Help! My Servers Aren’t Being Monitored!

SNAGHTML6643d4fThis isn’t right… I have System Center Operations Manager monitoring all of my servers for me, but this morning I noticed that several of my servers are in a warning state, but they are greyed out (which implies that they aren’t reporting in properly).  What do I do?

This is not uncommon, especially in smaller organizations where you may have a single IT Professional running everything.  While it is not a good practice, some IT Pros will use their own credentials (which are obviously going to be Domain or Enterprise Admin accounts) to make things work.  Here’s the problem… you set up your credentials in System Center Operations Manager as a Run As account… and then at some later date you changed your password.

It is never a good idea to use an individual’s credentials as a Run As account.  It is also never a good idea to provide Domain Admin credentials to a program, but that is another issue that I will tackle later on.  What you should do, when configuring System Center Operations Manager, is create action (or Service) accounts in Active Directory.  Use ridiculously long and impossible to guess passwords (Jean MacDonald Kennedy was the 23rd Queen of Tahiti) and change them on a less frequent basis… say, when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

So now we have a bunch of computers that are being monitored… oh wait, no they aren’t.  They only look like they are being monitored.  We’d better fix that, and pronto!

We have to figure out what servers this account applies to.  We cannot simply delete the RunAs account, because it is going to be associated with a profile.  So let’s start by figuring out what profile that is.

1) In the Administration workspace navigate to Run As Configuration – Accounts and locate the errant account in the list of action accounts.  Right-click on it, and click Properties.

2) In the Properties window click on Where is this credential used?For the sake of this article, the only profile listed is Default Action Account.  Close Account Usage and Run As Account Properties.

3) Navigate to Run As Configuration – Accounts and locate the profile.  Right-click on it and click Properties.

4) In the Run As Profile Wizard navigate to Run As Accounts.

5) In the list of Run As accounts find all instances where the user account is listed.


6) One by one, click Edit… In the Add a Run As Account window change the account to your Service Account.  Click OK.


7) When you have done this for all instances (remember, you may need to scroll down) click Save.

** IMPORTANT NOTE: If you get error messages preventing you from saving the profile, you can either break your back trying to troubleshoot the SQL errors… or if there aren’t too many systems using the offending account, you can delete those servers from SCOM, and when you have resolved the issue, go back and re-discover them.

Once this is done, you can now delete the Run As account:

8) Navigate to Run As Configuration – Accounts

9) Right-click on the offending account and click Delete. (Accept any warning).

That should do it!  Go forth and manage, and remember… an unmanaged server can work great and save you all sorts of time… until it stops working and you have no idea why, or even that it did stop working.

New (and Free!) E-Books

Last month I posted an updated list of free ebooks that Microsoft Press offers (Free E-Books… Way beyond PDF Files!) which was extremely well received.  Well today I was given information that MS Press released two new ebooks this month, both of which are extremely of interest to a lot of my readers.

Microsoft System Center Deploying Hyper-V with Software-Defined Storage & Networking

Microsoft System Center Software Update Management Field Experience

You can download one or both of them from here.  They are not yet available on but I hope that will change soon!

Welcome to What’s Next…

There is irony in the title of this post… What’s next.

I posted on Friday that it was my last day working full time at Yakidoo.  I really enjoyed my time there, and am glad that my next venture will allow me to stay on there on a limited basis.

This afternoon I am meeting a colleague at the airport in Seattle, and that will begin my first day at my new gig.  I will talk more about it in a few weeks, even though today will be my first billable day.  That is what’s Next.

However the reason he and I will be in Seattle – Bellevue/Redmond actually – is the Airlift for Windows Server, System Center (WSSC), and Windows Azure vNext… the next generation of datacenter and cloud technologies that Microsoft is ‘showing off’ to select Enterprise customers several months prior to launching them.  It will be a week of deep-dive learning, combined with the usual Microsoft Marketing machine.  How do I know?  It’s not my first kick at the can Winking smile

It is, of course, not my first such Airlift.  The first one I attended was for System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007, back in November of that year. It was a consulting firm that had sent me, in advance of my heading off to Asia to teach it.  I have since been to a couple of others, each either as a consultant, a Microsoft MVP, or as a Virtual Technology Evangelist for Microsoft.  I have not given this a lot of thought, but this will be my first Airlift / pre-Launch event that I am attending as a customer.  It will be interesting to see if and how they treat me differently.

I suspect that the versions of WSSC that I will learn about this week will be the first that I will not be involved in presenting or evangelizing in any way dating back to Windows Server 2003.  I will not be creating content, I will not be working the Launch Events, and I will not be touring across Canada presenting the dog and pony show for Microsoft.  I will not be invited by the MVP Program to tour the user groups presenting Hyper-V, System Center, or Small or Essential Business Servers.  I will not be fronting for Microsoft showing off what is new, or glossing over what is wrong, or explaining business reasons behind technology decisions.  It is, in its way, a liberating feeling.  It is also a bit sad.

Don’t get me wrong… I will still be blogging about it.  Just because Microsoft does not want me in their MVP program does not mean that I will be betraying my readers, or the communities that I have helped to support over the years.  I will be writing about the technologies I learn about over the next week (I do not yet know if there will be an NDA or publication embargo) but at some point you will read about it here.  I will also, if invited, be glad to present to user groups and other community organizations… even if it will not be on behalf of (or sponsored by) Microsoft.  I was awarded the MVP because I was passionate about those things and helping communities… it was not the other way around.

What else can I say?  I am at the airport in Toronto, and my next article will be from one of my favourite cities in North America… see you in Seattle!

Keep Up: How to configure SCOM to monitor the running state of services and restart them when they stop

Windows runs on services.  Don’t believe me?  Open your Services console and count just how many are running at any given time.  Of course, some of them are more important than others… especially when you are talking about servers that are critical to your organization.

A new customer recently called me for a DEAR Call (emergency visit) because their business critical application was not working, and they couldn’t figure it out.  I logged into the server, and at first glance there didn’t appear to be anything wrong on the application server.  However I knew that the application used SQL Server, and I did not see any SQL instances on the machine.  A quick investigation revealed that there was an external SQL Server running on another server, and it only took a few seconds to see why the application was failing.


