Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mobile First–Cloud First’ Strategy – How About System Center – 07 – SCOM

Advice to the reader
This posting is part of a series of articles. In order to get a full grasp of it, I strongly advise you to start at the beginning of it.

Other postings in the same series:
01 – Kickoff
02 – SCCM
03 – SCOrch
04 – SCDPM
05 – SCSM
06 – SCVMM

In the last posting of this series I’ll write about how System Center Operations Manager  (SCOM) relates to Microsoft’s Mobile First – Cloud First strategy. Like SCOrch, SCSM & SCVMM, SCOM isn’t going to the cloud…

This product has covered many miles, first started as Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM). Mind you, Microsoft didn’t develop it themselves, instead they bought the rights of it in early 2000 from NetIQ.

Even though MOM had a refresh in 2005 (branded MOM 2005), the product had some serious issues. As such Microsoft rewrote MOM from the ground up, resulting in the release of System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) 2007 in the same year as the name implies.

From that year on SCOM got an ever growing install base, driving sales resulting in huge investments in SCOM. SCOM 2007 had some serious bugs and soon SCOM 2007 R2 was released, followed by SCOM 2012, SCOM 2012 SP1 and SCOM 2012 R2. This release cadence ran from 2007 (with the release of SCOM 2007 RTM) up to the end of 2013 (release of SCOM 2012 R2 RTM).

During this release cadence, every updated version of SCOM contained many improvements, like more speed, extended monitoring depth and breadth and better visualizations. One noteworthy feat is the integration of monitoring of non-Microsoft based workloads (Linux\Unix). The story goes that this decision was finally made by Microsoft’s former CEO, Steve Ballmer…

Azure and SCOM 2016
Up to SCOM 2012 R2 there was a big budget and good resource allocation, driving SCOM to new heights. In 2010 I went to my first MVP Summit ever, and visited Microsoft Building 44. Back then it was THE place to be, because it housed all Microsoft employees working on SCOM:

However, in the later years, Microsoft’s new future started to take more shape, moving away from software developer to the role of service provider with Azure at the center of its new focus.

Up to the release of the System Center 2012 R2 stack this new focus didn’t cause too many side effects on the on-premise product line of Microsoft.

Things started to get in overdrive however when Satya Nadella succeeded Steve Ballmer in 2014. With an impressive track record as the senior vice-president of Research and Development for the Online Services Division and vice-president of the Microsoft Business Division, he knew the power of the cloud.

Satya Nadella enfolded the Mobile First – Cloud First strategy, making clear that anything else come second (at it’s best…).

The result of this new strategy clearly shows in the release of System Center 2016, containing SCOM 2016. Whereas other new releases (SCOM 2007 > SCOM 2007 R2 > SCOM 2012 > SCOM 2012 SP1 > SCOM 2012 R2) were really upGRADES, the SCOM 2016 release is actually nothing more but an upDATE.

Window dressing?
Like removing the SCOM 2012 R2 boiler plates and replacing them with the SCOM 2016 boiler plates. Sure, some SCOM 2012 R2 components got better, but it’s more like ‘work in progress’, like the SCOM 2016 Web Console, which partially dropped the Silverlight dependence…

On top of it all, the development of SCOM has moved to India. Please don’t get me wrong, since the people in India working on the development of SCOM are very smart and bright. But they are working with fewer people compared to the ‘old days’ and do have a far lesser budget available.

And this shows. Already there is Update Rollup #4 available but still the SCOM Web Console has the so much *loved* (cough) Silverlight dependency. And SCOM 2016 is already out for more than a year…

Still going strong?
For sure, SCOM 2016 still has a lot to offer. None the less, it’s based mostly on previous investments. Perhaps the new release cadence for System Center 2016 (as such for SCOM 2016 as well), to be expected in 2018, will bring relief and a clearer vision.

This new release cadence will align more to the Windows Server semi-annual channel. Hopefully Microsoft will deliver on its promise that the first release wave will focus on SCDPM, SCVMM and SCOM.

