I’m a student intern here at Microsoft, spending the academic year working as a lab engineer in the Microsoft Technology Centre (MTC). I’m between my second and third years of a BSc in Computing at Coventry University - I suppose I’d probably describe myself as a beginner IT professional!
What we do in the MTC is help enterprise businesses and independent software vendors solve complex business problems using Microsoft’s platforms and partner technology. We have incredible people and state of the art facilities to help us do this. We provide a range of offerings to educate customers and partners and help them to adopt the latest Microsoft technologies.
A typical day for me normally starts early at 7:30am when I head to the onsite gym for a workout to get ready for the day ahead. At 9am it’s down to business, making sure all eight rooms in the MTC are set up with network, server and development workstations ready for use.
I spend most of my day building environments for Proof of Concepts (POCs). POCs are three week engagements during which one of the MTC architects lead a small team of customer and Microsoft specialists to develop a bespoke solution to a problem using our platforms and technology partners (among them AMD, APC, Brocade, EMC, Dell, Emulex, HP, Intel, NetApp and Avocent). As a member of the MTC lab team, my role is to build an environment that emulates what infrastructure the customer/partner already has or will have in the future. We have a wide range of hardware in our datacentre ranging from blade systems to traditional rack servers which we can use as Domain Controllers, powerful SQL Database servers, SharePoint servers and Exchange servers to name a few.
It’s not just about the Windows Servers though, we also manage the Storage Area Networks and Local Area Networks and make the best use out of the latest virtualisation technologies using Hyper-V.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep me busy, I also help out with day-to-day datacentre maintenance and give demos to customers of Microsoft products and technologies, including Surface, Kinect, Windows Phone 7, SQL Server, BizTalk, SharePoint, Outlook and Exchange 2010, Lync, System Center, Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio.
My biggest accomplishment so far has been to produce an Unattend.xml file designed to perform a zero touch installation of our desktop operating systems and do things like join the domain automatically. This has greatly improved efficiency and probably saves me about two hours work each week. Every day is a challenge, though, it’s not a typical 9-5. I’m constantly working with different customers and different systems, and one of the biggest treats for me is that I’m always around the latest technology, getting to see the new stuff before most people! Of all the new technology I get to play with, I’m most interested in the great work happening around Surface 2 and I really hope I get to see it before I finish my internship.
While I’m here I’m also taking advantage of the fantastic resources available for studying. You can see me talk more about that in this video I made for the TechNet Flash newsletter last year.
Nine steps to optimised desktop deployment now live
Wondering what Windows 7 and Windows Optimised Desktop can do for you? We’ve just launched a new programme that gives you step-by-step information and all the resources you need to understand how Windows 7 and Windows Optimised Desktop can significantly simplify your workflows, make your users productive anywhere and reduce costs by streamlining your PC management.
This programme goes through nine steps providing all the learning resources, technical guidance, and hands-on know how you need to plan, deploy, and manage the Windows Optimised Desktop. So you can follow the programme at a pace that suits you, you can sign up to the email programme or download the PDF’s here.
Here are the steps you can look forward to:
Step 1: Making your desktop work optimally for you
Step 2: Introducing the Optimised Desktop
Step 3: What’s under the bonnet
Step 4: Choose the right desktop virtualisation option for you
Step 5: Introduction to deployment
Step 6: Learning Resources Bundle – Part 1
Step 7: Learning Resources Bundle – Part 2
Step 8: Creating a training plan for your end-users
Step 9: Useful Tools and Key Resources Post-Deployment
Greg Charman is an ex-Opalis expert who now works for Microsoft. Read Greg’s thoughts about how Opalis works with System Center and other similar tools in the systems management space.
In December 2009 Microsoft acquired Opalis, a specialist provider of IT Process Automation (ITPA) software. The Opalis product is the process of being fully integrated into the System Center family of datacenter management products.
IT Process Automation, formally known as Run Book Automation (RBA) software provides a platform to design and run IT processes. Standardizing the IT processes that underpin IT services means best practices can be deployed across the environment, regardless of the underlying management infrastructure. This is achieved by orchestrating and integrating the existing IT tools.
Traditional IT tools support the functions of one particular IT Silo, sometimes offering automation of tasks within that Silo function. Unfortunately IT Business Processes cross multiple IT Silos and today these bridges are provided by human beings, inducing delay, error and rekeying of data. Opalis allows you to now integrate and orchestrate the tools in each of the Silos to now support your end to end IT Business Process, rather than have these tools define what your Business Process will be.