Very simply put, the service was not started. I selected it, clicked Start the service, and in a few seconds the state changed:


A quick look showed that their business critical application (in this case SharePoint 2010) was working properly again.

My customer, who was thrilled to be back in business, was also angry with me.  ‘We spent tens of thousands of dollars on System Center Operations Manager so that we could monitor our environment, and what good does it do me?  I have to call you in when things stop working!’

Yell as much as you like I told him, but please remember the old truism… if you think it is expensive hiring professionals, try hiring amateurs.  After he had learned about the benefits of implementing a proper monitoring solution he told his IT guy to install it… and that is exactly what he did.

System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) is a monitoring framework, and really quite a good one.  In fact, if Microsoft included the tools within the product itself to monitor every component that it is capable of monitoring, it would have to come in a much bigger box.  Instead, what it gives you is the ability to import or create Management Packs (MPs) to monitor aspects of your IT environment.  It is up to you to then implement those MPs so that SCOM can monitor the many components of your infrastructure… and take the appropriate action when things go wrong.

Of course, there are much more in-depth MPs for monitoring Microsoft SQL Server, but for those IT generalists who do not need the in-depth knowledge of what their SQL is doing, simply knowing that the services are running is often good enough… and monitoring those services is the exact same step you would take to monitor the DNS Server service.

Although it is long, following these relatively simple steps will do exactly what you need.

1) Open the Operations Manager console.

2) In the Operations Manager console open the Authoring context.

3) In the navigation pane expand Management Pack Objects and click on Monitors.


4) Rick-click on Monitors and select Create a Monitor – Unit Monitor…

5) At the bottom of the Create a unit monitor window select the Management Pack you are going to save this to.  I never save to the default management packs – create your own, it is safer (and easier to recover when you hork something up).

6) In the Select the type of monitor to create section of the screen expand Windows Services and select Basic Service Monitor.  Click Next.


7) In the General Properties window name your monitor.  Make sure you name it something that you will recognize and remember easily.

8) Under Monitor target click Select… From the list select the target that corresponds to the service you will be monitoring.  Click OK.

9) Back in the General Properties window uncheck the Monitor is enabled checkbox.  Leaving this enabled will try to monitor this service on every server, not just the one where it resides.  Click Next.

10) In the Service Details window click the ellipsis button () next to Service Name.

11) In the Select Windows Service window either type the name of the target server, or click the ellipsis button and select the computer from the list.  Then select the service you wish to monitor from the list under Select service.  Click OK.


12) Back in the Service Details window the Service name window should be populated.  Click Next.

13) In the Map monitor conditions to health states window accept the defaults… unless of course you want to make sure that a service is NEVER started, at which point you can change that here.  Click Next.


14) In the Alert settings window select the Generate alerts for this monitor checkbox.  You can also put in a useful description of the alert in the appropriate box.  Click Create.

The saving process may take a minute or two, but when it is done search for it in the Monitors list.

14) Right-click on your custom monitor.  select Overrides – Override the Monitor – For a specific object of class: <Name of the product group>


15) In the Select Object window select the service you are monitoring and click OK

16) In the Override Properties window, under the Override-controlled parameters list, scroll for the parameter named Enabled and make the following changes:

a) Select the Override checkbox.

b) Change the Override Value to True.

c) Click Apply

d) Click Show Monitor Properties…

17) In the Monitor Properties window click the Diagnostic and Recovery tab.

18) Under Configure recovery tasks click Add… and when it appears click Recovery for critical health state.


19) Under the Create Recovery Task Wizard click Run Command and click Next.

20) In the Recovery Task Name and Description window

a) enter a Recovery name (Re-Start Service works for me!).

b) Select the checkbox Recalculate monitor state after recovery finishes.

c) Click Next.

21) In the Configure Command Line Execution Settings window enter the following information:

Full path to file: %windir%\System32\Net.exe

Parameters: start <service name>

Working directory: %windir%

Timeout (in seconds): 120

22) Click Create.

23) Close the Monitor Properties window.

24) In the Override Properties window click Apply then OK.

The doing is done, but before you pat yourself on the back, you have to test it.  I always recommend running these tests during off-hours for non-redundant servers.

1) Open the services.msc console.

2) Right-click on Services (Local) and click Connect to another computer…

3) Connect to the server where your monitored service is running.

4) Right-click on the service and click Stop Service.

It may take a couple of minutes, but if you get up and go for a walk, maybe make a cup of coffee or tea… by the time you get back, the service should be restarted.

There seems to be a reality in the world of IT that the more expensive something costs, the less it is likely to do out of the box.  It is great to have a monitoring infrastructure in place, but without configuring it to properly monitor the systems you have it can be a dangerous tool, because you will have a false sense that your systems are protected when they really aren’t.  Make sure that the solution you have is properly configured and tested, so that when something does go wrong you will know about it immediately… otherwise it will just end up costing you more.

Another tough exam…

As a subject matter expert (SME) on virtualization, I was neither excited nor intimidated when Microsoft announced their new exam, 74-409: Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center.  Unlike many previous exams I did not rush out to be the first to take it, nor was I going to wait forever.  I actually thought about sitting the exam in Japan in December, but since I had trouble registering there and then got busy, I simply decided to use my visit to Canada to schedule the exam.

This is not the first exam that I have gone into without so much as a glance at the Overview or the Skills Measured section of the exam page on the Internet.  I did not do any preparation whatsoever for the exam… as you may know I have spent much of the last five years living and breathing virtualization.  This attitude very nearly came back to bite me in the exam room at the Learning Academy in Hamilton, Ontario Wednesday morning.

Having taught every Microsoft server virtualization course ever produced (and having written or tech-reviewed many of them) I should have known better.  Virtualization is more than installing Hyper-V.  it’s more than just System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) and Operations Manager (OpsMgr).  It is the entire Private Cloud strategy… and if you plan to sit this exam you had better have more than a passing understanding of System Center Service Manager (ServMgr), Data Protection Manager (DPM), and Orchestrator.  Oh, and your knowledge should extend beyond more than one simple Hyper-V host.

I have long professed to my students that while DPM is Microsoft’s disaster recovery solution, when it comes down to it just make sure that your backup solution does everything that they need, and make sure to test it.  While I stand behind that statement for production environments, it does not hold water when it comes to Microsoft certification exams.  When two of the first few questions were on DPM I did a little silent gulp to myself… maybe I should have prepared a little better for this.

