Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Playtime! Visio add-in for OpsMgr R2

Phew! Have been a ‘bit’ busy lately. So my blog became something like the news: I didn’t make much blog postings myself any more (at least not as much as I prefer to) and I ‘only’ wrote about new MPs and work from others which came out. So this evening I have put everything aside and decided to write up a good old fashioned blog posting about something which really interests me very much:

I wanted to test the Visio add-in for OpsMgr R2 for a long long time but never got to it. Until now that is. So this posting will be a run down about this add-in to see what it is capable of and how it operates. So let’s start.

First of all, some installation work is at order. It needs certain components before it can installed:

  • Visio 2007
    Duh! This is really to simple! :)

  • .NET Framework 3.5 SP1
    Never leave home without it. When you do, download it from here.

  • Visio Studio Tools for Office system Runtime 3.0
    Found here.

  • Redistributable Primary Interop Assemblies
    This 2007 Microsoft Office System Update is already present on the system when Visio 2007 any version of the .NET Framework. When Visio 2007 was installed prior to .NET Framework, run the Visio setup to add this component, or download and install this update.

When all these components are in place the Visio Add-in for OpsMgr R2 can be installed. This installation is straight forward and fast.

Preparing Visio 2007 
Now it is time to start Visio 2007 and make a connection to the RMS as data source.

  1. When Visio 2007 is started for the first time after the add-in has been installed, this screen will pop up:
    Click Install in order to install the Add-in for OpsMgr.

  2. A new button will show up in Visio 2007:

  3. Start a new drawing an hit the Operations Manager, select Configure Data Source. This screen will appear:
    Provide the name of the RMS, use the button to find the web console address and – when needed – place a checkmark in order to automatically refresh data.

There are multiple ways to go about it. For instance, with the settings configured as described earlier, a new blank drawing can be filled with objects present in OpsMgr. This can be done by with the button Operations Manager in Visio 2007, in conjunction with the choice Insert Shape. But I will describe that later.

A more easier way to go about it (and faster as well) is using the OpsMgr Console. For instance, open a Diagram View of a Distributed Application, and export it as a Visio drawing. Good to know is that anything that can be shown as a Diagram View within OpsMgr can be exported as a Visio Drawing.

When opened in Visio, it wil automatically connect to the RMS in order to collect data and show the state of the objects contained within the drawing.

Some examples?

  • Default DA ‘Operations Manager Management Group’ in Visio:
    Notice the yellow highlighted part of the screen. This displays the External Data, coming from OpsMgr. It shows what OpsMgr objects are being used, the Display Name, Health State, whether it is in Maintenance Mode, the Class and when the data has been refreshed for the last time. (all OpsMgr information!)

    Also it allows for drilling deeper into a certain object/shape displayed within the drawing. When right-clicking the top level node for instance, the context menu shows two OpsMgr options: Health Explorer and Alert View. Both options will open up the relevant part of the OpsMgr Web Console.
    There is much more to the External Data area as well, but that I will describe later on in this posting.

  • A Computer opened as a Diagram View in OpsMgr with al levels available opened and then exported:

    Now as full screen:

Fresh drawing
Now we have seen some of the possibilities, lets built a new Visio drawing, right from the ground up.

  1. Start Visio > New > New Drawing (Metric or US) > button Operations Manager > Configure Data Source. Set it accordingly the OpsMgr environment > OK.

    Now we have ourselves an empty drawing (Choose landscape as layout since it offers a better view) BUT with connectivity to the OpsMgr RMS. Time to move on.

  2. Now we will link to OpsMgr objects. On top of it, the add-in allows to add live health state information to an object within the drawing. There are multiple ways to add links:

    01 -Linking a single shape to an OpsMgr managed object:

    Suppose you make a drawing with a computer shape. Select it, go to the button Operations Manager and select the option Link Shape to Data. Select the appropriate Class, select the right object and use the Link button:
    Now the shape is linked to the OpsMgr object. Also the live Health State will be shown:

    02 - Add multiple links to the Visio drawing and match these with Visio shapes later:
    Go to the button Operations Manager and select the option Add Data Links. Select the Class > Object > Add
    Repeat this for every object you want to use. All these object will be shown in the External Data window, but they aren’t linked at the moment:
    Now drag an OpsMgr object to a shape in the drawing and this will be shown:
    As you can see the OpsMgr object is now linked to a shape. The Visio drawing shows the Health State now as well:

    03 - Automatically link shapes in the Visio drawing to computers and network devices:
    This one really rocks! Suppose you have a drawing with some shapes in it. Every shape needs to have a name which matches with OpsMgr objects, like here:

    Go to the button Operations Manager and select the option Automatically Link. Follow the onscreen instructions and voila:
    And later on the shape is linked to the OpsMgr object

    04 - Insert a new shape that is linked to an OpsMgr object which uses the OpsMgr icons:
    In the Visio drawing you add shapes which are directly linked to OpsMgr objects. Go to the button Operations Manager and select the option Insert Shape. This works very straight forward.

This way many good drawings can be made which reflect the business core IT structures correctly. Also these drawings can be shown full screen and set to an automatically refresh rate.

But suppose you have a huge drawing, containing many many objects. It is hard to see whether a small green check mark has turned into a yellow exclamation mark, or even worse, a red circle with a white cross. But that can be changed as well. (Visio toolbar > Data > Link Data to Shapes.)

Default View:

Adjusted View:

And you can select a certain set as well so that for instance only the top level nodes are using the color scheme and the rest the default OpsMgr icon set. This way you’ll keep a drawing which is OK to look at.

The Visio Add-in for OpsMgr R2 certainly delivers added value to any OpsMgr R2 installation. It takes time to built a good and usable drawing where the real art is to be found in the credo ‘Less Is More’: you don’t want to end up in a situation where a drawing shows too much information so the critical alerts are overlooked. So think before starting to draw. What do you REALLY need to see and what NOT?

When those questions are answered and translated into a good workable drawing, it will certainly help out in getting a fast overview of the Health Status of the most critical IT processes.

But. Yes, there is a but. Perhaps it is just me. What I really miss here is drill down functionality. Suppose you have a geographical location like Rotterdam. It turns red. You click on it, and the data centers of Rotterdam are shown. One is red. You click on that one and the lay out of that data center is shown. One of the 30 racks within that data center is red. You click on that rack and it is shown. Only one server is red, the rest is green. You click on the red server. Its name, function AND issue are being shown. Now that is something really cool. SF? No way!

But for that kind of functionality, Savision Live Maps is needed. And as I see it, the Visio Add-in helps OpsMgr users to appreciate that software much more. They start out with the add-in and soon they are used to it and do not want to miss it any more. Now the added functionality of Savision is much more appreciated and understood thus making the switch to that software much easier and to sell within the IT department to the one responsible for the budgets.

Used sources
For this posting I have used these sources:


John Bradshaw said...

Hmmmm.....Does this mean we will be able to email VISIO diagrams to people of their group of servers, and as long as permissions are OK in SCOM, then they will also have an active view of their servers, without the need to install a console??
(Great post BTW, Marnix! thankyou)
John Bradshaw

Marnix Wolf said...

Hi John.

Yes, that will work. But why to go to such lenghts? I mean you need a full Visio license for each workstation using this as where the SCOM UI is free. Also the Vision diagram connects to the SDK service of the RMS, so loadwise speaking, there won't be a difference. I myself would opt for Savision Live Maps here.

Best regards,
Marnix Wolf