Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

I wish everybody a Happy New Year. 2015 will be an exciting year with MANY new blog postings about System Center products.

So stay tuned. For now, I wish you all the best for 2015.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas

My blog will be silent for the week during Christmas. The days before New Year I’ll do my best to publish some postings. But for now I want to wish all the readers/visitors of this blog a Merry Christmas.

And thank YOU for visiting this blog and all your comments. It’s what makes my blog standing out of the crowd. Awesome!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Error When Trying To Remove Web Application Transaction Monitor

Sometimes I find myself in situations which give me the ‘Duh!’ feeling, like doing something wrong and not being able to fix it at that moment. However, when trying to solve it a day later, it’s fixed in the matter of minutes while the day before the solution eluded me totally. And not only that, but when I solve it, I don’t feel that smart either since I know I stepped into a well known pitfall which I should have avoided…

For me these are signals it’s time for a break and gladly within a few weeks I’ll have a break of one whole week! Nice!

Got this error when I tried to delete a certain Web Application Transaction Monitor: The item you are trying to delete cannot be deleted because another object references it. The object must be deleted before this item can be deleted:

But at that moment I couldn’t crack it. Yes, there was a Distributed Application using this very same Monitor. So normally you remove that DA first (or modify that DA so it doesn’t use that particular Monitor anymore).

But also the DA kept throwing similar errors! And the cause of that eluded me. Instead of wasting valuable time, I exported the MP containing this Monitor and set it aside for another day. Simply because I already felt that I was missing something very obvious here…

As it turned out, that particular Monitor was used in a DA. But that DA had some other modifications as well, like newly added Dependency Monitors, in order to enable the rollup of the Performance, Security and Configuration parent monitors as well.

After having removed those Dependency Monitors, one by one, I could easily remove the DA containing that Monitor. And afterwards I could easily remove the Web Application Transaction Monitor.

Whenever the removal of any Web Application Monitor throws errors like item you are trying to delete cannot be deleted because another object references it. The object must be deleted before this item can be deleted, that Monitor is being used (referenced) in one ore more DAs.

When removing that DA throws the same error as well, changes are that you have some modifications on that DA as well.

So start with the removal at the bottom and work your way up. By removing all the references one by one, soon you’ll end at the Web Application Monitor involved and than you can remove that Monitor without any hassle.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

SCOM 2012x Console On Steroids? Try MDoP…

Update December 9th 2014: Based on some good and valid feedback from PFE Microsoft Germany I’ve decided to update this posting with their advice and experiences from the field:

The bigger your SCOM environment gets, the better it is to test different MDoP (MAXDOP) settings. Simply because the MDOP Calculator mentioned in this posting, might not always give you the best MDoP values for SCOM. Also in virtualized environments many other factors play an important role as well. For instance, PFE Germany bumped into an environment with 5000+ SCOM Agents. The recommended MDoP setting was 8 but as it turned out, a reduction to 4 for MDoP worked better.


A BIG word of thanks to Microsoft Germany PFE for their valid feedback and their willingness to share their own experiences from the field.

A dead slow SCOM 2012x Console. No matter what we did, there was only some minor improvement. And yes I know. The SCOM 2012x Console isn’t speedy at all. It’s by design apparently Sad smile. One of the biggest drawbacks of SCOM 2012x and also of SCOM 2007x.

But in this particular case it was dead slow. Even for SCOM 2012x it was totally unacceptable. So even when tuning SQL and the related SCOM Operations database, temp databases and disks to the max as the environment allowed for, the SCOM 2012x Console became a bit faster. But still no good and still frustrating.

So it was time for some deeper investigation and searching on the internet. And suddenly I bumped into this blog posting written by S.Carrilho, all about "mDOPING" your SCOM Console performance with some simple SQL tips.

And as it turned out, the change of speed is AWESOME! Let me first try to explain what MDoP is and does.

Time to meet Max Degree of Parallelism (MDoP)
MDoP = When SQL Server runs on a server with more than one processor or CPU, it will try to find the best level of parallelism by itself. Parallelism is the number of processors used to run a single statement, for each query which has a parallel execution plan.

So far so good.

Out of the box will SQL Server detect by itself what level of MDoP to use. HOWEVER, on servers using hyper threading this won't work out too well. Simply because SQL Server thinks there are more processors/CPUs present than there actually are. This happens on physical and virtual servers alike as long as hyper threading is enabled.

In cases like these it's better to set that value by yourself, for instance by using this MAXDOP Calculator. Otherwise SQL Server will use all the available processors it thinks it has resulting in serious performance issues…

In this example I’ll use the MAXDOP Calculator on my test environment.

  1. Out of the box MDoP is set to zero so SQL Server can decide for itself what the best setting is. Right click on your SQL Server instance in SQL Server Management Studio > Advanced: > Max Degree of Parallelism:

  2. However, the VM running SQL Server uses hyper threading, so the MDoP setting SQL Server chooses for itself isn’t that good at all:

  3. Time to use the MAXDOP Calculator:
    First I run this SQL query: SELECT COUNT(DISTINCT memory_node_id) AS NUMA_Nodes FROM sys.dm_os_memory_clerks WHERE memory_node_id!=64. And this is what the query returned:

    Then I run this PS cmdlet: Get-WmiObject -namespace "root\CIMV2" -class Win32_Processor -Property NumberOfCores | select NumberOfCores. And this is the output it returns:

    Let’s copy & paste that information into the MAXDOP Calculator and see what it returns:

  4. So in this particular case MDoP needs to be set to three.
    This can be done by using the query as described in KB899000 OR you can use the interface itself as shown in Step 1. Simply change the value for Max Degree of Parallelism and click on OK.


    It’s applied right away after you clicked OK:

  5. In the case of this customer the speed difference is HUGE! (Mind you, their MDoP setting is different than the one in this posting but I don’t share customer information) No, the SCOM Console hasn’t become a speed monster, but right after this setting was applied, people came to us asking what we had done since ALL OF THE SUDDEN THE SCOM CONSOLE BECAME WORKABLE!!!

