Tag: Orchestrator

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System Center release cadence

System Center 2019 – What’s new

Microsoft just launched Windows Server 2019 and Windows Admin Center, which also raised the interest in System Center 2019. At Microsoft Ignite, Microsoft was talking about what is new in System Center 2019, the future of System Center, and how it fits in with Windows Admin Center and other management tools.

Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management Story

Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management Overview

With Microsoft now offering a range of products to manage your Cloud and Datacenter environments, the question comes up “which is the best solution?”. It is not only depending on the size of your company, it also depends on which services you are using and what your job role is. Coming from the Azure site, you have Azure Security and Management, which allows you not only to manage your Azure resources but also integrates and extends with your on-premises environment. System Center is aimed to manage fatacenter environments at scale, and Windows Admin Center helps you to dig deeper to manage individual servers or single cluster management. Both Windows Admin Center and System Center 2019, can be used side by side and both are integrated into Microsoft Azure.

System Center Windows Admin Center better together

System Center vs Windows Admin Center

I often get the question, does Windows Admin Center replace System Center? The answer to this is no, System Center is aimed to do management at a datacenter scale, while Windows Admin Center is giving you deep management access to a single server or clusters. In small environments you might end up using Windows Admin Center only, but in larger datacenter deployments, you are likely to use a combination of System Center and Windows Admin Center.

System Center 2019 Suite Improvements

System Center 2019 Focus

The System Center 2019 release focuses on three main areas. First of all, it adds more capabilities to the existing components and features which were requested by customers. Secondly, it brings integration for the next version of Windows Server, Windows Server 2019 and brings new Windows Server features to life in System Center. Last but not least, System Center 2019 adds more Hybrid Cloud integrations with Microsoft Azure.



SMA Author RunBooks in Windows Azure Pack

Service Management Automation – The Next Step in Cloud and Datacenter Automation

With System Center Orchestrator Microsoft already had an datacenter automation engine in his portfolio. Microsoft acquired Opalis added it to the System Center Suite, after a while Microsoft renamed Opalis to System Center Orchestrator. As we have a look at modern datacenters and our cloud environment automation is a key part of it. With the latest release of System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Azure Pack, Microsoft release a new automation engine based on PowerShell Workflows called Service Management Automation (SMA).

Windows Azure Pack Automation with SMA

SMA is integrated as one of the key Resource Provider in Windows Azure Pack, and allows you to manage your PowerShell Workflows in so called Runbooks. Service Management Automation enhances PowerShell Workflows in several different ways.

  • Centralized management
  • Centralized store for variables, credentials, certificates, connections, modules, workflows, checkpoints and schedules.
  • High availability workflow execution
  • Versioning
  • Odata web service (HTTP API)
  • Historical view of workflow jobs and their output

Architecture

SMA is build form several different components.

  • Web Service – HTTP/HTTPS API which distributes runbook jobs to runbook workers and builds the connection to Widnwos Azure Pack
  • Runbook worker – Executes Runbooks
  • PowerShell module – Enables SMA to be managed by Windows PowerShell
  • Windows Azure Pack – UI for administrators to create and manage runbooks
  • SQL database – Store for Runbooks and settings

SMA Architecture

  • The Automation web service communicates with Windows Azure Pack and authenticates users.
  • The SQL Server databases store and retrieve runbooks, runbook assets, activities, integration modules, and runbook job information.
  • Runbook workers run the runbooks, and they can be used for load balancing.
  • The management portal in Windows Azure Pack is where you author, debug, and start and stop runbooks.

Source: TechNet

One of the greats enhancements Service Management Automation together with Windows Azure Pack brings is the possibility to link runbooks to SPF and VMM activates used in the Virtual Machine Cloud. What does this mean? For example you link a runbook to a Create Virtual Machine activity, so every time a VM gets created the runbooks starts and also gets as input object the VM which was created. This is just one example what you can do with SMA and Windows Azure Pack VM Cloud, there are a lot of other possibilities as well.

If you compare System Center Orchestrator to Service Management Automation, SMA looks a little bit more complex if you have used a lot of Integrations Packs in SCORCH but if you have done a lot of work in PowerShell you will really like SMA and see the advantages of it.

Service Management Automation does not offer an user interface by itself, instead it is using the Windows Azure Pack portal, where admins can author, run, schedule and link runbooks.

