There were several announcements during TechEd North America 2014, but of particular interest to me was that of the System Center Advisor (now Azure Operational Insights) preview.
UPDATE: System Center Advisor is now a part of the new Microsoft Azure Operational Insights.
With the recently-announced Public preview, Microsoft introduces Operational Insights Intelligence packs, unveils a new Operational Insights Portal based on HTML5, and introduces a powerful new search feature that allows you to combine and correlate machine data from multiple sources within your environment. The intelligence packs are powered by the Operational Insights search functionality to bring you metrics that pivot around a particular problem area, and the new portal makes for a rich and consistent experience across multiple device platforms including mobile, tablet and desktop.
In this post I’ll talk briefly about methods for setting up Microsoft Azure Operational Insights, the new Azure Operational Insights features, and expand on the onboarding steps for the Preview.
About Azure Operational Insights
Before I delve into details about the new Azure Operational Insights features, an overview of Microsoft Azure Operational Insights is in order. Azure Operational Insights is a cloud service hosted in Microsoft Azure that regularly draws from identified best practices for configuration and resource usage to analyze the configuration of Microsoft servers in your environment. Operational Insights collects data from your environment, analyzes the data, and generates alerts that identify potential issues with the configuration of servers in your environment.
If you are a user of the current version of System Center Advisor, and this all sounds familiar, you’d be interested to know that in addition to enabling you to review configuration changes and assess the impact of such changes to the servers in your environment, the Azure Operational Insights preview, includes other features that will enable you to:
- Collect logs from multiple data sources and machines
- Manage your datacenter capacity
- Combine, correlate and visualize your machine data
- Know your malware status, and ensure that your servers have the latest updates
Azure Operational Insights also provides both current and historical views of the configuration of servers in your environment. With the preview, additional add-ons in the form of intelligence packs, will enable you to manage the capacity of your server infrastructure, update servers with system updates, understand relationships of data in server log files, protect servers with antimalware, and manage security risks with security assurance. Azure Operational Insights recommendations will ultimately help you avoid configuration problems, reduce downtime, improve performance, and resolve issues faster.
How to Use Azure Operational Insights
You can use the Azure Operational Insights Service in one of two ways. The first way is through a stand-alone Installation. This method will require you to install the Operational Insights Gateway as well as setup the Operational Insights agents on your servers. In this scenario, the Operational Insights agents will communicate with the Operational Insights Gateway which in turn talks to the Azure Operational Insights service.
The second method of using the Operational Insights Service is by leveraging your existing System Center Operations Manager (OpsMgr) infrastructure with the built-in Advisor connector, and using Azure Operational Insights as an attached service. This method enables you to extend the value of Azure Operational Insights to OpsMgr. When you use Azure Operational Insights with OpsMgr, the agents communicate with the management server, which in turn talks to the Azure Operational Insights service. This is the method that I will expand on for the preview. It’s important to note that new features in the preview require System Center Operations Manager 2012 SP1 or R2 .
The Azure Operational Insights Preview Onboarding Steps
Detailed onboarding steps for both current and new users can be found at the preview site. The steps below are meant for New Users, and will serve to walk users through the onboarding steps.
The high-level steps for setting up the Azure Operational Insights preview include:
- Get an Organizational or a Microsoft account
- Grant access to your Organizational account
- Update your environment
- Connect to Azure Operational Insights
- Sign in to the Azure Operational Insights Preview
Get an Organizational or a Microsoft account
If you opt to use a Microsoft account, you can use any email address as the user name for your new Microsoft account.
Grant Access to your Organizational account
If you opted for a Organizational account in the previous step, you will need to grant Operational Insights access to your Organizational account. Access is automatically granted to Operational Insights with a Microsoft account. Navigate to the following URL to grant Operational Insights access to the Organizational account which you set up in the previous step
Regardless of the account type you opted for, you should receive an email confirming that permission to access data has been granted to Azure Operational Insights.
Update Your Environment
You will need to install and run the latest Update Rollup. The update you will apply depends on the version of OpsMgr that you are running. At this time, for OpsMgr 2012 SP1, you will need the Update rollup 6 or KB2929885. If however you are running OpsMgr 2012 R2, you will need the Update Rollup 2 or KB2929891. You will need to apply the updates to both your management server and agents that will be configured for data collection with Operational Insights.
To verify that the requisite updates have been applied, open the properties of the HealthService.dll file, and check the version. If you are using OpsMgr 2012 R2, The version should show 7.1.10195.0, indicating that the Update was successfully applied.
The HealthService.dll properties before the update rollup shows an older version.
The file version reflects a successful update after the update rollup is applied
Connect to Operational Insights
The next step is to connect to Operational Insights.
In Operations Manager, click Administration.
- Under Administration, select System Center Advisor, and then click Advisor Connection.
- Click Register to Advisor Service.
- Sign in with your Microsoft or Organizational account.
- Create a new Advisor account or choose an existing Advisor account.
- Under Actions, click Add a Computer/Group.
- In the Computer Search window, click the drop down to select Windows Server or All Instance Groups, and then add the servers that you want data collected from, and click OK.
In the Administration pane, select System Center Advisor, and click on Advisor Managed to view your selected server objects
After Connecting to Operational Insights, let’s now sign in to the Azure Operational Insights Preview. Navigate to the Azure Operational Insights Preview page and choose Sign in at the top of the page.
Click on the account type that you set up for accessing Operational Insights.
Click on the account type that you set up for accessing Advisor.
You will now be able to view the Operational Insights Account(s). Select the account that you would like to use to access Operational Insights.
Next you will be presented with the option of the Advisor Version to use as well as a comparison of features between the 2 versions. You should select the Advisor Preview option. Click on Try Preview to select the Advisor preview version.
You will get logged into Operational Insights, and arrive at the Main Overview Page as shown below. The main overview page is comprised of a set of tiles that represent specific scenarios. The Configuration Assessment and Log Management tiles will be visible upon signing in for the first time. You will also notice that the tiles contain no information initially. These should start to populate with some information based on the existing configuration.
After a while, some information should start to populate in the Configuration Assessment tile. Also, from the main overview page, you will notice that there are several tabs on the left side of your screen, with the topmost being the Overview tab. The other tabs, from the top are respectively for:
- Configuration: Current Snapshot
- Configuration: Change History
Each tab presents you with the relevant information about the servers in your environment.
The Alerts tab will show you alerts that have been generated by Advisor to identify potential issues (such as missing security patches etc.) as well as configurations and usage trends that do not conform to identified best practices
The Configuration: Current Snapshot tab shows you configuration information for the Agents that have been configured for data collection. You can click on the server drop down to view configuration information for your various agents.
The Configuration: Change History tab will present information about configuration changes for the servers that you configured for data collection in Advisor.
The Servers tab shows you information about the servers in your environment, including agent information, and reporting status
The Users tab will enable to you to review the general account settings for System Center Advisor, as well as manage user account access to your Advisor Account. You can add new users, remove existing users, and modify permission levels for users associated with your Operational Insights Account.
The Search tab allows you to tap into and use the powerful search feature which lies at the core this preview. The search feature allows you to combine and correlate machine data from multiple sources within your environment. More on this later.
My focus in this part of the blog post is on introducing Operational Insights and walking through the preview on boarding steps. In the next part of this blog post, I will go into greater detail about the available intelligence packs and the scenario tiles that are visible from the main overview page. In the meantime, do sign up for the Microsoft Azure Operational Insights preview, get a feel for the product, and provide some feedback to the Product team through the available channels. They’d love to hear from you. Cheers!
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