Microsoft recognizes that companies run heterogeneous data centers. As a part of the System Center portfolio, Opalis workflow processes orchestrate System Center products and integrate them with non-Microsoft systems to enable interoperability across the entire datacenter. Opalis provides solutions that address the systems management needs of complex heterogeneous datacenter environments. Opalis has developed productized integrations to management software from Microsoft, IBM, BMC, CA, VMware, EMC, and Symantec. This enables users to automate best practices such as incident triage and remediation, service provisioning and change management process, and achieve interoperability across tools.
The combined offering of Opalis and System Center provides the ability to orchestrate and integrate IT management through workflow and simplifies routine systems management tasks in complex heterogeneous environments by:
With the new capabilities from System Center in 2010, namely Service Manager and Opalis and the rest of System Center suite Microsoft can provide the tools to truly achieve the “Infrastructure on Demand” requirements being placed on IT executives.
Imagine a user has a requirement for a new virtual server which will host a business application.
First they go to a Web Front End and select a virtual machine template from the available options and request which application must be installed on the machine and how much data storage is required
A fully automated request for provision of new infrastructure has been achieved with no human intervention required.
Opalis works with event management and monitoring tools to run automated diagnostics, triage and remediation actions to lower the amount of level 1 and level 2 tickets staff have to manage. In this example, Opalis monitors Operations Manager for a critical performance alert, running on a virtual machine. To triage the cause, it retrieves the host name and checks performance on the host and virtual machines. If the host is the issue, it initiates Virtual Machines Manager to migrate the VM. Once complete it verifies performance and updates/closes the originating alert. If the VM is the issue, it creates and populates a ticket in Service Manager, initiates VMM to start a standby VM and updates the Service Manager incident with new VM details.
in the above workflow Opalis monitors Operations Manager, runs triage and then takes appropriate action.
Opalis works with change management systems to automate request and enforce best practices. Using Opalis, users can authorize, deploy and test change such as adding new services, patching systems, or running audits to detect configurations that are out of compliance. In this use case, Opalis coordinates a patching process during the maintenance window. It opens a service desk ticket, so all activity is tracked. It then queries VMM to get a list of off line VMs running Windows 7, it starts those machines. Opalis then reaches out to Active Directory for a list of computers running Window 7 and initiates Data Protection Manager to run a backup. Once that is complete, Configuration manager is initiated to update all machines with the patch. Upon completion VM’s are returned to their offline state.
There is more information on Opalis + System Center at the links below and a technology roadmap fully integrating Opalis as part of the Microsoft System Center portfolio will be available shortly to clarify how System Center is becoming an increasingly powerful systems management platform for heterogeneous data centre environments
· Opalis (information on the acquisition):
· Opalis portal
· Microsoft System Center
· Installing Opalis
Organisational intelligence is a new way of looking at business improvement and survival, combining advanced software technologies with the latest management thinking to produce highly effective organisations.
This 1-day workshop is intended for experienced managers, software architects and consultants both in line-of-management and supporting functions, such as HR and IT. We’ll be covering:
· How to identify the human and technological blocks that reduce the effective intelligence of your organisation
· How to design, implement and integrate human and technical systems to enhance organisational intelligence
· How to distribute intelligence throughout your organisation for maximum benefit
· How to justify your investment in organisational intelligence
Host and presenter Richard Veryard has written widely on business and technology innovation, including books on information modeling and management, software economics and the component-based business as well as a great many research articles and reports on topics including business modeling, service-oriented architecture and enterprise architecture. Guest speaker, Maxine Cook, Business Insight Manager at Microsoft UK Ltd, will present on capturing new types of intelligence, including from social media.
A limited number of last-minute places are available at £195 plus VAT. To qualify for this offer, please quote code number OI-9211-A4.
The ability to go deep into Windows to be able to troubleshoot and fix a wide range of issues from driver to limited Kernel debugging is one of those highly prized skills that can be really hard to gain. Luckily the excellent Dan Pearson is on hand presenting Windows OS Internals and Sysinternals April 11th to 15th 2010.
Topics include kernel architecture, memory management, thread scheduling, interrupt processing, time accounting, and crash dump analysis. This knowledge will help you help you troubleshoot difficult system problems as well as understand the true meaning behind key system performance counters.
For our lucky TechNet Subscribers I’ve got a 20% discount code – which also applies to any ‘softies reading this. You can register for Windows OS Internals and Sysinternals here.
