With the general availability of System Center R2 - Orchestrator in October, customers have the ability to integrate their management systems together to implement end to end IT processes. You can read more about this in the cloud post that Brad wrote in August. In this post, I will discuss the Orchestrator capabilities we have in R2 and when you might consider using each one to automate tasks in your environment.

We have heard from many customers that in order to deliver IT services on demand, it was necessary to connect a lot of their management systems together so that things could happen automatically. This involved integrating systems delivered by Microsoft, partners, 3rd party, and custom solutions that IT are using to help build and manage their datacenter. In Orchestrator there is an automation capability that can be used to integrate and automate solutions throughout your datacenter and also a new set of capabilities that enable you to automate services delivered with the new Windows Azure Pack releasing with R2.

clip_image001

The question has come up, as you look at Orchestrator, about which features I should use for which scenarios. One way to think about this is what area are you responsible for in your datacenter and what technology you are using to support this. With the release of the Windows Azure Pack with R2 we are starting to see services that can be deployed on the Microsoft Cloud come down to enterprises and service providers. This enables service administrators to offer self service capabilities that users can consume as they need without having to go through the traditional provisioning of resources.

With all of these new services coming on premise it is also important that you can integrate these into your existing management systems so that you can deliver end to end management across all of these new resources in an automated way.

As we started to look at all of these new services (Web Sites / Virtual Machine Clouds, Service Bus / SQL / MySQL) and the management of plans and accounts required for these we realized we needed to build a capability into Orchestrator that could enable service administrators to easily manage these resources, especially as more and more services become available.

There is a unified web based service admin portal that ships with the Windows Azure Pack that is designed for management of these services. In R2 we have added a feature to Orchestrator called Service Management Automation that is deeply integrated into the Windows Azure Pack services and portal so that integration and automation can take place on these new services to bring these into the overall process management you have within your datacenter.

These two features of Orchestrator (Datacenter Automation & Windows Azure Pack Automation) now enable you to onboard these new Windows Azure Pack services into your environment and ensure that your existing solutions for management can all work together to continue the cloud model of delivering services on demand and operating the infrastructure and services in an automated way. A simple way to look at this is to use our PowerShell based SMA to support services deployed on the Cloud OS while completing datacenter automation across all management systems using our UI based engine. Of course, a preference for Visual authoring or PowerShell Workflow authoring might have you doing more work in one feature over the other but these can seamlessly talk to each other through the PowerShell cmdlets available for each.

Let’s look at a sample to show how you can use automation across both the Windows Azure Pack services and the rest of your datacenter management products.

If a user deletes their subscription in the Windows Azure Pack there might be a set of policies that you want to enforce to clean up the associated resources and update a central service desk solution with knowledge that the user has been removed and what actions were taken on their assets. This might look like the following but would depend on your own policies:

clip_image015

Let’s look at each of these steps and see how these could be accomplished:

Trigger on delete subscription

Service Management Automation in the Windows Azure pack has the ability to hook calls made on VM Clouds to runbooks so that additional actions can be made automatically. We can create a runbook that will get called each time a user deletes their subscription.

Remove associated VMs for subscription:

There is a sample runbook that ships in SMA that shows hooking up to VM Cloud actions like delete subscription and also contains sample code for deleting VMs associated with this subscription.

Remove associated networks:

The sample in SMA for removing VMs for a subscription also shows you how to remove any networks that are associated with this subscription.

Update monitoring system to indicate VMs / Networks are deleted:

Depending on what monitoring system you are using and whether they have PowerShell interfaces to them will determine whether you can accomplish this from SMA or if you could use the visual orchestrator integrations to accomplish this. For example, there are simple activities in System Center Operations manager integration pack for Orchestrator that can stop a VM from being monitored but there are also PowerShell cmdlets available. This would become a preference on which way you would want to go. If you are perhaps updating IBM Tivoli Netcool or another 3rd party then it would probably make sense to use the integration packs available for these in Orchestrator so you can easily manage them and call the Orchestrator runbook from SMA using the built in Orchestrator PowerShell module.

Remove any backups on VMs / Update backup system:

Again, depending on what backup solution you are using might determine whether to use SMA directly or call into Orchestrator because an existing integration pack exists for these systems. For example, if you use System Center Data Protection Manager, there is an integration pack in Orchestrator that makes it easy to manage DPM and there is also a PowerShell module available. This might not be the case if you are using a 3rd party backup system.

Update Service Desk solution with actions taken:

There are a lot of samples available with working with System Center Service Manager within Orchestrator to update the system for changes made for users in the environment as well as to update the CMDB. If you are using another system like HP Service Manager then you could just use the Orchestrator integration pack for that system and update that from an Orchestrator runbook. The SMA parent runbook could then call into Orchestrator to perform these actions.

Send email to user on actions taken and any next steps:

This might be something you want to do to let the user know that their subscription and associated assets have been successfully removed and perhaps follow up with them on why they deleted the subscription and if they need anything else from IT. You could accomplish this with direct PowerShell cmdlets within SMA or use your help desk solution to send out the email and track responses.

As you can see from the above example, there might be scenarios where you want to use both SMA and Orchestrator depending on availability of PowerShell modules or Integration packs and also whether you want to use visual authoring for some of these scenarios compared to PowerShell Workflow authoring. You can call Orchestrator and SMA runbooks using the built in PowerShell modules for each so it enables interoperability between both.

To learn more about the Windows Azure Pack please see the technet content on http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn296435.aspx. To learn about Service Management Automation in R2 of Orchestrator, please see the blog on http://blogs.technet.com/b/privatecloud/archive/2013/08/09/automation-an-introduction-to-service-management-automation.aspx .

If you are interested in finding information about Orchestrator you can try your friendly search engine http://www.bing.com/search?q=system+center+orchestrator