Savision brings smart dashboards for System Center

by Shijaz Abdulla on 16.11.2013 at 06:04

Savision are a great application development partner that have solutions for System Center by transforming complex IT data into meaningful, well organized, actionable dashboards. They are well-known in the global System Center community for their ‘Live Maps’ software add-on for System Center.


Retail giant Target runs on Microsoft Hyper-V and System Center

by Shijaz Abdulla on 25.02.2012 at 16:47

Listen to technology leaders from Target, a US retailing company with over 1750 stores throughout the country, on how Microsoft Virtualization and Management technologies help them remotely manage IT environments in each store, save millions of dollars in operating cost, and provide a delightful customer experience.

"It reduces our operating expense by millions of dollars a year through power savings, break/fix maintenance savings, and avoided capital refresh." – Brad Thompson, Director – Infrastructure Engineering, Target

Target runs over 15,000 virtual machines on over 3600 Hyper-V hosts.

Mythbusters: How a ManageEngine Partner spreads FUD

by Shijaz Abdulla on 14.02.2012 at 18:33

I was at an important customer this week who was seriously looking for an integrated solution to manage his infrastructure and implement a service desk solution.

A vendor positioning ManageEngine had apparently made their pitch to the customer before me. Not only did the vendor position ManageEngine, they also told the customer why he shouldn’t consider System Center from Microsoft.

Take a step back. Now here’s a representative from a ManageEngine reseller comparing their solution to a complete enterprise-class Datacenter/Private Cloud management Suite from Microsoft. The comparison in itself, in my opinion, is absurd.

OK, moving on.

The reseller also told the customer what questions to ask Microsoft to prove that our System Center solution is not up to the mark. Among the misinformation shared were:

  • Myth #1: System Center Operations Manager does not manage Linux and UNIX
  • Myth #2: Microsoft doesn’t have a Service Desk solution
  • Myth #3: Microsoft System Center does not manage non-Microsoft devices.

So I wield my pen.. err… keyboard.. once again, so that customers are not fooled by such accusations and to dispel the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) that they are feeding the unsuspecting customer:

  • Mythbuster #1: System Center Operations Manager does manage UNIX and Linux. SCOM helps you manage HP-UX®, Sun Solaris™, Red Hat® Enterprise Linux®, Novell® SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server, and IBM AIX server environments. [read more]
  • Mythbuster #2: Microsoft System Center includes a rich service desk solution called System Center Service Manager, which fully integrates with Configuration Manager and Operations Manager.
  • Mythbuster #3: Microsoft System Center 2012 helps you manage not only Windows devices, but also iOS, Android, and Symbian devices.

The reseller probably had limited knowledge about Microsoft products, or it was just plain ol’ BS. Smile Whatever it may be, I want customers to know that System Center is far richer in features and completeness of solution and is truly built for the enterprise, to manage end-to-end, from datacenter to desktop/mobile device, from hardware to application, across physical and virtual, across hypervisors (Hyper-V/VMWare/Citrix), across Windows and non-Windows. There exists not a more complete solution in the market today for Systems Management.

If you are a customer in Qatar and would like to know more, please contact me directly or reach me through your Microsoft account manager!

As with all posts on this blog, this post and all views expressed are my own and not those of Microsoft Corporation in the US or other countries. Read full disclaimer.

Announcing System Center 2012

by Shijaz Abdulla on 17.01.2012 at 18:19


Today, Microsoft announced a major new development in the Microsoft private cloud strategy and core management platform, the launch of Microsoft System Center 2012. System Center 2012 allows you to manage your virtual, physical, and cloud environments from a single console, using common and consistent experiences that provide full control across your existing datacenter investments.

Optimized for service delivery and providing both flexibility and control, the Microsoft private cloud enables you to experience IT as a Service on your terms. Adopting a more service-driven IT model can help you provision services faster—freeing up resources and enabling greater business agility to respond quickly to customer demands.

As part of the System Center 2012 release, Microsoft is simplifying how you purchase and gain access to the economic benefits of the cloud by offering two editions:

  • System Center 2012 Standard Edition, for managing environments with no or low density virtualization
  • System Center 2012 Datacenter Edition, for managing high density virtualization environments

With these streamlined purchasing options and enhanced private cloud capabilities, we are also announcing changes in the licensing and pricing of System Center 2012.

