Saturday, September 4, 2010

SCOM and Dashboards – Part I – Some Questions

Postings in the same series:
Part  IIThe SCOM Console
Part III – Visio 2010 Add-In for SCOM R2
Part IV – Savision LiveMaps
Part V – SharePoint 2010 Integration

Even though I have implemented SCOM (R2) for many companies, every implementation differs. But all these implementations do have one thing in common though: the requirement to display the monitored servers/services/applications in a good and understandable manner. Many times a Dashboard solution is used here.

But what is a Dashboard Solution? Good question! Actually, there are multiple good answers to that question:

  1. One can use the available options in the SCOM Console;
  2. One can use the Visio Add-in;
  3. One can use Savision Live Maps.

But all these possible answers don’t tell it all since the way how to present it isn’t clear. Of course, the SCOM Console can be used. But integration with other software, like Visio or a Share Point Portal can be used as well.

How to decide what to use and when? In order to straighten that out, one has to ask him/her self these questions:

  1. What does one want to display? 
    For instance a SLA dashboard, a (clickable and nested) map, a Status View, an Alert View, a flow of business processes. There is much more of course.

  2. Why?
    Every dashboard must cover a certain request for information coming from an IT department. Just because ‘we can’ won’t suffice. Dashboards which are created without having a clear answer to that question are just a blob of software without any real usage. 

  3. Who or what is it going to use?
    Yes, the SCOM Console will suffice on many occasions. But what about the manager who works everyday in SharePoint? Do you want him/her to use the SCOM Console as well? Or is it better to have that same manager keep on using SharePoint for the Dashboard as well?

  4. Where is it going to be used?
    A dashboard for the IT Service Desk or System Engineers department will have a total different look compared to a Dashboard shown to a group of managers or to some clients. Application owners do have their own wishes and requirements as well.

  5. What kind of elements are going to be showed?
    Nerds or IT no-no's. And in between of course. When we are talking manager here, a map depicting a flow of business processes will be more likely. But when we are talking system engineers, the underlying technical stuff, enabling those very same flow of business processes, is probably the way to go. BUT: NEVER PRESUME, ALWAYS ASK & VERIFY!!!

  6. What kind of technologies are available?
    This one covers not only SCOM but also the technologies available besides SCOM. To start with the first it is crucial to know what Management Packs are imported and configured and what servers/network devices are being monitored.  Windows only? Or also Unix/Linux or IBM AIX? Only when a certain component is present in SCOM it can be monitored. It might sound logical but sometimes people tend to overlook the most oblivious.

Outside SCOM it is important to know whether other technologies, like SharePoint, are in place and supported. So get a clear picture of it all. Know your environment before making any kind of choice.

As you can see, there isn’t a straight answer available. Of course, a blob of software is installed in a matter of minutes. But a real solution takes more time but has more good results.

In this new series I will not try to answer the earlier mentioned questions for you, but I will demonstrate these available Dashboard solutions and some ways how to make good use of them:

  1. The SCOM Console;
  2. Visio 2010 Add-in;
  3. Savision Live Maps version 5.

Also ways how to present it will be demonstrated like integration into SharePoint 2010. So stay tuned! And when you have some good ideas as well, please let me know. I might even blog about it! And when I do, I will mention your name of course :).

This series won’t be reviewing the software itself though. If you want to read more about just that, go here for a review about Visio (beware, it based on an older version, v.2007!) and here for a review about Savision Live Maps (beware, it is based on an older version, v.4.1!). Also a comparison between both solutions has been written by me, to be found here.

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