Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 provides a solid platform for monitoring websites, servers, network infrastructure, and applications. In the Windows IT Pro article "Operations Manger Key Performance Indicators" (January 2011), I discuss Operations Manager's integration of several important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that monitor how well a server is performing. Operations Manager also has several dashboard options that let you use a single dashboard to determine whether your websites, applications, servers, and network infrastructure are functional. In addition, third-party products are available to help provide a comprehensive dashboard solution.

Built-In Dashboards

Several dashboards are available for Operations Manager out of the box. Operations Manager uses views to display monitored data. Views can be created for alerts, events, state, performance, diagrams, task status, web pages, and dashboards. The dashboard option lets you use a single screen to display multiple views (from two to nine views) in Operations Manager. Figure 1 is an example dashboard view in which you can see the server state (top section), server alerts (middle section), and selected performance counters (bottom section).

It's common to create a dashboard view that contains three views that are in turn scoped to a group. (A group is created with specific servers, with views limited to that scope.) This approach lets server administrators quickly see relevant information for only their servers in a single view based on the dashboard view.

The Operations Manager dashboard displays multiple views of Operations Manager data—including websites, which I discuss later in the article. However, it doesn't provide an intuitive state view for diverse types of entities in the same screen (such as the health of a server and a distributed application), nor does it provide any charts, graphs, or gauges beyond the performance view in Figure 1. This dashboard is the simplest from an installation and prerequisite perspective because it has no prerequisites other than Operations Manager. The dashboard functionality is built in to the product.

Microsoft Products with Operations Manager Dashboards

Microsoft has several options for providing Operations Manager dashboards, including Service Level Dashboard (SLD) 2.0, Visio 2010 Add-in for System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Dashboard, and Microsoft System Center Service Manager 2010 Dashboard. Each of these dashboards provides additional capabilities beyond the built-in Operations Manager dashboard view. (For additional information about using Operations Manager dashboards, including where to download each of the following dashboards, see the Learning Path.)

Service Level Dashboard 2.0. SLD 2.0 uses new Operations Manager 2007 R2 functionality to provide tracking for service levels. This dashboard is useful in tracking service level objectives (SLOs) for Operations Manager entities, such as distributed applications.

  • SLD 2.0 requires Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 SP1 or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 SP1 (SharePoint 2010 isn't currently supported) because the dashboard is provided through the following Web Parts:
  • AdminFilter—Used to select which service levels (up to 6) are displayed on the dashboard, refresh rates (30 minutes by default), how much data the view will show (past 60 minutes, 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days, 60 days, week to date, past week, month to date, past month, quarter to date, past quarter, year to date, past year), and whether the aggregation type is hourly or daily.
  • SLANamesWebPart—Shows the health of the target(s) chosen in the AdminFilter.
  • SLOChart—Shows the health history of the highlighted target.
  • SloWebPart—Shows a gauge for the highlighted target.
  • TargetInstances—Shows header information for the highlighted web target.
  • UserFilter—Used to select the time zone, data aggregation, dashboard duration, and whether to use only business hours—and if so, which days of the week and times.
  • MasterContainer—Contains the SLANamesWebPart, SLOChart, SloWebPart, and TargetInstances, combined to form a unified dashboard (see Web Figure 1).

A distributed application exists to model the health state for Operations Manager. You can configure Service Level Tracking (SLT) to track the SLOs for the Operations Manager distributed application against an SLO goal that you define. In the example that Web Figure 2 shows, a monitor state SLO was created to track the availability of the Operations Manager distributed application. After this SLO is defined in Operations Manager, you can select SLO from the AdminFilter so that the SLO appears in the dashboard, as Web Figure 2 shows.

SLD 2.0 can also collect multiple metrics for a system, such as the percentage of processor utilization and the percentage of memory committed on the system. To view these metrics, create service-level tracking for an object and define multiple SLOs (in this case, a collection rule SLO). Both of these SLOs can be displayed in SLD 2.0, showing multiple metrics for the system. For example, Web Figure 2 shows both the processor utilization and the percentage of memory committed on the server.