  6. So we went ahead and changed MDoP on all SQL Servers used by SCOM. And still the differences are HUGE!

Never I heard of MDoP before not how hyper threading can throw SQL Server of it’s track when setting MDoP for itself. When using dedicated SQL Server instances for SCOM it certainly pays of to check the MDoP setting which is currently used and compare it by what the MAXDOP Calculator tells you is best.

When working with dedicated SQL admins, keep them in the loop and – even better – in the lead. And for this customers I’ve noticed some awesome improvements. From dead slow to a workable situation. Still no Ferrari but the current SCOM Console will never get to that level.

Perhaps this setting can be applied for other System Center components as well. Until now I haven’t seen that modifying the MDoP setting had a bad influence. But always check it with the SQL experts Smile.

These are the resources I’ve found all about MDoP, in general and related to SCOM and other SC components:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Free ebook: Extending SCOM 2012x Reporting

A few days ago Microsoft Press released a new book, all about extending SCOM 2012x Reporting. And yes this book is FREE Smile.

Don’t know whether this book makes a real deep dive, but it’s a start at least and it’s FREE Smile. Want to know more? Go here.

Cross Post: Free Microsoft Exam Vouchers For Azure & Office 365 Exams

Bumped into this posting on UP2V:

So when you’re interested, go here.

OM12: Monitoring UX & RequireTTY

How I met requiretty…
A few days ago I was asked a question about monitoring UX based systems with SCOM 2012x. Even though I’ve already helped to monitor 500+ UX systems with SCOM 2012x, this question was totally new to me and I even didn’t know at first what it meant Smile.

The question was: ‘We use requiretty on all of our UX systems. However, the OM12x UX Agent doesn’t work with that setting turned on. Does the OM12x UX Agent only function without this setting turned on?

What to do with it…
So it was time to visit the internet in general and one website in particular: Unix & Linux StackExchange, all about UNIX and Linux related stuff. And soon I found two interesting webpages:

  1. Is it okay to disable requiretty?
  2. How to disable requiretty for a single command in sudoers?

But still no clue about what requiretty is
So soon enough I had found what I was looking for. But still requiretty itself eluded me. Gladly I could ask all I wanted to know about requiretty since another customer has this awesome RHEL engineer working for them. He’s a kind of person who would have invented RHEL himself if it wasn’t there already. He eats, drinks and breaths RHEL Smile.

So I asked him whether he knows anything about requiretty. And first he didn’t know what I was talking about until I wrote it down. Even though one writes requiretty it’s pronounced as Require TTY Smile. And as soon as I wrote it down, he recognized it right away and started talking and talking and talking…

What RequireTTY is and does
This is my translation of what I’ve been told. So when I am wrong or not complete mind you I am anything but an UX kind of guy…

As it is pronounced, it’s a security setting in UX, like RHEL based systems. Here you can make the usage of TTY (the RHEL ‘user interface’) a hard requirement. Anything running on that system requires TTY or else it won’t be allowed to run.

However, the SCOM 2012x UX Agent is nothing more but a web service. So it runs in the background and doesn’t use the TTY at all. And when it’s set to use it, or else it’s blocked, it simply won’t run.

How to deal with it when RequireTTY is enabled on the UX system?
Pretty easy actually. For RHEL based systems you can turn RequireTTY off for a certain command or user. So in this case disable it for the SCOM2012x UX Agent and you’ll be just fine. The UX system will keep on running RequireTTY and the SCOM 2012x UX Agent will keep on running.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cross Post: MP Sync Between MGs With PS

I guess many of us have faced the challenge how to synchronize MPs between different Management Groups, like testing and production. Yes, the manual approach is doable when it’s a one time process. But how about it when it needs to be done on regular intervals?

Is Orchestrator the way to go? Is the time required to build such a workflow to be justified? Because it will be much more than just a simple export > import job. One needs to reconsider many different aspects.

Gladly, my highly respected friend and fellow MVP Cameron Fuller has written an excellent posting about this topic WITH the solution for it, based on PS.

For everyone running more than ONE MG, I highly recommend this posting. It contains tons of solid information and a good solution as well. Awesome!

All credits go to Cameron Fuller for sharing these awesome PS scripts. Thanks man! Sharing = Caring!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You’re In Charge For The Next Gen MPs. What Would You Do?

Yes! That’s right!

Suppose YOU’re the boss for the team building the next generation of Microsoft Management Packs. And there are NO limits. No budget constraints. And limitless resources are available. There is only one thing to do:

Build the next generation of Microsoft MPs which will blow everyone of their feet

What would you do different? What would you scrap? What would you keep and what would you add? Also think about presentation (dashboarding, reports and so on). What kind of functionality are you missing in todays Microsoft MPs which should be present in the next generation?

I know. A situation like this won’t happen. BUT…

Suppose I’ve got contacts. And they asked me to provide them with information about what the next gen of Microsoft MPs should look like. What those MPs should do and shouldn’t do. How those MPs should function. What these MPs should fix in todays MPs.

And no, this is NO fantasy. As a matter of a fact I’ve been asked such questions quite recently. And I’ve answered them. But you know, that’s just me. I know many people who are working knee deep in the boiler room of SCOM, AKA ‘the trenches’. So why not ask them as well in order to get a WHOLE list of items my contacts can work with? Wouldn’t that be awesome?!

That’s why I am asking YOU to tune in and leave your comments on this posting.

Those comments will be forwarded to the right people who are about to start soon on the next generation of Microsoft MPs. I know for sure they’ll do their utmost best to incorporate as much as possible of those highly valued comments. They’re eager to hear from YOU!

So speak NOW and changes are your highly valued comments will be incorporated
into the next gen of Microsoft MPs!!!

Monday, November 24, 2014

What’s Hammering My SCOM 2012x Database?!

The health of the operational SCOM database is crucial for a smooth running SCOM 2012x Management Group. For instance, when too much data comes in and this database grows out of control, soon your SCOM 2012x MG will come to a stand still.

So how to recognize situations like these? Of course, you’ll notice a slower performance of the SCOM Console for instance, also a Warning Alert raised by the Monitor Operational Database Space Free (%) when the percentage of free space falls beneath the 40% and a Critical Alert when the percentage of free space falls below the 20%.