I am very excited about this brand new release of System Center and this is definitely testament to the fact that today we are committed to having the best and most complete Private Cloud solution in the market.

I will soon be posting more information on the new Standard and Datacenter editions and also provide more clarity on the new licensing scheme for System Center 2012 and how this will benefit both new and existing customers alike.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the Microsoft private cloud and the exciting new features in System Center 2012 at the Microsoft private cloud website.

System Center 2012 Community Evaluation Program

by Shijaz Abdulla on 01.06.2011 at 13:03

The System Center team is pleased to announce the Community Evaluation Program. The program is designed to provide IT professionals a structured approach to evaluating System Center and Forefront products before their final release. Members of this program are able to evaluate early versions of products with guidance from the product team and by sharing of experiences and best practices among a community of peers.  Multiple programs are now open and accepting applications including:

Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2 – Program starts April 2011

Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Beta – Program starts May 2011

Forefront Identity Manager 2010 R2 – Program starts June 2011

Orchestrator 2012 Beta – Program starts June 2011

Operations Manager 2012 Beta – Program starts July 2011

Virtual Machine Manager Self Service Portal 2.0 SP1 Beta is available

by Shijaz Abdulla on 10.03.2011 at 11:01

The Self Service Portal 2.0 (SSP 2.0) Service Pack 1 (SP1) beta is now available for System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).

(wow, that’s a lot of abbreviations, isn’t it?)

The VMM SSP is a fully supported, partner-extensible solution built on top of Windows Server 2008 R2, Hyper-V, and System Center VMM. You can use it to pool, allocate, and manage resources to offer infrastructure as a service and to deliver the foundation for a private cloud platform inside your datacenter. VMMSSP includes a pre-built web-based user interface that has sections for both the datacenter managers and the business unit IT consumers, with role-based access control. VMMSSP also includes a dynamic provisioning engine.

What’s new with VMMSSP 2.0 SP1?

Import virtual machines: Allows DCIT (Datacenter) administrators to re-import virtual machines that were removed from the self-service portal and also import virtual machines created outside the portal but managed by VMM.

Expire virtual machines: This feature provides the user the ability to set an expiration date for the virtual machines that are being created or imported so that the virtual machines auto-delete after the set date. This feature also provides users the flexibility (through role-based access) to set or change the expiration date for the virtual machine.

Notify administrators: This feature provides functionality to notify BUIT(Business Unit) or DCIT(Datacenter) administrators about various events in the system (for example, Submit request, Approve request,Expire virtual machine, and so on) via email through SQL server mail integration.

Move infrastructure between business units: This feature allows DCIT(Datacenter) administrators to move an infrastructure from one business unit to another when the system is in Maintenance Mode.

For all the details check out the public beta on Connect.

What is a cloud? (and why should I care)

by Shijaz Abdulla on 06.01.2011 at 22:57

The ‘cloud’ is definitely an often used (and misused) buzz word in today’s technology industry. So what exactly is a cloud? What is a cloud made of? Is it any different from hosting? These are some of the matters that I will address in this post.

So what is a cloud?

Wikipedia defines Cloud Computing as “internet-based computing, whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand, as with the electricity grid. Cloud computing is a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, service-oriented architecture and utility computing. Details are abstracted from consumers, who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure “in the cloud” that supports them.” (retrieved Jan 6, 2011)

Let’s take a closer look and break it down a bit.

“…shared servers provide resources…”

So the cloud is made of shared servers working together in a manner that results in the abstraction of the underlying infrastructure from the user or the consumer.

“…on demand…”

The cloud is elastic, which means, it can scale to any extent to help you manage utilization “spikes”, just like an electricity grid. If your business application or website suddenly requires more resources or above normal utilization due to that marketing campaign you just launched, the cloud will be able to provision and make available resources to you “on the fly” during your time of need and then “de-provision” these resources when utilization is back to normal. Because the cloud abstracts the underlying infrastructure, this entire process is invisible to the consumer.

“…a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, service-oriented architecture and utility computing.”

By now, you would have realized it. If you need shared servers working together, abstracted from the user, dynamically scalable to any business demand – you need virtualization. But, does simply having the leanest, meanest hypervisor in the market help you implement the cloud? No. It is as important that you have a robust management solution. If your abstracted infrastructure cannot understand how a utilization spike on your application looks like, how will you be able to provide “on demand” services to your users? If your cloud infrastructure does not have visibility on the health of your ‘service’, how can it predict or understand a need to scale up dynamically?