I do not use Service Manager… It’s not that I wouldn’t – I have a lot of good things to say about it.  Heck, I even installed it as recent as yesterday – but I have not used it beyond a passing glance.  The same used to be true of System Center Orchestrator, but over the last year that has changed a lot… I have integrated it into my courseware, and I have spent some time learning it and using it in production environments for repetitive tasks.  While I am certainly not an expert in it, I am at least more than just familiar with it.  That familiarity may have helped me on one exam question.  Had I taken the time to review the exam page on the Microsoft Learning Experience website I would have known that the word Orchestrator does not appear anywhere on the page.

Here’s the problem with Microsoft exams… especially the newer ones that do not simply cover a product, but an entire solution across multiple suites.  Very few of us will use and know every aspect covered on the exam.  That is why I have always professed that no matter how familiar you may be with the primary technology covered, you should always review the exam page and fill in your knowledge gaps with the proper studying.  You should even spend a few hours reviewing the material that you are pretty sure you do know.  As I told my teenaged son when discussing his exams, rarely will you have easy exams… if you feel it was easy it just means you were sufficiently prepared.  Five questions into today’s exam I regretted my blasé attitude towards it – I may be a virtualization expert, but I was not adequately prepared.

As I went through the exam I started to get into a groove… while there are some aspects of Hyper-V that I have not implemented, those are few and far between.  the questions about VHDX files, Failover Clustering, Shared VHDX, Generation 2 VMs, and so many more came around and seemed almost too easy, but like I told my son it just means I am familiar with the material.  There were one or two questions which I considered to be very poorly worded, but I reread the questions and the answers and gave my best answer based on my understanding of them.

I have often described the time between pressing ‘End Exam’ and the appearance of the Results screen to be an extended period of excruciating forced lessons in patience.  That was not the case today – I was surprised that the screen came up pretty quickly.  While I certainly did not ace the exam, I did pass, and not with the bare minimum score.   It was certainly a phew moment for a guy who considers himself pretty smart in virtualization.

Now here’s the question… is the exam a really tough one, or was I simply not prepared and thus considered it tough?  And frankly, how tough could it have been if I didn’t prepare, and passed anyways?  I suppose that makes two questions.  The answer to both is that while I did not prepare for the exam, I am considered by many (including Microsoft) a SME on Hyper-V and System Center.  I can say with authority that it was a difficult exam.  That then leads to the next question, is it too tough?  While I did give that some thought as I left the exam (my first words to the proctor was ‘Wow that was a tough exam!) I do not think it is unreasonably so.  It will require a lot of preparation – not simply watching the MVA Jump Start videos (which are by the way excellent resources, and should be considered required watching for anyone planning to sit the exam).  You will need to build your own environment, do a lot of reading and research, and possibly more.

If you do plan to sit this exam, make sure you visit the exam page first by clicking here.  Make sure you expand and review the Overview and Skills Measured sections.  If you review the Preparation Materials section it will refer you to a five day course that is releasing next week from Microsoft Learning Experience – 20409A- Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center (5 Days).  I am proud to say that I was involved with the creation of that course, and that it will help you immensely, not only with the exam but with your real-world experience.

Incidentally, passing the exam gives you the following cert: Microsoft Certified Specialist: Server Virtualization with Hyper-V and System Center.

Good luck, and go get em!

Building an IT Camp with PowerShell

I have been telling people for a couple of years that if they want to ensure a good future in the IT field there are two things to learn: System Center and PowerShell.  I unfortunately am quite good with one, but have been referring to myself as a scripting luddite for quite some time.  It is just something that I have not had the chance to learn.  After all, as a trainer and (Virtual) Evangelist I have not really had a lot of opportunity to get my hands on the type of environment where it would come in handy.

Recently I was in a conversation with a colleague who was complaining that he was too busy all of the time, and was really not enjoying his job because he hardly had time to breathe.  I asked him what sort of tasks he did on a regular basis, and when he told me my answer was simple: ‘If you have to do a task only once, do it manually.  If you might have to do it twice or more… automate it.’  In other words, learn PowerShell.

As I walked away from that meeting I realized that I was a hypocrite.  I built the labs for my course, From Virtualization to the Private Cloud, by hand, and every time I had to rebuild the environment I was doing it manually.  Considering the scope of what was involved I was not only being a hypocrite, I was being stupid.

Time is money, and time wasted is money lost.  I was scheduled to teach a four hour seminar on Hyper-V at the end of last week, and I decided that I was going to include some PowerShell management into that session.  I sat down and learned the basics, and that resulted not only in a better for the attendees last Friday, but also in an article titled Managing Hyper-V Virtual Machines with Windows PowerShell.  I started with some basics, how to start and stop VMs, how to check the VM memory, things like that.  I then expanded into creating a virtual machine, and adjusting the settings for it.  I was thrilled to be able to do all of this from the command line.

Okay, that was great, but now I needed to create a script that would really help me.  I knew there wouldn’t be anything on-line that would be exactly what I needed, but I was sure I would find the basics out there.  I found a great article by Neil Tucker on how he builds a couple of virtual machines for his course 50331 (Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician).  Neil’s article gave me the basic framework for what I would come up with, including how to set variables for different VMs such as name, memory, and hard drive size.  It even went so far as to attach the proper ISO file to each VM and installs the OS using answer files.  As I already have my hard drives built I didn’t need that… but I was going to take things a little farther than Neil did.

I needed to build a script that would build nine virtual machines, each of which has its own special requirements.  I also needed to ensure that they would be connected to a virtual switch (which I would have to build as well if it wasn’t already there).

Although strictly speaking I do not need my script to create the VHDX files for me, I do want to make sure that each VM will connect to my pre-created virtual hard drive files, so I wrote the script to go through the motion of creating them in the correct place; I can then simply copy over them.

Up to now I have delivered the course on standard laptops (HP EliteBook 8570w with 32GB RAM).  However this likely would not be the case going forward, so it was important that I write the script so that I could easily provision new hardware with the course.


  1. Create a virtual switch for the course (check to see that it does not already exist)
  2. Create a repository for all course virtual machines and virtual hard disk files to reside
  3. Create nine virtual machines, each with their own settings for dynamic memory, CPUs.
  4. Connect all virtual machines to the virtual network switch
  5. (For extra credit) attach the appropriate OS DVD to each virtual machine
  6. Start all of the virtual machines.

While I thought about allowing the person running the script to choose their VM names, I decided that this would make it confusing for attendees running the courseware labs, where I have set the VM names appropriately.

Here is what I came up with:

# Script to recreate the infrastructure for the course From Virtualization to the Private Cloud (R2).
# This script should be run on Windows Server 2012 R2.
# This script is intended to be run within the Boot2VHDX environment created by Mitch Garvis
# All VMs will be configured for Windows Server 2012 R2 unless otherwise stated

# Variables

$ADM = “Admin”                # VM running Windows 8.1 (for Administration)
$ADMMIN = 512MB                # Minimum RAM for Admin
$ADMMAX = 2GB                # Maximum RAM for Admin
$ADMVHD = 80GB                # Size of Hard Drive for Admin

$DC1 = “DC1”                # VM (Domain Controller) (Windows Server Core)
$DC1MIN = 512MB                # Maximum RAM assigned to DC1
$DC1MAX = 2048MB            # Maximum RAM assigned to DC1
$DC1VHD = 30GB                # Size of Hard Drive for DC1

$SQL = “SQL”                # VM (SQL Server)
$SQLMIN = 2048MB            # Minimum RAM assigned to SQL
$SQLMAX = 8192MB            # Maximum RAM assigned to SQL
$SQLCPU = 2                # Number of CPUs assigned to SQL
$SQLVHD = 200GB                # Size of Hard Drive for SQL

$STOR = “Storage”            # VM (Storage Spaces, iSCSI Target)
$STORMIN = 512MB             # Minimum RAM assigned to Storage
$STORMAX = 2048MB             # Maximum RAM assigned to Storage
$STORVHD = 30GB                # Size of first Hard Drive for Storage
$STORVHD2 = 100GB            # Size of second Hard Drive for Storage
$STORVHD3 = 100GB            # Size of third Hard Drive for Storage

$VMM = “VMM”                # VM (System Center Virtual Machine Manager)
$VMMMIN = 2048MB             # Minimum RAM assigned to VMM
$VMMMAX = 8192MB             # Maximum RAM assigned to VMM
$VMMCPU = 2                 # Number of CPUs assigned to VMM
$VMMVHD = 100GB                # Size of Hard Drive for VMM

$OM = “OpsMgr”                # VM (System Center Operations Manager)
$OMMIN = 2048MB             # Minimum RAM assigned to OpsMgr
$OMMAX = 8192MB             # Maximum RAM assigned to OpsMgr
$OMCPU = 2                 # Number of CPUs assigned to OpsMgr
$OMVHD = 100GB                # Size of Hard Drive for OpsMgr

$ORC = “Orchestrator”             # VM (System Center Orchestrator)
$ORCMIN = 2048MB            # Minimum RAM assigned to Orchestrator
$ORCMAX = 8192MB             # Maximum RAM assigned to Orchestrator
$ORCCPU = 2                 # Number of CPUs assigned to Orchestrator
$ORCVHD = 100GB                # Size of Hard Drive for Orchestrator

$SM = “SrvMgr”                 # VM (System Center Service Manager)
$SMMIN = 2048MB             # Minimum RAM assigned to Service Manager
$SMMAX = 8192MB             # Maximum RAM assigned to Service Manager
$SMCPU = 2                 # Number of CPUs assigned to Service Manager
$SMVHD = 100GB                # Size of Hard Drive for Service Manager

$VCS = “vCenter”             # VM (vSphere vCenter Cerver) (Windows Server 2008 R2)
$VCSMIN = 2048MB             # Minimum RAM assigned to vCenter
$VCSMAX = 4096MB             # Maximum RAM assigned to vCenter
$VCSCPU = 2                 # Number of CPUs assigned to vCenter
$VCSVHD = 200GB                # Size of Hard Drive for vCenter

$VMLOC = “C:\HyperV”            # Location of the VM and VHDX files

$NetworkSwitch1 = “CorpNet”        # Name of the Internal Network

$W81 = “E:\ISOs\Windows 8.1 E64.iso”            # Windows 8.1 Enterprise
$WSR2 = “E:\ISOs\Windows Server 2012 R2.iso”        # Windows Server 2012 R2
$W2K8 = “E:\ISOs\Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1.iso”    # Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1

# Create VM Folder and Network Switch
MD $VMLOC -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
$TestSwitch1 = Get-VMSwitch -Name $NetworkSwitch1 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue; if ($TestSwitch1.Count -EQ 0){New-VMSwitch -Name $NetworkSwitch1 -SwitchType Internal}

# Create Virtual Machines
New-VM -Name $ADM -Path $VMLOC -MemoryStartupBytes $ADMMIN -NewVHDPath $VMLOC\$ADM.vhdx -NewVHDSizeBytes $ADMVHD -SwitchName $NetworkSwitch1
Set-VM -Name $ADM -DynamicMemory -MemoryMinimumBytes $ADMMIN -MemoryMaximumBytes $ADMMAX

New-VM -Name $DC1 -Path $VMLOC -MemoryStartupBytes $DC1MIN -NewVHDPath $VMLOC\$DC1.vhdx -NewVHDSizeBytes $DC1VHD -SwitchName $NetworkSwitch1
Set-VM -Name $DC1 -DynamicMemory -MemoryMinimumBytes $DC1MIN -MemoryMaximumBytes $DC1MAX

New-VM -Name $SQL -Path $VMLOC -MemoryStartupBytes $SQLMIN -NewVHDPath $VMLOC\$SQL.vhdx -NewVHDSizeBytes $SQLVHD -SwitchName $NetworkSwitch1
Set-VM -Name $SQL -DynamicMemory -MemoryMinimumBytes $SQLMIN -MemoryMaximumBytes $SQLMAX -ProcessorCount $SQLCPU

New-VM -Name $STOR -Path $VMLOC -MemoryStartupBytes $STORMIN -NewVHDPath $VMLOC\$STOR.vhdx -NewVHDSizeBytes $STORVHD -SwitchName $NetworkSwitch1
Set-VM -Name $STOR -DynamicMemory -MemoryMinimumBytes $STORMIN -MemoryMaximumBytes $STORMAX

