Why Upgrade to SCOM 2016 – A Review of New Features and Capabilities.

Chiyo OdikaOpsMgr, SCOMLeave a Comment

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In this article, I’ll highlight, in no particular order, some of the new features in SCOM 2016 that are garnering a lot of attention, and hopefully make a compelling enough case for you the current SCOM Admin, you the curious Admin, you who lies in desperate need of a well-thought out SCOM, and you the former SCOM Admin/user sworn off SCOM and riddled with a thousand critical and crippling assessments of the erstwhile painful to use and implement versions of this paragon of monitoring beauty to actually give it another look…and no SCOM and OMS are not mutually exclusive. Au contraire!

And so here it goes…

Maintenance Mode scheduling from Monitoring Pane and from Clients

Maintenance mode in SCOM enables you to avoid any alerts or errors that might occur when a monitored object, such as a computer, database, cluster, etc. is taken offline for maintenance. Maintenance mode suspends the following features: (SOURCE: TechNet)

  • Rules and monitors
  • Notifications
  • Automatic responses
  • State changes
  • New alerts

SCOM 2016 extends the on-demand placement of monitored objects into maintenance mode that existed in previous versions of SCOM, and provides you with the ability to define schedules aligned with your service or maintenance windows, and automatically place monitored objects into maintenance mode at a future time of your choosing. With this new capability, you can now: (SOURCE: TechNet)

  • Schedule maintenance mode at a future time daily, weekly, or monthly.
  • Choose different classes of entities and groups to put to maintenance as a part of a single schedule.
  • View all the maintenance mode schedules from a single screen.
  • Schedule multiple jobs for the same monitored entity.

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Furthermore, SCOM 2016 supports the placement of a monitored object into maintenance mode directly from the computer itself, without the need to use the Operations Console. This can be performed with the new PowerShell cmdlet Start-SCOMAgentMaintenanceMode. For more information on required configurations for initiating maintenance mode on target Windows computers, and on creating maintenance schedules, see detailed information on this new feature on TechNet.

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Alert Data Management

SCOM 2016 includes a new and sorely needed alert data management capability that enables you to get better visibility and intelligence about the alerts being generated in your management group. Next to maintenance mode scheduling, I find this to be the other most important new feature in this release. This new capability will greatly serve to facilitate the alert tuning process which is critical to deriving the utmost utility from SCOM as a monitoring platform. SCOM Admins can now spend less time on sifting through monitoring data and more time on deriving useful and actionable insights from the alert management data provided out of the box with SCOM 2016.

This feature provides the following benefits: (SOURCE: TechNet)

  • Identify the number of alerts each management pack has generated.
  • Identify the number of alerts generated by a monitor/rule with in each management pack.
  • Identify different source/s (along with alert count) which have generated an alert for a particular type of alert.
  • Filter the data for the desired duration so that you can understand what was happening during a particular period of time.
  • This information enables you to make informed decisions on tuning the thresholds or disabling the alerts which you consider noisy.

This feature is available for members of the Operations Manager Administrators role from the Tune Management Packs screen in the Operations console.

There’s now an entire section in the Administration workspace in the SCOM Console dedicated to tuning management packs as seen below.

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You can select any of your installed management packs, and begin to tune alerts sans the need for arduously-sourced script-generated reports and excel spreadsheets and what not. Is that a beauty or what?

 

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Management Pack Updates and Recommendations

Do you recall how the recommended (contentious perhaps) practice for MPs for the longest time was to source then from the TechNet Wiki Page which was assiduously updated, and maintained by the SCOM community, well no more. With the new Management Pack Updates and Recommendations, you can now perform all management pack update-related tasks from a single pane, yes you Operations Console! Microsoft has now added a new capability to Operations Manager to assess the management packs. SCOM 2016 includes a new feature called Updates and Recommendations, to help you proactively identify new technologies or components (i.e. workloads) deployed in your IT infrastructure that were not monitored by Operations Manager or are not monitored using the latest version of a management pack.

You can now view all installed management packs, status and date/ time of last update, as well as perform actions such as get management packs and view DLC page to access the MP guide or documentation. Applaudissements s’il vous plaît. Spot on Microsoft!

For more information about Updates and Recommendations see the TechNet section about this.

 

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Email Notifications with external authentication

SCOM 2016 supports sending notifications from a messaging system, either within the organization or outside the organization and supports the use of a Run As account to authenticate with an external messaging system.

To view this capability, navigate to the Administration Workspace in your SCOM Console, select Channels under Notifications, right click Channels and create a New Email (SMTP) Channel. In the resulting E-Mail Notification Channel window, click on settings and click the Add button. In the resulting Add SMTP Server window, enter you’re the FQDN of your SMTP Server (internal or external messaging system), designated port number, and click on the Authentication method drop down to select the authentication type, including External Email Authentication.

