Thursday, November 30, 2017

Office 365 Monitoring Done Right – NiCE Active O365 MP

Office 365 is a great example of a full blown SaaS (Software as a Service) offering. The cloud provider (in this case Microsoft) provides and manages all the related services (Exchange, Skype for Business, SharePoint etc etc), the end user consumes it.

So one could state: ‘Why should I monitor it? After all, Microsoft takes care of it already, so no need to do the same job twice.

However, in real life things are a bit more complex. For instance, many companies use Office 365 in a hybrid scenario. In cases like that, there are on-premise Exchange servers still up & running, deeply integrated with Office 365. Wouldn’t it be nice to have this ‘single pane of glass’, completely covering your hybrid scenario?

But even when you don’t have a hybrid scenario, additional monitoring is still required, because:

  • Office 365 has SLAs to meet, like any other cloud service offering. But how do you know that without proper monitoring?
  • Even though the IT department consumes Office 365 like the end users they service, it makes them look bad when an end user has to tell them something has broken, while the Office 365 admin portal tells them all is okay. What or whom to believe?
  • When an end user can’t obtain an Office 365 license, they can’t use Office 365. So the Office 365 license pool requires additional attention.
  • Reports are a hard requirement, in order to know whether the SLAs are met, how many users are consuming Office 365, how many mailbox are migrated to Office 365 and the lot.

Okay, I am convinced. But what tools do I use?
For starters there is the Office 365 Service Health Dashboard, part of Microsoft’s Office 365 offering. Every company using Office 365 has access to it (admin access required). However, this dashboard is limited in it’s functionality. For instance, it doesn’t provide reports, nor covers it hybrid scenario’s. And many times it states all is okay, while end users can’t access Office 365, because somewhere down the chain is an issue.

When running SCOM, there is also Microsoft’s Office 365 MP. However, this MP is flawed from the beginning, and doesn’t deliver any added value. Instead it creates a lot of noise, since it relays all the information present in the O365 Service Health Dashboard. Nothing about your on-premise Exchange environment to be found here…

In order to enrich this MP, the community has provided the Office 365 Supplemental Management Pack V1. This MP adds additional monitoring for the mail flow and verifies whether a user can obtain an O365 license. But when you’ve a hybrid Exchange environment, this MP won’t help you either here…

On top of it for serious SLA monitoring, reports are a hard requirement. And both MPs don’t deliver here. So there is still a requirement for a MP which covers it ALL: hybrid environments, usable reports

Meet the NiCE Active O365 MP
Gladly, a new MP is about to arrive. NiCE IT Management Solutions is about to launch the NiCE Active O365 Management Pack for SCOM! First they will launch the BETA program for it, for which you can subscribe for free. This allows your organization to test drive this MP, in order to see whether this MP delivers.

Some features of this MP:

  • Hybrid approach: It collects & processes data from both Exchange online and on-prem (2010/2013/2016);
  • Comprehensive discovery of hybrid Office 365 deployments;
  • Active probing for user verification;
  • Detailed reports on license usage, SLAs, Cloud adoption & mailbox migrations.

For hybrid scenario’s it monitors:

  • Calendar synchronization between Exchange on-prem and Exchange online mailboxes;
  • Mail flow between servers in different datacenters;
  • Mailbox migrations.

So now there is finally a solution out there, enabling complete coverage of Office 365 monitoring, SLAs and hybrid scenarios included!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Microsoft/VMware On-prem and Cloud? When Running SCOM Go For Veeam

Monitoring can be done with many different toolsets. And besides the tooling, the process of monitoring can be done quite different as well. One can simply monitor and respond when something breaks. Or, one can try to predict failures before they take place, and act in advance, like failover to another location.

The latter is also known as pro-active monitoring. For a long time it has been a marketing slogan only, but with the right tools, it can be done. And in todays world I dare say it has become a hard requirement. Why?

