Saturday, April 10, 2010

I, Robot: Opalis and SCOM. Part I: Introduction.

Postings in the same series:
Part II: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly 

(Picture taken from

At a first glance the title might seem a bit far fetched. But when one really gets down to Opalis – in conjunction with SCOM – one finds a super toolbox where the possibilities seem to be endless. All the things you ever dreamed about automating – like creating small programmatic robots – but never did since the scripting/programming efforts would be way too high, are now within in a hands reach with Opalis.

The Opalis ‘toolbox’ is way much more than ‘just’ an ordinary hammer, screwdriver or saw. These tools lack any kind of intelligence and depend solely on the skills of the person using them. Therefore my wife keeps me far far away from these tools. In my hands they wreck more than they could create.

Opalis on the other hand is the ‘intelligent’ and skilled toolbox: every tool explains itself and helps the person in order to get the most ‘bang-for-the-buck’. No need to script, write programs or what ever. A very rich GUI with 100% drag & drop support enables every one to create very nifty workflows in order to automate everyday tasks. Which not only reduces the time needed to perform those tasks but also reduces the change of errors to almost zero since the workflows will always do exactly the same. So when something goes wrong, it is easily to be reproduced and solved.

On top of it all, Opalis is able to connect many aspects of an IT organization into a single workflow. For instance, SCOM generates an Alert, an Opalis workflow picks it up and processes it in such a way that a ticket is generated in the Service Desk application, mail alerts are send out, automatic recovery actions are started, their results tested and based on the outcome, the resolution state of the Alert is adjusted, the related ticket  in the Service Desk application updated accordingly. And this is just one scenario. As stated before, the possibilities are almost endless.

For some days now I run an Opalis environment connected to one of mine SCOM R2 test environments. So I am barely scratching the surface here. But already I am deeply impressed. Therefore I have decided to write a series of blog postings about Opalis in conjunction with SCOM R2.

Feel free to participate since I will write about some workflows I have built. So you can test it yourself as well. And share your experiences. What you need is a SCOM R2 test environment – in my case a ‘single server solution’ (W2K08 R2 - DC, SQL 2008, RMS) – and an Opalis server, also a ‘single server solution’. This server is Windows 2003 Server x86 based since Opalis does not officially support Windows Server 2008 (R2) yet. I suspect this to change in a short period of time since Microsoft acquired Opalis :).

The required software can be found here (all trial versions, so the software won’t cost you a dollar/euro):

  1. Opalis Trial Version
  2. SCOM R2 Trial Version 
  3. SQL 2008 Trial Version
  4. Windows Server 2008 R2 Trial Version
  5. Windows Server 2003 R2 Trial Version

Al these trial versions are valid for 180 days. So enough time to test it. Go ahead, download the software, build your environment and be impressed just like me.

The second posting in this series will describe the Opalis terminology, how I built my Opalis server (not in all details but only the most important steps) and how I connected the Opalis environment with the SCOM R2 Management Group.

To be continued.


John Bradshaw said...

I would be very interested in your future postings about this Marnix. We have just had a meeting with some Opalis boys and their presentation was quite impressive.
Our first instance of using this would be to script for the controlled shutdown of all our ESX Hosts and windows servers in the event of a power outage etc. Have u written a workflow for this scenario yet?
John Bradshaw

Marnix Wolf said...

Hi John.

No, I haven't written such a workflow. I am still scratching the surface here and do not know its limits. But it looks very powerfull and promising as well.


_beauw_ said...

I have seen people go to some ridiculous lengths to avoid having to "program" or "script," and Opalis is probably the most extreme example. I am sure it can be made to perform well in demos, but in our "enterprise environment" it literally took 10+ minutes to respond to keystrokes. The "traffic light" control at the corner of the screen was (amazingly) green the whole time, meaning "read for input." Management's response: "Deal with it. It fits in with our strategy."

Yes, programming takes time. But in the time I spent waiting for that hateful little program to respond to my input, I could have built a computer from scratch.

If you'd rather sit around and vegetate than actually learn how to do something useful, Opalis is definitely the program for you. And it allows you to feel "strategic" the whole time!

Marnix Wolf said...

Hi James.

Thanks for your comment. Much appreciated. Seriously.

It is good that you share your thoughts about Opalis. When looking at it from you angle, I would almost agree with you.

BUT: like you state, in any Enterprise organization do you really want any one to script anything without having control?

Suppose you are a real scriptkiddo or even a full blown programmer. Applause! Seriously, people like you are needed in IT organizations.

So you write programs, scripts, the lot. You know exactly what you did and why and how. So you go on a holiday. Do your colleagues know how to use your programs and scripts? Are they completely in control?

Many times I have seen companies where they weren't. In cases like that Opalis can save organizations loads of time (and money) by standardizing how scripts are built, scheduled and run.

Also the option to use one single platform to connect to many different applications and environments isn't something to be taken all to lightly.

As I see it, Opalis is the automated scriptkiddo/programmer which enables organizations to focus on their core business.