Thursday, July 28, 2011

OM12 and SCOM R2: Back to the Future

Even though I just returned this week after a three week holiday, I got this question already multiple times:
Why not install the beta of OM12 in the production environment?
First some background about the reasons why companies ask questions like these. Actually there are multiple reasons, like:
  1. Some companies haven’t any monitoring solution in place, so they start fresh. Why not install the latest version of Operations Manager?
  2. Other companies already have SCOM in place and want to run OM12 Beta since it offers so much new functionality.
  3. Other companies want to run OM12 Beta alongside SCOM R2 in their production environment.
All mentioned reasons seem valid, but there are some caveats to reckon with:
  1. OM12 Beta isn’t production ready yet, it’s still BETA after all. True, some companies are running it already in their production environment (including the company I work for) but that’s all under the Technology Adoption Program (TAP) umbrella. The amount of available slots in any TAP program is limited. Based on TAP participation one is entitled to support, outside TAP you’re on your own (of course there is still the community but outside the TAP program you won’t receive official support from Microsoft).

  2. Running OM12 Beta is a good idea. You’ll have time to get familiarized with the future edition of Operations Manager. Also time to find bugs and report them. Having said that, OM12 Beta shouldn’t be installed in a production environment – when you don’t participate in the TAP - but in Test/Acceptance environments. This way you have the best of two worlds: a fully supported SCOM R2 environment in Production and an isolated environment to test drive the successor of SCOM R2. 

  3. SCOM (R2) is the officially supported mainstream version of Operations Manager today. Looking back at how it started (SCOM 2007 RTM > SP1 > many bug fixes, patches and hotfixes > SCOM R2 > CU#1 up to CU#4) the product has covered many miles and has seriously grown up. So SCOM R2 CU#4 is still a good and solid product, even with it’s successor being on public beta tour. This is not just me, being Microsoft minded, but it’s also backed up by Gartner.

  4. And last, but not least: Page 4 of the document OM12_Beta.docx (found in the download package containing all OM12 Beta related documents) tells it all actually:
Having said this, there are certain things you can do to prepare the environment for a future upgrade to OM12.

Prepare yourself…
There are two situations you can find yourself in:
  1. You haven’t SCOM R2 in place yet but are about to install it since you want to monitor your environment pro-actively.
  2. You already have SCOM R2 in place, fully functional.

Good News
No matter you’re in Situation 1 or 2 there is good news. The RTM version of OM12 will support an upgrade from SCOM R2 (and a certain CU level) to OM12. So that’s good news.

Another similarity is the RMS. That server role, the SPoF (Single Point of Failure) in any SCOM environment (unless when the RMS is clustered, yikes!), will be gone in OM12. The RMS specific roles will be divided among all OM12 Management Servers. Like moving from the NT4 PDC/BDC era to the W2K0x DC era :).

In an upgrade scenario from SCOM R2 to OM12 it will mean that somewhere along the road, the RMS will be set aside. When running a clustered RMS or an environment with no secondary Management Servers, it can be a challenge.

The supported platforms and architecture
OM12 Management Servers require Windows Server 2008 R2.  The databases requires SQL Server 2008 SP1 or SQL Server 2008 R2.
And as we all know, Windows Server 2008 R2 comes only in one architectural flavor: 64 bits. So SQL Server needs to be x64 as well since OM12 doesn’t (same goes for SCOM) support a 32-bits database on a 64-bits platform.

Situation 1 in more detail
So when you’re in Situation 1, it’s rather simple: install your new SCOM R2 environment on W2K08 R2 servers and run SQL Server 2008 SP1 (with the latest CU applied) or SQL Server 2008 R2 (with the latest CU applied).

Think TWICE about how to run your RMS: as a single server or as a cluster. Personally, I wouldn’t choose for a clustered RMS anymore, but provide an additional MS – on top of the other MS servers – instead.

And you’re new SCOM R2 environment is upgrade ready as it can be based on the information available today.

Situation 2 in more detail
This can be a bit more of a challenge. Suppose you’re running SCOM R2 on Windows 2003 server. Now what? Can you upgrade those servers to W2K08 R2? No, you can’t.

When you want to start such an upgrade path the server OS MUST be 64 bits already (as stated before W2K08 R2 is only available as 64-bits architecture and there is no upgrade from any 32-bits architecture to 64-bits architecture) AND you need an additional step: W2K03 x64 > W2K08 x64 > W2K08 R2.

It takes a lot of time and can be prone to error. It’s better to facilitate new servers running a clean install of W2K08 R2 SP1 and use those servers as new SCOM R2 Management Servers. When those new MS servers are in place and fully functional WITHOUT any issues (check the event logs!!!), you can phase out the old SCOM R2 MS servers, one by one.

