Automation with System Center 2012 R2 Orchestrator

Guided Steps

Automation with Runbooks

The central element of SCO is the Runbook server. As mentioned, operations are automated via Runbooks created using Runbook Designer [5] executed on the Runbook server. Runbook servers communicate directly with the Orchestration database on the SQL Server. You can deploy multiple Runbook servers for each Orchestrator installation to increase capacity and redundancy. With the help of the Runbook Tester, you can check any Runbooks you develop before shifting them into production.

A Runbook provides the technical steps for the execution and automation of processes. Figure 2 shows a simple Runbook that queries the Windows Event Viewer for a specific event ID, shuts down a process – if it is running and/or is running a program – and then sends an email.

Figure 2: Runbook workflow for monitoring an Event Log.

To create a Runbook, launch Runbook Designer, navigate to the Runbooks node and click New / Runbook in the context menu, which opens a new tab with a blank Runbook. Now various functions can be executed in the context menu of the new Runbook's tab. First, you should assign a descriptive name to the Runbook.

The Activities section on the right side of the Runbook Designer Management Console contains all the configuration options (Figure 3). Installed integration packages provide additional activities. For the previously shown example – which triggers an action when an event ID occurs and then sends an email notification – select the group in the Monitoring / Monitor event log activity area. In the properties of the activity, you can now define the computer on which you want to monitor the event ID. You can drag and drop activities to the Runbook window and configure further actions and links between activities.

Figure 3: Runbook Designer showing the administrator a configured Runbook.

The Runbook is first checked out and thus reserved for exclusive editing. As additional activities, you can use Get Process Status / End Process / Run Program and Send Email . For the Get Process Status activity, select the process to be terminated, if it is not already terminated. For the Run Program activity, you can define any program or command-line program (VBScript, PowerShell, and many more). Finally, for Send Email , you need to define the connection information for the email server, the account, and the password information.

To test the Runbook, press the Runbook tester button. This opens a new window where you click on Run in the ribbon bar to run through the Runbook. Clicking on Step Through takes you through the various Runbook steps. After verifying that the Runbook is working correctly, you then export the Runbook to the Runbook Designer to back it up. The Runbook can now be executed via Runbook Designer or the Orchestration Console (Figure 4). A Runbook that you have already created can be modified after creation by selecting the Runbook in Runbook Designer and making changes.

Figure 4: You can start, stop, or modify a configured Runbook in the Orchestrator web console.

The Orchestrator web service is a REST-based service through which custom applications can be connected to SCO in order to start or to stop Runbooks. You can also retrieve information on transactions using custom applications or scripts. In the Orchestration Console, the web service is used for interaction with SCO. You can connect to the Orchestrator Web Console [6] by calling the SCO web server URL. In addition to starting and stopping existing Runbooks, you can see an overview of the current Runbooks, the Runbook definitions, and the instances in the web console.


System Center 2012 R2 Orchestrator is a powerful tool that helps administrators automate almost all the processes in the enterprise, assuming that almost all System Center products are in place. Orchestrator plays to its strengths in the Microsoft cloud environment and is a required component if companies are looking for full automation of IT operations with automatic provisioning. However, the complexity of the product should not be underestimated, and IT managers need to be aware that ongoing operation of Orchestrator requires significant staff resources.


  1. System Center Orchestrator Technet:
  2. Orchestrator 2012 R2 QuickStart Deployment Guide:
  3. Integration packages for System Center 2012 Orchestrator:
  4. System Center Orchestrator Integration Packs:
  5. Runbook Designer:
  6. Using the Orchestration Console in System Center 2012 Orchestrator:

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