Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MP Authoring – Quick & Dirty – 00 – Introduction

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 – Overview
02 – Authoring the Template MP XML Code
03 - Example Using The Template MP XML Code
04 - Testing The Example MP
05 – Q&A

How the challenge came to be
Based on the MPs delivered by Microsoft, SCOM is capable of monitoring many different workloads ‘out of the box’. However, in the real world organizations run many non-Microsoft based workloads running on Windows Servers, which require monitoring as well. Also by SCOM. And many times there aren’t third party MPs available for monitoring those workloads.

And now a challenge takes shape. Because HOW is one going to do that WITHOUT:

  1. Big investments in time, resources and budget;
  2. Turning to the ‘crappy’ SCOM Console which isn’t made at all for custom MP authoring;
  3. Taking a deep dive into how SCOM really works;
  4. Taking a deep dive into MP authoring and XML coding;
  5. Buying expensive Visual Studio licenses?

Let me explain item 5 a bit more. Sure, with Visual Studio (VS), the MP Authoring Extensions (AE), and using snippets, one is capable of writing good MPs pretty fast WITHOUT deep understanding of MP Authoring and/or XML coding.

VSAE: The license & the steep learning curve
However, VS doesn’t come free. And yes AE works well with the community edition of VS. BUT this version isn’t allowed in a commercial setting. So using VSAE community edition is most of the times an absolute no go for organizations, or at least open for discussion. And many organizations simply don’t want to go there. So when your organization doesn’t have VS already in use (and properly licensed) VSAE is most out the time, a no go area…

Besides that, VSAE has a steep learning curve. I know from my own experiences it’s not only a challenge to master, but even more a challenge to stay on a certain level. For myself when not having authored a MP with VSAE for some time, it takes a while to get the hang of it again. So MP authoring with VSAE is quite a challenge.

MP Fragments?
So one could solve this issue with Management Pack Fragments. This allows for very quick MP authoring with VSAE without having to go through all the challenges of reinventing the wheel yourself. Instead you use ‘ready-to-bake’ MP Fragments, containing much of the required code for your MP.

Kevin Holman has made an impressive library of MP Fragments and made it publicly available, for free! And it works, super fast and easy. Also he has written a series of postings about how to use these MP fragments in order to create your own MP.

But how about the VS license?
Sure, you still require VS and a proper license. As stated before, the community edition won’t do in a corporate environment. But still, when requiring good custom made MPs, covering your company’s custom services/applications, it’s the best way to go.

As is turned out during writing this posting, Silect has released an updated version of MP Author Professional which is now also capable of using VS fragments. So the very same MP Fragments made by Kevin can be used by MP Author Professional. So this could be an alternative for VS with a more agreeable price tag. When you’re a developer, I would go for VS, but that’s me Smile.

RoI and a FREE & FAST alternative
Return on Investment is something to be taken seriously. Is the above mentioned approach still viable when you want to monitor just a few services, logs and events on a subset of servers? Does one really has to go through the ‘pain’ of buying software? Or is there another approach in cases like these, totally FREE and FAST? YES THERE IS!!!

However, the scope of this approach/workaround is limited. The moment you’re required to monitor a multi layered application/service hierarchy running on multiple servers, I strongly advise you NOT to use the approach I am going to share in a new series of postings. Instead, use VSAE or MP Author Professional with the MP Fragments and be happy.

However, when you only want to monitor some services, logs, events on a subset of servers for a rather single dimensioned application/service, the approach I am going to share will work for you and not just that, but it will be pretty fast, especially when you use the template XML code I am going to share with you.

Fun thing is that in many cases this approach works pretty good for many monitoring requirements and saves you and your company a lot of time, resources AND money! Besides that, it’s easy to master and to apply this knowledge in the future.

So stay tuned since quite a few additional postings will follow!

Required tools
All you’re going to need are these FREE tools:

  1. MP Author (free version, available here);
  2. An XML editor, like Notepad++ for instance.

1 comment:

Simen said...

Perfect! I've been meaning to look into MP author as I've reached the limits of what I'm able to do with the console. Looking forward to your posts about this topic!