New-VM -Name $VMM -Path $VMLOC -MemoryStartupBytes $VMMMIN -NewVHDPath $VMLOC\$VMM.vhdx -NewVHDSizeBytes $VMMVHD -SwitchName $NetworkSwitch1
Set-VM -Name $VMM -DynamicMemory -MemoryMinimumBytes $VMMMIN -MemoryMaximumBytes $VMMMAX -ProcessorCount $VMMCPU

New-VM -Name $ORC -Path $VMLOC -MemoryStartupBytes $ORCMIN -NewVHDPath $VMLOC\$ORC.vhdx -NewVHDSizeBytes $ORCVHD -SwitchName $NetworkSwitch1
Set-VM -Name $ORC -DynamicMemory -MemoryMinimumBytes $ORCMIN -MemoryMaximumBytes $ORCMAX -ProcessorCount $ORCCPU

New-VM -Name $OM -Path $VMLOC -MemoryStartupBytes $OMMIN -NewVHDPath $VMLOC\$OM.vhdx -NewVHDSizeBytes $OMVHD -SwitchName $NetworkSwitch1
Set-VM -Name $OM -DynamicMemory -MemoryMinimumBytes $OMMIN -MemoryMaximumBytes $OMMAX -ProcessorCount $OMCPU

New-VM -Name $SM -Path $VMLOC -MemoryStartupBytes $SMMIN -NewVHDPath $VMLOC\$SM.vhdx -NewVHDSizeBytes $SMVHD -SwitchName $NetworkSwitch1
Set-VM -Name $SM -DynamicMemory -MemoryMinimumBytes $SMMIN -MemoryMaximumBytes $SMMAX -ProcessorCount $SMCPU

New-VM -Name $VCS -Path $VMLOC -MemoryStartupBytes $VCSMIN -NewVHDPath $VMLOC\$VCS.vhdx -NewVHDSizeBytes $VCSVHD -SwitchName $NetworkSwitch1
Set-VM -Name $VCS -DynamicMemory -MemoryMinimumBytes $VCSMIN -MemoryMaximumBytes $VCSMAX -ProcessorCount $VCSCPU

# Configure Virtual Machines
Set-VMDvdDrive -VMName $ADM -Path $W81
Set-VMDvdDrive -VMName $DC1 -Path $WSR2
Set-VMDvdDrive -VMName $SQL -Path $WSR2
Set-VMDvdDrive -VMName $STOR -Path $WSR2
Set-VMDvdDrive -VMName $VMM -Path $WSR2
Set-VMDvdDrive -VMName $OM -Path $WSR2
Set-VMDvdDrive -VMName $ORC -Path $WSR2
Set-VMDvdDrive -VMName $SM -Path $WSR2
Set-VMDvdDrive -VMName $VCS -Path $W2K8

Start-VM $ADM
Start-VM $DC1
Start-VM $SQL
Start-VM $STOR
Start-VM $VMM
Start-VM $OM
Start-VM $ORC
Start-VM $SM
Start-VM $VCS

Please remember that until a little under a week ago I had not written a single script longer than a couple of lines.  While I am sure there are efficiencies that can be improved upon, I don’t think it’s too bad for a first go at it.

So now that I am scripting, what do you think you could come up with?  The way I see it, if I could do it… anyone can!

Counting Down the Classics with the US IT Evangelists


On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…”

Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall…”

“Thirty-five articles on Virtualization…”

Pale AleAll of these are great sing-along songs, whether for holidays, camping, bus-rides, or comparing virtualization technology.  Each one is a classic.

Wait… you’ve never heard the last one? That’s okay, we are happy to teach it to you.  It has a pretty catchy tune – the tune of cost savings, lower TCO, higher ROI, and a complete end-to-end management solution.

Even if you can’t remember the lyrics, why don’t you open up the articles – each one written by a member of Microsoft’s team of IT Pro Evangelists in the United States.

You can read along at your own pace, because no matter how fast or slow you read, as long as you are heading in the right direction then you are doing it right! –MDG

The 35 Articles on Virtualization:

Date Article Author
12-Aug-13 Series Introduction Kevin Remde – @KevinRemde
13-Aug-13 What is a “Purpose-Built Hypervisor? Kevin Remde – @KevinRemde
14-Aug-13 Simplified Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 Host Patching = Greater Security and More Uptime Chris Avis – @ChrisAvis
15-Aug-13 Reducing VMware Storage Costs WITH Windows Server 2012 Storage Spaces Keith Mayer – @KeithMayer
16-Aug-13 Does size really matter? Brian Lewis – @BrianLewis_
19-Aug-13 Let’s talk certifications! Matt Hester – @MatthewHester
20-Aug-13 Virtual Processor Scheduling Tommy Patterson – @Tommy_Patterson
21-Aug-13 FREE Zero Downtime Patch Management Keith Mayer – @KeithMayer
22-Aug-13 Agentless Protection Chris Avis – @ChrisAvis
23-Aug-13 Site to Site Disaster Recovery with HRM Keith Mayer – @KeithMayer
25-Aug-13 Destination: VMWorld Jennelle Crothers – @jkc137
26-Aug-13 Get the “Scoop” on Hyper-V during VMworld Matt Hester – @MatthewHester
27-Aug-13 VMWorld: Key Keynote Notes Kevin Remde – @KevinRemde
28-Aug-13 VMWorld: Did you know that there is no extra charge? Kevin Remde – @KevinRemde
29-Aug-13 VMWorld: A Memo to IT Leadership Yung Chou – @YungChou
30-Aug-13 Moving Live Virtual Machines, Same But Different Matt Hester – @MatthewHester
02-Sep-13 Not All Memory Management is Equal Dan Stolts – @ITProGuru
03-Sep-13 Can I get an app with that? Matt Hester – @MatthewHester
04-Sep-13 Deploying Naked Servers Matt Hester – @MatthewHester
05-Sep-13 Automated Server Workload Balancing Keith Mayer – @KeithMayer
06-Sep-13 Thoughts on VMWorld Jennelle Crothers – @jkc137
09-Sep-13 Shopping for Private Clouds Keith Mayer – @KeithMayer
11-Sep-13 Dynamic Storage Management in Private Clouds Keith Mayer – @KeithMayer
12-Sep-13 Replaceable? or Extensible? What kind of virtual switch do you want? Chris Avis – @ChrisAvis
13-Sep-13 Offloading your Storage Matt Hester – @MatthewHester
16-Sep-13 VDI: A Look at Supportability and More! Tommy Patterson – @Tommy_Patterson
17-Sep-13 Agentless Backup for Virtual Environments Special Guest Chris Henley – @ChrisJHenley
19-Sep-13 How robust is your availability? Kevin Remde – @KevinRemde
20-Sep-13 VM Guest Operating System Support Brian Lewis – @BrianLewis_
23-Sep-13 How to license Windows Server VMs Brian Lewis – @BrianLewis_
24-Sep-13 Comparing vSphere 5.5 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V At-A-Glance Keith Mayer – @KeithMayer
25-Sep-13 Evaluating Hyper-V Network Virtualization as an alternative to VMware NSX Keith Mayer – @KeithMayer
26-Sep-13 Automation is the Key to Happiness Matt Hester – @MatthewHester
27-Sep-13 Comparing Microsoft’s Public Cloud to VMware’s Public Cloud Blain Barton – @BlainBar
30-Sep-13 What does AVAILABILITY mean in YOUR cloud? Keith Mayer – @KeithMayer