Until then, the roadmap of SCOM is unsure, as is it with the rest of the System Center stack, SCCM excluded.

For now: OMS isn’t SCOM. OMS is all about (enhanced) log analytics, enriched with certain solutions enabling web service application monitoring. Yet, OMS is still a far cry from the enriched monitoring offered by SCOM.

For instance, alerting in OMS is quite a challenge. Also monitoring in OMS is stateless, simply because it doesn’t detect objects and doesn’t contain anything like a health model.

Sure, OMS can deliver monitoring in a different manner, thus making objects obsolete, but until now there are no signs of this new approach.

Therefore, based on todays world, OMS isn’t SCOM. Sure you can combine both but they can’t replace one another.

Back burner = possibilities for non-Microsoft solutions
Sure, I would love to see otherwise. But the world is moving on and Microsoft has decided to put SCOM on the back burner without offering other real monitoring alternatives by themselves. This creates a gap which other companies are more than happy to fill.

Of course, Microsoft’s marketing department tries to sell OMS as the ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, covering everything. But reality tells us a different story all together. Combined with the ever changing pricing and licensing schemes for OMS, makes it even a harder sell.

Perhaps I am missing the bigger picture here, but this is what I see and experience from my perspective. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts/experiences here. Feel free to comment on this posting.

Verdict for SCOM
SCOM isn’t going to the cloud at all. Sure you could install SCOM on Azure based VMs. But that isn’t the point. SCOM won’t be ported into a cloud based version. Nor is OMS at this moment capable of replacing the monitoring functionality of SCOM.

And this makes me wonder. Feels like Microsoft is turning away from a good product, without offering a real cloud based alternative. OMS doesn’t cut it yet as a monitoring solution. Perhaps later on this functionality will be added, but even then it’s important to see how it works out and what one has to pay for it.

All this doesn’t mean SCOM is dead in the water either. SCOM is still supported by Microsoft and new releases are in the pipe line. 2018 will show what the earlier mentioned release cadence is really like. Hopefully Microsoft is truly going to deliver here with TRUE upgrades instead of shameless boiler plate replacements…

Despite all of this it’s clear that SCOM isn’t going to be around for tens of years. Sure like the rest of the System Center 2016 stack it has Mainstream Support till 11th of January 2022. Until then updates, patches and the lot will come out. But after that? I have no idea.

Running SCOM 2012x? Upgrade to SCOM 2016.
When you’ve got a SCOM 2012x environment in place, changes are your company has already paid for the System Center 2016 licenses. In situations like this it always pays off to upgrade to SCOM 2016 and later.

SCOM is still a strong monitoring solution, capable of covering heterogeneous and hybrid environments, with a strong capability of customized monitoring.

Not running SCOM but looking for a monitoring solution?
However, when not running SCOM and looking for a monitoring solution, I recommend to compare SCOM 2016 with alternatives which have clearer road maps.

While you’re at it, make sure the monitoring solution offers coverage of hybrid workloads, meaning cloud and on-premise. With the shift to the hybrid world, network connections do get even more important. Therefore comprehensive network monitoring (not only limited to the device, but the flow as well) is crucial as well.

Many times companies end up with heterogeneous monitoring solutions in order to cover all their monitoring requirements. And most of the time, those solutions aren’t Microsoft based.

Recap of previous System Center stack verdicts
For more details, read the related postings.

- SCCM: Alive & kicking
- SCOrch: Dead in the water
- SCDPM: Moving into Azure
- SCSCM: Abandon ship!
- SCVMM: For now okay, but in time moving to Azure.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Free Azure Webinars: Cloud Architecture Whiteboard Webinar Series

Microsoft offers many FREE webinars all Azure, to be found here. These webinars are a good source of information about the power of Azure.

Recently Microsoft added a new series of Azure webinars, titled: Cloud Architecture Whiteboard Webinar Series:

As Microsoft describes this webinar series:

This webinar series will address common challenges that engineers and developers face when designing cloud-based solutions. Each webinar in the series will focus on a set of design patterns that address a fundamental design challenge.