Without doubt, management is an indispensable component of the cloud. I explained this in greater detail in an earlier post.

This is why System Center, with components like Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager and Opalis are key players in your journey to hosting your own ‘private’ cloud.


“Details are abstracted from consumers, who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure ‘in the cloud’ that supports them”

This re-affirms the abstraction of the underlying infrastructure. The business does not need to know what hardware, operating environment or hypervisor you’re running on. All the business cares about is the ‘service’. To be able to ensure availability the ‘service’ at any scale that the business requires dynamically, abstracting everything else is a key characteristic of the cloud.

Hosting vs. Cloud:
So is the cloud what my hosting provider offers me?

Well, it depends. Many hosting providers today state that they bring you the cloud. In reality, some of them actually do, others don’t. The key message here is that mere server hosting is not cloud. Only when the benefits I discussed above are realized, then behold — we have a cloud.

If your “cloud” hosting provider states something like they will give you a ‘dedicated’ HP blade server with 2.5GHz Processor, 4 GB RAM, 80 GB SAN storage, 80 GB backup storage, a dedicated Cisco firewall and a 1 TB monthly traffic included – chances are they have missed the cloud by a mile!

Why? Because they are simply not providing you a cloud – shared servers that provision resources on demand. Instead, they are just giving you a hosted server. There is no elasticity, no dynamic resource provision and no abstraction. In a real cloud, you wouldn’t know what hardware spec you’re running on, simply because it doesn’t remain constantjust as your business doesn’t remain constant.

Interesting. So why should I care about the cloud?

My colleague Michael Mansour lists out top 10 reasons why the cloud is changing the consumer and business landscape. His post is definitely worth a read.


‘Stop Press’ Humor: Wikipedia also defines ‘cloud’ as a visible mass of water droplets or frozen ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. Certainly not the cloud we’re talking about!

The Bigger Picture: Virtualization + Management

by Shijaz Abdulla on 01.11.2010 at 00:52

“Virtualization without management is more dangerous than not using virtualization in the first place.”
– Tom Bittman, Gartner VP & Analyst

So you realized that you need to virtualize. The idea of being able to run multiple workloads on a smaller number of boxes sounded interesting to you. You saw how virtualization can save you many a buck in hardware maintenance, energy, cooling, rack space, and were fascinated by it.

Server consolidation – now that’s a term you liked to hear. Sounds like its going to simplify things up, doesn’t it? The idea of putting more eggs in one basket. Yes, it reduces cost, but how are you going to ensure that these baskets are strong enough to hold your eggs and that they wont break under pressure?

So you let the ‘Hypervisor wars’ begin – Hyper-V, VMware, you decided and chose your weapon. “What next?” you say. Well, the battle has not yet begun. Today, the hypervisor is more like a commodity, whatever you choose, it will let you virtualize – the art and science of creating a thin layer that abstracts operating system environments from the underlying hardware.

Some hypervisors provide more features than the others. The choice is simple. What matters to you is (1) which of these hypervisor features do you really need for your business, and (2) is the feature that you get worth the cost and complexity that particular hypervisor brings with it?

I am of the view that any technology you implement should contribute to the business of your organization. If it does not support the business, then that technology is useless to your organization. If you, for example, chose VMware to virtualize your (otherwise primarily Microsoft) datacenter just because it offers ‘memory overcommit’, a feature which you will probably never use in the first place, (because is not recommended for production), then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

You could go online and spend hours scouring pages and pages of information comparing hypervisors from Microsoft and VMware, but what you’re looking at is basically a piece of code between 1.7 and 3.6 GB in size.

So what does really matter?

What really matters is Management. The ability to manage and monitor every service you offer in your datacenter, end-to-end, physical or virtual. What your users see is not the hypervisor, it is way beyond that – the users see the service that you’re offering. And a robust management tool helps you ensure that services you offer are healthy so that you meet your SLA.

