April 8 2016

Microsoft MCSE Private Cloud recertification – exam 70-981

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As you may know, the current iteration of MCSE certifications require recertification every 3 years.  For the Private Cloud stream, this requires an exam – 70-981.  I sat and passed this today.

Something that seems not to be published widely is that you can recertify some MSCE streams without sitting an exam – from https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/learning/certification-exam-policies.aspx

Q. Is it possible to fulfil the requirement without taking a recertification exam
A. Yes. Candidates can now get recertified by taking a series of courses with Microsoft Virtual Academy. Read the list of available certifications, required courses and additional details to get recertified through Microsoft Virtual Academy.

Preparation for the exam is difficult – there are no study guides or reference material – you are just ‘expected to know’.

My observation is that it is basically a mix of the 70-246 and 70-247 exams, not really any new material – pretty disappointing, some of the questions seemed familiar so I wouldn’t be surprised if the exam content has just been reused.  The main areas covered are:

  • System Center Operations Manager
  • System Center Service Manager
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager
  • System Center Orchestrator
  • System Center Data Protection Manager
  • System Center App Controller
  • System Center Configuration Manager
  • Azure portal

Would I sit this again? Probably not.  While I’m sure the intention for recertification is well placed, it just seems like a money-grab – $206AU for the exam fee.  There are no benefits to me as an IT professional apart from keeping the certification active – I haven’t learnt any new skills or gained any additional knowledge – I’ve basically sat the same exam that I sat 3 years ago and in that time there has been significant change to the System Center and Azure offerings but this wasn’t reflected in the exam.



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September 25 2013

SCCM 2012 Programs running as 32bit on 64bit OS

I recently had a problem when I was trying to run a SCCM program (not application) that called a simple Windows command (the command was wbadmin.exe – but this is irrelevant) in SCCM 2012 on a Windows 2008 R2 64bit Operating System client. I noticed it was failing and in the execmgr.log there was a line stating “Running “C:Windows\system32\wbadmin.exe” delete systemstatebackup -keepversions:16 -quiet with 32bitLauncher” and also the Ccm32BitLauncher.log showed activity.

It was the old problem with 64bit file system redirection that I have blogged about previously.

I found a great article here – http://madluka.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/configmgr-2012-64bit-file-system-redirection-bites-again/ – that provide a batch file solution –
if the batch file is being run from within a 32bit command interpreter on a 64bit Operating System then the ‘Native’ 64bit command processor is called and re-launches the batch file. If it is already a 64bit command interpreter then the code jumps to the “:native” label and continues as usual.

So my batch file ends up looking like this, and the Program command line just calls the batch file:

  %SystemRoot%\Sysnative\cmd.exe /c %0 %* Exit
wbadmin delete systemstatebackup -keepversions:16 -quiet

A bit messy but there aren’t too many other option in this scenario.

June 25 2013

Automatic documentation of your SCCM environment

David O’Brien has created a fantastic PowerShell script that collects the configuration of your SCCM 2012 environment and exports it into a well formatted and comprehensive Word document. More information and downloads here:

Enhansoft have also just released their SCCM 2012 Documentation Script (SYDI-SCCM), this is available for free (after registration) from their website:




June 22 2013

The System Management container

I’m often asked what the System Management container in Active Directory is used for. SCCM can use this container to store a small amount of configuration data for clients (or at least clients that are attempting an installation) can retrieve and use.

Configuration that is commonly stored in this container includes:

  • Client computer installation and site assignment (eg installation properties like management points, client cache size)
  • Port configuration for client-to-server communication
  • Network Access Protection (validate a client’s statement of health)
  • Content deployment scenarios (eg if you plan to create content at a primary site and deploy that content to a secondary site below a different primary site, you can use the container to obtain the source primary site’s public key)

A full list and much more detail is available from http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg712272

Important information worth noting:

  • Site Servers will only write their information into the System Management container in their OWN domain
  • SCCM clients will query a global catalog to retrieve this information, so as long as they are in the same AD forest then they can query information from all domains, not just their own
  • The System Management container needs to be created manually, it isn’t done by the SCCM setup process
  • Permissions must be set manually on the System Management container. The primary site server computer account must be granted Full Control permissions to the System Management container and all its child objects. If you have secondary sites, the secondary site server computer account must also be granted Full Control permissions to the System Management container and all its child objects.


June 18 2013

Site assignment boundaries are NOT required in SCCM 2012

SCCM 2012I’d like to do a quick post on something that I feel isn’t very well documented in SCCM 2012 – site assignment boundaries.  Boundaries in SCCM 2012 are very different to previous versions not only because there are now ‘Boundaries’ and ‘Boundaries Group’ but because ‘site assignment’ and ‘content location’  are now separated and are configurable properties of a boundary group.  For a one line definition of both of these, I quote directly from Microsoft (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh427326.aspx):
  • Site assignment = Site assignment is used by clients that use automatic site assignment to find an appropriate site to join, based on the clients current network location.
  • Content location = Content location is used by clients to identify available distribution points or state migration points, based upon the client’s current network location.