Join our senior engineers as they discuss:

  • Common cloud development challenges
  • Cloud architectures and considerations for applying the pattern in a variety of application domains
  • Q&A with engineering

Webinar On Demand – Cloud Architecture for Availability
Our speakers will address a set of cloud design patterns that can help improve the uptime of your applications. We will discuss health endpoint monitoring, queue-based load leveling, and throttling.

Webinar On Demand – Cloud Architecture for Resiliency
Resiliency is the ability of a system to gracefully handle and recover from failures. This webinar will feature a conversation talking through key patterns including: Retry, Circuit Breaker, Compensating Transaction, and Bulkhead.

Webinar On Demand - Cloud Architecture for Scalability
Scalability is ability of a system to process increased throughput proportionally to the capacity added. Cloud applications typically encounter variable workloads and peaks in activity and this webinar will focus on the smart use of patterns to mitigate issues and deliver an excellent experience.

You can register for FREE and watch these three webinars on demand. Go here to register.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Office 365 Monitoring & Dashboarding Webinar

NiCE & Savision are going to present a joint webinar on Wednesday 13th December at 16:00 CET (10:00 EST), all about the Active O365 MP for SCOM, combined with Savision Live Maps.

This webinar is free and allows for a good impression of the capabilities of this MP, combined with some smart dashboarding. Presenters are Christian Heitkamp (NiCE) and Justin Boerrigter (Savision).

So when running SCOM and using Office 365, this webinar is worthwhile to attend. Want to know more and register? Go here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

SCOM & SquaredUp & Community Power

For some time already SquaredUp has a strong focus on supporting the SCOM community. And they go about it as they attend to their business: Straightforward, no small print in their contracts/agreements, or any other BS (excuse my French Smile) for that matter.

As such, the community has grown even stronger. As SquaredUp puts it: ‘…SCOM is an amazingly powerful platform, but it’s the management packs that do all the heavy lifting. Thanks to the extensibility, maturity, and huge install base of SCOM, there’s a plethora of freely-available community management packs out there, covering everything…’

I totally agree with them. However, the same SCOM community also poses an unforeseen ‘risk’ of some kind. Not a bad one that is, but still one which needs to be addressed.

The ‘risk’ of the powerful SCOM community
Because of the SCOM community there are MANY good Management Packs (MPs) out there, enriching SCOM and the monitoring breadth and depth.

But WHERE to find those MPs? Well, about EVERYWHERE on the internet? And herein lies the ‘risk’: Unintentionally you’re missing out on the best SCOM community MPs, thus making your life too hard.

Or worse, you’ve got a certain awesome SCOM community MP imported in your environment. But how are you sure it’s ‘the latest & greatest’?

Wouldn’t it be totally awesome to have an overview of all the BEST SCOM community MPs out there, right in your SCOM Console?

This is exactly what SquaredUp delivers!
Wow! SquaredUp has started a whole new completely open & transparent, community project which EXTENDS your SCOM Console (2012, 2012 R2 & 2016) to simplify the discovery and life-cycle management of community MPs, including;

  • Rapid discovery of the best SCOM community MPs, including searchability by type, technology, author and more.
  • A view of all the SCOM community MPs you have installed, including details of your current version, the latest version available and the download location.
  • Configurable notifications, allowing you to be alerted on the availability of new versions of your community MPs.

And true to the nature of the SCOM community, this MP is available for FREE. Sure you can register yourself, but it isn’t required!

Some screenshots of this SCOM Console extension in my own SCOM environment:

After import of the MP, the Console extension is to be found under Administration > Management Packs (Community):

The menu Discover Community Packs shows many community MPs, free and paid ones:

You can even search for a MP, by name, tags, author and the lot:

The menu Installed Community Packs shows the community MPs already present in your environment AND whether they’re up to date:

And last but not least, you can be alerted as well when an update comes available or check manually for updates for already imported community MPs. In order for this to work, a new MP must be created (done by the extension itself, you only have to ‘okay’ it):

An awesome SCOM Console extension and therefore an absolute MUST HAVE for any SCOM environment.

