Operations Manager – System Centre gets serious!

So many of you know that Ive been playing with System Centre for a while…well, I was looking for a product to give me the lowdown on the inner workings of my system. I wanted the true integration with the software and services that power our system – and also signpost, if issues arose, how to fix them. It was a relatively simple evaluation choice to bring in Operations Manger then.

A central component of the Microsoft System Center suite, Operations Manager (SCOM) is a third-generation product, formerly dubbed Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM). SCOM is used to monitor the health and performance of everything from servers to individual applications in Microsoft Windows environments. Like Configuration Manager (SCCM), its actually been around for quite a while. That, many people will know by its early name Systems Management Server, or SMS – and that name persists still in many of the guts of that product – newer bits getting the CCM monkier.

I digress…Microsoft designed SCOM to help administrators gain better control over their IT environments through different management services working simultaneously for maximum system efficiency. Moving into the new “System Centre” era, SCOM picked up significant new features in order to meet customer needs. For instance, visibility has become one of the defining features of the product in the form of end-to-end service monitoring. To that effect, it allows administrators to screen the state of services known as distributed applications. End-to-end service monitoring also presents mock transactions to give administrators an understanding of the service from the viewpoint of an end user for more proficient troubleshooting. Its all about this “single pane of glass”, single point of contact management.

Now, dont get me wrong – even in its newest 2012 R2 version, theres still room for improvement here. The point is that Microsoft have created an ecosystem here. What isnt core in the product is extendable throughtout using Management Packs.

With management packs, administrators can extend Operations Manager capabilities to a wide variety of technologies, including operating systems and applications. In fact, numerous management packs are available for more than 60 Microsoft and third-party products, such as Windows Vista, SQL Server and Exchange Server. It not just Microsoft stuff either…weve got Dell and others doing hardware management packs too!

Familiar with the Role Based access in Exchange and SCCM? No surprises that SCOM uses role-based security or custom user roles to allow access to Operations Manager beyond operators and administrators.

“What this feature does is allow us to fully automate agent deployment for Operations Manager-based environments,” said Pete Zerger, a Microsoft MVP and co-owner of AKOS Technology Services. “As the agent is started up, it will actually query its local Active Directory domain to see if configuration information has been published for an Operations Manager management group.”

 

Its included in the System Centre Suite licensing, and able to “dig deep” into the Operating System and infrastructure services – such as DNS, DHCP, Print; as well as productivity services – such as Exchange, Sharepoint and SQL. Simples…I thought…! Oh sure – the initial install is nice and simple – a lot of next clicking. Points to note though – make sure you give yourself enough RAM and processors (Im assuming you are virtualising…which is supported); and then – what are you going to do about SQL. As you might have guessed – Operations Manager is going to be collecting a shed load of data about your system – thats going to need a database. The usual flavours of SQL 2008 R2 and 2012 are supported; and in my particular case – that will be Clustered 2008 R2.

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Well, my first problem came courtesy of my recent upgrade to Server 2012 R2 as my OS – blooming firewalls! Make sure you either turn this off for your domain environment – or get the ports open. I went for disabling the firewall on domain, as it was getting in the way of all sorts (the reporting part of it could not detect the instance while the firewall was active!).

Once you have your server installed (make sure you set up some suitable service accounts – DataAccess, Reporting (if using reporting…oh, and you should), Action account etc. Name them that way too! Or – you will do what I did, and forget what is for what!! Dont give them cryptic names!

Your Action account is used to gather your data from your agents (and install your agents) – so, another gotcha I found is permissions needed for certain services – like HyperV. I needed to have an account with permissions to logon to those servers. Other gotchas….be prepared to be told all sorts about your system – things you thought were fine! It is hyper sensitive to start with, and you will have to invest some time in turning down its alerts (my personal favourite – Disk Defrag… from 17%). You do this by creating over-rides, which get saved into another management pack.

Once you are all sorted, and getting useful info from it – you can use the excellent reporting, to give nice data to management on service performance! It can also help with system scaling, and when tied to the online “Advisor” service – you get all the best practice advice and recommendations too!

Want to get started with it, whetted your appetite? As with my guides for Configuration Manager – head over to http://www.windows-noob.com, for some walk-throughs of the install ala screengrab 🙂

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