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Microsoft System Center Advisor Limited Preview is live!

8:33 pm in operations manager, SCOM, SCOM 2012, Uncategorized by Dieter Wijckmans

There are days that products become hot on the spot. It’s all about cloud lately and sometimes it’s amazing how fast things are evolving for us ITPRO’s.

One of these cool products which leverages the possibilities of the cloud, uses the full potential of the virtually endless storage space to store data and use the computing power of the cloud is System Center Advisor.

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When System Center advisor first emerged it was a small service in the cloud where you had to seperately make a small proxy agent to send data into the cloud and configure it to get usefull data. You had to set up or designate a server as a gateway to send data to the online service. The data was only updated once per day and was only available through a webconsole. It was a nice product but it was way ahead of it’s time for the time being. One of the problems it had was the fact that not a lot of people understood the need for advisor as it was branded as just a system center advisor software…

The potential of the product was already there but it had to be easier to use…

Since SCOM 2012 SP1 Advisor got a revamp and is fully integrated in the SCOM console. It received more rules and better performance and people started embracing the fact that they gained access to the vast dbase of microsoft filled with best practices to automatically evaluate their systems. No need for those complex mbsa scans (ouch remember those…)

More and more people started using the service but still for a lot of customers I visited System Center Advisor was not that well known. It was rather a big unknown. As soon as I explained the possibilities they started using and appreciating the service and installed it in their environment.

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source: https://channel9.msdn.com/Blogs/C9Team/System-Center-Advisor-Limited-Preview

Now with the new Limited Preview Microsoft is showing the future of this cool product. All the different and familiar functions are still there but there’s more…

Intelligence Packs

If you are familiar with SCOM you’ll definately will know Management packs but Intelligence Packs? Intelligence packs are the new way of adding functionality to your Advisor environment taylored for your business. It is the key to customizing your Advisor to your environment to show the data you specifically want to show in Advisor.

These management packs are stored in the Advisor Gallery and will be installed online. In a later stadium it will be possible to configure and create your own intelligence packs to gather specific data for your environment to further customize your environment. Similar to what you are doing with your management packs in your SCOM environment.

Currently there are Intelligence Packs for:

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All are available from the Intelligence Pack Gallery and install with just a couple of clicks. Not much configuration is needed afterwards.

The store can be reached through the Intelligence Pack button on the portal:

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Let’s for example take the Log Management Intelligence pack (this will take some time to get used to). It enables a cool new feature to gather eventlogs of your servers in one central place and search and query them to get a one place to get insight in your environment.

After we have installed the Intelligence Pack through the console it will appear in our main portal view:

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(notice that I already played with the other intelligence packs as well)

So if we click on the tile “Log Management” we’ll jump to the configuration and tell Advisor which logs we would like to gather in our Advisor to get the insights with queries. Again this is a great way of gathering all your data in one place. When you have all the data in one place you can use it to get insight in your environment because let’s face it: It’s you who knows your environment best.

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After we have told Advisor to gather the System log on all the machines which are connected to the advisor (both Errors and Warnings) the Intelligence pack will kick in and will gather the info for the first time to give you a view of the collected data.

Search Data explorer

Now that we have data in our Advisor we would love to find out things on our own to get perhaps the root cause why systems are running slow for example. The search can be performed by using the Search Data Explorer. Open the Search Data Explorer on the right to access the search tool:

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This will open the Search where you can start your journey through the gathered data:

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On the right you’ll have common search queries to get you started. Expect more and more lists for search queries to come online but if you really need to create your own search query you can always check out the Syntax Preference link under documentation to get you going.

In fact there are 3 easy steps to get your data:

1. Enter the searcg term:

In this example I’m using * to get all my data because Advisor hasn’t run that long it doesn’t have a lot of data yet so I would like to see what’s already in there:

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Next step is to filter the resulte with the tools in the right column to really only get the data we are after:

The facets are the different objects gathered by type an facets per type. In addition to this it’s also possible to scope what a time frame for the events gathered. This can come in handy when you want to troubleshoot a problem on your environment for example:

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For now this data is not exportable through PowerShell and only available online. Futher down the road in the developement of Advisor it will be possible to query this data through PowerShell to use the data in your own applications.

Feedback

Another feature that has been introduced in the console is the feedback option.

The button is located on the bottom right and will open the feedback page in a separate window:

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This will take you straight to the feedback window.

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People who already worked with connect and forums will find that it’s a mix between those 2. In here you can give tips or requests to further enhance the product with new possibilities but also file bugs you’ve came accross. Members of the community can answer questions to get you going or vote for another request.

This will give you a nice one stop place to get you up to speed fast with the product but most important will give you the opportunity to give feedback first hand. This list will be used by the product team involved to prioritize the new enhancements.

Conclusion

This Limited preview of the next generation of Advisor will give the possibility to gather even more data about your environment and use this data to gain further insight in your environment. Because the system has been setup with Intelligence Packs it’s very easy to taylor the console to your needs. Add the performance of the cloud storage and computing to the game and we have a new additional powerful tool to gather and analyse data.

Will this completely replace all other monitoring needs? Not yet… Will it be a great enhancement to the tools we already have in place? Certainly!

