Friday, June 17, 2016

New IT Pro MP Authoring Tool: MP Author PRO

Update 06-20-2015
Based on some feedback about the development of MP Author (where Silect didn’t get any source code) I’ve updated this posting accordingly.

Silect has added a new edition of MP Author to their portfolio: MP Author PRO.

Compared to the free edition (MP Author) this new edition adds these additional features:

  1. Creat SNMP device MPs;
  2. Create advanced Targets & Classes;
  3. Create Relationships, Aggregate & Dependency Monitors;
  4. Create Process Monitors.

And yes, for these additional features one has to pay. Is this a good or bad thing? In order to answer this, let’s take a few steps back and look where this tool find it’s origin.

The past
Back in the days SCOM 2007x was RTM and SCOM 2012x only a notion, or nothing but a rumor, there was free tooling available in order to author Management Packs, aka Authoring console, part of the System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 Authoring Resource Kit.

Even though this tool has some serious downsides, it allowed people to build their own Management Packs. However, it seemed not to land in both worlds, whether IT Pro or developer. For most IT Pro’s it turned out to be rather complex and for the developers it missed out on real dev functionality as present in Visual Studio, like reuse of code snippet, IntelliSense® etc etc.

But still, the tool got the job done and allowed for the people who accepted the downsides, to build complex and advanced MPs. And all functionality and options were included and none were ruled out.

Time to divide…
Since the tool itself received much feedback, most of which wasn’t positive, Microsoft understood it was time to divide MP development into two target groups: IT Pro’s on one side, and the real developers on the other side.

Let’s serve the developers…
Visual Studio with Authoring Extensions (VSAE) was developed for the latter group. They use Visual Studio on a daily basis, so this tool has no secrets for them. And with the Authoring Extensions, Visual Studio was capable of ‘talking’ MP XML as well.

I myself have used VSAE a couple of times. And I must say it’s very powerful but also a challenge to use. Especially when one doesn’t use VS on a daily basis, VSAE is a challenge to master AND to maintain that knowledge and experience on a reasonable level.

Anyway, the real developers are more than happy with VSAE and can do their ‘magic’ with it, without holding back on anything SCOM has to offer.

And yes, VSAE can come free! There is a community version of VS and AE is free by default. But beware. When using VSAE in a business setting, there is a ‘blockade’ in using the community edition of VS. Sure you can do it (technically), but still you’re in breach of the EULA, which is a bad thing for the company you’re working for.

How about the IT Pro’s?
This was a bigger challenge. Microsoft tried different approaches. One of them was creating a MP in a visual manner, and create an XML file as output. For this a special add-on for Visio was built.

Even though the idea itself was great, the execution wasn’t. It had serious issues and soon this approach was ditched. So the IT Pro didn’t have an alternative besides the previous mentioned Author Console or go hardcore and use VSAE. Some IT Pro’s followed this path, but most of them didn’t.

In the same time SCOM 2012x became General Available, introducing a new XML schema for MPs. Even though the Authoring Console still delivers working MPs for SCOM 2012x, it misses out on this new XML schema and other special SCOM 2012x functionality as well.

As such, the requirement for an update of this tooling became more urgent.

Silect & Microsoft
I don’t pretend I know the whole story. But this is what I know at a high level. Feel free to comment when there are gaps or when you think the story isn’t correct.

Sometime ago Microsoft and Silect joined forces in order to develop a new version of a tool for authoring Management Packs, mainly aimed at IT Pro’s. At first I thought Silect purchased/got/licensed the source code of the old version (Authoring Console), but as it turns out, this isn’t correct. (Thank you Harold for the correction here.)

As a result a new MP Authoring tool saw the light, targeted at the IT Pro’s AND supporting the new XML schema, introduced in SCOM 2012 RTM.

And Silect delivered. A new MP authoring tool saw the light, MP Author. And it got quite a few updates, fixes and even some features were added as well. And yes, IT Pro’s soon found themselves using this tool quite easily in order to create new MPs, containing Classes (Targets) and some Rules/Monitors. Because of the Wizards, it was also easier then ever before.

Back to today
So now we see Silect has released a new edition of MP Author which isn’t free. Again to the question I asked myself at the beginning of this posting: “Is the new edition of MP Author, MP Author Pro, a good or bad thing?”.

IMHO it isn’t both. Nor good, nor bad. Why?

As stated in a previous posting MP Author has some flaws, even bugs. Also the wizards are a one-way street. Meaning, with the wizards you can author new Targets, Classes, Monitors, Relationships and so on. But when created, you can’t use the wizards in order to modify it. Instead you have to edit the XML directly, requiring a better understanding of the XML syntax and flow used by MPs. Most of the times this is out of reach for most of the IT Pro’s.

And this is a bad thing, since MP Author is aimed at the IT Pro. Ouch!

On the other hand, the Microsoft Authoring Console is outdated and needed a refresh. And Silect delivers it, for free as well. And since Silect is a company, it requires to make profit in order to survive. So I do understand their business model. I understand they deliver a capped free version and other paid versions. For me it wasn’t a question whether Silect would deliver a paid version, but only when.

The verdict
But for me the paid version should deliver more value. Like wizards working both ways (creating AND modifying) and have those %$#! bugs fixed. This would deliver a REAL MP authoring solution aimed at the IT Pro, compared to the current Pro edition. And one I would be willing to pay for.

Of course, this just my opinion. I can imagine a situation where you have to monitor many SNMP managed devices with SCOM, the current PRO version of MP Author delivers enough added value for your company.

None the less, I hope someone of Silect read this posting as well and will initiate an update of the PRO version based on my input/feedback Smile.

Friday, June 3, 2016

OM12x Installation? Allow Log On Permissions ARE Required!

Bumped into an issue where the installation of OM12x didn’t run ‘smoothly’. The installation of the first Management Server in the new SCOM Management Group ran but that’s where it stopped.

When trying to install the SCOM Reporting component all kinds of errors were thrown. First I suspected the SPN to be at play here, or better the lack of it. But even when the SPN was set for the Management Servers, the same error was thrown, blocking the installation of the SCOM Reporting instance.

Time for some deeper investigation. When opening the SCOM Console on the newly installed SCOM Management Server I noticed that NOTHING of the new SCOM infrastructure was detected. Strange! Even when a new SCOM MG is deployed, SCOM starts collecting information about itself and monitors it.

But this time NOTHING.

Time to check the OpsMgr eventlog on this MS server. And soon the errors popped up: The SCOM service accounts weren’t allowed the required Allow Log on Locally permissions on the SCOM MS server(s), breaking the SCOM environment.

Time to contact the people involved and ascertain that the SCOM service accounts were given the proper permissions as stated in the design and RFCs. When this was fixed, and the related SCOM services restarted, things started looking way much better.

Discoveries run successfully, and soon thereafter the monitoring of those new Objects started. And now the SCOM Reporting component installed without a glitch. More SCOM MS servers were added to the mix and SCOM was just fine.

Lessons learned
Never presume, always check. In this case an additional check about the accounts and whether the requirements were met, would have been a good step.

And when a SCOM component fails to install, check the OpsMgr eventlog of the previously installed SCOM MS Server(s). Many times good information is to be found there, helping you to solve the problem at hand.