Only week only to go until the first Tech.Days online event is here!
On the 8th February we kick off with “The Modern Desktop” – An introduction to what’s possible with Windows 7, Office 2010, Internet Explorer 8, Silverlight, Direct Access and Branch Cache. Sign up for the webinar here and see what other sessions are available in the full schedule here. This webinar will be led by Simon May, our amazing evangelist. We look forward to seeing you there.
That’s all for another week, folks. Here’s what the TechNet team’s been gassing about over the last five days:
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a weekend. Is it too early for a glass of wine? Have a good one – we’ll see you next week.
Save a space in your diary for the upcoming Microsoft Business Intelligence Seminar 2011, taking place on 2 March. Here’s an overview – if you’d like to know more you’ll find the full agenda and registration details here.
Business Intelligence enables your organisation to turn facts and information hidden in your data into valuable insight. Companies that use BI perform and compete better than those relying only on instinct or casual analysis. Microsoft provides a mature and complete platform for building BI solutions that empower every knowledge worker in your organisation to make better business decisions.
Our BI workshop has been designed to give you a good understanding of Microsoft's BI strategy and its platform consisting of Microsoft Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, and SQL Server 2008 R2. You will also hear about future direction for BI that takes advantage of Cloud Computing, the emergence of BI Appliances, and the newest innovation in powerful, advanced, yet easy to use analytics.
Welcome to the first in our new series, A Day in the Life. We’ll be talking to a variety of techy Microsofties about what they get up to during the old 9-5. We’d love to hear your suggestions for upcoming interviewees, so please post your suggestions in the comments box below.
We kick off with David Lynch, Senior Support Engineer in the EMEA Global Technical Support Centre UK. David, it’s over to you…(anyone remember Through the Keyhole?)
As well as IE, I cover the Windows Shell and I’ve recently added MSI to my troubleshooting skillset.
Today is a typical Tuesday for me, my busiest day of the week. It starts like any other, checking if any incidents have happened over night that might affect the team, looking through email communication and briefly triaging my cases and checking through my calendar to see what work I have to do today. What makes Tuesday different is that it’s triage day for IE in the Global Technical Support Centre (GTSC), for which I am responsible. I start by compiling a list of Premier and Professional customer support cases that are currently with our frontline engineers in Bangalore before emailing it out to the team. This is followed up with a scheduled conference call between the UK and India teams, addressing each case to make sure it’s on track, to highlight any issues, mark any that are due for escalation to the UK team and make sure both teams are aware of all the current cases. After the meeting, I report back with a summary of the current actions for these cases which are then logged against them. Typically we would triage 25-35 cases depending on how busy it is. Triage is a very important part of the week – aside from the fact that our customers benefit from having their support cases regularly discussed, the team as a whole has the chance to speak to each other by voice, instead of typing in an IM conversation, so it helps to build those team relations.
Around the triage activities, I need to focus on my own support cases which are all escalations from our front-line team in India or, from other front-line teams around Europe where volumes are particularly high or, from other escalation teams who need collaboration from an IE support specialist. A case load of around 15 is average but when it gets busy, or when colleagues go on holiday, I have gone up to 21-22 cases which can get pretty manic!
At the end of the day, it’s good to do something different. I like going down to the on-site gym to relax my mind and revitalise my body to help keep a balance to the day.
Apart from triage, meetings and case load, on a weekly basis, a typical engineer spends time mentoring the front-line engineers or colleagues in the UK team to help bring them on, keep up to date with what’s going on in the business and around their areas, look for opportunities to further develop their own skills or identify areas where we can help develop others or our products to increase market share. Being able to respond to high priority issues around security, cumulative updates and high severity issues is also required. It’s all very customer focused, there’s rarely any free-time, but always time to develop.
David Lynch EMEA GTSC UK Core IE Shell Support Engineer Microsoft Customer Service & Support
Coming next week: Microsoft Technology Centre intern and loveable geek, Jon Lickiss tells us about a typical day in the MTC. Let us know if you have a burning question for Jon – post it in the comments box below.
Have you taken advantage of our Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal offer yet?
Take this free online assessment to help you identify the strengths and gaps in your knowledge around Windows 7 deployment and provide some targeted learning steps. If you take the assessment now you could get your mitts on a FREE Windows 7 Resource Kit (worth £54.99; while stocks last), along with 40% off a wide range of MS Press titles. If you’ve already qualified for one of the Windows 7 Resource Kits but have yet to claim, please do remember to do so by the end of February.