But still, when this happens it’s already a bit too late. Therefore it makes sense to run certain reports once per week, just to stay in control of your SCOM 2012x environment. This posting describes the reports which have helped me many times before and are a great help to me.

SCOM 2012x Reports & the Community
Yes, SCOM 2012x delivers out of the box some good reports in order to see what’s happening under the hood of your SCOM MG. None the less, some additional help is welcome, delivered by the Community.

In the days of SCOM 2007x some people build the SCC Health Check Reports MP, containing 25+ Reports delivering a good and deep insights in the state of the nuts and bolts of your SCOM environment. And even though this MP isn’t updated for SCOM 2012x, it runs just fine up to SCOM 2012 R2 UR#4. And delivers tons of good information. So my advice: download this MP, create the additional Data Source (as described in the related MP Guide), import the MP and enjoy the magic Smile.

SCOM 2012x Reports
These are the reports I use in order to gain a good insight about the health state of the SCOM 2012x environment, all found under the reporting node System Center Core Monitoring Reports:

  1. Data Volume by Management Pack
    Shows you exactly what MP has the biggest data volume impact on your SCOM environment.

    This Report allows you to select different Data Types, like Discovery, Alerts, Performance, Events & State Change. Also you can select one or more MPs. By default ALL MPs are selected. Making a small selection can be tedious since the selection box is way too small to be really functional. You can also choose the aggregation (daily, weekly and so on) and whether you want to see a top 10 or less or more.

    Usage: When you’re not investigating anything specific and just running your weekly check OR you think something isn’t okay, simply leave all the selections as they are. As a time period choose at least 7 days so you get a good average slice of it all.

    When drilling deeper, like suspecting an issue with performance data, only select Data Type Discovery, make the top 10 bigger like 15 or even 20. This way you can compare the number 1 to 5 more easily with the number 6 to 15/20 in order to have gain a better understanding of the ratio. One ore more single numbers don’t say that much but when compared to a longer list, it’s far more easier to find a ratio.

    When run the ‘fun’ isn’t over. The table Counts by Management Pack doesn’t only contain useful information but also LINKS to other reports, allowing you to drill down into specific information. For instance in this screen dump I have highlighted all clickable values in yellow. The value for the Veeam MP has a red circle on it since I want to gain a deeper insight into the performance counter data collected by this MP:

    Clicking on that value gives me this detailed information, about the performance data collected by this MP:

    When I go back to the first report, using the blue arrow bottom top left of the last report, I can also click on the MP itself, in order to get more detailed information about the whole MP and it’s impact on the SCOM MG:

    As you see, this Report delivers tons of good information about the impact of the MPs on your environment. And please, don’t forget to READ the Report Details before running this report since it contains good information about what this report does, how to run it and how to interpret the information in this report:

  2. Data Volume by Workflow and Instance
    Even though it sounds the same like the previous report, it drills deeper into the workflows itself. Actually this is the SAME report you’ll see when running the Data Volume by Management Pack report and click on one the numbers in the table cells, like a demonstrated before.

    So this report comes in handy when you already suspect something fishy and want to get a deeper understanding of it.
  3. This Report also allows you to select different Data Types, like Discovery, Alerts, Performance, Events & State Change. Also you can select one or more MPs. By default ALL MPs are selected. Making a small selection can be tedious since the selection box is way too small to be really functional. You can also choose the aggregation (daily, weekly and so on) and whether you want to see a top 10 or less or more.

    Usage: When investigating something special, this report is a great starting point. However, since the selection of MPs is really bad, it’s better to leave them as they are: all MPs are selected by default. The culprit will surface none the less in the report.

    There are two tables which I prefer the most in this Report: the first is Counts by Discovered Type, Rule or Monitor with a very helpful column Trend. An arrow shows you whether the volume of data during the period the report shows, is increasing (arrow points up), decreasing (arrow points down) or stable (arrow points sideways):
    This table is found on the top of this report.

    The second table I like is the last one of the report, table Counts by Class Instance. This table shows you  Class Types and related Objects generate the most data:
    Based on this table it’s quite easy to pinpoint the monitored systems/objects which generate the most data. Many times these are systems experiencing a wide range of other issues as well. Simply because problems are many times a combination of many different smaller issues, on themselves not problems at all. But when combined they result in one or more serious issues.

SCC Health Check Reports
With the two previous reports you already gained a deeper insight of your SCOM environment. However, additional information is welcome and now it’s time to run a set of reports from the SCC Health Check Reports MP. With them you have a complete picture of the state of the operational database of your SCOM environment.

Even though these are ‘single-click’ reports (no parameters are required, when double clicked the just run and show you the information), in certain circumstances I want to be a bit more in control, like the time frame selection and so on. In cases like these I run the relevant queries directly against the operational database. In most cases however, these reports deliver all the information I need and are awesome because they’re so easily used.

  1. Misc - Operational and Datawarehouse Usage Report (OM) - (DW)
    This report shows you the status of BOTH SCOM databases. On a single page you get to see all the information you need including the top 20 of largest tables of both SCOM databases:

  2. Performance - Performance Inserts Per Day (OM)
    This report shows you how much performance data is inserted in to the operational database per day. It enables you to pinpoint potential culprits which hammer down your SCOM environment. Suppose you imported a new MP and from then on SCOM has serious performance issue. Perhaps the new MP collects way too much performance data, causing this issue. This report will help you to find a possible cause.

  3. Performance - Top 20 Performance Insertions By Perf (OM)
    This Report shows what Objects and their related counters collects the most performance data and puts it into the operational database. This helps you to pinpoint problematic systems/objects.

  4. Performance - Top Performance Baseline Generating Rules (OM)
    Yes, STTs (Self Tuning Thresholds) are still alive and kicking. But I don’t like them at ALL! Simply because they don’t work as intended. The idea was good: STTs would establish a baseline themselves. A lower and upper one. When performance happens between those baselines, all is well. When outside (below or over) the thresholds, an Alert will be raised.