For the MP and all the details go here. A BIG thanks and thumbs up for SquaredUp!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Office 365 Monitoring Done Right – NiCE Active O365 MP

Office 365 is a great example of a full blown SaaS (Software as a Service) offering. The cloud provider (in this case Microsoft) provides and manages all the related services (Exchange, Skype for Business, SharePoint etc etc), the end user consumes it.

So one could state: ‘Why should I monitor it? After all, Microsoft takes care of it already, so no need to do the same job twice.

However, in real life things are a bit more complex. For instance, many companies use Office 365 in a hybrid scenario. In cases like that, there are on-premise Exchange servers still up & running, deeply integrated with Office 365. Wouldn’t it be nice to have this ‘single pane of glass’, completely covering your hybrid scenario?

But even when you don’t have a hybrid scenario, additional monitoring is still required, because:

  • Office 365 has SLAs to meet, like any other cloud service offering. But how do you know that without proper monitoring?
  • Even though the IT department consumes Office 365 like the end users they service, it makes them look bad when an end user has to tell them something has broken, while the Office 365 admin portal tells them all is okay. What or whom to believe?
  • When an end user can’t obtain an Office 365 license, they can’t use Office 365. So the Office 365 license pool requires additional attention.
  • Reports are a hard requirement, in order to know whether the SLAs are met, how many users are consuming Office 365, how many mailbox are migrated to Office 365 and the lot.

Okay, I am convinced. But what tools do I use?
For starters there is the Office 365 Service Health Dashboard, part of Microsoft’s Office 365 offering. Every company using Office 365 has access to it (admin access required). However, this dashboard is limited in it’s functionality. For instance, it doesn’t provide reports, nor covers it hybrid scenario’s. And many times it states all is okay, while end users can’t access Office 365, because somewhere down the chain is an issue.

When running SCOM, there is also Microsoft’s Office 365 MP. However, this MP is flawed from the beginning, and doesn’t deliver any added value. Instead it creates a lot of noise, since it relays all the information present in the O365 Service Health Dashboard. Nothing about your on-premise Exchange environment to be found here…

In order to enrich this MP, the community has provided the Office 365 Supplemental Management Pack V1. This MP adds additional monitoring for the mail flow and verifies whether a user can obtain an O365 license. But when you’ve a hybrid Exchange environment, this MP won’t help you either here…

On top of it for serious SLA monitoring, reports are a hard requirement. And both MPs don’t deliver here. So there is still a requirement for a MP which covers it ALL: hybrid environments, usable reports

Meet the NiCE Active O365 MP
Gladly, a new MP is about to arrive. NiCE IT Management Solutions is about to launch the NiCE Active O365 Management Pack for SCOM! First they will launch the BETA program for it, for which you can subscribe for free. This allows your organization to test drive this MP, in order to see whether this MP delivers.

Some features of this MP:

  • Hybrid approach: It collects & processes data from both Exchange online and on-prem (2010/2013/2016);
  • Comprehensive discovery of hybrid Office 365 deployments;
  • Active probing for user verification;
  • Detailed reports on license usage, SLAs, Cloud adoption & mailbox migrations.

For hybrid scenario’s it monitors:

  • Calendar synchronization between Exchange on-prem and Exchange online mailboxes;
  • Mail flow between servers in different datacenters;
  • Mailbox migrations.

So now there is finally a solution out there, enabling complete coverage of Office 365 monitoring, SLAs and hybrid scenarios included!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Microsoft/VMware On-prem and Cloud? When Running SCOM Go For Veeam

Monitoring can be done with many different toolsets. And besides the tooling, the process of monitoring can be done quite different as well. One can simply monitor and respond when something breaks. Or, one can try to predict failures before they take place, and act in advance, like failover to another location.

