Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MP Authoring – Quick & Dirty – 00 – Introduction

How the challenge came to be
Based on the MPs delivered by Microsoft, SCOM is capable of monitoring many different workloads ‘out of the box’. However, in the real world organizations run many non-Microsoft based workloads running on Windows Servers, which require monitoring as well. Also by SCOM. And many times there aren’t third party MPs available for monitoring those workloads.

And now a challenge takes shape. Because HOW is one going to do that WITHOUT:

  1. Big investments in time, resources and budget;
  2. Turning to the ‘crappy’ SCOM Console which isn’t made at all for custom MP authoring;
  3. Taking a deep dive into how SCOM really works;
  4. Taking a deep dive into MP authoring and XML coding;
  5. Buying expensive Visual Studio licenses?

Let me explain item 5 a bit more. Sure, with Visual Studio (VS), the MP Authoring Extensions (AE), and using snippets, one is capable of writing good MPs pretty fast WITHOUT deep understanding of MP Authoring and/or XML coding.

VSAE: The license & the steep learning curve
However, VS doesn’t come free. And yes AE works well with the community edition of VS. BUT this version isn’t allowed in a commercial setting. So using VSAE community edition is most of the times an absolute no go for organizations, or at least open for discussion. And many organizations simply don’t want to go there. So when your organization doesn’t have VS already in use (and properly licensed) VSAE is most out the time, a no go area…

Besides that, VSAE has a steep learning curve. I know from my own experiences it’s not only a challenge to master, but even more a challenge to stay on a certain level. For myself when not having authored a MP with VSAE for some time, it takes a while to get the hang of it again. So MP authoring with VSAE is quite a challenge.

MP Fragments?
So one could solve this issue with Management Pack Fragments. This allows for very quick MP authoring with VSAE without having to go through all the challenges of reinventing the wheel yourself. Instead you use ‘ready-to-bake’ MP Fragments, containing much of the required code for your MP.

Kevin Holman has made an impressive library of MP Fragments and made it publicly available, for free! And it works, super fast and easy. Also he has written a series of postings about how to use these MP fragments in order to create your own MP.

But how about the VS license?
Sure, you still require VS and a proper license. As stated before, the community edition won’t do in a corporate environment. But still, when requiring good custom made MPs, covering your company’s custom services/applications, it’s the best way to go.

As is turned out during writing this posting, Silect has released an updated version of MP Author Professional which is now also capable of using VS fragments. So the very same MP Fragments made by Kevin can be used by MP Author Professional. So this could be an alternative for VS with a more agreeable price tag. When you’re a developer, I would go for VS, but that’s me Smile.

RoI and a FREE & FAST alternative
Return on Investment is something to be taken seriously. Is the above mentioned approach still viable when you want to monitor just a few services, logs and events on a subset of servers? Does one really has to go through the ‘pain’ of buying software? Or is there another approach in cases like these, totally FREE and FAST? YES THERE IS!!!

However, the scope of this approach/workaround is limited. The moment you’re required to monitor a multi layered application/service hierarchy running on multiple servers, I strongly advise you NOT to use the approach I am going to share in a new series of postings. Instead, use VSAE or MP Author Professional with the MP Fragments and be happy.

However, when you only want to monitor some services, logs, events on a subset of servers for a rather single dimensioned application/service, the approach I am going to share will work for you and not just that, but it will be pretty fast, especially when you use the template XML code I am going to share with you.

Fun thing is that in many cases this approach works pretty good for many monitoring requirements and saves you and your company a lot of time, resources AND money! Besides that, it’s easy to master and to apply this knowledge in the future.

So stay tuned since quite a few additional postings will follow!

Required tools
All you’re going to need are these FREE tools:

  1. MP Author (free version, available here);
  2. An XML editor, like Notepad++ for instance.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

OM16 Agent APM Feature Crashes IIS App Pool Running Under .NET 2.0 Runtime

As blogged before, the OM16 Agent APM Feature crashes IIS Application Pool when running under .NET 2.0 Runtime. Thanks to my Irish buddy Kevin Greene there are a few workarounds, worked out in great detail.