SMA Author RunBooks in Windows Azure Pack



Cisco UCS Hardware

Automate your Cisco UCS with System Center Orchestrator

Some days ago I posted an article how you can manage your Cisco UCS Blade Center directly from System Center Virtual machine Manager. Cisco also offers an Integration Pack for System Center Orchestrator which allows you to automate your Cisco UCS via Orchestrator Integration Packs, which is great if you are building your own Private Cloud based on Cisco hardware.

First step you have to download the Cisco UCS PowerTool (PowerShell Module) and the Cisco UCS Microsoft System Center Orchestrator Integration Pack.

After you have installed the Cisco UCS PowerTool on your System Center Orchestrator Runbook servers you now an import the Integration Pack via the System Center Orchestrator Deployment Manager. With a right click on Integration Packs you can Register the Cisco UCS IP.

Cisco UCS Integration Pack Orchestator Deployment Manager

After that you also have to deploy the IP to the Orchestrator Runbook servers.

Cisco UCS Integration Pack Orchestator Deployment Manager Deploy

You can start to create new Orchestrator Run Books with the Runbook Designer. First open the SCO Runbook Designer and in the Options menu select Cisco UCS to added the Path to the Cisco UCS PowerTool module (PowerShell module). The default path the Cisco UCS PowerTools are installed is: “C:\Program Files (x86)\Cisco\Cisco UCS PowerTool\Modules\CiscoUcsPS\CiscoUcsPS.psd1”

Cisco UCS Integration Pack Orchestator PowerTool Path

You can now start to automate your Cisco UCS with System Center Orchestrator.

If you are interested in how you monitor your Cisco UCS system with System Center Operations Manager Stefan Roth blogged about that.



Hyper-V Host Patching – Cluster Aware Updading vs. Virtual Machine Manager Fabric Patching

Windows Server 2012 Logo

In the past weeks I was giving a Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V workshop to customers and as we went to the Hyper-V host management I talked about how you can update your Hyper-V infrastructure and how you can automatically update your Hyper-V cluster.

If we do not think about System Center Orchestrator we have basically two solutions to fully upgrade our Hyper-V clusters first is the System Center Virtual Machine Manager Fabric Patching which is available since System Center 2012. The second one is a new one called Cluster Aware Updating which is included in Windows Server 2012.

Both solutions do basically the same thing and using the same concept:

  1. Scanning the Hyper-V host for updates
  2. Putting the first node in maintenance mode and pause the node in the cluster
  3. Moving all virtual machines to other nodes of the cluster
  4. Installing the patches
  5. rebooting the server
  6. checking if all services are up again
  7. stop the maintenance mode
  8. start doing the same with the next node

This is basically what both solutions are doing, but there are small differences between them and both have advantages and disadvantages.

Cluster Aware Updating (CAU)

  • Moving not only virtual machines to other nodes, it does also move other cluster roles and cluster disks to other nodes
  • Cluster Aware Updating can use different update sources (Windows Update, Microsoft Update, WSUS, SCCM,…)
  • You can apply hotfixes via CAU
  • Cluster Aware Updating has APIs for third party vendors
  • You can do driver or firmware updates via CAU
  • You can schedule it via Self-Updating mode
  • Run pre- and post-scripts
  • Update Approval process over WSUS or SCCM
  • Only supporting Windows Server 2012
  • Coordination via cluster role

System Center Virtual Machine Manager

  • Does only move virtual machines to other nodes
  • Needs a WSUS server where the updates come from
  • Only updates which can be installed via WSUS
  • Virtualization (Fabric) Administrator will create update baselines and approve updates
  • Not third-party integration
  • Log – logs which administrator approved the updates
  • Integration in System Center Operations Manager, sets host in maintenance mode on SCOM so no alerts are generated.
  • Role based update management
  • Supports Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.
  • Coordination via Virtual Machine Manager

Both solution do a great job and can of course be extended by using Windows PowerShell, System Center Orchestrator or third-party products.

The two main differences are Windows Server 2012 Cluster Aware Updating is definitely the newer solution with extensibility for third-party solutions with support for other cluster roles not just Hyper-V. Where System Center Virtual Machine is the clear winner, is where you have security roles in place and you need logs and other security features. And System Center Virtual Machine Manager has also a connection to System Center Operations Manager which lets you set Hyper-V nodes to maintenance mode.



Update Rollup 2 for System Center 2012 Service Pack 1

System Center Logo

Microsoft released Update Rollup 2 for System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 which includes updates for the System Center Suite. Get more information about the Update Rollup 2 for System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 on support.microsoft.com.