    The Exchange Server 2003 MP was full of those STTs in the first version of that MP. The last version of that MP contained far less STTs AND the remaining ones were set to whole different (fixed) values.

    So this Report will show the Rules using that STT technology. My advice: when experiencing issues of too much performance data being collected? Kill those STT Rules! For now I suspect only the SQL MP using STT Rules:
    - MSSQL 2005: Collect Learning Data for SQL User Connections Monitor;
    - MSSQL 2008: Collect Learning Data for SQL User Connections Monitor;
    - MSSQL 2012: Collect Learning Data for SQL User Connections Monitor

As you may have noticed, most of these Reports are aimed at getting an insight about all the performance data being collected. Simply because many times the main reason for your operational database being hammered is that too much performance data is coming in.

When you’ve found the culprit additional tuning is required. Not by simply turning those Rules off, but by selecting other intervals and so on.

No performance data collection issue?
What if performance data collection isn’t an issue? Check out the status of the other SCOM nuts and bolts with these SCC Health Check Reports:

Alerts - Top 20 Alerts By Alert Count (OM)
Alerts - Top 20 Alerts By Repeat Count (OM)

Config Churn
Config Churn - Discoveries Last 24 Hours (DW)
Config Churn - Modified Properties Details Last 24 Hours (DW)

Too many events coming in
Events - All Events Count By Last 7 Days (OM)
Events - Most Common Events by Number and Publisher (OM)
Events - Top 20 Computers Generating the Most Events (OM)

State data
State - Noisiest Monitors (OM)
State - Old State Changes Not Groomed (OM)
State - State Changes Per Day (OM)

As you can see, SCOM can be a challenge to master. But these Reports will help you to get on track. And don’t forget the community either Smile

Updated MP: SCOM 2012 MP For WS File & iSCSI Services 2012

Microsoft released an updated version for the MP Windows Server File & iSCSI services 2012, version 7.1.10100.0.

This version includes these modifications (taken directly from the website):

  • DeDuplication – Stay current
  • FSRM
  • Support for clustered namespaces
  • Support for clustered replication group members
  • Agentless monitoring
  • More detailed product knowledge
  • Support for clustered replication group members
  • Agentless monitoring
  • iSCSI – iSCSI Target is built inbox first time in Server 2012. This is the first version integrated with File Server.
  • NFS – Stay current.
  • SMB – New

Website can be downloaded from here.

Updated MP: SCOM 2012 R2 MP For JEE Application Servers (2014/10)

Microsoft released an update for the SCOM 2012 R2 JEE Application Servers (2014/10), version 7.5.1038.0. MP can be downloaded from here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Savision: Pay As You Go & Unity

It’s already some time ago I wrote a posting about Savision’s flagship product, Live Maps. Mainly because after some cool new features were added, it looked like progress wasn’t that big anymore. I know, it sound harsh so let me try to explain it.
The past, back to SCOM 2007x
For a long time there were the SCOM Console, the Visio add-in and SharePoint, enabling system engineers to create live dashboards using SCOM state information. So a gap was there since out of the box it missed a lot, like a WYSIWYG interface and less complexity. Outside the Microsoft offering there was Savision.
They came, saw and conquered. Soon they became the ‘top-dog’ in the market for visualizing SCOM state information in a simple and efficient manner. Back then there were no other companies offering other products with similar capabilities. So no competition besides Microsoft itself. Until now I am still puzzled why Microsoft didn’t acquire Savision and integrated it into SCOM 2012…
Savision kept listening to it’s customers and new features were added. Some minor and other really cool and awesome, like the one enabling to use geographical coordinates for depicting monitored locations. However, IMHO, for some time the changes weren’t that big.
Competition drives innovation…
Remember Windows Virtual PC? And the first version of Hyper-V? Compare it with todays ‘latest & greatest’ version based on Windows Server 2012 R2 or the Azure edition of it. The differences are HUGE. All the drive behind it didn’t come because Microsoft had some time to spare. Nor because they thought it would be nice to add new features. No way!
Microsoft aimed it’s arrows at the virtualization market, ruled by VMware, wanting to take over that position in their run to the cloud. So they became a huge competitor and learned from them, implementing tons of new features into Hyper-V, based on the capabilities available in VMware. Sometimes these were copies and others extensions or even innovations.
Back to our topic
Savision experienced something like that. In this market however, Savision ruled. Other companies learned that visualizing SCOM data had grown into a serious business so they stepped in with their own products, like Squared Up. Others connected their own monitoring platform to SCOM and learned the importance of visualizing that data in a good manner, soon outgrowing the default capabilities of SCOM forcing them to look for other means. A good example here is BlueStripe Performance Center.
Another shiny example is Veeam, the MP for monitoring VMware and Hyper-V based workloads with SCOM. They offer state of the art dashboards and reports. Many of them based on the tooling built by themselves like their own generic report library.
All these made the USP of Savision Live Maps less obvious thus harder to sell. Also their pricing scheme gave some customers of mine the chills.
Top dog bites back…
So Savision was facing some good & healthy competition and other challenges. Instead of hiding they came back with a revamped Live Maps portfolio. And yes, also the pricing scheme is modified enabling companies to use Savision Live Maps almost like a service, based on a yearly subscription.
Live Maps Standard = Live Maps Dashboards
The Standard edition is revamped to Live Maps Dashboards. And this is much more than a name change. First of all, the license model behind has become subscription based, with a price of $125,- per map per year. These licenses are purchased online, an easy and smooth process.
The license model starts from 1 map up to a maximum of 20.  So you only pay for what you need on a yearly basis. Features are:
  1. Automated Updating of Application Views 
  2. Customizable Dashboards 
  3. Comprehensive and Contextual Performance Data 
  4. Datacenter Maps 
  5. Advanced Network Topologies 
  6. Web Console (HTML5) 
    Native System Center Integration
Especially item 3 is really good. It shows you with a single mouse click critical performance metrics.
When 20 maps aren’t enough and/or your business requires more features, it’s time to move on to the next version.
Live Maps Enterprise = Live Maps Unity
The Enterprise edition is revamped to Live Maps Unity. And again, there is MUCH more going on than a name change. The list of features is HUGE and IMPRESSIVE:
  1. Performance Data 
  2. Out-of-Box Services 
  3. .NET Application Discovery 
  4. Dynamically Updating Services 
  5. Automated Updating of Application Views 
  6. Customizable Dashboards 
  7. Datacenter Maps 
  8. Advanced Network Topologies 
  9. Web Console 
  10. Native System Center Integration 
  11. Interactive Geographical Maps 
  12. Real-Time Application Performance  
  13. Native Mobile Clients 
  14. Services Dashboard 
  15. Service Maps 
  16. Service Notifications 
  17. Automated CMDB Synchronization 
  18. Automated Incident Prioritization 
  19. Automated Creation of SCOM Distributed Applications 
When going through the feature list you’ll notice that this version also connects with System Center Service Manager. Enabling to build dashboards for all different kinds of roles. Not only limited to the technical staff but also the IT stake holder up to the level of the CIO and everyone in between.
Other features are HTML5 based performance widgets, dynamic template services of known enterprise solutions like Exchange/SharePoint 2013 and Active Directory. And believe me, there is more to come like .NET application discovery with automatic DA construction!
Today there was a webcast about this newest edition of Savision Live Maps Unity. The recording is found on YouTube:

