SCOM 2007 R2

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Scom 2012 Design for a serviceprovider.

Posted by rob1974 on October 24, 2013

In the last year we’ve created a (high level) design to monitor an unlimited amount of windows servers (initial amount around 20.000). However, halfway during the year it became clear that this  company decided to on a new architecture all together. Not only SCOM 2012 would become obsolete in this architecture, also offshoring monitoring would make Marc and me obsolete (not to worry, we both have a new job). As i feel it’s kind of a waste of our work i’ll blog the 2 things that I feel were quite unique in this design.

There’s still a SCOM 2007 environment running designed for around 10.000 servers. We’ve designed this as a single instance and it is monitoring 50+ customers. Those customers were seperated by scoping on their computers (see our blog and/or lookup the service provider chapter in operations manager 2012 unleashed). However, we never reached 10.000 servers due to a few factors. The first was the amount of number of concurrent consoles used. The number of admins needing access will increase with the amount of servers you monitor, however the “official” support numbers of Microsoft will decrease the number of concurrent consoles with the number of supported agent (50 console with 6000 servers, 25 with 10.000 server). Now this isn’t a really hard number, but keep adding more hardware will just shift bottlenecks (from MS to DB and from to disk I/O to network I/O) and of course the price of hardware goes up exponentially.

The second issue we had, we had to support a lot of management packs and versions. We supported all Microsoft applications from windows 2000 and up. So we didn’t only run, Windows 2000, 2003 and 2008, but all versions for DHCP, DNS, SQL, Exchange, Sharepoint, IIS etc, etc. Some of the older ones still are the dreaded converted mp’s, some of which we had to  fix volatile discoveries ourselves. By the way, I’ve been quite negative about how Microsoft developed their mp’s and especially the lack of support on them, but the most recent mp’s are really done quite well. MS keep that up!

In the new design we’ve used a different approach. We decided not to aim for the biggest possible instance of SCOM, but to go to several smaller ones, plotted initially over different kind of customers my former company has to support. Some customers only needed OS support, some OS + middleware and others required monitoring of everything.

Based on our experience we decided to create only one technical design for all the management groups and have a support formula for the number of supported agents. Keep in mind this is not set in stone; it’s just to give the management an estimate about the costs and insight in the penalty for keep adding new functionality (mp’s) to the environment. All the management groups were still to hold more then one customers, but one customer should only be in one management group to be able to create distributed applications (automatic discoveries should be possible).

This is what we wrote down in the design:

The amount of agents a management group can support depends on a lot of different factors. The performance of the management servers and the database will be the bottleneck of the management group as a whole. A number of factors influence the performance e.g. number of concurrent consoles, number of management packs, health state of the monitored environments.

When a management group reaches it thresholds a few things can be done to improve performance:

1. Reduce the amount of data in the management group (solving issues and tuning, both leading to less alerts and performance data).

2. Reduce the console usage (reduces load on management servers and databases)

3. Reduce the monitored applications (less management packs).

4. Increase the hardware specs (more cpu’s, memory, faster disk access, more management servers).

5. Move agents to another management group (which reduces load in terms of data and console usage)

We’ll try to have 1 design for all management groups, so the hardware is the same. However the number of management packs is different in each management group. To give an estimate how this affects the number of supported agents per management group we’ve created a support formula.

The formula is based on 2 factors, the number of concurrent consoles and the number of management packs[1]. The health of the monitored environments is taken out of the equation. The hardware component is taken out as well but assumed to be well in line with the sizer helper of SCOM design guides from Microsoft. With less than 30 consoles and <10 monitored applications/operating systems the sizing is set to 6000 agent managed systems (no network, *nix or dedicated URL monitoring).

