Data Centers

System Center 2012 SP1: Managing the managers

John Joyner gives an overview of the new integration features that are part of the System Center 2012 suite of management packs.

Microsoft bundled eight management products into the System Center 2012 suite. Now in the Service Pack 1 release (link goes only to public beta of SP1; the RTM has been announced) of System Center 2012 it is possible to manage every product feature from the System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) component. Management packs are available for all eight products, so when you install all System Center 2012 components, and import all the appropriate management packs, you can achieve an integrated view of all the features in the suite.

Integration across management technologies is a key business enabler particularly in private cloud and migration to public cloud scenarios. System Center 2012 uses management packs, monitoring packs, integration packs, and connectors to interface the components in the suite. This article covers the OpsMgr management packs that monitor and manage the other System Center suite components, and also how the intelligence of the management packs can be combined into a single monitoring view. The left side of Figure A, the Monitoring view in SCOM, is scoped to expose the management packs for System Center 2012 SP1.

Figure A

The System Center 2012 management packs: console focus is on Endpoint Protection health. (Click to enlarge.)

Deploy your private cloud, then monitor it

The heart of a Microsoft private cloud is an instance of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), managing one or more virtualization hosts. The hosts themselves, the virtual machines (VMs), and all the applications running in the VMs are supported by the rest of the System Center suite: OpsMgr to monitor them, ConfigMgr to update them, DPM to back them up, Endpoint Protection for anti-malware, Service Manager for workflow, Orchestrator for automation, and App Controller for cloud management.

Importing the Forefront Endpoint Protection (FEP) management pack quickly renders some useful views, like a dashboard showing Endpoints with FEP and active alerts; shown in right side of Figure A. (The FEP management pack is updated to also support the newer System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection, or SCEP.) Tasks available from the SCOM console include launching an on-demand scan task against SCEP-protected endpoints.

A second example of System Center integration is seen in Figure B, the health state view of all DPM protected data sources. A Data Protection Manager (DPM) data source is a protected object like a database or a virtual machine.

Figure B

SCOM console displays the state of all Data Protection Manager data sources in a single pane. (Click to enlarge.)

A large enterprise or a service provider may need to monitor hundreds of DPM servers and thousands of DPM data sources. Importing the SCOM management pack for DPM (part of the DPM Central Console feature) consolidates the backup status of every protected data source into a single, indispensable view.

Authoring a SCOM Distributed Application

Using System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), you can author a custom Distributed Application (DA) using a tool to add monitoring called the Distributed Application Designer. From the Authoring space of the SCOM console, running the New Distributed Application Wizard will allow you to create DA components for each System Center component. Figure C shows all of the components in the System Center 2012 SP1 suite in a single DA.

Figure C

Authoring a Distributed Application to monitor all System Center 2012 SP1 components in one view. (Click to enlarge.)

In the DA seen in Figure C, the relationship arrows between components point to SCOM, as this DA represents the management packs for all components in System Center 2012 SP1. A "ninth component" available in SP1 is Service Provider Foundation (SPF), which can be monitored with SCOM as well. SPF enables service providers and large IT organizations to programmatically integrate cloud resources managed by SCVMM into existing management portals and orchestration.

How a Distributed Application speeds diagnosis

Figure D shows the same custom-authored DA seen in Figure C, however now showing a diagram view with the live health status of every component in the DA. The diagram view of a distributed application (DA) in OpsMgr can be easily filtered for just critical and warning events. This is a big help since the DA created for this article contained over 300 objects and produces a very cluttered screen when you try and view everything at once, including the healthy objects.

Figure D

Diagram view showing two System Center problems: ConfigMgr WSUS and OpsMgr Operations database.

In the example of Figure D, the filtered health status merged with the diagram view of the DA quickly calls attention to the specific components with issues. Notice the red (critical) state of the ConfigMgr WSUS configuration and the warning (yellow) state of the Operations Database. Using a DA to represent a complex application really narrows the quantity of issues to be investigated to a manageably small list.

About John Joyner

John Joyner, MCSE, CMSP, MVP Cloud and Datacenter Management, is senior architect at ClearPointe, a cloud provider of systems management services. He is co-author of the "System Center Operations Manager: Unleashed" book series from Sams Publishing, ...

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