Imagine being able to have to look at one single monitoring dashboard that will proactively alert you of problems on hardware, operating system environments, virtualization layers, apps running on physical servers, and apps running on virtual servers. Imagine being able to look at one interface to discover that your hardware is overheating, or your server power supply is not redundant, and then look at the same interface to discover there is a shortage of disk space on your physical host server or if an application service is stopped. Imagine looking at the very same interface to know that the outbound mail queue on your Exchange Server machine that you virtualized on Hyper-V (or VMware) is building up faster than it should, or discovering that a service on one of your Linux servers virtualized on Hyper-V is failing.

That, my friends, is what I call robust end-to-end management. Microsoft System Center provides you just that. Don’t virtualize without it.

Let’s take one step forward. Let’s say you’re a local bank and you have virtualized your web servers on Hyper-V. You’ve deployed System Center components for managing your gear. Let’s say that you get most hits on your website during the day. During your “peak” operating hours you need 3 machines in a load balancing configuration to handle the load. During “off peak” hours you barely have any traffic, so all you need is one server. In the absence of virtualization or management, you would still leave 3 physical machines running 24/7 to handle the load.

But when you have virtualization with System Center, things are different. System Center Operations Manager is monitoring your servers (physical and virtual) 24/7. You can configure System Center to raise an alert when the number of transactions on your application running on IIS on the first server exceeds a threshold ‘x’, and trigger an event that results in automatically starting the 2nd virtualized web server, and the third, and so on as the number of transactions increase. Similarly, when the number of transactions drop, the additional servers can be powered off automatically, freeing up processor, memory and other resources on the host machine, which can potentially be used by other services that require additional servers to be powered up during ‘off peak’ hours. Hence, you are able to run more servers than the capacity of your Hyper-V host machine by dynamically provisioning and de-provisioning servers and efficiently utilizing your resources. Because your management tool can now see inside your virtual machines. What this means, basically, is that you get ‘more bang for the buck’.

And this is what I’d call a ‘Dynamic Datacenter’. And that’s where we’re taking you with System Center and virtualization. We’re not arguing over who’s got the smallest hypervisor; we’re giving you the much bigger picture and what really matters to you and your datacenter at large.

VMware’s vCenter, on the other hand, does not see “inside” the guest. It cannot monitor the number of connections/sec on your web service, or the length of your Exchange mail queue or the number of transactions on your database. It just sees your VM from a hypervisor perspective and does not know how the application on that VM is performing (or even if it is running). And that’s not sufficient from a service level perspective.

Even if you run VMware, System Center can still work together with it and manage your VMware environment – but of course this is an integration with vCenter. You still have an island of a management tool that you’re joining together with System Center. When it’s an all-Microsoft platform, you definitely have the Microsoft advantage. Everything’s integrated by default and everything works.

Thanks for reading and be sure to subscribe to this blog for more to come.

Dynamic Datacenter Workshop, Dubai

by Shijaz Abdulla on 01.02.2010 at 15:03

Last week I was in Dubai for the Dynamic Datacenter workshop along with two partners from Qatar – Mannai Trading and EBLA Consulting.

Among Qatar attendees, we had Pradeep Joy and Johny John from Mannai Trading and Bashar Badr from EBLA.

The course provides IT Professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to install and configure the underlying components of a Microsoft Dynamic Data Center solution. Partners were trained on how to onboard a Proof of Concept using the DDC Toolkit. The products include Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V, System Center Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, Data Protection Manager and Virtual Machine Manager.

The trainer was Jeffrey Roach from Wright & Robbins (a Microsoft vendor based in Seattle) and it was four days packed with excitement and interaction. Jeff is now in Prague, delivering the same workshop to our European partners.

DDTK-H Workshop

While we were in Dubai, we also got a chance to attend a separate Unified Communications Sales training, which included a hands-on user experience of Microsoft UC solutions.

100124_142011 100124_142052

Red Hat hypervisor tools to run on Windows only!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 09.09.2009 at 05:34

I read with interest a report on ZDNet this morning that the open source company Red Hat will initially offer its hypervisor management tools for Windows systems only.

According to the report, the company based its decision on the fact that Windows still leads as the operating system of choice for desktops.

A strange move this, especially from a company that usually takes the GPL (GNU Public license) route.

It is interesting to note that while Red Hat and VMware offer hypervisor management software only for their own respective hypervisors, Microsoft’s System Center suite offers hypervisor management for BOTH Hyper-V and VMware, physical machine management, virtual machine management, and application (workload) management – all integrated in a common platform – the System Center suite.

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