Thursday, 29 November 2012

Free 90 Day Windows Azure Trail

Hello all,

Just a quick note, Windows Azure has a free trail available.

Follow this link :


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Top Tips for ConfigMgr/SCCM 2012 From 1E

I was digging around on for a post regarding SCSM, but I found this, its a really great post that was from TechNet originally.

I have I feel cant quite get enough good advice from deploying SCCM. 


1E Consultants took a deep dive into System Center 2012 Configuration Manager and here are their top tips for success.
  1. Application model – ConfigMgr 2012 introduces a completely new alternative approach to software distribution – the Application Model. With the Application Model, an Application has a number of Deployment Types, each defining the required source files, install and uninstall command lines and user experience (e.g. does a user need to be logged in?), similar to the properties of the legacy Package and Program.
  2. Site hierarchy – data can be now coordinated and replicated throughout the Central Administration Site (CAS), while boundaries can be set for all ‘sites’, providing a simpler, minimalist way to manage the IT infrastructure. A Single Site ConfigMgr 2012 hierarchy will be a reality for most organizations with less than 100,000 clients to manage.
  3. Site-to-site replication – Site-to-Site communication has received a major overhaul in ConfigMgr 2012 with the introduction of SQL replication replacing most of the legacy file transfer in and out of inboxes. Changes in any Primary Site database will be replicated globally to all Sites in the hierarchy, not just the immediate parent or child.
  4. Administration – The Admin Console in ConfigMgr 2012 has been completely redesigned and written from the ground up. It does not use MMC, displays only the features the admin has rights to and has a separate MSI for installation. The revamped admin security model offers a combination of security roles, collections and security scopes to define what objects an administrative user can see and the types of actions they can perform.
  5. Managing clients over the internet – New to ConfigMgr 2012 is the possibility for internet-based clients to evaluate user-based policies (such as Application Deployments).
  6. Scalability – support for up to 400,000 clients in a Single Site hierarchy when the database for the CAS is running SQL Server Enterprise. Each Primary Site can support up to 100,000 clients if the database and Primary Site roles are hosted on separate servers.
  7. Distribution points – There are some notable changes in the role of the Distribution Point (DP) in ConfigMgr 2012. Essentially a single Distribution Point replaces the previous Branch Distribution Point.
  8. User in control – ConfigMgr 2012 has been built with the user in mind. The Software Center provides an accessible interface for the user to view and manage all software installed, as well as a new level of control over the actions that will impact users the most.
  9. Client health and efficiency – new agents such as Health Evaluation and Endpoint Protection, as well as the Automatic Deployment Rules feature, work to ensure clients remain healthy, operational and efficient.
  10. Client configuration – the introduction of ‘profiles’ replace the previous blanket global approach to configuration, allowing more specific settings dependent on your needs. What is really cool with this interface is that new classes can be added by connecting to WMI on any computer and browsing to the class you want to report on.
If you would like a detailed version of these tips please mail:

Monday, 26 November 2012

Config Manager 2012 SP1 OSD - Whats New?

I have been asked quite a lot about some of the changes that are coming as part of SCCM 2012 SP1. So I thought I'd take a moment to put these changes on the blog. 

Below are the changes for OSD on SCCM SP1 that Microsoft provided. 