Savision is back and offers a new set of revamped Live Maps and a revamped licensing model using one-year subscriptions starting at one map up to 20 maps. This allows companies to start small with Savision Live Maps and grow into it and – perhaps – move on to Unity.
The Unity edition is the most sexy edition offering many new or upgraded features with more to come in the near future. Also noticed some interesting Q&A on their website about integrating with other products besides the Microsoft System Center stack. So at Savision HQ innovation is buzzing, which is always a good thing.
However, the competition is here to stay so they’ll bring out revamped versions of their flagship products as well. Which will drive the innovation to another new level. At the end, YOU the customer is on the best end of it all.
Simply because you can download free and fully functional trial versions which are time limited. So you can test drive all different solutions and decide for yourself what fits best to the requirements of your business. And perhaps it can become a challenge to make the right choice since the offering for visualizing SCOM data has grown up rapidly.
But before you rush to the websites of the different vendors in order to download the trial versions, first you’ve got to do some homework, like mapping out:
  1. Business requirements;
  2. Stakeholders;
  3. Consumers of the dashboards (techies only or also process owners?)
  4. What kind of connections? (SCOM only or also SCSM);
  5. Devices for the dashboards (TV screens, smart phones, tablets);
  6. Kind of data (state, performance, alerts and so on);
  7. Nice to haves vs. Must haves;
  8. and so on.
Based on that list the available solutions will be significant smaller, compared to downloading, installing and building dashboards out of the blue. Also will the budget be much smaller when using the latter approach, compared to the first one where you’re building a true business case why certain software should be purchased.
None the less, it will be worth the hassle and effort. After all, technology is only a small building block for any business, not a sole purpose. So the sooner you involve the business stake holders, the better the budget will be.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Exchange Server 2010 MP & SCOM 2012x

I know. Exchange Server 2010 isn’t the latest & greatest. And SOON the Mainstream Support End Date for it will be reached, on the 13th of January 2015:

So I guess it’s time for many organizations to make a move to either the latest and greatest Exchange on-premise version OR to move to Office 365 (or to make a combination of both).

None the less, many organizations are still running Exchange Server 2010 AND use SCOM 2012x in order to monitor it. Even though I’ve written many postings about the Exchange Server 2010 MP, there are some things to reckon with when running SCOM 2012x.

This posting is a small overview of the most important things:

  1. Disable the Monitor ‘The required SCOM hotfixes for Exchange MP are not installed’
    This Monitor checks whether SCOM 2007 R2 hotfixes are installed. So this Monitor serves NO purpose in your SCOM 2012x environment. The script of this Monitor might even throw errors like Operations Manager failed to start a process. So disable this Monitor.

  2. RMS is required
    Yes, the Root Management Server (RMS) is a hard requirement in order to make this MP work. In SCOM 2012x the RMS is no more. However the Root Management Server Emulator (RMSE) is there to emulate a RMS. With some simple PS cmdlets you can identify where the RMSE is hosted, remove it and put it on another SCOM 2012x Management Server. Pete Zerger has written a good posting about these cmdlets. Where ever the RMSE is hosted, it will become the home of the Correlation Engine, this beautiful piece of code, engineered especially for the Exchange Server 2010 MP.

  3. Correlation Engine (CE)
    This wonderful piece of software engineering is limited only to the Exchange Server 2010 MP. The theory (aka paradise) behind it is beautiful. However, the real world (aka jungle) soon entered the paradise and made an end to this piece of software. HOWEVER, when monitoring Exchange Server 2010 with SCOM, the CE is still required. Install it on the SCOM 2012x Management Server hosting the RMSE role. And no, you can’t make the CE high available, at least not in an officially supported manner.

  4. Along came a KB article all about the Exchange Server 2010 MP
    KB2592561 seems to tell it all. However, it was written for SCOM 2007. So all the parts about tuning the SCOM Management Servers, FORGET it! It’s old news!!! Changes are it will effect SCOM 2012x negatively. So is this KB useless for SCOM 2012x? No. The Common Errors part contains good information about tuning and trouble shooting this MP.

    It’s also good for a laugh. This part tells it all: ‘… This is by far the largest MP to date from Microsoft, and provides a massive amount of visibility to Exchange issues.  However, there are just some things in the Management Pack that just don’t work…’. HONESTLY!!! I don’t make it up!!! See it for yourself!

  5. Don’t disable Rules WITHOUT disabling the corresponding Monitors
    The Exhange 2010 MP is a strange beast among the other Microsoft MPs. The CE makes it even more special. So when disabling a Rule from the Exchange Server 2010 also disable the Monitor with the same name. Otherwise the OpsMgr DB will grow to a huge extend. Also explained in the same KB mentioned previously.

There is more, but these are on top of my list. Otherwise read all my postings about the Exchange Server 2010 MP. The best thing to do is to migrate away from Exchange Server 2010 and to Exchange Server 2013 for instance. At least it has a decent MP now Smile.