…and as for me? Well it’s pretty simple… just go to and type Virtualization into the search bar.  You’ll see what I have to say too!

vSphere vs. Hyper-V: The Head to Head Battle!

On Thursday August 8th I participated in a webinar debate.  Shawn MacArthur (CEO of VMTraining) and I had a friendly debate over which hypervisor and virtualization ecosystem was better.  This was the third part in the series – The first had Shawn discussing vSphere, the second had me discussing Hyper-V and System Center.

Who won?  The listener of course!  The one-hour discussion of the two systems was very informative and was not meant to dismiss the fact that both products are excellent, and that both products are (according to leaders in the field of x86 virtualization technology.

I invite you to watch all three videos and comment (either there or here).  I still believe that Microsoft’s virtualization is superior and hope that comes through, but in the end it is important to know what is out there, and that includes the competition!

You can watch all three videos by visiting the Webinars page of VMTraining’s website at

It’s On! VMware Versus Microsoft!

It is going down this week! August 8th (Thursday) at 2:00pm Eastern Time (11:00am Pacific)!  In the Blue corner we have Shawn MacArthur, and in the Red corner we have Mitch Garvis!  Two champions, both undefeated, and the winner will be… YOU!




As many of you know I used to (and occasionally still do) teach for a company called VMTraining.  They are a training and consulting firm out of the US, and they have a great courseware series called the Ultimate Bootcamps.  They are a knowledgeable and passionate group, and over the years I have had more than a few debates with some of the other trainers in the group over the competing technologies.

With that being said, none of the guys I debate with are anti-Microsoft, they are just heavily invested in VMware.  In fact when the owners started to see a lot of Hyper-V adoption they approached me to design and eventually write a Microsoft Virtualization Ultimate Bootcamp (which will be coming soon!).  It is great to be able to separate the religion from the technology.

Of course, they are still passionate about what they do (as am I).  Earlier this year Shawn MacArthur recorded a webinar entitled ‘Is vSphere the best Hypervisor out there?’ which can be seen here.  I immediately responded and did a webinar in May entitled ‘Is Hyper-V the best  Hypervisor out there?’ which can be seen here.

Shawn has been at this a very long time, and he is very good at what he does.  So when we were both invited back by Duane Anderson (Executive Vice President International Operations, as well as the facilitator of these webinars) invited us both back for a head to head debate I jumped at the opportunity.

Before you get excited, I want you to know that Shawn and I are very friendly, and have great respect for one another.  We also both respect both platforms, even though we feel what we do.  Do not expect this to be a no holds barred smack-down event.  It will be passionate, but it will be professional and respectful.

Nonetheless, we look forward to taking each other on, and hope you will listen in!  You can register now on-line by clicking here and bring your questions… we hope to answer them all!

Date: August 8, 2013
2:00pm (Eastern Time)
Where: Get your front row seat right here!

Is Hyper-V the Best Hypervisor Out There?

Of course it is!  Seriously… I have been talking about it for years, and while I think ESXi is still an excellent product, I feel that the complete management solution provided by Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012, coupled with the price point which is as low as one sixth the cost of vCenter Server, make Hyper-V the best hypervisor on the market.

Recently I recorded this webinar for VMTraining, a training and consulting company that I have worked with in the past.  While it is still not on their website, I am glad that the video is now available online.  Feel free to comment and let me know what you think!

Two Years Later, Gartner Makes it Clear!

It was two year ago this week that I published an article calling out Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure (Gartner agrees with me… Hyper-V is for real!).  I was thrilled that Gartner (a completely independent unbiased industry observer) evaluated Microsoft’s Hyper-V 2008 R2 and determined that it was indeed an industry leader.

Last week Gartner released its newest analysis of the same category, and determined that Microsoft is once again in the Leaders box, and has indeed advanced since the release of Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012.  In fact, the piece seems to agree with me that functionally Microsoft has surpassed VMware.

Microsoft can now meet the needs of most enterprises with respect to server virtualization. Its challenge is not feature or functions, but competing in a market with an entrenched competitor, VMware.

Interesting…it is as if they read my mind!  Of course, I have been shouting it from the rooftops for nearly three years, but as I said it is great to hear from someone who is not paid to do so.

Microsoft was certainly not the first player in the virtualization space, but as I have been saying for years it is not about who is first… if it was we would all be listening to Marconi radios in our Daimler automobiles.  Just like I always say that IT should not be about religion, it should be about the best tool for the job.  Five years ago I was counseling all of my clients to virtualize their datacenters on ESX, but when Microsoft released a comparable solution at a much more reasonable price I switched.

Of course it has gotten even better with the recent release of Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012.  As Gartner says:

Enhancements include significant scalability improvements (matching or passing those of vSphere for the first time), Hyper-V Replica for effective disaster recovery, the Hyper-V Extensible Virtual Switch and Network Virtualization, a more flexible live migration and storage live migration, Hyper-V clustering and clustered live migration, and improved Dynamic Memory.