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Improved SCOM and Operations Management Suite Integration

(SOURCE: TechNet)

With Microsoft Operations Management Suite you can extend your management capabilities by connecting your Operations Management infrastructure to management and analysis services provided through your Azure account. The main scenarios for connecting System Center 2016 – Operations Manager to Microsoft Operations Management Suite include:

  • Configuration Assessment
  • Alert Management
  • Capacity Planning

For more information please review the Microsoft Operations Management Suite Operations Management Suite documentation.

 

New Cross-platform Devices Monitoring Capabilities

(SOURCE: TechNet)

Operations Manager includes improved scalability in how many Unix/Linux agents that can be monitored per Management server. You can now monitor up to 2X the number of Unix/Linux servers per Management server, against the previously supported scale.

Operations Manager now uses by default, the new Async Windows Management Infrastructure (MI) APIs instead of WSMAN Sync APIs. To take advantage of this scalability improvement, you will need to create a new registry key “UseMIAPI” on Management servers monitoring Linux/Unix systems by performing the following steps:

  1. Open the Registry Editor from an elevated Command Prompt.
  2. Create registry key UseMIAPI under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Microsoft Operations Manager\3.0\Setup.

If you need to restore the original configuration of WSMAN Sync APIs, you can delete the UseMIAPI registry key.

  • New Management Packs and providers for Apache HTTP Server and MySQL/MariaDB database server monitoring.
  • The Operations Manager agents for UNIX and Linux include Open Management Infrastructure (OMI) version 1.1.0. OMI is now packaged separately (in a package named omi) from the Operations Manager agent providers (in a package named scx).
  • Shell command and script rules and monitors are multi-threaded in the agent and will run in parallel.
  • New UNIX/Linux Script templates have been added for:
    • Two-state monitors
    • Three-state monitors
    • Agent tasks
    • Performance-collecting rules
    • Alert-generating rules

These templates allow you to copy and paste a monitoring script into a template for simple integration with Operations Manager monitoring. The script can be shell, perl, Python, Ruby, or any other script language with a corresponding interpreter specified by the script’s shebang.

  • Recovery and diagnostic task templates are now available to create recovery and diagnostic tasks with shell commands and scripts
  • Default credentials can now be used when discovery UNIX and Linux computers with the Discovery Wizard or PowerShell
  • Discovery of logical disks (file systems) for UNIX and Linux agents can be filtered by file system name or type. Discovery rule overrides can be used to exclude file systems that you do not wish to monitor.

 

Now on to other feature updates/ capabilities that aren’t quite frenzy-generating, but are important nonetheless.

Monitoring Nano Server and workloads

(SOURCE: TechNet)

In the System Center 2016 – Operations Manager release, Microsoft included support to monitor Nano Server:

  • Discover a Nano Server and push Nano-compatible agent to the server from the console
  • Monitor Internet Information Services (IIS) and Domain Name System (DNS) roles
  • Supports ACS security audit event collection
  • Support Active Directory Integration for managing agent assignment
  • Deploy the Nano-compatible agent manually using a PowerShell script included in this release
  • Manage updating the Nano-compatible agent directly from the console as you do today with the Windows agent, or manually on Nano Server using a PowerShell script included in this release

For specific instructions on how to configure System Center 2016 – Operations Manager to monitor Nano Server, see the TechNet article on Monitoring Nano Server.

Extensible network monitoring

(SOURCE: TechNet)

In System Center 2016 – Operations Manager, Microsoft includes a tool which will allow you to create a custom management pack to monitor generic network devices (non-certified as of Operations Manager 2012 R2) and include resource utilization metrics, such as processor and memory. Or you can create extended monitoring workflows for an existing network device already monitored by your management group. This tool enables customers to generate a management pack for their network devices to get extended network monitoring. In addition to the current extended monitoring support for Network devices (Processor and Memory monitoring), this tool enables customers to add monitoring of additional device components such as fan, temperature sensor, voltage sensor and power supply.

Non Silverlight Web console

Note: Dashboard views are still Silverlight-dependent.

With the release of System Center 2016 – Operations Manager, Microsoft has removed the Silverlight dependency from all the Web console views except Dashboard views. This feature provides the following value:

  • No more Silverlight prerequisite to access Operations Manager Web console
  • Operations Manager Web console can be accessed from multiple web browsers like Edge, Chrome and Firefox
  • Improved Performance experience

Improve desktop console performance

Note: I haven’t tested this empirically, but will take Microsoft’s word for it.

With the release of System Center 2016 – Operations Manager, Microsoft has made performance improvements to state and diagram views in the Operations console to improve load performance (these improvements are in addition to the alert view optimizations).

Partner Program in Administration pane

Customers can view certified System Center Operations Manager partner solutions directly from the console. Customers can obtain a view of the partner solutions and visit the partner websites to download and install the solutions.

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Chiyo's expertise spans multiple platforms. He holds Microsoft Private Cloud, and Server Infrastructure certifications, and avidly enjoys working on deployments of Microsoft's Server and Cloud Platforms, including Microsoft Systems Center, Windows Server, and Microsoft Azure.

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Chiyo OdikaWhy Upgrade to SCOM 2016 – A Review of New Features and Capabilities.