SCCM 2012x: Microsoft SQL Server Report Builder Error: Unable To Connect To Data Source

Never thought I would say this, but I really do like SCCM 2012x. Yes, I reckon it has its quirks for sure, but SCCM 2012x can do TONS of good stuff for any organization and safe so much time. Also the integration with SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is magic.

However, when trying to build some customized Reports for SCCM 2012x, one is bound to bump into this error, when Microsoft SQL Server Report Builder is run from any other server than the SQL Server hosting the SCCM 2012x database: Microsoft SQL Server Report Builder Error: Unable To Connect To Data Source. The Certificate Chain Was Issued By An Authority That Is Not Trusted:

When SCCM 2012x is installed, a self signed Certificate is automatically created on the SQL server hosting the SCCM 2012x database. This certificate is used for communication with the SCCM 2012x database and required by any other system connecting directly to this database.

The solution is simple and straight forward. I write it down in an high level overview since I expect you to have enough experience to fill in the ‘blanks’ Smile.

  1. On the SQL Server hosting the SCCM 2012x database, start MMC > Certificates  > Local Computer. Browse to the Personal store and there you’ll find the certificate ConfigMgr SQL Server Identification Certificate. When in doubt simply check the last tab, Certification Path:
  2. Export it (no Private Key required);
  3. On the computer experiencing this issue, open MMC > Certificates > Local Computer. Browse to the Trusted Root Certification Authorities store and import the previously exported certificate.
  4. Now Report Builder will work as intended.

Make SCOM Better: Join The SCOM Customer Panel

Microsoft is looking for SCOM users to help them to make SCOM a better product!

So this is YOUR change to participate with Microsoft and communicate with the SCOM team directly in order to influence the new version of SCOM!

Want to know more? Go here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cisco UCS MP: Fault Filter Configuration Pitfall

A customer of mine has imported the Cisco UCS MP in order to monitor multiple Cisco UCS Domains with SCOM. So many Alerts come in, among them Informational Alerts. However, Informational Alerts are unwanted so those must be filtered out. With other MPs this is easily done by disabling/modifying the Rules/Monitors which create these Informational Alerts.

However, the Cisco UCS MP uses another mechanism so disabling/modifying the related Rules/Monitors won’t fly here. Simply because the severity level isn’t set within those Rules/Monitors but on Cisco UCS Domain level and translated/parsed by the Cisco UCS Management Service, a component which is a part of the Cisco UCS MP.

Finally I thought I had found it. The earlier mentioned Cisco UCS Management Service has some good configuration items, among it the Fault Filter which is empty by default. So I thought creating a filter only stating the Alerts which get an Informational severity level in SCOM would filter them out:

HOWEVER, now all other Cisco UCS Alerts NOT having the severity level Informational disappeared and the Informational Alerts returned…

As it turns out (described many pages deeper in the Cisco UCS MP Guide, duh!…) when the Fault Filter has some one or more filters defined, it will ONLY pass on the Alerts matching those same filters, NOT STOPPING THEM!

So I redefined the Fault Filter where I only defined the Alerts which get a Warning or Critical severity level in SCOM:

And after applying it, the Information Cisco UCS Alerts disappeared and the Warnings and Criticals reappeared. Awesome!

The same component – Cisco UCS Management Service – also shows you what the default severity mappings CISCO UCS > SCOM are, see tab Severity Mapping:

It even allows you to remap UCS severity levels to other severity levels in SCOM.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Cross Post: Notification Emails For Certain Alerts Only Contained {2} For Subject & Alert Name

All credits go to Oleg Kapustin for this posting. He’s the one who made the deep dive in order to find the true cause of this issue and also came up with two workarounds. Awesome job Oleg!!!

Last week when I published my blog posting about the latest & greatest Exchange Server 2013 MP, one reader told me that he had issues with the email notifications sent out for this MP: ‘…All of the notification emails for these alerts only contained {2} for the Subject and Alert Name…’

As it turns out, this is NOT an issue related to the Exchange 2013 MP but has everything to do with an issue (bug?) in the SCOM Notification Engine, as described here.

Gladly I know a lot of good people in the SCOM Community, one of them being Oleg Kapustin. So I contacted him about this issue. He investigated it AND decided to write a new posting for his blog about this issue and to describe two workarounds for it.

Want to know more? Go here.

Anyone running the latest and greatest Exchange Server 2013 MP should read Oleg’s posting.

Friday, November 7, 2014

SCCM 2012x: Applying HP Hotkey Drivers Without Reboot…

With OSD HP Hotkey drivers for HP notebooks won’t install by default. Only after a second reboot these drivers will install. To incorporate this into OSD can be done (I think) but takes much time to get it right. So I decided to make a Package and to deploy it to a Device Collection containing these HP Notebooks.

On itself nothing exciting but the way HP packages these drivers made it a challenge. At the end it’s a MSI file BUT it’s wrapped with InstallShield. And when running it silent, the reboot is forced, no matter what. And that’s something I don’t want to happen.

As stated before, the InstallShield wrapper contains a MSI package. With MSI it’s easy to run a silent installation and opting out the reboot so the user can reboot the system at their convenience.

Finally I found this posting on ITNINJA, helping me out, especially this entry: When you run the exe, it extracts to C:\SWSetup\SP47618 (or something like this) which contains an MSI. I don't have and HP machine to test with so I can't help you much from that point, but you should be able to use something like the following command to install. msiexec.exe /i HPHKS.msi ALLUSERS=1 REBOOT="ReallySuppress" /qn.