What about the RMS? Actually, it’s easy. Leave it as it is. Since OM12 RTM will render the RMS useless. So no upgrade is required here. When you run a SCOM R2 environment with only a RMS and not a single MS server, it’s time to install one, based on W2K08 R2. Or even better TWO since the RMS will be gone in OM12 and it’s a bad thing to run just ONE MS server. This is also valid in SCOM R2 actually…

How about SQL? When you’re running SQL server 2005 it’s time to run the upgrade to SQL Server 2008, as mentioned here. When the SQL server is also W2K03 based, it’s perhaps a better idea to provision a NEW SQL 2008 server, based on W2K08 R2 SP1 and move the SCOM databases to that server. When you do that there are certain things to reckon with. Perhaps I’ll blog about them later on.

Wrapping Up
As you can see, there is much to reckon with when you want to upgrade SCOM R2 to OM12. The good thing is that it will take some months before OM12 goes RTM.

While it’s beta you’ll have time to get acquainted with it, to see what’s it has to offer compared to SCOM R2 (many many things!!!), persuade your management to upgrade to OM12 AND time to prepare you’re environment for it.

This way it won’t be a Big Bang scenario but a well prepared move to the NEXT GENERATION of monitoring.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Microsoft Certified Master – Exchange Server 2010

A bit off-topic it is. But very good none the less.

A much respected colleague of mine, Maarten Piederiet, went a few months ago to the US for the Microsoft Certified MasterExchange Server 2010 course. This is a very tough and hard course and only the best of best pass all those gruesome exams. One must really know everything, inside and out.

And these are the results he got:

Maarten, congratulations with this excellent result! Deep respect!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Maintenance Mode Scheduling Tool explained

As mentioned earlier, Microsoft released a great Administration Resource Kit for SCOM R2.

This kit contains – among other things – the Maintenance Mode Scheduling Tool, created by Rob Kuehfus.

When it’s properly used it really helps out setting MM on servers and the lot. Jimmy Harper published a blog posting about just that, how to use the tool. So when you want to use this tool to it’s fullest extend, go here.

Graham Davies Moved

The blog of Graham Davies, a much respected UK based MVP, has moved his blog to a new one. Besides that, the new blog will cover more System Center Products, besides OM12.

His old blog will be all about SCOM 2007.

Old blog (all about SCOM 2007) to be found here.

New blog, all about OM12 and MORE, to be found here.

New KB Article: Troubleshooting empty Reports in SCOM

I’ll never forget the first time I had to present a freshly installed SCOM 2007 RTM environment to a customer of mine, many years ago. There were about six people present, some of them managers, others system engineers.

All went well until I was asked to show some Reports. In total of the twelve Reports I showed, nine ended up EMPTY! I felt embarrassed.

That evening and the other days I worked hard to learn how to get filled reports and also to know what went wrong. So a week later I demonstrated the Reports again for the same audience. And now all went just fine.

With SP1 and later SCOM R2 much has changed for the better. But still it can be sometimes challenging to get filled Reports. In 2009 I wrote a whole series about it, to be found here.

Microsoft has published a KB about it, covering other possibilities as well. KB2573329 tells it all.

SCOM Alert, based on SQL MP: Cannot login to database

Sometimes the SQL MP can throw this Alert in SCOM: Cannot login to database. Have seen similar issues at different customer sites. Strangest thing here was that it happened on the non-system databases.

Already found some information about the why and how. For a week now the System Center Operations Manager Support Team Blog has posted an article about, confirming my own findings. As it turns out, it’s related with the Auto Close setting on those particular databases.
(Picture is ‘borrowed’ from the same blog posting.)

Want to know more? Go here. Thanks to Vikram Sahay for sharing.

New MP: Microsoft BitLocker Administration And Monitoring

Since a few weeks Microsoft released a new MP for Microsoft BitLocker Administration And Monitoring.

Taken directly from the website: 

MP to be found here.

New MP: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

Since a few weeks Microsoft released a new MP for monitoring Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.

Taken directly from the website:

MP to be found here.

Monitoring GPO changes with SCOM

Bumped into this posting which is all about monitoring GPO changes with SCOM in conjunction with PowerShell.

The posting tells in detail what to do. Great posting it is.

All credits go to Jan Varšavský. Posting to be found here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

OM12 Public Beta available for download

A bit late this posting is, but very important news none the less: Microsoft has released the public beta of OM12!!!

This is really great news since OM12 has many new things to offer. Because of my MVP status I was already running pre-beta versions which were already very impressive. But all under NDA of course, so I couldn’t share my experiences.

With the public beta this will change. So many new blog postings will come out, all about the public beta of OM12. Nice!

For the ones among us who haven’t installed it yet, the public beta of OM12 can be found here.

RTFM is key in order to have a good installation experience. So download it all and read before you install it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Holiday – Vacance – Urlaub – Vakantie – Semester – праздник - Maintenance Mode

For the next three weeks I’ll be in Maintenance Mode, enjoying life without the System Center Suite. Nice!

Thanks everyone for visiting my blog and your comments. After my break there will a lot to blog about like OM12 and the lot.