Monitoring web sites with System Center Global Service Monitor

SCOM is indeed a great product with regards to monitoring but sometime we require external monitoring for products like web applications. If you are familiar with solutions like site24x7 then you know how much you have to pay for those applications just to monitor your website up and and running. If you already have a SCOM deployment in your organization, you don’t need to go for such solutions. We have System Center Global Service Monitor which provides the same services and many more.

GSM is basically a cloud service which utilizes Microsoft Azure points of presence all over the world to give you end user experience of your web applications. This means the monitoring you get is how it would look like to a user in a remote location. This is a huge advantage as for application owners can get more insights regardless of external factors such as network latency, service outages etc… The beauty of this service is it focuses on the application itself not the network health or connectivity. GSM is capable of Web Application Availability monitoring (single URLs) and Visual Studio Web Tests monitoring which can be run from 15 external locations.

Let’s see how we can address the availability monitoring for a URL with GSM scenario.

Prerequisites

You should have either a trial  or paid GSM subscription integrated with your SCOM 2012 installation. For that you need to install and import GSM Management Pack to your SCOM Management server/s. You can refer here if you want to learn how to achieve that.

Configuring availability tests for URLs

  1. Open Operations Manager Console. Navigate to Administration > Global Service Monitor, and then select Configure Web Application Availability Tests.
  2. In the next screen provide name and a description for your testing scenario. Also as usual create a custom management pack to store this custom test. If you already have created one you can select it as well.General
  3. Enter the URLs that you need monitoring in the next screen. Even you can also paste URLs from CSV file which contains the format of “Name, URL”. Make sure to include the correct protocol (http:// or https://) depending on the URL. Click Add to import names and URLs from another source.What to Monitor
  4. In the  Where to Monitor From dialog, you can select the locations from where you want the URLs to be monitored. This includes both external and internal locations. External locations include 15 locations from below countries and regions. Australia (Sydney), Brazil (Sao Paulo) , Europe (Amsterdam, London, Paris, Stockholm, Zurich), Russia (Moscow), Singapore, Taipei, United States (Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, San Antonio)Where to Monitor FromSelect external locations
  5. As for Internal location you can add from the servers in your environment from which the URLs going to be monitored. Of course these should be internet facing if your URLs are externally hosted.Select internal locations
  6. The next dialog box allows you to view your tests (internal or external) and validate the configuration of only internal tests. To do so select the test you want run and click Run Test. To change the default settings for the tests for internal or externals tests that you created, click Change ConfigurationView and Validate Tests page by using internal and external locations
  7. Once you click Change configuration you can customize the test frequency, alerts, response times etc… For the time being you can leave them as defaults. Once you are done click Apply > then OKChange Configuration 1 Change Configuration 2
  8. If you run a test you will see a test result window that will verify whether your test  was a success or points out for any configuration error if there are any. Go through the details and once you confirm that the test is properly finished click close to return to Step 6Test Results page for internal tests
  9. The next screen provides a summary of your new URL monitor with GSM. Click Create to create the monitor. You can create a dashboard view for this monitor later on for an easier visual representation. Summary

Now you are all set to monitor your websites with GSM integrated to SCOM. Let’s talk about SCOM dashboards in a later post. If you are using a third party solution for website monitoring still now it’s time to go with GSM.

System Center 2012 R2 Update Rollup 3 | New Features

Two weeks ago, Microsoft has released UR3 for System Center 2012 R2. This was a much awaited update as it fixed number of issues with related to system center products. Update Rollups are set of cumulative fixes targeted at specific product which fix the bugs and add new features/functionality to the products. Lets see what are the new features that came up with UR3.

Brand new Office 365 Management Pack

This is  a life saver. Previously admins had to log in to Office 365 management portal to view the tenant health, any ongoing issues or service outages. With the release of Office 365 Management pack they can leverage SCOM to do the monitoring on behalf of the Office 365 tenant. Individual services like Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online can be thoroughly monitored with any active incidents occurred on same. Also you can view details related to service health, service interruption corresponding to the Office 365 services along with important service messages from Microsoft. In simple words, your Office 365 dashboard can now reside in SCOM. We are going to discuss how we can import and configure this MP in a later post.

