23rd September: Three fantastic Microsoft enterprise IT presentations

We are very pleased to be able to announce a stellar line up of technical presentations and speakers from Microsoft at the September VBUG Newcastle IT Pro meeting here on the Newcastle University campus…

The Dynamic Desktop Experience – Windows 7, Windows XP Mode, App-V, MDT, MDOP and System Center – Dan Oliver

Windows 7 offers Microsoft’s customers with an opportunity to deliver a platform that releases new capabilities that deliver real business benefit and significantly reduced cost of ownership. The challenge for most companies is that deploying and migrating desktops is time consuming and traditionally offers service continuity risks with Application Compatibility that can prevent progress. This presentation will show capabilities, architectures and strategies that allow companies to move forward cost effectively to the benefits of a modern operating system. Level: 100

Dan Oliver is a Pre Sales Architect within Microsoft UK’s Speciality Technology Unit with some 14 years’ experience of Microsoft-based solutions primarily in the virtualization and systems management fields. Dan has a background that covers a broad spectrum of industry sectors ranging from Financial, Telecoms, Partners, Legal, Professional Services and Healthcare. Dan has also had the opportunity to work as a Chief Technology Officer for the Faculty of Advocates in the Scottish Legal Sector.

Novell and Lotus Notes – Migrating to Microsoft – Conrad Sidey

The business value of implementing Microsoft technologies like Active Directory, Exchange 2007 and SharePoint are clearly understood within Microsoft. For our customers that are still running their organisation on technologies like Novell and Lotus Notes they are starting to gain an understanding of the value of migrating to Microsoft technologies. The purpose behind this presentation is to provide the technical community with an insight into leading a project and architecting a solution to migrate environment that are running both Novell Netware and Lotus Notes. The presentation will discuss envisioning & planning of a Novell and Notes migration project, approaches to undertaking the migration depending upon the business drivers, providing an overview of the approach we are taking in migrating a UK Local City Council while providing coexistence, as well as presenting a number of migration & coexistence recommendations or lessons learnt from the project. Level: 200

Conrad Sidey is a Solution Architect within Microsoft Consulting Services with some 17 years’ experience of Microsoft-based solutions primarily in the infrastructure field. Conrad has a background that covers a broad spectrum of industry sectors ranging from Financial and Insurance, Manufacturing, Aero-Engineering, Defence, UK and European Government Agencies, Power Generators, Retail and Brewing. Conrad has also had the opportunity to work with large scale outsourcing services providers.

Implementing the “Black Box” – Performance Monitoring and Analysis for proactive and reactive support, server baselining and capacity planning – Richard Diver

All current versions of Windows come with a free tool that can prevent server downtime and solve many mysteries – Perfmon!

A little bit of practice with this tool can really help to solve issues with servers that may not even be performance related. Working at the OS level, you can find cause to most performance bottlenecks regardless of server function (Exchange, DC, Web etc).

This is something that has even more focus in future versions of Windows; a brief overview of these benefits will be shown also! Level: 300

Richard Diver is a Premier Field Engineer with 10 years experience implementing and supporting a range of Microsoft technologies, specialising in Active Directory, Server Platform and Virtualisation.

Wrap up Q&A with all presenters at the end.

Time: 18:45 to 21:00

Location: Room 118, Claremont Tower, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU

Price: FREE

Please register for your place at the VBUG site so we can make sure we have enough space and refreshments. πŸ™‚

Monitoring SQL Server – in praise of MOM!

We’re currently building an SQL 2008 server cluster which will use resilient SAN-attached storage. This will provide the University with a leading edge hosted SQL service on which to safely manage its databases as well as making available a whole host of new SQL 2008 Business Intelligence services. More news about that to follow in future blogs…

In order to decide upon the best RAID configuration for the new service (i.e. whether to configure the disks to get biggest capacity or best performance) I’ve had to gather some stats about the transactions per second (TPS) on the current (SQL 2000/2005) servers. To this end, I started monitoring with SQL Profiler in conjunction with Performance Monitor. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but let me tell you, it is something of a black art and unless I’m very much mistaken, it does come under the category of Rocket Science if only because it makes you want to hurl your computer at the moon! Fortunately, all was not lost – to my rescue came MOM: Microsoft Operations Manager. You can Google for MOM and get all sorts of info but, for a quick overview of what it is, this covers it really:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System_Center_Operations_Manager (and yes they changed the name from MOM to SCOM but we all still call it MOM out of habit…)

So, how did MOM help in this case? The MOM servers run by the Windows Infrastructure Team have (amongst a lot of other things!) a MOM SQL Management Pack installed which means that when they connect to SQL servers, they are able gather SQL specific data in addition to the other more generic monitoring of disks, memory, network connectivity, etc. So, MOM has been quietly monitoring TPS and storing the data into MOM reports for some time. All I had to do was request the report and hey presto! Here’s a couple of examples:-

This image shows a top-level report which gives a broad view of various SQL-specific data over the last quarter of 2008 for a range of performance data on one of the SQL servers:-

SQL report details

And then… you can drill into, for example, the Transactions per Second data and obtain a more detailed view….