This tool is free of charge during the preview period. So for now the only thing that is stopping you from using this tool is… yourself.

Keep an eye on the blog as I’ll dig deeper into the different intelligence packs when data comes in

A first glance at Squared-Up Operations 1.8

1:10 am in SCOM 2012 by Dieter Wijckmans

Face it: In my believe Operations Manager is a cool product with lot’s of capabilities out of the box. But there is room for improvement as well. One of these areas of improvement is showing the data which you eagerly collect in SCOM to the operators or even to people who are not that tech minded. All they want to see is whether everything is running fine and they can happily (I do hope so) continue their work. SCOM is very good in showing the data to the Operators but is lacking these capabilities of showing data in a more simple way.

Don’t get me wrong on this… It DOESN’T need to have this capability on board by default… Luckily there are a number of players on the market regarding easy setup dashboards and visualizations of this data in your SCOM environment like Squared-up.

During MMS 2013 I came across Squared-up. A small UK based company who took a rather different approach towards dashboarding. The difference is in fact that they are not focusing on creating dashboards in the console as such but generating these dashboards on top of a lightweight HTML5 server which can be installed on a management server or another server if you like. All you need to do is install the Squared up app and connecting it to your environment. From there on all the data is collected by tapping into the SCOM SDK without interfering with the console as such.

No fuzz, no hassle, just straightforward dashboards out of the box…

So the first part of this blog series (yep I will dig deeper into this program) is to see how we are going to install the product and see what is available out of the box. (Note that the print screens are based on version 1.7. I recently install 1.8 on top of this version without issues)

Website: http://www.squaredup.com/

Install

So let’s start the install:

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Read through the entire License agreement like I always do (right)

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Install the HTML5 web-server

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Yep installing…

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After install we need to connect it to our management group to be able to tap into the SDK.

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When all is done we can open the console for the first time by clicking on the link provided on screen:

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We are using the Operations manager user “administrator”. No extra users need to be created just the users already present in SCOM will do:

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After first log in you need to put in your activation key and you are good to go.

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To my surprise data was already coming in and being shown in the website. Without any additional configuration or settings I already have standard view of my environment.

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First browse through the standard views:

Active Directory view out of the box

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On the left we get a quick overview of the status of the different services and on the right we get straight out of the box the graphs about the key perfomance indicators straight out of the Datawarehouse in real time. Pretty impressive if you ask me.

Web servers view out of the box:

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So if I click an alert it will instantly open a new web view with the alert and all the different parameters of the alert in a very sleak design giving you all parameters and data in a glance.

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This dashboard is also fully functional. It’s possible to close alerts, assign alerts or even reset monitors in a glance as shown below.

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First conclusion

I’ll definitely have to play more with the product to get to know it’s full potential but so far I’m pleased with what I’m seeing: Easy setup, dashboards straight out of the box filled with data, speed (although my environment is running locally on my demo laptop),…

In a further stadium when I find the 25th hour in a day I’ll dig into the creation of custom dashboards which hopefully will be the same easy setup as the install.

Small tip

If you want to test drive this web console without moving back and forth on your screen you can always open it in a Page view in the console itself like shown below:

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SCOM 2012 R2 UR2: version number agent not increased

10:24 am in SCOM, SCOM 2012 by Dieter Wijckmans

 

Recently the new update rollup version (UR2) for SCOM 2012 R2 was released to the general public. One of the things that came up in the community was the fact that the agent number was not increasing in the SCOM console when it was pushed through the console.

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Stanislav Zhelyazkov worked closely with other community members to pinpoint the problem and found a workaround which is both genious and simple: Run repair from the console.

Please read his full blog post here:

http://cloudadministrator.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/system-center-2012-r2-operations-manager-ur2-does-not-updated-agents-trough-the-console/

Social Update: A manner of speaking…

10:27 am in LiveMeeting, scu, sysctr by Dieter Wijckmans

A lot of exciting things are happening in the System Center community these days. Different new releases; new features are already delivered or are on the brink of being delivered shortly. TechED NA is right around the corner and other events are being planned as well. I always enjoy being part of these events and meet old and new friends all with the same interest: System Center products.

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This blog post will be my (and your) one place to keep track of all sessions which I’m presenting and events I’ll be attending both national and International.

Hope you will attend one of my sessions and if you do, make sure to take the time to meet up!

If you have any suggestions or question about this list please sure to drop me a line on twitter or send me a mail

Event Date Location Session URL
SCU Network 22/05/2014
1PM CET
Online Webinar Exploring monitoring beyond the borders of Microsoft: Part 1 Linux monitoring http://www.systemcenteruniverse.com/scunetwork.htm
SCU Network 27/05/2014
1PM CET
Online
Webinar
Exploring monitoring beyond the borders of Microsoft: Part 2 PowerShell http://www.systemcenteruniverse.com/scunetwork.htm
SCU Network 05/06/2014
1PM CET
Online Webinar Exploring monitoring beyond the borders of Microsoft: Part 3 Monitoring API based devices http://www.systemcenteruniverse.com/scunetwork.htm
ITPROceed 12/06/2014 Antwerp (Belgium) Can SCOM monitor other stuff than Windows Thingies? Euhm yes itt can! http://www.itproceed.be