The tables for penalties for the number of consoles and managements packs and the resulting formula are given below. Please note, the official support limit by Microsoft for the number of consoles is set to 50.

consoles penalty (%) management packs penalty (%)
0 0 0 0
5 0 5 2
10 0 10 4
15 0 15 7
20 0 20 11
25 0 25 16
30 0 30 23
35 2,5 35 32
40 5 40 44
45 7,5 45 60
50 10 50 78
55 30 55 85
60 50 60 90
65 95
70 97
75 99

Number of supported agents = (1-mppenalty/100)*(1-consolepenalty/100)*6000

This results in the following table with shows the number of supported agents.

horizontal = concurrent consoles

vertical = number of management packs

<30 35 40 45 50 55 60
0 6000 5850 5700 5550 5400 4200 3000
5 5880 5733 5586 5439 5292 4116 2940
10 5760 5616 5472 5328 5184 4032 2880
15 5580 5441 5301 5162 5022 3906 2790
20 5340 5207 5073 4940 4806 3738 2670
25 5040 4914 4788 4662 4536 3528 2520
30 4620 4505 4389 4274 4158 3234 2310
35 4080 3978 3876 3774 3672 2856 2040
40 3360 3276 3192 3108 3024 2352 1680
45 2400 2340 2280 2220 2160 1680 1200
50 1320 1287 1254 1221 1188 924 660
55 900 878 855 833 810 630 450
60 600 585 570 555 540 420 300
65 300 293 285 278 270 210 150
70 180 176 171 167 162 126 90
75 60 59 57 56 54 42 30

Again we never put this to the test. But those figures resulted in our goals for this design. One management group for OS monitoring to hold 6000 servers, one for middleware to hold around 3500 and full blown monitoring for monitoring of around 2000 servers in one management group. Please note our first remark about tuning and solving alerts, those things are still very important for a healthy environment!

The next part that made our design stand out is the ability to move agents or actually entire customers from one management group to another. Now this is of course always possible, but we wanted to do this automated and keep all customizations if applicable. The reasons for such a move would be sizing/performance of the management group, mp support (e.g. the customer starts using a new OS, which isn’t supported in mg he is in), contract change with the customer (e.g. from OS support to middleware support or the other way round).

In order to be able to keep all customizations we’ve created a mp structure/naming convention:

jamaOverride<mpname> = holds all generic overrides to <mpname>. This mp is sealed and should be kept in sync between all management groups holding the <mpname> as it contains the enterprise monitoring standards

jama<customer>Override<mpname> = holds all customer specific overrides to <mpname> and/or a change to the generic sealed override mp. This is of course unsealed as it holds guids of specific instances.

jama<customer><name> = holds all specific monitoring rules for a customer and DA’s. This is not limited to just 1 mp, normal distribution rules should apply. In other words don’t create a big “default” mp but keep things grouped based on “targets” of the rules/monitors.

Now when we need to move a customer we can just move an agent to a new management group and import all the  jama<customer> mp’s in that mg. Of course this is only applicable if the new mg supports the same mp’s as the old one. jamaOverride<mpname> should already exists as it just contains enterprise wide overrides to classes. The jama<customer>Override<mpname> would contain specific instances. However specific instances get a guid on discovery. If you remove an agent and reinstall and agent you get a new guid, so the overrides wouldn’t apply anymore. Fortunately SCOM supports multihoming and one of the big advantages is cookdown. Cookdown will only work when the same scripts are using the same parameters, so this means that the agent’s guids must be the same when multihomed as that guid is a parameter for many datasources.

To make sure the guid is kept, a move between management groups needs to use this multihoming principle and a move would become: Add an agent to the new management group, make sure all discoveries have run (basically time/maybe a few agent restarts) and finally remove the old management group. Because this is a relative easy command (no actual install) the add and remove can be done via a SCOM task (add the “add new mg task” to the old mg and the “remove old mg” to the new mg).

Again we never built this and we don’t expect to be as smooth as we described here (always some unexpected references in an override mp :)), but hopefully it is to some use to someone.

[1] 1 management pack equals 1 application or OS. E.g. windows2008 is counted as 1 management despite it are 2 management packs in scom (discovery and monitoring).

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Configure Custom Service Monitoring, an alternative method.

Posted by rob1974 on June 12, 2012

We are running SCOM in a “service provider” solution. When you do this you want to have standardized environments and tune everything in a generic manner. However, our main problem is every customer is different and has different requirements. Simply changes like disk threshold or setting up service monitoring for specific services on specific computers can be quite time consuming. Also, it can have a big impact on performance of the environment (a simple override to one Windows 2008 logical disk gets distributed to all Windows 2008 servers!).