SLD 2.0 lets you easily track SLOs to show an overview for various Operations Manager metrics. The dashboard is designed to work only from the SLOs, which are defined in Operations Manager's SLT. SLD 2.0 doesn't include any graphs or gauges other than those shown in Web Figure 1 and Web Figure 2. Overall, this solution provides intuitive dashboard functionality for service-level-related items in Operations Manager.

Because SLD 2.0 uses websites to display the dashboard, you can easily integrate these websites into the Operations Manager console by creating a web page view and defining the name, description, and target website. (I discuss this concept in more detail later in the article.)

Visio. The Visio 2010 Add-in for System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 lets you state-enable Visio diagrams. This add-in is useful for integrating application, network, data center, or server rack diagrams into Operations Manager to make the entities' health states available for use in the diagrams.

Visio integration requires Visio 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise Edition. SharePoint 2010 Enterprise is necessary to run Visio services. After the required components are installed, Visio diagrams can be saved to a SharePoint site as .vdw files, which can then be displayed in a web browser with status information gathered from Operations Manager.

Visio integration makes it easy to take an existing Visio diagram and integrate the state of objects into a web-enabled Visio diagram. Web Figure 3 shows a web-enabled Visio diagram with health state integrated for the two servers shown, including an existing UPS that could also be monitored by Operations Manager and state-enabled.

A benefit of Visio integration is the ability to take an existing Operations Manager diagram view and export it into Visio. The diagram can then be modified and uploaded to SharePoint. This process makes customizing Operations Manager diagram views simple.

Visio integration with Operations Manager lets you blend Operations Manager and Visio diagrams in combined Visio 2010 and SharePoint 2010 Enterprise environments. This dashboard option provides state-integrated views that can represent pretty much anything you can create in Visio; in addition, the dashboard has a corresponding health state in Operations Manager. However, this dashboard solution doesn't provide charts or graphs—which administrators typically require from dashboard products.

Configuration Manager Dashboard. Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 includes a dashboard that can be configured to display Operations Manager dashboard information. You can generate dashboards that contain bar charts, graphs, pie charts, and gauges based on information stored in the OperationsManager or OperationsManagerDW databases.

 

 

The Configuration Manager Dashboard requires WSS 3.0 or SharePoint 2007 (SharePoint 2010 isn't currently supported) and uses the following Web Parts:

  • Microsoft Dashboard Configuration—Provides configuration for each of the data sets used by the Dashboard Viewer Web Part, including which query to run and which database to run it on.
  • Microsoft Dashboard Viewer—Displays configured data sets through a variety of methods, including charts, gauges, data grid, and score cards.

The pie charts in Web Figure 4 and Web Figure 5 show the amount of free space and used space in the Operations Manager data warehouse and Operations Manager database. The SQL queries used to create these charts are the same for each database (but with the data set defined to use OperationsManager or OperationsManagerDW).

The bar charts in Figure 2 and Figure 3 list the current top five alerts, by alert count and by repeat count. The SQL query used for the alert count bar chart is

 

SELECT TOP 5 SUM(1) AS AlertCount, AlertStringName

FROM Alertview WITH (NOLOCK)

WHERE TimeRaised is not NULL and AlertStringName is not NULL

GROUP BY AlertStringName, AlertStringDescription, MonitoringRuleId, Name

ORDER BY AlertCount DESC

 

The SQL query used for the repeat count bar chart is

SELECT TOP 5 SUM(RepeatCount+1) AS RepeatCount, AlertStringName

FROM Alertview WITH (NOLOCK)

WHERE Timeraised is not NULL and AlertStringName is not NULL

GROUP BY AlertStringName, AlertStringDescription, MonitoringRuleId, Name

ORDER BY RepeatCount DESC

The gauge in Web Figure 6 shows the Operations Manager server's processor utilization. You can easily configure gauges to display any performance counters that Operations Manager monitors. You can see the SQL query used for the processor utilization gauge in Web Listing 1.

The gauge in Web Figure 7 shows free disk space. You can see the SQL query used for this gauge in Web Listing 2.

The Configuration Manager Dashboard provides flexible configurations for any charts, graphs, or gauges required for a dashboard. This solution is extremely powerful and should be seriously considered if you need such reports on your dashboard.

