The Windows Server Notebook

June 28, 2012  2:19 PM

Microsoft accidentally deploys Skype using WSUS

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

IT admins using Windows Server Update Services got a surprise this week when Skype installed on some desktops.

The update to Skype, the Microsoft-owned voice and video chat service, was originally intended to be listed as an update for machines that already had it installed. Instead, it installed regardless of whether it was on the end-user’s machine or not.

Complaints flooded Microsoft’s forums and the company said it expired the update so it would not be installed. Other users also found ways to expunge the unwarranted application from the workstations with code.

Microsoft employee Doug Neal wrote “For those admins who still have this update, you may want to decline (not approve) this update.”

Did Skype show up on your workstations? How are you addressing it? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @SearchWinServ.

June 26, 2012  6:30 PM

Splunk App monitors Active Directory

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

This week, users looking to monitor Active Directory got another option. San Francisco-based Splunk, Inc., an application management and security company, released the Splunk App for Active Directory.

The free tool aims to monitor performance and collect log files; it will also record PowerShell data from DNS servers. The app contains dashboards for monitoring forest health, user logons and account lockouts, and change management.

The app currently supports all versions from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008 R2.

Splunk’s tool is one of several in the Active Directory monitoring market. SolarWinds also offers a free permissions analyzer tool, and ManageEngine offers an AD Replication Manager, among others.

Have you tried Splunk’s Active Directory app? What Active Directory monitoring tools do you use? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @SearchWinServ.

June 22, 2012  3:34 PM

Who had the better week, LeBron James or Microsoft?

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein
Which coveted item would you most like to get your hands on?

Which coveted item would you most like to get your hands on?

Even if you’re not a sports fan, you’ve probably heard that the Miami Heat, led by LeBron James, won the NBA championship last night over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The victory capped an impressive week by the much-maligned superstar, who silenced critics by finally stepping up when it mattered most. James led his team in scoring during each of its four straight wins, notching a triple-double in the clincher. He took home the Finals MVP trophy for his efforts.

Another big player had its reputation on the line this week, and also delivered multiple times. I’m talking about Microsoft, of course, which revealed plans for its new Surface tablet and Windows Phone 8 in two West Coast events. Both announcements marked the company’s renewed competition in areas where it’d been counted out by some. Though the Surface comes with some questions (including how it will impact partner relationships, how it will be managed by IT and, oh yeah, what it will cost), it could be a legitimate competitor to Apple’s iPad thanks to its light, thin body and innovations like an integrated kickstand and a cover that doubles as a keyboard.

Meanwhile, Windows Phone 8 represents a significant upgrade from previous versions of the mobile platform, with a new Start screen, a shared kernel with Windows 8, gaming updates and, crucially for enterprise IT, enhancements to security (secure boot, disk encryption), application deployment (a customizable company hub for internal line-of-business apps) and some level of device management.

Given that both the Surface and Windows Phone 8 aren’t expected to debut until at least the fall (no official release dates have been announced), and LeBron already has his trophy, this debate seems pretty simple. But Microsoft’s products have the chance to impact a multi-billion dollar market and revitalize a beleaguered brand (do I smell a new endorsement opportunity for King James?), so it’s worth asking the question: Who had the better week, LeBron or Microsoft?

Answer in our Facebook poll, or let us know what you think in the comments.

June 15, 2012  8:52 PM

System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 CTP2 now available

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

Users of Microsoft’s System Center suite can now test out the management products’ compatibility with the latest version of Windows Server, as the second Community Technology Preview of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 was released today.

In addition to adding new compatibility features with the Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate, SP1 integrates with the recently announced Windows Azure virtual machines, which allow the movement of virtual hard disks to and from the cloud.

The updated suite includes updates to several System Center 2012 components, including support for the latest versions of XenServer and VMware vSphere in Virtual Machine Manager; support for Windows 8, Mac OS and Linux and Unix servers in Configuration Manager; and support for IIS 8 in Operations Manager.

Learn about all the updates and download SP1 on Microsoft’s website.

June 15, 2012  2:05 PM

New third-party tools target Hyper-V, Windows Server 2012, mobile device management

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Windows Server administrators looking to make their lives easier have a variety of tools at their disposal. This week, that array grew even larger, as several third-party vendors launched new offerings during TechEd North America in Orlando.

Here are a few products targeted to server admins that were announced:

Software company 5nine releases near-final version of Security Manager

If you’re on the prowl for Hyper-V tools, it’s near impossible to avoid hearing about 5nine software. This week, the company delivered Hyper-V Security Manager in a release candidate form.

Security Manager is a hybrid anti-malware, web-app protection, log inspection and virtual firewall tool. The product uses a new interface in Windows Server 2012 (formerly Windows Server 8 ) and Windows 8 called Windows Filtering Platform, as well as taking advantage of Hyper-V 3.0’s virtual switch.

StealthBits aims to ease Server 2012 migration with Active Directory product

When beginning to plan a migration to Windows Server 2012, it’s good to be ready to address Active Directory issues. StealthBits is readying and demoing its new Active Directory update that takes advantage of Windows Server 2012’s Dynamic Access Control feature.