Of course, we could have authors and advanced operators for to do this job, but there’s no way of auditing on changes or forcing advanced operators to use certain override mp’s only. We’re convinced this will lead to performance issues and dependency problems because overrides will be saved everywhere. So we believe this can only be done by a small amount of people, who really understand what they are doing.

To counter this we use an alternative way for setting overrides for common configurations and overrides. We create a script that reads a registry key for a threshold value to use or as I will show in this blog a configuration value. An example of a threshold value: we’ve created a disk free space script that uses a default value (both % as an MB value), but when a override is present in the registry it will use that value instead. The registry override in turn can be set with a SCOM task with just normal operator rights (you can restrict task access for operators in their SCOM profile so not every operator can do this). The change is instant and without configuration impact on the SCOM servers.

Now to the service monitoring example of this principle. What we’ve done is create a class discovery that checks for a certain registry key being present. If it is present it will target 1 monitor and 1 rule to that class. The monitor runs a script every 5 minute and checks the registry key for service names. Every service name is this registry key will be checked for a running state. If one or more services aren’t in a running state the monitor will become critical and an alert will be generated. When all services are in a running state again, the monitor will reset to healthy and close the alert.

By running a task from the windows computer view you can setup the monitoring for the first time:


Overriding the task with the service name (not the displayname) will add the service to the registry.


When the discovery has run the found instance will be visible in the jama Custom Service Monitoring view and more tasks will be available. When it really is the first service it might take up to 24 hours before the instance is found as we’ve set the discovery to a daily interval. But you can always restart the system center management service to speed up the discovery.

The new tasks are:

– Set monitored service. Basically the same tasks as the one available in the computer view, just the target is different. It can add additional services to monitor without any impact on the SCOM backend and this service will be monitored instantly as the data source will check the registry each run.

– List monitored service. Reads the registry and lists all values.

– Remove monitored service. Removes a service from the registry key and delete the key if the service was the last value. When the key is deleted the class discovery removes the instance next discovery run. Overriding the key with “removeall” will also delete the key.

– The “list all services on the computer” task doesn’t have real value for this management pack, just added for checking a service name from the SCOM console.

See below for some screenshots of the tasks and health explorer.


Task output of “List monitored services”:


The health explorer has additional knowledge and show which services have failed through the state change context:





So what’s the benefit of all this:

– The SCOM admins/authors don’t have to make a central change, except for importing the management pack.

– The support organization doesn’t have to log a change and wait for someone to implement it, but they can make the change themselves with just SCOM operator rights (or with rights to edit a registry key on a computer locally) and it works pretty much instant.

– From a performance view the first service that is added will have some impact on the discovery (config churn), but additional services don’t have any impact.

However, there’s still no auditing. We’ve allowed this task to what we call “key users” and we have 1 or 2 key users per customer. This could give an idea of who changed it when you’d set object access monitoring on the registry key.

The performance benefit for this monitor is probably minimal. However using this principle for disk thresholds gives a huge benefit as that’s a monitor that is always active on all systems and overriding values through a registry key on the local system removes all override distribution (I might be posting that mp as well).

When you want to checkout this mp, you can download the management pack jamaCustomService here. I’ve uploaded it unsealed, but I recommend it to seal it if you really want to put this to production.

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Website monitoring, another gotcha!

Posted by rob1974 on February 13, 2012

Recently I had an issue with website monitoring in a SCOM demo environment. I had configured a website test (through the template) every 2 minutes. I had created a DNS zone hosting the FQDN for this website. Then I paused the DNS zone and waited for the HTTP test to fail. I expected the HTTP test to fail and have an alert in SCOM within 2 minutes. However, after 10 minutes I had nothing… Not really what you want when you do a live demo.

So what was happening here? Some of you might already got it, it’s DNS caching of the client running the HTTP test. So how to stop this? Well there are 3 things you can do.


1. Default the DNS Client service will be started on a windows machine. Simply stopping the DNS Client service and the caching will stop (dns queries will still resolve).

2. Increase the frequency of the HTTP test. Anything more than 15 minutes will do…

3. Decrease the default cache time for the queries to something less than your test frequency.


As I was giving a demo, option 2 was not an option for me. But I would seriously thing about this when I do website tests in production. Obviously service level agreements should play a part in this, but a delay of max 30 minutes on a SLA of 8 hours would definitely be acceptable for me.