SQL report details

A lot prettier (in so many ways!) than Perfmon and Profiler. These are just 2 basic reports but there is a wealth of other information that can be got from MOM, and not just for SQL – and not just in retrospect. MOM carries out service-specific monitoring for Exchange, IIS, Terminal Services, ISA… in fact all of the Windows Server services run by our team, keeping an eye on services – 24/7 – and alerting us to any problems or errors as soon as they arise.

Campus Managed Desktop Information Tool

CMDInfo is a major redevelopment of the ISS PC Info tool which is part of the current Windows XP Base Policy. It is designed to provide important information to users and support staff including their profile path, home directory path, machine name, group policies and firewall exceptions.

CMDInfo also includes WinDirStat, a freeware tool which gives a graphical representation of the space utilisation on a given folder or volume. When launched from CMDInfo WinDirStat will automatically present a view of a users H Drive.

Extra features are available when running CMDInfo under Window Vista including migration scripts which will copy Internet Explorer Favourites, Desktop Items and Outlook NK2 (nickname) files to their Vista profiles.

The new tool is included in the new Test Vista Base Policy announced yesterday. It will also be merged in to the existing XP Base Policy later today and delivered to machines under the Policy at their next restart.


  • Displays detailed system and user information including Username, Home Directory path, Profile Path, Mapped drives, Firewall exceptions, Network Name and Hardware Information
  • Simple and advanced views.
  • Support links for helpline and printing credit.
  • Includes WinDirStat
  • Includes tools to import all or any combination of Favorites, Outlook settings, Desktop files and document templates from a Users XP profile to their Vista (Vista Only).
  • Includes emailing component which will interrogate the system and send advanced support information ‘ipconfig’, ‘set’ and event logs to support staff (Vista Only).


User information (Advanced View).

User Information

System information (Advanced View).

System Information

Support and Tools (Advanced View/Windows Vista)


Send Logs (Advanced View/Windows Vista)


Send Logs Script (Advanced View/Windows Vista)

Send Logs

Email recieved from CMDInfo


Monday II: Keynote

The keynote was given by Brad Anderson the General Manager of Microsoft’s Management and Services division and focused on ‘Dynamic IT.’ One of the main elements was Virtualization and its management. The video of the Keynote will be available online soon if it is not already but here are some notes that I jotted down.

Some interesting figures were mentioned.

  • Most servers across the word are running at less than 10% utilisation
  • ‘In the future’ a predicted 5% of the worlds energy consumption will be by the Datacenter
  • Microsoft’s use of Virtualization has seen energy savings of up to 90%.

We saw a demo if System Center Virtual Machine manager including the live migration feature in Windows Server 2008 R2. Application virtualization was also mentioned and we were told that this will make application compatibility issues a thing of the past. Brad Anderson also said that Microsoft had observed a trend in enterprises towards only running server services on physical machines ‘by exception’.

A demo of Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 Beta then followed which supports cross platform extensions and will be able to monitor Solaris, Suze, Redhat, MySQL, Oracle on top of the services it can currently manage.

The keynote then went in to detail on Windows Server 2008 R2 (M3 available for download) but I will post separately on this.

The Keynote finished with an overview of Microsoft Online services focusing on a mixed local and hosted implementation of Microsoft Exchange. The service is due for release in EMEA during spring 2009.

There were also demonstrations of features of the next version of SQL server ‘Kilimanjaro’ and some other areas which Jonathan may like to discuss.

Nagios book – Josephson

I’ve just read “Building a Monitoring Infrastructure with Nagios” by David Josephsen. Interesting book, especially in the earlier chapters where he
talks about philosophy of/strategy for monitoring.
Some of the text is spoilt (for me) by typos and layout errors. In many of the script examples the wrong quotes are shown (forward rather than back quotes) and whilst scripts are shown in a fixed font they’ve managed to convert all “fi” sequences to the ligature (which if find very distracting as it creates gaps in the middle of words (like notification which crops up quite a lot).
Putting those nitpicks aside it’s worth reading. I picked up references to a few things that I hadn’t come across before; WebInject for deeper testing of web applications; ticklines as a way of quickly visualising time series data