The company claims its product can help clean stale files, consolidate AD domains and develop Identity and Access Management protocols.

Net Optics pre-releases Hyper-V support for Phantom Virtualization Tap

Last month, Net Optics’ Ran Nahmias posted on his blog that “no hypervisor gets left behind” in reference to Phantom Virtualization Taps missing Hyper-V support.

This week, Hyper-V is the latest plugin for Phantom Virtualization Tap.  Built on Hyper-V’s Extensible Virtual Switch, the plugin monitors Hyper-V and virtual traffic and allows security and compliance policy management.

Quest Software updates Quest Management Xtensions

Mobile device management is something to watch these days, as more devices get used on the network. Some admins might not think Microsoft’s first-party mobile device management offering is adequate enough.

Quest upgraded its Quest Management Xtensions (QMX), including support for iPhone and Android management, plus a vWorkspace connector for virtualized infrastructure.

Were you at TechEd? Are you planning to use any of these products? Let us know in the comments, or leave us a note on Twitter @WindowsTT.

June 14, 2012  4:51 PM

SolarWinds releases free WSUS diagnostic tool

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Admins routinely facing WSUS issues might have a tool to check out.

SolarWinds, an Austin, Texas-based network management company, released a free diagnostic tool for WSUS this week.

The tool promises to validate Windows Update configuration values, test for and diagnose issues with connection to WSUS, and step-by-step repair instructions for any errors the agent throws back at the admin.

Last week, Microsoft patched the Windows Update and WSUS agents as a result of the Flame malware threat.

SolarWinds also offers Patch Manager, a $3,000 tool that can diagnose and repair problems with WSUS  and gives top-level management of patches that can be scheduled.

Have you tried SolarWinds’ WSUS diagnostic tool? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @WindowsTT.

June 13, 2012  7:44 PM

A photo tour of TechEd 2012

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

There’s a lot to take in at Microsoft’s annual technical learning event, and you can’t describe it all in words. Here are some of the memorable visual stimuli that we saw during our visit to Orlando. See something else? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter (@WindowsTT).

A hotel key featuring an ad for Office 365 at Microsoft TechEd 2012

If you stay at a conference hotel, you've got to be ready for conference ads everywhere - including on the room key.

Continued »

June 12, 2012  1:29 PM

Lessons learned from TechEd 2012 Day 1

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

Microsoft’s TechEd event is all about learning…but not always the kind you think. Our first day in Orlando came complete with a lot of new knowledge, and not just about the availability of the new Windows Intune, CTP2 of System Center 2012 SP1 and Hyper-V Server 2012 (the Release Candidate).

If you missed out on the fun, consider this your review session:

1) Speed thrills. Microsoft Virtualization Program manager Jeff Woolsey got the biggest cheer of the Day 1 keynote (unless you count the one guy excited about PowerShell cmdlets) with his move of a 10 GB file in just 10 seconds using Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V.  Attendees were sufficiently impressed; Woolsey also spent the better part of an hour answering Hyper-V questions after his two marathon sessions later in the day.

2) Mark Russinovich is (relatively) hilarious. The Windows Azure Technical Fellow’s part of the opening keynote was full of laughs. Sample joke: “No, we haven’t been hacked; Azure really does support Linux as a guest OS.” (You had to be there.)

3) Live crowdsourcing is dangerous. The Azure web app that Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie created during the keynote (try it out here: opened up a message box to the crowd, which led to some “special” notes displayed on the main screen, from a tongue-in-cheek SQL injection to a possibly sincere question: “Who farted?”

4) Apple is ok. Microsoft folks have made a point of showing multiple demos on iPhones so far, putting their money where their mouth is in terms of supporting all manner of devices (though attendees did hear about “user-centric” management via System Center a number of times — and the new management suite was a popular topic among attendees).  The move made some sense, given all the Macbooks and iPads in the crowd.

5) PowerShell is getting real. Ok, it’s not exactly new knowledge that PowerShell is becoming a more significant part of Microsoft systems. But the fact that TechEd had to add a second session of Don Jones and Jeffrey Snover’s “PowerShell Crash Course” (and still saw it packed to the brim) shows that IT pros are really starting to understand that not learning it could be detrimental to their careers.

6) People are getting testy about tests. Not everyone understands how (or why) Microsoft has changed its certification program, but the consensus is that the soon-to-be-retired MCITP will not be missed. In the meantime, plenty of folks were cramming for and taking all manner of tests during Day 1, more to boost the resume than anything else.

7) Twitter is complicated. The Birds of a Feather session on “Social Media for Business” included some spirited discussions about the pros and cons of supporting social media activity from an IT perspective — with security and governance (particularly in healthcare and government) the biggest drawbacks, and improved feedback and research the biggest advantages. The most unique insight: The expansion of social media is akin to the move from single-core processors (individual thinking) to multi-core processors (where it’s all about the group).

8 ) There’s no such thing as “trying too hard” at a vendor booth. Raffles, card tricks, a guy on a unicycle wrapped in a straitjacket (seriously) – there were few lengths to which vendors wouldn’t go to attract a few more attendees to their booths. At least there were no “booth babes” that we could see.

