Guest Post: 10 Top Tips to Make OpsMgr 2012 Rock!


imageKevin Greene, (System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP), has been working in IT since 2000. He has held roles such as IT administrator, senior engineer and technical team lead and is now currently working for Ergo based in Ireland, as a Senior Consultant focusing on cloud and datacenter management technologies.

Kevin is an active member of the online System Center community and is the user group lead for the System Center User Group in Ireland. He is also a co-author of the recent “Mastering System Center 2012 Operations Manager” book and lead co-author on the upcoming “Mastering Windows Server 2012” book.

Introduction

System Center 2012 - Operations Manager (OpsMgr) can be a pretty big and complex product to get your head around at the best of times but these 10 Top Tips will help you get the most out of your deployments. These tips are a mixture of recommended OpsMgr best practices and also some ‘notes from the field’ based on my experience as a System Center consultant and are listed below in no particular order of favouritism.

Get the SQL Collation Right

When installing OpsMgr, one of the prerequisites is to ensure that the SQL Collation setting of your SQL database instance is configured with the correct collation for your language. An incorrect SQL Collation setting can be the root cause of empty reports, missing alerts and random data insertion problems. Changing the SQL Collation setting of an already built SQL instance is a non-runner and you will have to build a new instance with the correct collation and then move your databases, so you can see why it’s important to get this right first time! If you’re deploying OpsMgr using the English language, then the correct SQL collation to use is: SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS. For more information on SQL Collation settings for OpsMgr and System Center 2012, check out this post.

Upgrade to SP1

Service Pack 1 (SP1) for OpsMgr brings with it a number of really cool enhancements such as Global Service Monitor, new dashboards and visualisations, support for IIS 8 and Application Performance Monitoring (APM) of SharePoint 2010 to name a few. If you haven’t upgraded yet to SP1, then check out the step-by-step process in this post to get you up and running in no time!

Join the Community

Apart from the vast amount of management packs available from Microsoft and other vendors, there’s a whole ecosystem of free management packs and tools to choose from that have been created and shared by the extended OpsMgr community. You can get access to these resources through sites such as SystemCenterCentral.com and MyITForum.com as well as from the many blogs and user group sites on the internet.

Use Separate Management Packs for Overrides

When carrying out alert tuning and modifying thresholds in your OpsMgr environment, its best practice to always save your customisations into separate unsealed management packs that are associated with each sealed management pack that the original alert was raised from. For example, if you’re making a change to an alert generated by the Windows Server Management Pack, then save it into an unsealed management pack named something like ‘Windows Server Management Pack Overrides’. If you stick to this methodology, then it will make it much easier to identify the location of and manage all your changes (modify/backup/delete etc.)

Configure Anti-Virus Exclusions

A key performance blocker of OpsMgr is when Anti-Virus applications are configured to run their on-access scanners without any exclusions in place for the OpsMgr program directories. Review and implement the list of anti-virus exclusions that Microsoft recommend for OpsMgr in this article and you will ensure that your management servers and agents perform optimally.

Understand Maintenance Mode image

Maintenance Mode is a feature in OpsMgr that doesn’t get used by administrators half as much as it definitely should. It enables you to place an object into maintenance mode which essentially disables monitoring of that object for a specified period of time. This can be particularly useful when you have planned downtime of your servers to facilitate updates and patching cycles. Apart from the fact that an object placed in Maintenance Mode doesn’t generate any noisy alerts about reboots or downtime during these periods, it will also go a long way to ensuring that your SLA’s are represented with real-life values and planned downtime has been taken into account. You can learn more about Maintenance Mode from the official TechNet link here. If you want to be able to place groups of objects into Maintenance Mode in OpsMgr 2012, then take a look at this excellent blog post from Pete Zerger on how to do it with PowerShell.

Deploy Distributed Applications

If you’re not using Distributed Application modelling inside OpsMgr then you’re definitely missing a trick. With Distributed Applications, you can group all of the components that make up your different IT services (Messaging, Active Directory, Networking, Virtualisation etc.) into a single entity that has its own health state (Green for Healthy, Yellow for Warning and Red for Critical) and ensure that you manage those services in the same way that your end-users consume them. Get started with and learn more about Distributed Applications from this link.

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Download Boris and Daniel’s OpsMgr tools

Every OpsMgr admin or consultant should be aware of the excellent MPViewer, OverrideExplorer and ProxySettings tools that Microsoft’s Boris Yanushpolsky originally created for OpsMgr 2007. Daniele Muscetta gave these tools a reboot to work with OpsMgr 2012 and has made them available for free to anyone who wants them! I use at least one of these tools every time I deliver an OpsMgr project and you can download them from this blog posting.

Check out Kevin Holmans SQL Query Post

It goes without saying that as OpsMgr is built on an SQL platform, you should have some SQL Kung-Fu in your repertoire. With the right SQL query, you can create your own custom dashboards, build new reports and reduce administration time. If creating your own SQL queries isn’t your cup of tea, then take a look at Kevin Holman’s excellent ‘Useful Operations Manager SQL Queries’ blog post here. This is probably one of the most popular OpsMgr blog posts on the web and is applicable to both OpsMgr 2007 and OpsMgr 2012. Once you’ve finished reading that post, take a look through the rest of his blog as it contains a wealth of information on OpsMgr.

Read the Books, MP Guides and Technical Docs

Microsoft don’t currently have any official books available on OpsMgr 2012 but there are two excellent books available to purchase that have been written by a number of System Center MVP’s that are a must-read to help you get the most out of your OpsMgr deployments. You can get more information on these books from here and here.

Before you import a management pack (MP) into OpsMgr, make sure to download its associated guide and read it through from front to back! Every management pack comes with its own guide and the information inside contains essential information on how to fully deploy and maximise its monitoring potential.

I’d also highly recommend that you download and review the official technical documentation for OpsMgr 2012 which can be accessed here as it contains a wealth of information that will prove invaluable to you when configuring or troubleshooting your deployments.

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