But some additional actions were required:

  1. When the Hotkey installer is downloaded from the HP website and unzipped it to a dedicated folder. This folder contains the file setup.exe and a folder titled InstallFiles. The file setup.exe contains the MSI file and must be extracted. The folder InstallFiles is REQUIRED for the next steps, otherwise the installation package will fail;
  2. I ran the file setup.exe. In %temp% I found the folder containing the extracted MSI file (HP Hotkey Support.msi) and related INI files.
  3. I copied ALL the content to a  new folder, lets say HPHotKeySupport;
  4. To this folder I also copied the folder InstallFiles and its contents;
  5. In order to circumvent naming issues, I renamed the file HP Hotkey Support.msi  HP_Hotkey_Support.msi;
  6. Then I modified the MSI syntax to msiexec.exe /i HP_Hotkey_Support.msi ALLUSERS=1 REBOOT="ReallySuppress" /qn
  7. Tested it once manually. it was okay.
  8. Then I made a SCCM Package with a Program (using a cmd file containing the syntax as stated in Step 6) and deployed it to the Device Collection containing the notebooks;
  9. Set the deployment to Required.
  10. Tested it on a newly deployed notebook and within minutes the HP Hotkey drivers were installed and – after a reboot – fully functional Smile.

Cisco UCS MP Issue: Not All UCS Systems Are Covered By SCOM

A customer of mine has multiple Cisco UCS systems. However, only one was Discovered and monitored by SCOM 2012x. The others were not discovered thus not monitored.

As it turns out, the UCS MP requires a Run As Account and uses that Run As Account in a related Run As Profile. Per Cisco UCS systems one Run As Profile is required. For the first Cisco UCS system the Run As Profile was properly configured. But for the other Cisco UCS systems the related Run As Profiles were empty.

By adding the proper Run As Account to the Run As Profiles for the related Cisco UCS systems, these systems were properly discovered and monitored as well.

Updated MPs: SQL MPs, version

Some days ago Microsoft released updates for the SQL MPs:
  1. SQL Server 2014 Reporting Services (Native Mode), version
    The issue related to the discovery of SSRS instances with names containing underscore or other special symbols is fixed. To be downloaded from here.

  2. SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services (Native Mode), version
    The issue related to the discovery of SSRS instances with names containing underscore or other special symbols is fixed. To be downloaded from here.

  3. SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services (Native Mode), version
    The issue related to the discovery of SSRS instances with names containing underscore or other special symbols is fixed. To be downloaded from here.

  4. SQL Server 2014 Analysis Services, version
    MP can be downloaded from here.
    New features in comparison with the previous release of SQL Server Analysis Services 2014 MP:
    • New version of Generic Presentation Management Pack has been introduced
    • Summary dashboard for SQL Server Analysis Services 2014 Instances with drill-down to SQL Services Analysis Services 2014 Database dashboard
    • Summary dashboard for SQL Server Analysis Services 2014 Databases
    • Cross-version views
    • CPU utilization monitoring scenario on SSAS Instance level
    • New performance collection rules are introduced:
      • SSAS 2014: Database Disk Free Space (GB)
      • SSAS 2014: Database Drive Space Used By Others (GB)
      • SSAS 2014: Cache Evictions/sec
      • SSAS 2014: Cache Inserts/sec
      • SSAS 2014: Cache KB added/sec
      • SSAS 2014: CPU utilization (%)
      • SSAS 2014: Processing Rows read/sec
      • SSAS 2014: Storage Engine Query Rows sent/sec
    • Improvements:
      • Icons for various classes are updated
      • Performance counters object names are updated
    • Fixes:
      • An issue related to the discovery of a non-cluster instance on a cluster virtual node is fixed
      • Some other minor fixes
  5. SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services, version
    MP can be downloaded from here.
    New features in comparison with the previous release of SQL Server Analysis Services 2014 MP:
    • New version of Generic Presentation Management Pack has been introduced
    • Summary dashboard for SQL Server Analysis Services 2012 Instances with drill-down to SQL Services Analysis Services 2012 Database dashboard
    • Summary dashboard for SQL Server Analysis Services 2012 Databases
    • Cross-version views
    • CPU utilization monitoring scenario on SSAS Instance level
    • New performance collection rules are introduced:
      • SSAS 2012: Database Disk Free Space (GB)
      • SSAS 2012: Database Drive Space Used By Others (GB)
      • SSAS 2012: Cache Evictions/sec
      • SSAS 2012: Cache Inserts/sec
      • SSAS 2012: Cache KB added/sec
      • SSAS 2012: CPU utilization (%)
      • SSAS 2012: Processing Rows read/sec
      • SSAS 2012: Storage Engine Query Rows sent/sec
    • Icons for various classes are updated
    • Performance counters object names are updated
    • An issue related to the discovery of a non-cluster instance on a cluster virtual node is fixed
    • Some other minor fixes

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

SCCM 2012x: Console In Different Language

The beginning
I don’t know about you. But even though I like my native language (Dutch) a lot, I prefer English when working with IT related stuff. Localized versions of Windows for instance aren’t my thing at all. Just give me the English version please Smile. So when the SCCM 2012 R2 Console opened like this on a W7 workstation at a customers location I wasn’t happy at all:

Ouch! This isn’t going to work for me at all. Time for a change.

The challenge
The SCCM 2012x Console comes with different languages. Based on the language used by the OS, the SCCM 2012x Console is loaded in the same language (provided the language is present for the SCCM 2012x Console).

This thread on the TechNet Forum for SCCM 2012x tells it all: ‘ …Each time the Configuration Manager console opens, it determines the configured language settings for the computer, verifies whether an associated language pack is available for the Configuration Manager console, and then opens the console by using the appropriate language pack. When you want to open the Configuration Manager console in English regardless of the configured language settings on the computer, you must manually remove or rename the language pack files on the computer…’

So when you want to change the language of the SCCM 2012x Console, you should have to change the language used by the OS as well. For this customer this couldn’t be done. So that was not an option. Time for another approach.

Quick & dirty but WITH the anticipated results…
As it turned out there is a quick and dirty fix for it:

  1. Close the SCCM Console running on your system;
  2. Go to the installation folder of the SCCM Console on the Windows Computer where you run the SCCM Console from, typically this folder: ~:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Configuration Manager\AdminConsole\bin;
  3. Rename the TWO folders containing the language files you DON’T want to use. In my case:
  4. Like this:

When the SCCM 2012x Console is started it will use English instead:

So whenever the SCCM 2012x Console uses a language you don’t want, use this approach an be happy.