The latter is also known as pro-active monitoring. For a long time it has been a marketing slogan only, but with the right tools, it can be done. And in todays world I dare say it has become a hard requirement. Why?

Nowadays, the IT environment has become a mix of on-premise solutions, combined with other IT assets residing in the cloud, like (but not limited to) Azure or VMware vCloud Air. Workloads are running on top of it all, and many times the end user doesn’t even know where. They just expect it work and perform accordingly.

This creates opportunities and challenges for the IT departments. Opportunities because the old barriers (buying & installing hardware for instance) are gone, because in the cloud it can be coded. Challenges, because the workloads are many times hybrid, resulting in a multi-tier effort in order to keep things running smoothly.

Say hello to pro-active monitoring
As such, monitoring has become even more crucial but has to be done in a different manner. Instead of simply focussing on the ‘now’ of the IT environment, it has become paramount to gain a peek into the future. And not only on the level of the workloads themselves, but also down to the hardware level, like CPU, networking & storage.

Sure, when EVERYTHING is in the cloud, those things are covered by the cloud provider. But many times workloads are hybrid, with one or more ‘legs’ in your on-premise environment.

Wouldn’t it be a shame when a failover goes wrong, because the hosts are over-committed? Not enough storage? Not enough CPU? Ouch!

Gone are the days that monitoring, capacity planning and modelling were different entities. In order to enable pro-active monitoring, capacity planning and modelling are hard requirements. Without it, it’s back to the old days of monitoring, where one waited until an Alert popped up and responded. Only putting out fires as they happen…

That’s why I recommend Veeam
That’s why I recommend the Veeam MP. It enables true pro-active monitoring. On top of the ‘plain vanilla’ monitoring (which goes pretty far already), it also delivers on capacity planning & modelling, thus enabling organizations to pro-actively monitor their hybrid workloads, whether running on-prem on Hyper-V or VMware and in the cloud (Azure and/or VMware vCloud Air).

Also it enables organizations in their ever ongoing move/migration to the cloud. Many times organizations are in the process of ‘lift & shift’, meaning that on-premise hosted workloads are migrated fully to the cloud.

The Veeam MP aids organizations here as well by analysing on-premises virtual workloads and map them out against their equivalent in Azure or VMware vCloud Air. This enables a smoother transition to the cloud.

Compared to other MP solutions in order to monitor hyper-visor based workloads, the Veeam MP adds much more to the mix. Other solutions only deliver on the ‘putting out fires’ scenario, which is outdated and can be easily enriched, when the right tools are being used.

But the costs…
Yeah I know. The Veeam MP doesn’t come cheap. But just do some math. How much euro’s/dollars would your company loose when a core application breaks down, for a few hours during a normal working day?

I know for sure those costs are a multitude of the costs of the Veeam MP. And know that the Veeam MP delivers an enriched toolset, enabling pro-active monitoring in order to prevent the breaking of your core applications.

In a setting like that, the investment in the Veeam MP makes sense, and has a solid business case.

That’s why I always recommend the Veeam MP to my customers, whether they run Hyper-V or VMware and use Azure and/or VMware vCloud Air.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

UR#4 SCOM 2016 Is Out!

For some weeks now, Update Rollup #4 for SCOM 2016 is available. KB4024941 tells you what’s fixed and known issues with this UR#4.

Even though the same KB contains installation instructions, I highly recommend to read Kevin Holman’s UR#4 installation instructions instead.

This UR#4 doesn’t add many new features. The SCOM Web Console still requires Silverlight for some parts of it in order to function properly. And the SCOM Console itself still has some serious (performance) issues.

None the less, this UR#4 should be installed in any SCOM 2016 environment if only to keep it on a well maintained level.

Can’t wait until Microsoft finally starts delivering on the so much promised frequent continuous releases for the rest of the System Center stack, SCOM included. Hopefully by then the SCOM Web Console will outgrow the so much *loved* Silverlight dependency and will SCOM show the so much asked for (Console) performance enhancement…

Until then, any new Update Rollup won’t be that special at all…