Option 1 was no option either. Beside caching the dns client service also registers domain joined hosts in dns, so not something I would recommend either. Besides caching helps performance wise, not sure if I ever wanted to disable this.

So left with option 3, but how to do this? In HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\Dnscache\parameters create the DWord MaxCacheTtl (and MaxNegativeCacheTtl if it’s not already on 0 with “NegativeCacheTime”) and give it a value of below the frequency of the website test. For a 2 minutes test I used a value of 90 (seconds).


Normally I think option 2 will be the best to go for. No use to run tests more than you would need to. However if you have a dedicated host for running website tests and you run those tests more often than every 15 minutes, consider reducing the max. cache time of the dns client.

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SCOM’s “un-discovery”. What doesn’t work here… And how to correct it.

Posted by rob1974 on January 26, 2011


SCOM’s main benefit of monitoring imho is it’s ability to discover what is running on a server and based on that information start to monitor the server with the appropriate rules. When you follow Microsoft’s best practices you’ll first perform a lightweight discovery to create a very basic class and have the more heavy discoveries run against that basic class. This is pretty good stuff actually. it helps quite a lot for the performance of an agent as it will only run heavy discoveries if the server has an application role and never run on servers which have nothing to do with that application.

However, I’ve recently found out a drawback with this 2 step discovery, which I can probably explain the best with a real world example:

Discover the windows domain controllers on “windows computers” (the management pack from where this discovery runs in is an exception. usually it’s in the application mp itself; apparently MS thought of domain controllers being basic info. similar discoveries for workstation and member servers can be found in this mp as well). For this discovery a wmi query is used to determine if the “windows computer” is a domain controller as well (SELECT NumberOfProcessors FROM Win32_ComputerSystem WHERE DomainRole > 3; if this returns something, it’s a dc)


When it is a “windows domain controller” it will run a few other discoveries to determine more info.image

Just by looking at the classes you can imagine it’s not really lightweight anymore.


So far so good, on all my windows computer I run a simple query and if that query returns something SCOM will also run a script that founds more interesting stuff about the DC.

But here’s the catch with this kind of discovery. Suppose I don’t need a certain DC anymore, but I still need to keep the server as it’s running some application I still need to use and monitor. What will happen? The lightweight discovery will do its job. It will correctly determine that the server is not a “windows domain controller” anymore and as a result it won’t run the script-discovery anymore.

You might ask, why is that bad, we didn’t want that, did we? Yes you are correct, we didn’t want to run this discovery against servers that aren’t DC’s, but SCOM doesn’t unlearn the discovered classes automatically. Because this discovery never runs again SCOM never unlearns this server doesn’t have the “Active Directory Domain Controller Computer Role” anymore. And this is the class that is used for targetting rules and monitors. So allthough SCOM knows the server isn’t a “windows domain controller” anymore, it still is monitoring the “Active Directory Domain Controller Computer Role”. This will result in quite a lot of noise (script errors, ldap failures, etc).

For now, there’s just a workaround available. You will need to override the 2nd discovery for that particular server. As the first discovery doesn’t include this server as an object of class, you can’t override the discovery for a “specific object of class: Windows Domain Controller”. You’ll need to create a group and include the server object. Then use the override the object discovery “for a group…” and choose the group you’ve just created.


What’s the point of disabling a discovery that didn’t run anyway? Well now you can go to powershell and run the “Remove-DisabledMonitoringObject” cmdlet. This will remove the discovered object classes for this discovery and all of the monitoring attached to those classes.

Discoveries make SCOM stand out from other monitoring tools, but it needs to work both ways. Finding out this took me about 1 day. And that’s just 1 issue with 1 server (DNS was also installed on this server and had the same issue). Loads of servers might change role without me knowing about it and when it’s not being reported to me I’ll just have extra noise in SCOM. I’m just not sure if this can be picked up within SCOM itself or that the “un-discovery” needs to be done by the mp’s logic. For the AD part it needs to be picked up by Microsoft anyway, but if the logic is build in the management pack then it will have an impact on all the custom build mp’s by all you SCOM authors out there.

Posted in general, management packs, troubleshooting | 3 Comments »