Microsoft’s recent acquisition of BlueStripe is an area of extreme interest for people who live and breathe in the Microsoft monitoring space. This acquisition has been the subject of several articles including:

I also reference the BlueStripe acquisition in the whitepaper which I recently released which is available at https://www.savision.com/resources/white-paper/mvp-cameron-fuller-is-opsmgr-still-relevant-in-the-cloud.

This acquisition raises some interesting questions about whether this type of functionality will be included in the next release of Operations Manager. At this point there is no indication one way or the other with regards to this topic but the potential value add to Operations Manager is too important to ignore. This acquisition could be a key building block to provide monitoring that changes as your application changes.

This blog post will focus on showcasing how you can utilize a variety of technologies to automatically discover your applications and then in turn how these applications can be turned into Business Services which are then able to be visualized in dashboards. The main discussion sections for this blog post are:

  • Operations Manager, Distributed Applications and Dynamic Groups
  • Savision & membership rules
  • Notes from installation and configuration of the PetShop sample application
  • Using Operations Manager to perform synthetic web transactions
  • Notes from installation and configuration of BlueStripe
  • How to configure BlueStripe to synchronize applications to Operations Manager and dynamically update them
  • Notes and a trick when using BlueStripe to build business services for Operations Manager How to configure Savision Live Maps to dynamically update distributed applications
  • How to utilize the Dashboards by Savision product to showcase these Business Services

Please note, the goal of this blog post is just to showcase how a simple application can be discovered by BlueStripe, integrated with Operations Manager and then integrated into Business Services and dashboards. I am not a BlueStripe expert (or a .NET expert, or a lot of other things) so the information contained in this blog post may be intuitive to people who work with the product on a daily basis.

 

Operations Manager, Distributed Applications and dynamic groups

Distributed Applications:

Operations Manager includes pre-built distributed applications for Microsoft products such as Active Directory, Exchange and SharePoint. When these management packs are loaded they will automatically identify the appropriate components within the distributed application. These applications can in turn be integrated with Savision to provide dynamically updated dashboards (see the “How to configure Savision Live Maps to dynamically update distributed applications” section of the blog post for details on how to enable this functionality for existing distributed applications. So in your quest to create dynamically updating business services you may not have to re-create the wheel for pre-built management packs provided by Microsoft.

Dynamic Groups:

Additionally, groups can be used in Operations Manager which update based upon the criteria which you define. See the following articles for examples of how groups can be used in OpsMgr:

These groups in turn can be used to help to build your distributed applications. See these blog posts for examples:

 

Savision & membership rules

Savision has the capabilities of dynamically determining the members of a dashboard through defining membership rules. The following was announced at Ignite: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/savision-debuts-new-live-maps-unity-features-at-microsoft-ignite-2015-502417561.html

Enhanced Membership Rules   Live Maps has long provided membership rules allowing you to create services and dashboards that automatically update as your IT environment changes.  We’ve added even more advanced ways to create membership rules so that your Live Maps Unity services and dashboards stay up to date without any manual intervention.”

An example of how these are configured are shown below with the Active Directory service membership items:

End User membership:

Infrastructure membership:

So when looking at how to create your business services to automatically update, test out the built-in functionality in Savision to see if that will cover your requirements. If not, then the rest of this article showcases how you can accomplish business services which automatically update through BlueStripe combined with Savision.

 

Notes from installation and configuration of the PetShop sample application

To monitor a dynamically changing application I needed an application which could be discovered. For this I went with the Microsoft PetShop 4 application available for download at http://blogs.technet.com/b/serverappv/archive/2011/04/26/sequencing-petshop-4.aspx. For issues that I ran into during this installation I recommend https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa479071.aspx?f=255&MSPPError=-2147217396.

The big lessons that I learned during installation of this application are as follows:

  1. The installation doesn’t install the website, it just gives you the source for the website. You need to create and configure the website for the PetShop application.
  2. SQL authentication is required. If you install into an existing SQL instance make sure that either both forms of authentication are enabled or at least SQL authentication.
  3. Run it as administrator (open a command prompt as administrator for the installation).

Once the PetShop application is installed you should be able to browse it and see something similar below:

 

Using Operations Manager to perform synthetic web transactions

Now that we have a web based application for us to monitor we want to generate some traffic to that website. To perform this we can us Operations Manager and configure either a Web Application Transaction Monitor or a Web Application Availability Monitor (which I chose).

By configuring Operations Manager to perform a synthetic transaction against this website we gain two primary benefits:

  1. We know it’s online and how it is performing.
  2. We are generating traffic to the website so that it will be active and it will be able to be discovered by BlueStripe.

We also gain a side benefit from this which I will explain later in this blog post.

 

Notes from installation and configuration of BlueStripe

With the acquisition by Microsoft, the BlueStripe software is currently not available for download unless you are an existing customer. Luckily, my organization had already been working with BlueStripe so we already had the software available.