I’ll put a statement out there that I have proven a number of times and I have had clarified by the SCCM product group and also Microsoft Premier Support as a working and supported configuration – ‘Given the right scenario, site assignment boundaries are NOT required to be configured in SCCM 2012‘.

To give this statement some context, I have worked in numerous multi-vendor, multi-region and highly politically complex organisations where one or more vendors or internal teams may use SCCM (2007, 2012 or even SMS 2003) as their support tool and it will need to co-exist with other SCCM deployments / hierarchies within the same environment (including same Active Directory forest).  A new SCCM 2012 hierarchy can be deployed into these environment without affecting the existing environments and without breaking the SCCM golden rule that ‘boundaries cannot overlap’ (well, this is still partially true with SCCM 2012 – site assignment boundaries cannot overlap however content boundaries can overlap).

So if you are putting in a new SCCM 2012 hierarchy and you don’t want to reconfigure boundaries on existing SCCM hierarchies, on your new implementation simply:
  • Untick the ‘use this boundary group for site assignment’ box for all of your boundaries groups, eg:
Site assignment
  • Ensure you have the appropriate site systems added into the content locations section
  • Ensure the SMSSITECODE=xxx installation property is entered into the tab in the Client Push Installation Properties, eg:
Hardcode sitecode


This way the client is hardcoded (for lack of a better word) to use a sitecode for site assignment (P00 in the above example) rather than trying to autodetect it, but the content location is still automatically and dynamically detected.

The impact of the above configuration on this new SCCM hierarchy is:
  • Automatic site assignment will not be supported. SCCM clients will always contact their designated Site Server unless reconfigured.
  • This hierarchy will not automatically support network roaming of SCCM clients.
  • Automatic client push installation will not work however other installation methods including pushing from the console with the ‘Install Configuration Manager Client Wizard’ will still work
A few relevant notes:
  • System Center 2012 Configuration Manager clients check the version of the Configuration Manager site before they complete site assignment and cannot assign to a Configuration Manager 2007 site if boundaries overlap. However, Configuration Manager 2007 clients do not check for the site version and can incorrectly be assigned to a System Center 2012 Configuration Manager site. (see client site assignment considerations in http://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/library/jj822985.aspx)
  • You will still need to ensure the pre-existing SCCM hierarchies are configured so they don’t try and push the old SCCM client to your new hierarchy’s clients
  • This configuration assumes you use the client push wizard for client installation, obviously if you are doing manual or GPO client installation you will need to use the SMSSITECODE=xxx property too
  • If you manually assign a client computer to a System Center 2012 Configuration Manager site code that does not exist, the site assignment fails. The client remains installed but unmanaged until it is assigned to a valid System Center 2012 Configuration Manager site.
  • If you make a change to the site assignment configuration of a boundary group, only new site assignment actions are affected. Clients that have previously been assigned to a site, do not re-evaluate their site assignment based on changes to the configuration of a boundary group (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg712679.aspx).

And finally, a blurb from Microsoft (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg682060.aspx) on the basics of SCCM client site assignment:

After a System Center 2012 Configuration Manager client is installed, it must join a System Center 2012 Configuration Manager primary site before it can be managed. The site that a client joins is referred to as its assigned site. Clients cannot be assigned to a central administration site or to a secondary site.

The assignment process occurs after the client is successfully installed and determines which site manages the client computer. When you install the mobile device client during Configuration Manager enrollment, this process always automatically assigns the mobile device to a site. When you install the client on a computer, you can also assign the client to a site or you can just install the client without assigning it to a site. However, when the client is installed but not assigned, the client is unmanaged until site assignment is successful.

To assign a client computer, you can either directly assign the client to a site, or you can use automatic site assignment where the client automatically finds an appropriate site based on its current network location or a fallback site that has been configured for the hierarchy.  After the client is assigned to a site, it remains assigned to that site, even if the client changes its IP address and roams to another site. Only an administrator can later manually assign the client to another site or remove the client assignment.



June 7 2013

SCCM 2012 – Run action after Task Sequence is finished

In the past it has been fiddly to get an action to run after a SCCM Task Sequence has completed. Service Pack 1 of SCCM 2012 includes 7 new task sequence variables (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh273375.aspx), one of which is SMSTSPostAction.  This is extremely simple to use – just add a task sequence variable anywhere in the Task Sequence and this command will run after you task sequence completes. It’s simple and it works well. In my example below, I delete a directory after the task sequence completes: