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.