Service Manager Dashboard. Microsoft System Center Service Manager 2010 includes a dashboard that seems to be based on the Configuration Manager Dashboard. The Service Manager Dashboard has the same functionality as the Configuration Manager Dashboard but adds tabs that provide multiple URLs that can be used to display different dashboards.

Savision Live Maps

Savision Live Maps (www.savision.com) is a third-party dashboard solution that lets you state-enable various types of diagrams. As with Visio integration, Live Maps can be used to provide application, network, data center, or server rack diagrams and to integrate them with Operations Manager so that the entities' health states are available on the live map. Live Maps can also play sounds when an alert occurs on the dashboard.

Live Maps integrates seamlessly with Operations Manager; the product installs in an existing Operations Manager environment on an IIS-enabled system. Live Maps offers dashboard solutions that are easy to implement, such as the prebuilt Operations Manager 2007 health map that Web Figure 8 shows. This map shows the health state of all Operations Manager components.

One of my favorite uses to integrate state views is to take an existing distributed application in Operations Manager and convert it into a dashboard view. The diagram views for a distributed application in Operations Manager are useful but they don't let you use a specific layout for where various pieces of the application are displayed or how they're labeled and organized. Translating a distributed application into Live Maps lets you represent the application in a more intuitive view, as Figure 4 shows.

This Live Maps–integrated diagram view is useful, but it would be even more useful if you could change the labels and rearrange the diagram elements into a design that's more intuitive for the operators who are actually monitoring the environment. The modified diagram in Figure 5 was created by using a live map generated from the distributed application.

Live Maps is extremely powerful because of its tight integration with Operations Manager. Because the live maps are stored as entities in Operations Manager, their health state rollups can be changed. For example, the map in Figure 5 shows a health rollup in which as long as any of the three servers is healthy the top item (Web Sites) is healthy as well. Although Live Maps provides health state integration, this dashboard solution doesn't offer either charts or graphs—which administrators often require from a dashboard product.

Savision provides a free five-map version of Live Maps. You can download this free version at www.savision.com/free-version.

Bringing It All Together

As I discussed in the built-in dashboards section, the Operations Manager console displays a series of views, including the web page view. This view lets you easily integrate the various dashboard technologies. With a unique URL for the dashboard item (SLD 2.0, Visio, Configuration Manager Dashboard, Service Manager Dashboard, or Live Maps), you can add these tools as web views that are displayed in the Operations Manager console. Using the built-in Operations Manager dashboard view lets you display multiple views. Figure 6 shows a Savision Live Maps dashboard and the Configuration Manager Dashboard displayed in the same view.

      SharePoint dashboard. If you already have SharePoint in your environment, you can use the Page Viewer Web Part to easily integrate websites such as those generated by various dashboard products. Figure 7 shows an example of SharePoint being used with both the Page Viewer Web Part (displaying the live map on the top of the screen) and the Configuration Manager Dashboard's Dashboard Viewer Web Part (displaying the time required to execute a synthetic transaction against the website, the average processor utilization across the web servers, and recent history of processor utilization on the web servers). SharePoint offers an extremely flexible method for gathering multiple dashboard technologies into a single unified solution for Operations Manager dashboards.

PerformancePoint dashboard. Another option to seriously consider when integrating multiple dashboard technologies is Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server. PerformancePoint is built on SharePoint and is used to generate dashboards and scorecards that can be integrated to gather information from Operations Manager. One of the primary benefits of using PerformancePoint to display OperationsManager metrics is the ability to view numerous dashboard items in a noninteractive dashboard. For example, this option works well in a network operations center or for displaying real-time dashboard data in an organization.

Swiss Army Approach

No single Operations Manager dashboard solution includes all the information you might want in a dashboard (e.g., state integration, service-level tracking, charts, gauges). Using dashboards in Operations Manager is much like using a Swiss Army knife: A variety of options let you integrate different dashboard solutions.

Table 1 summarizes the services provided by the dashboard technologies that I discuss in the article. Table 2 summarizes the options available for integrating these dashboard solutions, including their functionality.