Don’t you feel a whole lot smarter? Now, if we could just learn about the official release dates for Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8…

June 7, 2012  6:52 PM

Microsoft’s June 2012 advance security notification lists seven bulletins

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Microsoft is ringing in the summer season with seven bulletins in its latest Patch Tuesday announcement. IT pros should be on the lookout for three critical bulletins, patching Internet Explorer, .NET framework and Microsoft operating systems, to be released next week.

The bulletins will address 25 vulnerabilities, according to a post on a Microsoft security blog. Three of the bulletins will respond to issues with elevation of privilege, while the other four will deal with remote code execution.

The patches come at a time of heightened attention to security, given the Flame malware that exploited Windows Update systems in the Middle East. However, experts say that Flame shouldn’t pose too big of a threat to enterprises.

Though the June notification includes about as many fixes as previous months in 2012, it does appear to be heavy on server updates (with three critical bulletins applied to Windows Server 2003 and 2008) as compared to last month. Check back for a full report and analysis next week.

June 6, 2012  6:03 PM

What to expect at TechEd North America 2012

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

As anyone who’s been to TechEd will attest, the event is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. With hundreds of technical sessions, workshops, labs and vendors, the annual Microsoft event doesn’t lack quantity. But what’s actually worth paying attention to?

Thanks to the timing of the event, the published agenda and the tarot cards found lying around the TechTarget office, we have a few informed guesses regarding what attendees can expect to hear a lot about, and where Microsoft wants the industry conversation to go. Here are the top topics we’ll be watching:

Windows Server 2012

With the recent name change from Windows Server 8, there’s a renewed anticipation for Microsoft’s upcoming server OS – and heightened expectations for all the things the company claims it can do. Server and Tools Business president Satya Nadella will be one of the featured keynote speakers at the show, and he’ll likely hammer on all of the many documented improvements within Server 2012, from enhancements to Hyper-V and PowerShell to the new Resilient File System. There are also 72 technical sessions in the Windows Server track, which should sate folks eager to play with the Release Candidate, available now.

Windows 8

It’s no secret that Microsoft is betting big on Windows 8, its “reimagined,” “fast and fluid” new client operating system. With the next iteration – dubbed the Release Preview – now available, you can bet it’ll be a major point of emphasis for many speakers, if not for the IT pros who remain skeptical of how the touch-centric interface will translate to the enterprise. The agenda includes technical sessions on Windows 8 deployment, Metro-style app delivery, Windows To Go and more. Developers will have plenty to chew on as well: Visual Studio corporate vice president Jason Zander will be speaking during Monday’s keynote session, and Antoine LeBlond, corporate vice president for Windows Web Services (with a focus on the Windows Store) takes the stage on Tuesday.


Sure, IT pros have been able to take certification exams at TechEd every year. But this year adds some intrigue, given the recent changes to Microsoft’s program, including the return of the MCSE and a focus on the cloud. Many are wondering what the changes mean for them, whether they should get recertified and what the value of these things are, anyway. If there is any place to get answers, it’s here.

Device (or user) management

It’s pretty difficult to avoid the topic of consumerization and BYOD programs at any conference these days, and for good reason: Any organization that isn’t dealing with it now will soon need to or risk being beaten over the head by iPad-wielding employees. One of the main ways that Microsoft is addressing the new reality is through improved device management. The revamped Windows Intune, which will purportedly give IT the ability to manage and deliver applications to iOS and Android devices in addition to Windows devices, will be featured in demos and discussions throughout the week (as will System Center Configuration Manager 2012). Expect to hear about Microsoft’s “user-centric” management model a lot, and get explanations as to why Windows RT tablets don’t need to join Active Directory domains.


The word “cloud” at a Microsoft conference usually means Azure. The public cloud platform will definitely be a major coverage area at TechEd, given both the timing – there was a recent branding brouhaha, and the company is scheduled to make a significant Azure announcement on June 7 – and the speaker slate (which includes sessions from Azure executives Scott Guthrie and Mark Russinovich, and purportedly something on the new Windows Azure Active Directory). But don’t discount Microsoft’s private cloud push, which includes System Center 2012 and Hyper-V.

System Center 2012

Though Microsoft’s updated systems management suite got plenty of time in the spotlight during the Management Summit in April, IT pros are looking to learn more about how to better monitor and respond to increasingly complex environments. Many of the suite’s most significant products, including Virtual Machine Manager, Operations Manager and Orchestrator, will get dedicated technical sessions, and should be touted as ways to tie together many of the topics mentioned above.


We’ve heard very little about how things are going with Office 365, Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps, and maybe that’s for a reason. But the roadmap should become a little clearer during TechEd, as there are several sessions scheduled that cover the cloud-based productivity suite in depth, including its tie-ins to the Sharepoint collaboration platform (and we may get more details on the new government-specific version).  Though there’s nothing listed, we might also hear something about Office 15, which will reportedly be delivered to Windows devices before anything else.

Will you be at TechEd North America 2012? If so, what are you looking to learn? If not, what would you like us to cover? The team will be on the ground in Orlando, delivering news and reactions from the event. Follow us on Twitter (@WindowsTT) for live updates.

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