SolutionBase: Planning a MOM deployment using System Center Capacity Planner 2006, part 1

MOM is a powerful tool for managing your network. The trick is figuring out the best way to deploy it. That's where the System Center Capacity Planner comes in. Brien Posey shows you how it works.

This article is also available as a TechRepublic download.

Maybe I'm a little weird. The planning for a new server has always made me a little nervous. The reason for this is because of the high stakes involved in server planning. You can spend huge money on a new server that you never truly know if the new server gets the job done until after it has actually been deployed. Sure, there are various server planning tools available, but unless the tool was specifically designed for the application that your server will be running, it probably isn't going to give you an accurate picture of how the new server will perform.

This is where Microsoft's System Senator Capacity Planner 2006 comes in. System Center Capacity Planner is a tool that's designed to assist you in planning for a new server. The utility begins by asking you a few questions about your organization. It also asks you questions about your intended hardware. After providing misinformation, System Center Capacity Planner helps you to figure out how the new server should be deployed within your organization. After doing so, the utility also allows you to run various "what if" scenarios. Of course I mentioned that capacity planning tools tend not to be effective unless they're specifically designed for the server application that you're deploying. Microsoft's System Center Capacity Planner is specifically designed to assist you with Microsoft Operations Manager and Microsoft Exchange Server deployments. In this article, I will walk you through a Microsoft Operations Manager deployment using System Center Capacity Planner 2006.

Acquiring System Center Capacity Planner 2006

From an availability standpoint, System Center Capacity Planner is one of the stranger Microsoft products. What makes it so odd is that you can not buy it or download it. At the time that this article was written, System Center Capacity Planner was only available through a TechNet or MSDN subscription. Microsoft does however, have a System Center Capacity Planner Web site that you can use to learn more about this tool.

Hardware requirements

As you might expect of the capacity planning tool, System Center Capacity Planner has fairly modest hardware requirements. At a minimum, you will need a 1 GHz Pentium with 512 MB of RAM. The utility also requires 30 MB of available hard disk space.

System Center Capacity Planner is designed to run on Windows XP with Service Pack 2. Both the Home and Professional Editions are supported. System Center Capacity Planner will also run under Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Professional, so long as Service Pack 4 is installed. Windows Server 2003 is also supported. System Center Capacity Planner does not support the Datacenter Edition of Windows 2000 Server or of Windows Server 2003.

In addition to the hardware and operating system requirements that I have already discussed, System Center Capacity Planner also requires the Microsoft .NET Framework version 2.0. If this version of the .NET Framework is not installed, then System Center Capacity Planner will install it automatically.

Installing the System Center Capacity Planner

By far the trickiest part of installing System Center Capacity Planner is locating the installation files. What I can tell you is that System Center Capacity Planner was first included with MSDN in March of 2006. Therefore, subsequent updates should contain the necessary files. You must also keep in mind that MSDN and TechNet are primarily shipping only on DVD. If you have a DVD-based subscription, then you must make sure that the machine that you are going to install System Center Capacity Planner onto has a DVD drive.

If you have an MSDN subscription, then the installation files are located on one of the disks with a red label (System Center Capacity Planner is mentioned on the label). The installation files are located in the disk's \ENGLISH\SYSTEM_CENTER\CAPACITY_PLANNER_2006 folder.

To install System Center Capacity Planner, double-click on the SETUP.EXE file. When you do, you may see the message stating that Microsoft .NET Framework must be installed. If you receive this message, click yes to install the .NET Framework. This message is actually kind of misleading. The reason is because the .NET Framework is not actually included with System Center Capacity Planner. Instead, the Setup Wizard takes you to the download site for the .NET Framework. It's up to you to actually download and install the .NET Framework code.

If you happen to be running a 64-bit version of Windows, then there is one caveat to watch out for. The version of the .NET Framework that the download link takes you to will only work on 32-bit systems. There is however, a 64-bit version available. The download page that the Setup Wizard takes you to contains a link to the 64-bit version. System Center Capacity Planner itself will run on either a 32-bit or the 64-bit Windows operating system.

After the .NET Framework has been installed, launch the Setup Wizard one more time. This time when the wizard starts, you should see the wizard's welcome screen. Click Next, and the wizard will display the end user license agreement. Click Next after accepting the license agreement, will and you'll be prompted to enter an installation path. After doing so, click Next twice and the installation process will begin. Click the Close button to complete the installation.

Creating a Model

Now that the System Center Capacity Planner is installed, it's time to begin creating a model of your organization's network. Begin the process by launching the System Center Capacity Planner. When you do, you'll see a disclaimer stating that the System Center Capacity Planner should only be used for guidance. It should not be used as the sole basis for decisions. Click OK to close this disclaimer.