One Million: A Magic Number

The beginning
When I started blogging at the end of 2008 I never expected to gain that much traction. However, things started out small and now – on a daily basis – my blog gets between 900 and 1100 visitors on normal working days, depending on the postings I write. And even in the weekends my blog gets an average of 250+ visitors per weekend day.

Humble & grateful
These are awesome numbers and makes me humble. Since all I do is sharing my experiences from the trenches with SCOM and lately with SCCM as well. It’s YOU, the visitor who decides to visit my blog and spend your valuable time. Not only to read my postings but also to comment. And because of those comments I learned a lot which I use on a daily basis. So I say thank you all.

On top of it all I made many new friends, all around the world. UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal. But also further from Europe, like China, USA, Russia, New Zealand and Austria. Some of those people moved on and with others even a friendship came to be. So this makes me even more grateful.

And today I noticed that my blog has passed the magic number of One Million visitors:

Now and later
Even though it’s sometimes hard to find time to write new postings, I still have a lot of things to share with the community. So I won’t stop blogging. Ever. Format and focus might change of my blog, but blogging is what I do and I won’t stop with it as long as the blog gets enough visitors. Since that tells me whether what I do is relevant and makes sense and a difference.

A BIG thanks to YOU as a visitor of my blog
But seriously, all the credits go to YOU, as a visitor of my blog. Without you I would have stopped blogging some years ago. As long as you keep visiting my blog and sending your comments, I’ll keep on going, pushing the envelope, trying to find the perfect balance between work, private life and blogging. Many times it’s a challenge but tempting none the less.

Updated MP: Exchange Server 2013, Version 15.0.652.19

Update 2014-11-04: A good friend of mine, Oleg Kapustin, has written a posting about the Exchange MP as well. Since he’s a real good developer he has some additional insights in this MP. So for anyone using this MP, I highly recommend to read his posting as well, to be found here. Especially the part about ‘playing with the interval parameters’ is very interesting…

The first version of the Exchange Server 2013 MP…
We all know that the first version of the Exchange Server 2013 MP missed out on a lot of details. It reduced SCOM to nothing but a reporting tool since Exchange Server 2013 is expected to manage and monitor itself. So no additional monitoring by SCOM was required. It only needed to pick up the statuses and Alerts created by Exchange Server 2013 itself and that was it. And whenever something happened, Exchange would remedy itself…

In scenarios where organizations run many Exchange Servers (think about topologies with 100+ Exchange servers at least) and where are dedicated Exchange engineers available, an approach like this could work. Also self remediation could work in a scenario like this.

But how about smaller organizations, running less than 25 Exchange servers where the engineers have to keep a plethora of systems up and running, among them Exchange? So additional knowledge, like most of the SCOM Alerts contain, is very welcome.

In a situation like this the previous version of the Exchange Server 2013 MP didn’t deliver so Microsoft got a lot of criticism. Also from me

The new version is here…
At TechEd Europe 2014 Microsoft presented the newest version of the Exchange Server MP, version 15.0.652.19. When looking at the version numbers it looks like much hasn’t changed since only the last digits are changed (the previous version was on level 15.0.652.18).

However, MUCH has changed, so the version number is not telling the whole story here Smile. Some examples:

  1. Visualization (or better, eye candy)
    The status of the health of the Exchange Server 2013 components is visualized in an awesome way. Clearly Microsoft has decided to use the new features of the SCOM 2012 UR#2 Console (or later versions). It gives the presentation in the SCOM Console of the different Exchange Server 2013 components almost a sexy look & feel.

  2. Alerting
    When checking out this MP in MP Viewer you’ll see that there are only TWO Unit Monitors which will raise an Alert, and one Rule, which is disabled by default.
    One thing to reckon with is that the Unit Monitor ‘>’ doesn’t relate to one of the default Aggregate Rollup Monitors (Availability, Configuration, Performance, Security) but has a place of it’s own:
    So when building DA’s some additional tweaking is required. Use this posting of mine an be happy.

    However, there is no lack of amount of Alerts. This is because Exchange Server 2013 is still monitoring itself, and SCOM picks up the events which require attention.

    This way you get the best of two worlds: a single pane of glass (SCOM) and Exchange Server 2013 monitoring itself, without running those monitoring workloads twice. Future will show us whether this approach is viable. But the way it’s presented in SCOM 2012 R2 UR#2, it looks promising.

    Hopefully the website of Microsoft contains good information about how to solve the issues reported by Exchange Server 2013.

  3. Reports
    The first version of the Exchange Server 2013 MP contained NO reports. Period. However, the latest version of the Exchange Server 2013 MP contains MANY reports, also about the biggest mailboxes!

    In total 14 Reports are present:

  4. Documentation
    For SCOM and many other Microsoft based technologies I live by the credo RTFM. Where the previous version of the Exchange Server 2013 MP didn’t contain any serious document at all, this version contains a REAL MP Guide, containing all the relevant information.

Microsoft has shown to LISTEN to its customers. Even though this MP still uses Exchange Server 2013 to monitor itself, there is much to say about this approach. Why create a duplicate burden on those servers by running the same monitoring workloads twice (Exchange itself and the related MP)?

Point is that SCOM should be the single pane of glass for the organization using it to monitor the health of their IT systems and services, whether on-prem or cloud based (Azure, AWS and so on).

For what I’ve seen and heard so far, the latest version of this MP is a huge improvement compared to the previous version. So this is good news. I really hope the website Microsoft uses for providing additional information on the Alerts and how to solve them is just as good as this MP. Future will tell.

And don’t be afraid to share your personal experiences with this MP.

SCOM 2012 R2 UR#2 (and later) only!!!
For now this MP only runs in a SCOM 2012 R2 UR#2 (or later) environment. Later on a version for SCOM 2012 SP1 UR#x will be published, date unknown so far.

Where to download from?
MP can be downloaded from here. When interested in some screenshots of this new MP, visit this blog posting of Daniel Savage, Microsoft PM for the MPs.

Until now this version isn’t available from the MP Catalog available from the SCOM Console. It contains the old version:
I expect this to be fixed soon.