Office 365 MP Dashboard in SCOM 2012 R2

Resource Visualization dashboards for VMM

We have two new dashboards that can display resource utilization of your Virtualization Hosts & VMs . You can view the health of the list of Hosts and their performance counters. This can also provide overall health status of a VM (Red, Green, Amber colour code). We will discuss how to install and configure the Resource Visualization Pack for VMM in a later post.

VMM Resource Visualization Dashboard
VM health view

Resources

  1. Office 365 Management Pack for SCOM 2012
  2. VMM Resource Visualization Pack

Analyze your SCOM data with Microsoft System Center Advisor

Those who have used SCOM for monitoring know what it takes to filter out the unnecessary monitoring information from all those alerts, monitors and logs. If your SCOM setup is just click click install kind of setup then you probably have more unwanted monitoring scenarios configured by default. Sometimes your boss needs to look at the big picture of monitoring once in a while, present it to the management at a meeting. How do you achieve these challenges? You can fine tune your SCOM installation, override unnecessary MPs, create reports, dashboards etc… But guess what, you don’t have to be that thorough anymore if you are using Microsoft System Center Advisor integrated with you SCOM environment.

System Center Advisor is a free (selected countries) online service which lets you to analyze your SCOM data or individual Microsoft Workloads to provide different insights on your data center health. Currently it is in Limited Public preview, so you can grab your Microsoft Account or Corporate Account to sign up for a preview. The beauty of this product is you can use it even without System Center Installation by installing Advisor agent on individual servers that you want to monitor and let the online service to worry about the rest. Below are some features that Advisor is capable of.

Log Management

System Center Advisor can collect, combine, correlate and visualize all your machine data. That is it can separate required monitoring history from the noise. It is also capable of searching through multiple systems in your data center to identify root cause for any issues.

Capacity Planning

With advisor you can be proactive not reactive. Advisor enables you to see what capacity shortages such as storage, Allocation bottlenecks such as CPU, Memory & Network and it even let you to plan capacity for future workloads

Configuration Assessment

You can avoid configuration issues with Advisor as it proactive assess the best practices that you define in your data center. This feature doesn’t require SCOM installation and can be separately configured.

Update Assessment

Advisor is capable of keeping track of your system patches. Be it on-premise or cloud, Advisor sees through the data center for any non-compliant servers and reports back for remediation.

Threat Assessment

As you have probably guessed by now, Advisor is also capable of monitoring your environment for viruses & malware. It can report which of your servers have security threats and any actions to rectify same.

Now let’s see how we setup Advisor in your SCOM environment. Though there are some per-requisites for this.

  • You should be running either System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 or System Center 2012 R2
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 should be installed
  • Windows Server 2008 upwards
How does System Center Advisor Works?

Supported technologies for analysis

Advisor analyzes the following workloads.

  • Windows Server 2012/2012R2/2008/2008 R2 (Active Directory, Hyper-V Host, General operating system)
  • Hyper-V Server 2012/2012R2
  • SQL Server 2008 and later (SQL Engine)
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2010
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2013 (new in October 2013)
  • System Center 2012 SP1 – Virtual Machine Manager

Setting up Advisor with SCOM

  1. Sign in to the Advisor Limited Public Preview through here. You may have to sign up if you already don’t have an account (requires Microsoft Account or Corporate Account).
  2. Open Operations Manager Console and navigate to Administration
  3. Select System Center Advisor, and then select Advisor Connection.
  4. Click Register to Advisor Service.
  5. Sign in with your Microsoft or Organizational accounts in step 1.
  6. Create a new Advisor account or choose an existing Advisor account associated with your Microsoft/Corporate account.
  7. Save the changes.
  8. Select Actions, click Add a Computer/Group.
  9. Under Options, select Windows Server or All Instance Groups, and then add servers that you want data to be collected from.

Below are some useful references that you can use to learn more about System Center Advisor.