The following items are new or have changed for operating system deployment in Configuration Manager SP1:
  • Changes to Configuration Manager Setup:
    • Configuration Manager SP1 uses the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK) instead of Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) to deploy an operating system. Before you run Setup, you must download and install Windows ADK on the site server and the provider computer.
    • The User State Migration Tool (USMT) for Windows 8 is installed as part of the Windows ADK. At the top-level site, Setup automatically creates the package for this new version of USMT at the site.
    • Setup automatically updates default boot images at the site. You must manually update any custom boot images
  • Changes to task sequence:
    • The default task sequences have been modified to optimize the deployment of operating systems starting with Windows 7.
    • Support for computers that are in Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) mode. The task sequence sets the SMSTSBootUEFI built-in task sequence variable when it detects a computer that is in UEFI mode.
    • The default task sequence automatically partitions the computer based on the default Windows configuration for the operating system.
    • The build and capture task sequence was updated to apply the operating system image instead of running Setup.exe for installation. You can still run Setup.exe for Windows 8 deployments.
    • You can control the behavior of the write filter on Windows Embedded devices when you deploy task sequences.
  • Changes to how you create prestaged media:
    • You can specify applications, packages, and driver packages to deploy with the operating system.
    • You can add or remove content for prestaged media.
    • When you deploy the task sequence by using prestaged media, the wizard checks the local task sequence cache for valid content first, and if the content cannot be found or has been revised, the content is downloaded from the distribution point.
  • Changes to BitLocker support:
    • Use the Pre-provision BitLocker task sequence step to encrypt the disk drive from Windows PE and only encrypt the space used by data. The result is much faster encryption times.
    • TPM and PIN is now available as one of the key management options for the current operating system drive in the Enable BitLocker task sequence step.
  • Added language neutral boot images:
    • You can use the SMSTSLanguageFolder built-in variable to change the language for information displayed by Windows PE.
    • Languages are auto-detected and used when boot images are started from Software Center.
  • Added the following task sequence built-in variables:
    • SMSTSPersistContent: Use this variable to temporarily persist content in the task sequence cache.
    • SMSTSPostAction: Use this variable to run a command after the task sequence completes.
    • SMSTSBootUEFI: The task sequence sets the SMSTSBootUEFI variable when it detects a computer that is in UEFI mode.
    • SMSTSLanguageFolder: Use this variable to change the display language of a language neutral boot image.
    • OSDPreserveDriveLetter: This variable determines whether or not the task sequence uses the drive letter on the operating system image WIM file. In Configuration Manager, the drive letter on the WIM file was used when applying the operating system image WIM file. In Configuration Manager SP1, you can set the value for this variable to False to use the drive letter that you specify in the task sequence.
    • SMSTSDownloadProgram: Use this variable to specify a downloader program that is used to download content instead of the downloader for the task sequence. As part of the content download process, the task sequence checks the variable for a specified downloader program. If specified, the task sequence runs the program to perform the download.
  • Changes to software update installation to offline operating system images:
    • Ability to continue updating an image even when one or more software updates fail to install.
    • Software updates are copied from the content library on the site server instead of the package source.
  • Better monitoring and status for task sequence content and task sequence deployments.
  • New deployment setting allows you to deploy the task sequences that are only available in Windows PE.
  • You can manage Windows PE optional components from the Optional Components tab in the properties for boot images.
  • You can export and import driver packages from the Driver Packages node in the Software Library workspace.

    For more details all the other System Center SP1 changes can be found here:

    Hope that helped.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

I Gave Up At SMS

Something rather startled me today, it wasn't the mounting pressure of project nearing completion nor was it the fact I can't even recall what day of the week it is, it was something a technician said as we were discussing System Center 2012. Let me set the scene

His name is Mark, he's been a technician (3rd line support) for about 15 years now, working at the same office in the same server room all that time. Its safe to say that he knows his environment inside out as literately every I.T change that's occurred in the last 15 years, Mark has been the guy that's installed the software that runs his organization. So he's invaluable to his company. We struck up a conversation around where Config Manager 2012 fits into the private cloud, he looked at me with a blank expression and said "I gave up at SMS". Those 5 words hit me right between the eyes and left me dazed, and it got me thinking again, rather a lot.

Things is, I couldn't comment, I've never used SMS. Ever. To me SMS was an old wives tale. I'm of the understanding that SMS got the nickname "Slow Moving Software" (Greg Shields told me that one) and that's it, my knowledge is exhausted. You see, I'm of the generation where everything is 100mph, things like 3G, Smartphones and Facebook were just there, all the time, its how people communicated, it's considered the norm. It made me reminisce in the same way you would say "Wow Grandad, World War 2 doesn't sound like a nice time away from Granny at all". I'm never going to see a war on my home front on the scale of what was seen in 1939 - 1945, but I can imagine it must have been terrible.

It quickly dawned on me that I'm still a guppy in the ocean of I.T. I can make a few things tick over on Config Manager 2007 and 2012, mostly 2012. And that puts me at a disadvantage I fear as I wasn't there in the good old days when things just never worked, or worked all the time depending on the individual at the time.