So indeed, Microsoft may have come late to the table, but they are certainly seated in a place of respect.  In fact they are actually winning a lot of customers who also came late to the virtualization game…

Microsoft is now winning a good percentage of enterprises that are not heavily virtualized yet — especially those that are mostly Windows-based

Of course, with an estimated two thirds of server workloads already virtualized, they are going to have to find their way into companies that are already entrenched.  What they need to do is get a foothold into those organizations – whether that be a proof of concept, a test environment, or a niche.  As the Gartner article writes:

A growing number of large enterprises are finding niches in which to place Microsoft — for example, in stores, branch offices or separate data centers. This strategy of "second sourcing" will enable these enterprises to evaluate Hyper-V for further deployments and perhaps leverage the competition in deals with VMware.

I have spoken with hundreds of companies and partners over the past three years, and that is a common theme – either build a POC or a test environment.  While few companies that I have spoke with have completely replaced their entire VMware infrastructure, the vast majority of them now have some Hyper-V footprint in their organization.  It will continue to grow, and those footprints will continue to swell.  Some of them will eventually replace all competitive solutions, but that is a long way off.

The one point that i do not agree with in the piece is one of the notes of caution… the lack of centralized management.  The vast majority of an admin’s time for the virtual infrastructure will be spent in VMM, while the reporting will come from OpsMgr.  This is akin to the VMware world where the majority of infrastructure time will be in vCenter Server, and the reporting will either be in vCops or a third party solution.  And as a colleague of mine wrote recently:

VMware does not have one console. Service manager, vCloud Director, vCloud App Center etc. all have different UI’s. Definitely the vCenter UI is very rich and by virtue of having just that UI for managing the infra (vs. Hyper-V manager, Cluster manager and VMM in our case) helps them.

In short Gartner agrees that it is still an uphill battle, but there is no question that Microsoft is better equipped for that fight than ever before; they are hungry, they are innovative, and they have put their minds and resources to a goal.  As I have been saying for some time, I would not bet against them winning in the long run!

Vancouver Helping Calgary

The news is ablaze with stories of the terrible flooding in Calgary.  As I wrote in an article yesterday (Leaving Calgary…) I got out before the worst of it, but only barely.  The rivers are overflowing, entire neighborhoods are under water, and the news is not getting better.  At least two dead, and people are discovering that many of their insurance policies will not cover the damage.

On Saturday I spent the day with the Vancouver Technology Users Group (VANTug).  We spent the morning talking Windows 8 and Office 365, and then in the afternoon we discussed System Center 2012 and Microsoft’s Private Cloud solutions.  We had a great time at the Burnaby campus of BCIT.  I always love coming out to Vancouver, and today was no different.

And yet I couldn’t get Calgary out of my mind.  I know that a lot of people are scared, cold, wet, and hungry… and will have a very tough time rebuilding.  I am sure that when the IT Pros of Southern Alberta do get back into their offices they will have discussions around disaster recovery, business continuity, and minimizing loss.  Today, and through the middle of the week I expect most of them are with their families worrying about things much more important… their homes, their memories.

I showed up at BCIT with a Big Box o’ Swag full of prizes, and as is always the case at Install Fests I was asked early on if they were going to get licenses of Windows 8.  They were not… but as luck would have it I had one license in my laptop case that I had received at an event a few weeks ago that I did not really need, so I told them I would raffle off that license at the end of the day.

When the raffle time came some fifteen people won mice, keyboards, and Xbox controllers.  I then put all of the winning tickets back into the hat and was about to draw for the Windows 8 Pro license when I had a thought…

I had a one year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium in my bag that I was supposed to give to a friend last week, but didn’t see them.  As I stood at the front of the room I asked the group leader (Peter) if they support charities, and he said that they did.  Normally they support the local children’s hospital, but for this I asked him to agree to support the Red Cross Alberta Floods Fund.  I told the group that I would draw for a winner of the Windows 8 license, and if the winner was willing to donate $50 to the fund (through VanTug) then he or she would also receive the subscription for Office 365.

The winner agreed and is now the proud owner of two great products… but should be even prouder to be helping a very important cause that is near and dear to my heart, and one that should be important for all Canadians.

I received a comment on my blog that same morning in response to an article I wrote about the relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada.  He said that we have nothing in common across this great land (obviously not his words).  I disagree.  I think we share a heart and a love of our fellow man that transcends the political views of one side or another of any political debate, most of which seem petty in the face of disasters that befall regions and peoples from time to time.  I will respond to that comment in an article later this week, but in the meantime I hope my Quebec reader takes some food for thought from this one, and says a prayer or even donates a little to the people of Alberta… so distant, but so close to all of us.

Are you excited? R2 is coming…

Sometimes i wish they wouldn’t do it… Once again Microsoft announced new product versions (Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2) at TechEd last week, but did not release anything.

Yes, i am excited too, but please remember that while these are both going to be great new versions, the announcement of them should not stop you from deploying the most current available versions, namely Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1.  Both are currently available, there is training for them, there are case studies for them, and you will not go wrong by deploying them.

With that being said, if you are looking forward to the R2 releases, you are many months away; they are scheduled to be released near the end of this calendar year, with the next version of SQL Server scheduled for release shortly after that.

If you want to simply see the new versions, play with the pre-release software in a lab and get to know them so that you are ready to hit the ground running, then you still have a few weeks to wait… however nowhere near as long.  According to the people in the know, preview software for Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and SQL Server 2014 will be available for evaluation in the coming weeks.  Keep your eyes open for the announcements!

Yeah I want them NOW too… but in Taekwondo we teach the importance of patience… consider this a practical exercise in that lesson!

Step-by-Step: Installing System Center Operations Manager 2012 SP1

So here we are, telling you that you should be getting with the program; download and install System Center 2012 SP1, it will transform your life!  Unfortunately that’s where we have left you… with a list of incredible capabilities, and no real understanding of where to start.  So let’s start with the installation process for System Center Operations Manager… If you know which hoops you have to jump through, you will be a lot more likely to get through this first, somewhat daunting step!

of course the first step is to download the software; you need Windows Server 2012 to install it on, and you need System Center 2012 SP1.  Download Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 by clicking on the appropriate links.

As everything I do is in the virtual world I like to keep my ISOs organized so I know where to find them.  On the data drive for each of my virtualization hosts I have a directory called d:\ISOs\System Center 2012 SP1.  I know where to find everything when I need it… now or later (and later will come, in case you think you are done with the ISOs once they are installed!)