At this moment Microsoft has acknowledged this bug (AKA ‘hidden feature’) which will be addressed for certain with the release of Update Rollup #3 and perhaps even before that, with the release of a hotfix. However, the release of this hotfix is still under investigation and as such uncertain.

Want to know more? Read this article on the System Center Operations Manager Team Blog.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Azure: Everything You Always Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask…

A colleague of mine pointed this website out to me:

It’s the one stop shop for all Azure related services. It describes in telegram style what the related Azure service delivers and – depending on the service – shows one or more links for these categories:

  • Overview
  • Pricing
  • Documentation
  • Limits
  • SLA
  • Service Updates
  • Articles
  • Code Samples

Example, when selecting SQL Database, one is shown this ‘drop down’ menu:

So now one only has to bookmark this website and you have all the information you need for Azure.

Updated/New MPs For Microsoft’s 2016 Releases (And Others)

In the past weeks Microsoft has released MPs covering their 2016 releases of well known products and services.

Since I don’t prefer to reinvent the wheel, I’ve borrowed the list from Daniele Grandini’s blog. So all credits for this list should go to him, not me.

Other updated MPs are:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Cross Post: Registry Tweaks For SCOM 2016

Last week Kevin Holman wrote a posting about registry tweaks for SCOM 2016. For anyone running a SCOM 2016 environment, that posting is a MUST read.

Cross Post: OM16 Agent Crashing Legacy IIS Application Pools

My Irish buddy and fellow MVP Kevin Greene has posted an article on his blog about SCOM 2016 Agents crashing legacy IIS Application Pools.

Kevin investigated this issue thoroughly before coming to this conclusion. So this is not something to be taken lightly. However, his investigation showed him:

  1. The SCOM 2016 Agent in general being the culprit;
  2. The APM component specifically being the real cause of crashing legacy IIS Application Pools;
  3. Installing the SCOM 2016 Agent with the NOAPM = 1 switch works around this issue.

APM stands for Application Performance Monitoring, enabling organizations to deeply monitor .NET based applications, from server to client and back. Later on Microsoft also enabled APM to monitor J2EE based applications.

The APM component is part of the SCOM Agent and is installed by default when a SCOM Agent is installed. By default the APM service is switched off. But now with the SCOM 2016 Agent, the APM component is buggy and causes legacy IIS Application Pools to crash EVEN WHEN THE APM COMPONENT IS SWITCHED OFF (by default)…

In Kevin’s same posting he also tells you how to remove APM from SCOM 2016 Agents. So his posting is a MUST read.

At this moment Microsoft is aware of this bug and working hard on a fix. For now there is no known time frame when the fix will be ready and released.

Monday, March 6, 2017

!!!Security Issue!!! SHA-1 Algorithm Is Unsecure. OM12 R2 UR#12 / OM16 UR#2 Fixes It

SHA-1 is an outdated cryptographic hash function. Last week Google hammered another nail in it’s coffin. So SHA-1 is really dead now, no mistake about that.

Thing is that SCOM uses SHA-1 itself for monitoring UX based workloads!

SHA-2 to the rescue?
Gladly, UR#12 for SCOM 2012 R2 and UR#2 for SCOM 2016 fixes this issue by replacing SHA-1 by SHA256, member of the SHA-2 family.

What to do?
Simple! Whenever running SCOM 2012 R2 and/or SCOM 2016 AND monitoring UX based workloads, roll out the respective UR and follow this article on the SCOM Team Blog about how to replace the SHA-1 certificates with the SHA256 certificates.

Do I need to?
Well, it depends. When you like flipping burgers as a next career move, then don’t. When you like your current career, then do it ASAP…