That leads me onto the question of is it getting easier or more and more difficult to step into I.T at high level? I mean think about it, you never really leave support do you, even the guys who are in the management and infrastructure teams are still supporting the business and ultimately the application owners and end users is some way. Where do you start? at the bottom of course, I think these days its getting harder and harder to make a solid move in the I.T game without moving organizations or getting a job at Google.

Point is, I'm still in a state of Flux, being my age and advising guys who have seen and done it all has its challenges, but I would assume that keeping your head down and simply moving on seems to be the best way forward.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

DPM 2012 SP1 Agent Upgrade Fail on DPM 2 DPM

I’m with a client today installing DPM 2012 SP1, it’s an upgrade from DPM 2012 onto Server 2012.

So long story short, installed SP1 on the 2 servers, Server 1 was backing up SharePoint 2007 and SQL 2005, Server 2 was backing up Server 1. All of the agent upgrades on Server 1 was a success.

However there was a slight hiccup when trying to upgrade the Agent on Server 1 from Server 2.

Error: The service did not respond to the start or control request in a timely fashion (0x8007041D))

So trying to uninstall and then re-install the agent failed, (you need to remove all your protection groups prior to uninstallation by the way).

Here is how I finally fixed it.

1.    I tried to run DPMRA.exe on Server 1 from "C:\Program Files\Microsoft System Center 2012\DPM\DPM\bin\DPMRA.exe"  and it gave me an error saying “VssRequestor.dll” was missing. 

2.    That made it a little easier to solve and I located the VssRequestor.dll file on a client with the DPM 2012 SP1 agent installed in "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Data Protection Manager\DPM\bin\VssRequestor.dll" 

3.    I then copied it to Server 1 "C:\Program Files\Microsoft System Center 2012\DPM\DPM\bin\VssRequestor.dll”

I did also find that some of the historic data was still kept from the previous DPM instance, so ensure you remove any old SQL relics that may still lurk around in your previous server.

Hope this helps.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Twinkle Twinkle Little Hard Drive.

Cloud. Pretty cool word to use when you are sitting in a room with your clients, it can give the impression that you know what you’re talking about. "Hey this guy said cloud, must be a pro". But the truth is, very few of us actually understand the fundamental meaning of what cloud computing is about and even fewer still, understands why they need it.

I haven't been in the wonder emporium of IT for all that long, about 5 years now, and I have been doing I.T consultancy for little over a year now. But even I can sense a certain uneasy atmosphere beginning to form when people say "let’s put it in the cloud" and the first question is always "Wait, how do you put it in the cloud?". The answer is then made up of what seems to be a long explanation containing words such as Hyper-V, VMware and virtualization. I'll be honest I have shadowed some consultants and sales people on the road and ended up equally as confused and frustrated as the clients they were entertaining.

I spent many hours trying to figure out what the cloud is all about. I was speaking to one of my friends last night at the pub, and he asked me "H, iCloud what’s that about?" I explained it’s a storage service etc., and he looked at me and said "So cloud, is just a hard drive that I can access on the internet?" I said well, yes and no, it’s not solely an online hard drive, it’s one of the many things that comprises the notion of what cloud computing is. We spoke for a while, as part of my explanation I even shot my mouth off and told him that this isn't a button somewhere that says "create cloud". I was wrong, Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 has that button. Yes, there is a button that says create cloud. But my buddy doesn't know that. By the end of our little chat, I think he left with more questions than answers. And that made me think, rather a lot.

My explanation of what cloud is, does and how it functions in its various forms made my non-technical friend unsure if he ever even wanted to get involved in this witchcraft they call cloud.

Then it hit me. It’s not the consumers of non-technical end users that has a problem with cloud. It’s us, the I.T pro's. The reason I say that is because, when my friend asked me, "So cloud, is just a hard drive that I can access on the internet?" I should have said yes. Not to humour him, but because he's correct and it made logical sense to him. What I did with my "well technically" speech was alienate him from the cloud computing entirely, despite the fact that he uses other cloud technologies everyday via Facebook, Twitter, E bay and Amazon, but he didn't need to know that, to him cloud was a hard drive in the sky.

Truth is, cloud computing is a platform for delivering Information Technology as a service, mostly through the internet. If your idea of cloud computing falls in those guidelines, you understand cloud.

Well, that's what I think anyway.