Once you have installed BlueStripe components (InstallBlueStripeFactFinderMS and InstallBlueStripeFactFinderConsole) you will want to install the BlueStripe collector on the systems that you want to automatically discover from (InstallBlueStripeCollector-Windows).

Next launch the Fact Finder console (note, the default credentials are “admin” and “bluestripe” which is available in their documentation).

From the App Center you can identify any applications that you want to monitor. Please note that these applications must be running in order for them to be identified of course.

If you find the applications that you want, add them to your App Dashboard to make them easier to locate.

Next we can change the application properties by right-clicking and choosing App Properties.

By renaming these applications they will be easier to identify as we integrate them into Operations Manager and dashboards.

After the rename the application names are easier to identify both in BlueStripe and in what we will be sending to Operations Manager.

In Fact Finder you can identify some very interesting information on the application as shown below:

Or on servers which you have installed the collector you can also gather some excellent detail information:

The screenshot below shows the processes tab for the machine details.

 

How to configure BlueStripe to synchronize applications to Operations Manager and dynamically update them

Under tools choose Administration.

You will need to configure the connection to SCOM under SCOM Integration with the server version, server name, user name, password and domain.

Next go to the Export option and choose which applications to export to SCOM. Add the applications that you want to export to the right-hand side and set the Export Update Period.

Save the settings and wait a few minutes for the application information to be added into Operations Manager. Once the export has been configured correctly in BlueStripe you see the addition of a series of folders in Operations Manager as shown below:

An example of these views is shown below for the PetShop FrontEnd:

As an interesting side benefit to this form of monitoring, we can see not only the IIS website but also the fact that System Center Operations Manager is actually performing synthetic transactions against the website. The screenshot below shows how this looks when more detail is opened on the left side of the view (this was the additional benefit I mentioned earlier in the blog post about using Operations Manager itself to perform synthetic transactions against the website.

We also see these new applications as part of the Distributed Applications view in Operations Manager:

We can also open these up in health explorer, performance views, state views, or the diagram view as shown below.

 

The following are the management packs which are added when BlueStripe is configured to export information into Operations Manager:

As changes occur in the applications which are exported to Operations Manager the BlueStripe FactFinder Application Views management pack changes (shown below is the management packs folder for the Microsoft Monitoring Agent in the Agent / Health Service State folder).

 

Notes and a trick when using BlueStripe to build business services for Operations Manager:

Business services which are discovered by FactFinder will automatically change when FactFinder discovers these changes and exports them to SCOM. This ability to automatically update when an application updates is the key benefit and the reason I have written this blog post detailing the steps involved.

You can also manually add a SCOM object to the imported FactFinder distributed application. As an example, you could add a web perspective like the one that I created in this blog post which tests the PetShop front end to the distributed application which FactFinder has populated into Operations Manager. The screenshot below shows the results of adding new items to the dynamically updating Business Service in the Savision authoring console: (note how the second column for End User Service Properties now has a green checkmark indicating that the components in that section are healthy).

And we can drill down into the Business Service to see what components were added to the distributed application:

This is done by adding objects in the Savision authoring console. These objects can be directly added like in the example below:

Memberships can also be added dynamically by using a membership rule like the one shown below.

 

How to configure Savision Live Maps to dynamically update distributed applications

Now that we have our dynamically created distributed applications from BlueStripe we can integrate these with Live Maps to provide dashboards and Business Services around these applications. A good article describes the high level steps for this which is available at: https://www.savision.com/resources/blog/new-features-live-maps-unity-dynamically-updating-services.

To do this we open the Savision Authoring console and choose the option to “Import Distributed Application”.

From here we select our distributed applications and choose the flag on the right to auto update the distributed application.

Once we have imported the distributed application we can update the interval that Savision will update the service as shown below from the General tab of the service.

Within the various tabs we can see what objects exist in what areas such as on the Infrastructure tab:

If we open the Operations Manager console we can see that the business services which were identified by BlueStripe are now visible within the all services dashboard:

 

How to utilize the Dashboards by Savision product to showcase these Business Services

Now that we have our applications automatically updating we can create a HTML5 based dashboard which displays this information using Dashboard by Savision (https://www.savision.com/scom-dashboards). To see your business services in Dashboards by Savision, open the dashboard and choose the Services Overview option (highlighted below).

The screenshot below shows our PetShop applications in the services overview.

Which we can expand to show a more compressive Service Map.

 

Reference Links:

BlueStripe Links:

PetShop Sample Application Links:

OpsMgr related links:

Savision Links:

Summary: The integration from BlueStripe to Operations Manager and from Operations Manager to Savision provides the potential to design distributed applications which will update their monitoring as the application is updated. Hopefully this example will provide a basis for other applications and usages in the future! I owe thanks to Dennis for insights on how to integrate Savision with distributed applications, Tony N. for help getting the PetShop application working, and the crew of Operations Manager alpha geeks that I have the pleasure of bouncing ideas off of!