get a free copy to install on their personal computer. The University’s thinking was that unless these computers were protected, they would likely become a vector for infecting computers owned by the University, either indirectly through email and document borne viruses o...More
Jun 5, 2011

System Center Operations Manager 2012 and Orchestrator 2012 Community Evaluation Programs now taking applications

OpsMgr 2012 and Orchestrator 2012 CEPs now taking applications...More
Jun 1, 2011

Should personal computers be allowed on the corporate network? 3

Should you allow personal computers to access the organizational network?...More
Jun 1, 2011

Up to 120,000 users download infected apps from Android Market 2

Up to 120,000 users download infected apps from Android Market...More
May 27, 2011

Forefront TMG being dropped by Microsoft?

Is this the last version of TMG?...More
May 24, 2011

System Center Updates Publisher 2011 released

Updates publisher for ConfigMgr 2011 released....More
May 23, 2011

System Center TechED Sessions

System Center TechED sessions now online....More
Mar 22, 2011

Opalis becomes Orchestrator 1

System Center super integration product Opalis has been given its System Center moniker and will henceforth be known as System Center Orchestrator...More
What's Hyperbole, Embellishment, and Systems Administration Blog?

IT pro Orin Thomas provides true tales, snafus, news, and urban legends for Microsoft Windows system administrators.


Orin Thomas

Orin Thomas is a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and a Windows Security MVP. He has authored or coauthored more than thirty books for Microsoft Press, founded the Melbourne System Center,...
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