I have installed Windows Server 2012 onto a virtual machine called OpsMgr, and joined it to my domain.  Its FQDN is  I then attach the ISO for OpsMgr to it, which is called en_system_center_2012_operations_manager_with_sp1_x86_x64_dvd_1347175.  Do not be alarmed by the ridiculous name, nor if yours is slightly different; depending on how you downloaded it the filename may differ, but you will definitely see that it is Operations Manager, and you will see the sp1.

image Don’t worry if your Operations Manager installer does not auto-start… there is a setup.exe file in the root directory which will launch the setup screen.  As you see, you have the option to install Local agent, Audit collection services, Gateway management server, and Audit Collection Services for UNIX/Linux.  As well there are several additional resources that you can click on that will take you to notes, guidance, product documentation, and the on-line Operations Manager forums (communities).  However the star of this show is the big blue Install button right in the middle of the screen, under the words Service Pack 1.  Remember, these words are important because the RTM of System Center 2012 does not support Windows Server 2012.  Click on the Install button.

On the next screen you will have four choices to install: the Management server, the Operations console,m the Web console, and the Reporting server.  Each one of these has its own prerequisites, and before you proceed you will need to make sure you have met these.  For We will be installing all but the Reporting Services.

On the Select installation location screen I tend to install to the default location (C:\Program Files\System Center 2012\Operatons Manager).  If for some reason you prefer to install elsewhere make sure you document it properly… in your lab environment you will simply forget, and in a production environment your team (or replacement) will need to know where things are.


I did mention that each component has prerequisites, nearly none of which we have mitigated yet.  If you proceed now they you will see a screen that says The Setup wizard cannot continue.  it will list all of the components that you are missing, and tell you how to go about fixing it.

for the Operations console you will need the Report Viewer controls.  these are a free download from Microsoft, and if you click the arrow next to the error it provides you the link to download them from.

FRUSTRATION NOTE: It may take you several goes to get all of the prerequisites for OpsMgr installed properly.  I always seem to have an issue with the ISAPI and CGI Restrictions because nowhere is it written that you must reboot, and even if you click ‘Reboot if required’ it does not do so.  If this is your last stumbling block then simply reboot the OpsMgr VM and you should be ready to continue.

Back to installing OpsMgr, you should now see the Specify an installation option screen.  If this is your first OpsMgr install in your environment you should select the radio button next to Create the first Management server in a new management group.  Enter a name for your new Management group (I picked SWMI-Mgmt per my regular naming conventions) and click Next.

Accept all licenses and click next.

In the Configure the operational database screen enter the name of your SQL server box and instance.  The default port is 1433; you can change this if you want, but in a lab or test environment I see no real need.  The default database name is OperationsManager.  I seldom change it, but you can.  Additionally you can change the Data file and Log file folders.  Click Next.

Do the same thing for the Configure the data warehouse database as you did in the preceding paragraph.  The default database name is OperationsManagerDW.  Click Next.

The next page is the Specify a web site for use with the Web console.  For lab purposes we will select the Default Web Site.  In a production environment you would want to select the checkbox to Enable SSL.  However this would require SSL configuration on the website, which I will not go into for this article.  Click Next.

Now we have the credentials page, or the Select an authentication mode for use with the Web console screen.  I prefer Mixed Authentication, which allows the user to authenticate using their current Windows credentials.  Click next.

image As you probably know by now I much prefer using Domain accounts to Local accounts for nearly everything.  For the Configure Operations Manager accounts I have created three separate accounts in Active Directory: One Management server action account (swmi\OM_MSAA), one Data Reader account (swmi\OM_DRA) and one Data Writer account (swmi\OM_DWA).  You can find guidance on these accounts and requirements on the Operations Manager deployment documentation.  For each of these I enter the user names and credentials into the appropriate spots and click Next.

You can opt in or out of the Customer Experience Improvement Program and Error Reporting on the next screen and click Next.

On the next screen choose whether to include Operations Manager in the normal Microsoft Update schedule.  Click Next.

On the Installation Summary screen you can review your choices and then click Install.

The installation will take several minutes, but as with everything in the Microsoft world Green is good, Red is bad.  As long as your progress is all green then you are okay.  Fortunately the prerequisite checks throughout should ensure that your installation proceed as normal.

imageThis is what success looks like… several green check marks and the option to launch Microsoft Update, as well as start the Operations Manager Console.  However you should note that there are four links to documentation and sites on the right side of the wizard… including Release Notes, Installation Guide, Documentation, and the System Center Online.  You can take note of these links so that in case you ever do need help (spoiler alert… YOU WILL) you will know where to go.

imageYou are ready to rock… well, not quite.  However you are ready to launch the Operations Manager console and begin preparing your organization.  More on that later.  The installation added three icons to your Start screen… the Internet Information Services, the Operations Console, and the Operations Manager Shell (PowerShell).  At the beginning you should get to know the Operations Console before you move to the more advanced (and powerful) PowerShell.

I usually recommend running Microsoft Update before going ahead… just to make sure you are patched and ready.

At this point you are done!  You should be able to run the Operations Console and get the following screen:


Notice in the middle you have the Required Configuration Tasks, of which four are listed.  Each of these will open a wizard by clicking on them.  While we are not covering these today, I do encourage you to start playing and who knows… before you know it you will be a veritable OpsMgr wiz!

Hey Halifax! Here I come!

Hello Halifax IT Professionals!  You are invited to the following event:


An Introduction to Microsoft Virtualization and the Private Cloud with System Center 2012 and Hyper-V


The event will be held on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 from 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM (ADT)


Nova Scotia Community College Institute of IT Campus
5685 Leeds Street,
Room D309
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 2T3
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Attend Event  Yes No Maybe

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Spend an evening with Mitch Garvis, Virtual Technology Evangelist with Microsoft Canada, getting to know the Microsoft server virtualization story.  Learn not only about Hyper-V, but also the management and Private Cloud scenarios that System Center 2012 SP1 brings to the table,  Learn how to build your cloud, and also how Microsoft sets itself apart from (and ahead of) the competition in the world of virtualization, Private Cloud, and Datacenter Management.

We hope you can make it!