Operations Manager 2007 has numerous options for robust dashboard functionality. Which dashboard options you choose will vary depending on your organization's requirements. For more information about using Operations Manager dashboards, see the Learning Path.

 

 

Web Listing 1: The SQL query used for the processor utilization gauge

select top 1 Path, ObjectName, CounterName, InstanceName, SampleValue, TimeSampled

from PerformanceDataAllView pdv with (NOLOCK)

inner join PerformanceCounterView pcv on pdv.performancesourceinternalid = pcv.performancesourceinternalid

inner join BaseManagedEntity bme on pcv.ManagedEntityId = bme.BaseManagedEntityId

where path = ' ' AND

objectname = 'Processor' AND

countername = '% Processor Time'

order by timesampled DESC

 

Web Listing 2: The SQL query used for the gauge to show free disk space

select top 1 Path, ObjectName, CounterName, InstanceName, SampleValue, TimeSampled

from PerformanceDataAllView pdv with (NOLOCK)

inner join PerformanceCounterView pcv on pdv.performancesourceinternalid = pcv.performancesourceinternalid

inner join BaseManagedEntity bme on pcv.ManagedEntityId = bme.BaseManagedEntityId

where path = '' AND

objectname = 'LogicalDisk' AND

countername = '% Free Space'

order by timesampled DESC

 

LEARNING PATH

For information about dashboard options:

"Thoughts on OpsMgr: SCOM and Dashboards"

thoughtsonopsmgr.blogspot.com/2010/09/scom-and-dashboards.html

"Useful Operations Manager 2007 SQL queries"

blogs.technet.com/b/kevinholman/archive/2007/10/18/useful-operations-manager-2007-sql-queries.aspx

For information about SLD 2.0:

"Service Level Dashboard 2.0 for System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2"

www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyId=1d9d709f-9628-46a8-952b-a78f5dd2bdd9&displaylang=en

"Live Reporting of KPI's on Disk, Memory and Processor Counters"

www.toolzz.com/?p=715

"Screencast: System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 – Service Level Dashboard part 2 Installation"

blogs.technet.com/b/matthewms/archive/2009/11/24/screencast-system-center-operations-manager-2007-r2-service-level-dashboard-part-2-installation.aspx

"Monitor Mission-Critical Apps with Service Level Dashboard 2.0"

xtravirt.com/monitor-mission-critical-apps-with-service-level-dashboard-20

"Configuring the Service Level Dashboard Part V"

scug.be/blogs/scom/archive/2008/10/22/configuring-the-service-level-dashboard.aspx

For information about Visio:

"Visio 2010 Add Ins"

visiotoolbox.com/downloads/addins/Visio_2010_Add-in_for_System_Center_Operations_Manager_2007_R2_961.aspx

"Visio 2010 Templates"

visiotoolbox.com/2010/templates.aspx

"Using the Visio Add-in for Operations Manager 2007 R2"

technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee342533.aspx

For information about Configuration Manager Dashboard:

"Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Dashboard"

www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=27fe0d80-38c6-464a-953a-1c2edcf35c2d

"Part 1: How Microsoft IT using Configuration Manager Dashboard?"

blogs.msdn.com/b/shitanshu/archive/2010/04/08/part-1-how-microsoft-it-using-configuration-manager-dashboard.aspx

For information about Service Manager Dashboard:

"System Center Service Manager 2010 Dashboard"

technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff758669.aspx

"Using the Service Manager 2010 Dashboard for Operations Manager"

blogs.catapultsystems.com/cfuller/archive/2010/12/11/using-the-service-manager-2010-dashboard-for-operations-manager.aspx

For information about Savision Live Maps:

"Taking Distributed Applications to the next level with Savision Live Maps"

www.systemcentercentral.com/BlogDetails/tabid/143/IndexID/75218/Default.aspx

"Taking Distributed Applications to the next level with Savision Live Maps – Part 2"

blogs.catapultsystems.com/cfuller/archive/2010/09/14/taking-distributed-applications-to-the-next-level-with-savision-live-maps-–-part-2.aspx

"How-to: Integrate Live Maps with Microsoft SharePoint"

blog.savision.com/livemapsblog.php/2009/03/18/how-to-integrate-live-maps-with-microsof-1