At this point, you will see the main System Center Capacity Planner screen. The first thing that you need to do is to select an application to model. Since the primary focus of this article is Microsoft Operations Manager, select the Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 option from the Select an Application to Model drop down list. Now click the Create a model with the Model Wizard link.

Now it's time to actually start building a model of your organization. The first screen that you'll encounter, asks you to specify the number of remote sites that you want to monitor. Keep in mind that you must only enter remote sites. See System Center Capacity Planner already assumes that you want to monitor the local site. On the screen you must also select the amount of available bandwidth between WAN sites. Of course, you wouldn't want MOM to steal all of your available bandwidth. You must therefore select the maximum amount of bandwidth that you which for MOM to use. This amount should be entered as a percentage. By default, up to 70% of your total WAN bandwidth is available to MOM, as shown in figure A.

Figure A

You must select the type of connectivity between sites, and the maximum amount of bandwidth that MOM should be allowed to consume.

If you what a Figure A, you might notice that things are a little over simplified. For example, suppose that you wanted to monitor 10 remote sites. Although the model wizard will certainly allow you to enter 10 as the number of remote sites to monitor, there is only one drop down list for selecting available bandwidth. What this means is that the model wizard assumes that the same amount of bandwidth is available between each site. In the real world though, this is rarely the case.

What I recommend doing if you have multiple remote sites, is to go ahead and enter the number of remote sites that you have, and then just pick any of the available bandwidth options. After the Model Wizard completes, you'll have the option of fine tuning your model. In doing so, you will be able to specify the actual amount of bandwidth available between each site.

Click Next, and you will see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure B. use the screen to specify the number of servers managed by MOM. As you can see in the figure, see Model Wizard looks at SQL servers, Exchange servers, domain controllers, and other Windows servers. The wizard requires you to specify the number of each type of server and both the central site and in the remote sites.

Figure B

You must enter the number of servers that you will be entering in the central site as well as in the remote site.

Once again, the Model Wizard is a little over simplified. Although entering the number of each type of server and the central site is perfectly acceptable, you must enter the total number of servers across all remote sites. What this means is that the wizard does not allow you to specify which remote sites the servers actually exist in. The wizard therefore distributes the servers evenly across all of your remote sites. Again though, you will have a chance to fine tune your model later on.

Click Next, and you will be taken to the hardware preference screen, shown in Figure C. This screen is not exactly intuitive, so it needs a little explaining. The first part of the screen asks you to select the CPU configuration. You must select at least one CPU configuration, but you can select up to three different CPU configurations. Advantage of doing so is that you can select a low, medium, and high-end CPU. Later, when you run the simulation you can determine how well each CPU configuration meets your needs.

Figure C

You must select at least one processor configuration.

Just below the CPU consolidation section there is a check box that allows you to attempt to consolidate various MOM roles onto a single server. The wizard also allows you to specify the use of redundant management servers and database servers. There's also an option for using a separate reporting server.

The last option on the screen, allows you to select the disk configuration. After selecting a disk configuration, the wizard will automatically calculate the minimum number of hard disks required on each server.

Once again, the options that you choose here are probably not going to be appropriate for your entire organization. Again though, the options that you select on the screen are only intended to get you started. Once you've used the wizard to build a simplified model, you'll use the Model Editor to fine tune your model and make it more representative of your actual organization.

Click next, and you will see a partial summary of the configuration options that you've chosen, as shown in Figure D. I say partial summary, because if you look at the figure you'll notice that only to the servers at the central office are actually displayed. None of the servers in the remote sites are displayed. There is also no option to scroll further down the page to view these missing servers. I'm not really sure if this is a bug in the application or what.

Figure D

The wizard shows a partial summary of the options that you've chosen.

By now probably seems like the Model Wizard is pretty much useless. After all, the wizard is grossly oversimplified. Even so, I believe the working through the wizard is worthwhile. The reason is the in spite of its shortcomings, the wizard walks you through the process of creating a model that at least somewhat resembles your real world network. This gives you a good starting point from which to customize the model and make it more accurately reflect your network. If you click Finish, you will be taken to the Model Editor screen.

The Model Editor

In part two with this article series, I'm going to discuss the Model Editor in much greater detail. For right now though, I want to at least give you a quick preview of what's in store. When you click the Finish button, or take into a screen similar to the one shown in Figure E. this is the Model Editor screen. If you look at the center of the screen, you'll see a very basic model of the network apology that you specified. Granted, this model does not look very impressive. However, this particular view is only intended as an overview. If you double-click on one of the offices, you'll see a more detailed view of that particular office, as shown in Figure F.

Figure E

This is the main Model Editor screen.

Figure F

This is a detailed view of one of the individual sites.

More to come

In this article, I have demonstrated how to install the System Center Capacity Planner, and how to use it to create a basic model of your network. In part two of this article series, I will explain how you can fine tune this model to make it more accurately reflect your real world network.