Nowadays, the IT environment has become a mix of on-premise solutions, combined with other IT assets residing in the cloud, like (but not limited to) Azure or VMware vCloud Air. Workloads are running on top of it all, and many times the end user doesn’t even know where. They just expect it work and perform accordingly.

This creates opportunities and challenges for the IT departments. Opportunities because the old barriers (buying & installing hardware for instance) are gone, because in the cloud it can be coded. Challenges, because the workloads are many times hybrid, resulting in a multi-tier effort in order to keep things running smoothly.

Say hello to pro-active monitoring
As such, monitoring has become even more crucial but has to be done in a different manner. Instead of simply focussing on the ‘now’ of the IT environment, it has become paramount to gain a peek into the future. And not only on the level of the workloads themselves, but also down to the hardware level, like CPU, networking & storage.

Sure, when EVERYTHING is in the cloud, those things are covered by the cloud provider. But many times workloads are hybrid, with one or more ‘legs’ in your on-premise environment.

Wouldn’t it be a shame when a failover goes wrong, because the hosts are over-committed? Not enough storage? Not enough CPU? Ouch!

Gone are the days that monitoring, capacity planning and modelling were different entities. In order to enable pro-active monitoring, capacity planning and modelling are hard requirements. Without it, it’s back to the old days of monitoring, where one waited until an Alert popped up and responded. Only putting out fires as they happen…

That’s why I recommend Veeam
That’s why I recommend the Veeam MP. It enables true pro-active monitoring. On top of the ‘plain vanilla’ monitoring (which goes pretty far already), it also delivers on capacity planning & modelling, thus enabling organizations to pro-actively monitor their hybrid workloads, whether running on-prem on Hyper-V or VMware and in the cloud (Azure and/or VMware vCloud Air).

Also it enables organizations in their ever ongoing move/migration to the cloud. Many times organizations are in the process of ‘lift & shift’, meaning that on-premise hosted workloads are migrated fully to the cloud.

The Veeam MP aids organizations here as well by analysing on-premises virtual workloads and map them out against their equivalent in Azure or VMware vCloud Air. This enables a smoother transition to the cloud.

Compared to other MP solutions in order to monitor hyper-visor based workloads, the Veeam MP adds much more to the mix. Other solutions only deliver on the ‘putting out fires’ scenario, which is outdated and can be easily enriched, when the right tools are being used.

But the costs…
Yeah I know. The Veeam MP doesn’t come cheap. But just do some math. How much euro’s/dollars would your company loose when a core application breaks down, for a few hours during a normal working day?

I know for sure those costs are a multitude of the costs of the Veeam MP. And know that the Veeam MP delivers an enriched toolset, enabling pro-active monitoring in order to prevent the breaking of your core applications.

In a setting like that, the investment in the Veeam MP makes sense, and has a solid business case.

That’s why I always recommend the Veeam MP to my customers, whether they run Hyper-V or VMware and use Azure and/or VMware vCloud Air.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

UR#4 SCOM 2016 Is Out!

For some weeks now, Update Rollup #4 for SCOM 2016 is available. KB4024941 tells you what’s fixed and known issues with this UR#4.

Even though the same KB contains installation instructions, I highly recommend to read Kevin Holman’s UR#4 installation instructions instead.

This UR#4 doesn’t add many new features. The SCOM Web Console still requires Silverlight for some parts of it in order to function properly. And the SCOM Console itself still has some serious (performance) issues.

None the less, this UR#4 should be installed in any SCOM 2016 environment if only to keep it on a well maintained level.

Can’t wait until Microsoft finally starts delivering on the so much promised frequent continuous releases for the rest of the System Center stack, SCOM included. Hopefully by then the SCOM Web Console will outgrow the so much *loved* Silverlight dependency and will SCOM show the so much asked for (Console) performance enhancement…

Until then, any new Update Rollup won’t be that special at all…

I Am Back!

Partially that is, but I am getting there. So soon enough new posting will follow.