System Center 2012: Tighter integration between private cloud components

New integration between System Center 2012 Operations Manager and Virtual Machine Manager enhances support and management of private clouds. John Joyner describes the new features.

Microsoft's simultaneous release of System Center 2012 versions of Operations Manager (SCOM) and Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) put on display some new integration features. The new features support the cloud-centric theme of System Center 2012 as a complete platform to deploy and support the private cloud. In particular System Center 2012 Operations Manager makes management of private clouds -- created by SCVMM and optionally deployed by App Controller (a cloud management component new with System Center 2012)-achievable in a service provider oriented environment.

There has existed a deep integration between SCOM and SCVMM in their previous and current releases (SCOM 2007 R2 and SCVMM 2008 R2). This integration has leveraged the alerting, performance tracking, and reporting features of SCOM effectively, and made the System Center suite a more attractive solution. In the newest generation, the integration is tighter, easier to enable, and less intrusive than before. Since System Center 2012 customers will own the license to install and use both SCOM and SCVMM for private cloud management, this integration should be a common experience for many organizations.

Enable integration on the SCVMM side

Prerequisites to enable the SCOM-SCVMM integration in System Center 2012 are not so complex. You need to install the management consoles of both components on the respective servers, i.e., the SCOM console on the SCVMM computer and the SCVMM console on the SCOM management servers, in particular, the management server that holds the RMS emulator role. You also need to have a Virtual Machine Manager Connection Account with some administrative rights for SCVMM to use, pre-created in your domain. Access to a SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) instance, including the rights to create a new SSAS database, are optional if you want to use some forecasting analysis reports in SCOM.

To enable the integration on the SCVMM side, navigate in the SCVMM administration console to the Settings | System Center Settings node, right click on the Operations Manager Server object in the Settings section and select Properties. You will provide the name of the SCOM RMS emulator and the SCOM management group name. You can also elect to enable additional features like Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO) and Maintenance Mode Integration with SCOM. Figure A shows the configuration of an SCVMM instance connected to SCOM.

Enabling SCOM to SCVMM integration in System Center 2012.
After you have performed the integration, if you have elected to use the PRO feature, PRO Tips will appear when thresholds or conditions arise that trigger PRO events, such as resource exhaustion of a guest VM on a particular host. PRO Tips are selected for automatic implementation (self-healing) in a granular setting at the host cluster level in SCVMM. Figure B shows some PRO Tips in the SCVMM pop-up window (which can be selected to not pop up). PRO Tips that occur when automatic implementation has not been selected await optional and manual implementation here.

PRO Tips awaiting implementation or dismissal in the SCVMM console.

SCOM integration performed transparently

A time saver and nice engineering feat is that the integration step in SCVMM performs all the necessary work to complete the integration on the SCOM side. The management packs for SCVMM are automatically and remotely imported into the SCOM management group by the SCVMM server. Views are created in the SCOM Monitoring space and reports become available in the Reporting space. Credentials for the Virtual Machine Manager Connection Account are automatically and securely distributed to the SCVMM server and each SCOM management server (as a RunAs account ).

SCOM is immediately ready to use as a decision and display console for private clouds deployed by SCVMM. Figure C shows the SCVMM views in the SCOM console, focused on the VM Usage Count for the last twelve (12) hours in a particular private cloud, in this case steady at three (3) VMs. PRO Tips appear in their own top-level view folder (not shown). The unit of "cloud" for management across SCOM, SCVMM, and App Controller is consistent and matched in the views and reports, which are available on a per-cloud basis.

Private Cloud Virtual Machine Count Performance view in the SCOM console. (click to enlarge)
The new reporting integration between SCVMM and SCOM is particularly praiseworthy. SCOM reporting leverages the wealth of metric data collected by both SCOM and SCVMM to produce valuable reports for cloud billing and capacity decision making. Among the ten (10) reports in the integration package, the Chargeback report looks to be really useful for service providers. Figure D shows this report for consumption-based charges on a four (4)-VM private cloud for twelve (12) days. A nice feature is that you can play "what if" with live data by manipulating the costs per resource unit in the report parameters.

The Chargeback Report in SCOM produces cloud billing documents based on hourly consumption. (click to enlarge)
Note: The Twitter hashtags (#scom and #scvmm) for components SCOM and SCVMM reflect a community consensus to use the System Center (#sysctr) hashtags consistently as acronyms.

By 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, ...