August 19, 2015
Is SCOM going to get better...?
Do you have an idea or suggestion based on your experience with SCOM?
We sure do.
You may well have seen Microsoft’s recent request for users to submit their ideas and suggestions for SCOM via the System Center Ops Mgr UserVoice forum http://systemcenterom.uservoice.com/forums/293064-general-operations-manager-feedback/filters/top.
We've been very interested in the repsonses; as you'd expect, there’s a lot of valuable feedback in there and a lot of interesting and difficult challenges for Microsoft to deliver which, let’s be fair, is no easy feat.
Looking at things with our Squared Up hat on – which is of course our one and only hat – we thought we’d run through the requests that might be relevant for us.
We pride ourselves with being in touch with what users really want, not just retrospectively but proactively, not by asking fixed questions but by listening to what they have to say on an on-going, day-to-day basis, so we can anticipate what they’d really like to see, hopefully before they even know it themselves.
That’s certainly what we’ve tried to do in the four years since we started Squared Up and it’s an approach that informs everything we do here.
So, we thought we’d run through a few of the most popular items and see how they fit into a Squared Up world.
Firstly, way out in front as the most popular item, with twice as many votes as the second most popular and three times as many as the third is;
We don’t really think we need to linger on that one too much.
We might just pause to pick out one comment here which, to be honest, sounds a bit like it’s a Squared Up plant but, honestly, it’s not;
“I would also add that it should include reporting and the ability to create dashboards that can be embedded into SharePoint online etc”
HTML5 console that includes full performance reporting and the ability to easily publish unlimited, embeddable dashboards in SharePoint? Where have we heard that before?
Garry, we don’t know who you are, but we definitely think you’ll like Squared Up.
Jean Vjan also commented that; “SCOM already does a pretty good job at monitoring, but a poor one at rendering the information!”
We’d agree with that, but go further and say that SCOM actually does a fantastic job of collecting the data - which it’s able to do in enormous breadth and depth - and that it’s best thought of as a hugely powerful, extensible, data collection and monitoring platform that requires cutting-edge data visualisation and UX on top of it in order for ordinary users (ie. not just the SCOM admin but the rest of the IT team and their bosses too) to truly take advantage that power and consume the data in a helpful, meaningful way
Number two on the list of requests is;
A way to reset monitors automatically when alert is closed
As is evident from the popularity of the request, this touches on a pretty common / significant problem which, in short, is that operators are able to simply close alerts without addressing the root cause of the issue and/or resetting the monitor that set off the alert in the first place.
In practice, this means that alerts simply get closed (ie. ignored) but the underlying problem isn’t fixed and so quickly flares up again and/or causes much more significant problems.
To be honest, in our opinion simply resetting monitors when alerts are closed wouldn’t actually be a great solution, as you’re still left with the problem that an operator is able to close the alert (ie. ignore it) and automatically reset the monitor, but unless the actual issue is addressed then it hasn’t gone away and both the monitor and the alert are going to flare up again anyway.
You know what we think might be kind of neat? How about a warning for operators when they try to close an alert to let them know that the alert will in fact automatically close when the monitor returns to a healthy state?
Even better, why not make it easy for them to reset the monitor too, whilst also warning them that the monitor will simply raise the alert again if the underlying condition still exists (ie. if the problem is not addressed)?
You could probably do a bunch of other nice stuff, like making sure the context of the alert is easily visible, as are the relevant thresholds and any overrides, but now’s not the time to go into that.
Let’s instead move onto another popular request;
Provide fast Web-based Dashboard-functionality
Jon Runheim has some wise words here;
“The web presentation layer for this must be more appealing and fast-loading (2-5 seconds) as it is to be viewed at executive meetings. Having this online and available would make SCOM invaluable and the no 1 source for this data from their perspective”
Given that Squared Up clearly provides all that and much more, the point we wanted to pick up was that this “would make SCOM invaluable and the no 1 source for this data from their perspective”, because that is very much our intention.
Squared Up is about much more than solving a few point problems within SCOM, it’s about showing how the power of the SCOM data collection platform, when combined with cutting-edge UX, can transform it from a little-loved tool, typically seen by non-SCOM engineers as a spam engine and not much more, into an absolutely invaluable daily operations tool. Not only that, but we believe this combination can be the unifying monitoring and operations solution within an enterprise.
We’ll be talking about that in much more detail later this year but, for now, it’s enough to say that it’s this wider vision that informs our outlook, strategy and, above all, product development.
However, if we continue to look at some of the smaller issues, we see a number of other popular requests that Squared Up has already addressed;
Easy way to fetch the list of rules and monitors applicable for a server in SCOM
That’s a good idea. How easy would you like? A one-click export to Excel maybe?
Make company knowledge editable using a modern version of Office / Windows.
Something like an in-line HTML editor for Company Knowledge perhaps? And one that no longer puts the burden of having to choose which MP to store company knowledge in on the user adding the knowledge (who typically doesn’t know anything about SCOM MPs)?
Prevent Management Servers to be put into Maintenance Mode
Yes, we do that too and we're sure you get the idea by now.
There’s still lots of other feature requests in the forum, but as they’ve only got a couple of votes by them at the moment, let’s call time on the feature run-through there.
Let’s instead talk about how we see Squared Up fitting into this picture.
We know that many of you would like to see these issues addressed within SCOM itself, but ultimately that’s not something we can help with and perhaps you will indeed see these feature requests taken up and delivered by Microsoft.
However, until then, Squared Up has already done the work of reinventing the SCOM user experience for your ordinary users / operators, allowing you to instantly deliver a first-class enterprise IT monitoring solution that can be immediately adopted right across your IT team.
What’s more, whilst we’ve fixed a lot of minor annoyances within the SCOM user experience – like auto-closing alerts for examples – our real commitment has been, and will continue to be, to deliver outstanding additional value on top of the SCOM data platform through first-class UX and data visualisation.
Furthermore, we’ve long been conscious that some users might want to wait to see what Microsoft has to offer in this area, so we’ve deliberately designed a commercial strategy and technical architecture that fits in with that.
As such, rather than being an expensive CapEx purchase, Squared Up is an inexpensive, affordable, annual subscription, with clear pricing available online.
Similarly, rather than being a heavyweight, disruptive technology, Squared Up is lightweight and totally non-disruptive. You don’t need any professional services to get up and running, you don’t need to master a complex new technology stack, you simply need to download, spend 10 minutes configuring access to your SCOM deployment, and you’re away, with full HTML5 web console access to SCOM, from any device, right out of the box. We're also fully integrated with the authentication methods you're using and we use SCOM Role Based Access Control, so you don't have any additional layer of user management / administration.
Squared Up also has no SCOM footprint; we don’t introduce any new databases or even any new Management Packs and there are no new dependencies; it's a simple, drop-in install of an IIS web app. If you decided to trial Squared Up and not ultimately deploy it (although we’d be surprised if you would), all you’d have to do is uninstall it, and that’s it.
Even if you’d been running Squared Up in production for a year and then decided not to renew your subscription – let’s say because Microsoft had delivered everything you wanted and more in a web console experience – you’d simply uninstall Squared Up and that’s it, no disruption, no changes to your underlying data, no changes to SCOM.
That’s why Nagender Vedula, who has the lengthy title of Principal Program Manager, System Center and Services, Microsoft, but can more straightforwardly be described as the 'head of SCOM', says;
“Squared Up is a natural and seamless extension of Operations Manager’s capabilities, providing fast, fluid access and rich operational dashboards.”
So, for all these reasons, we think deploying Squared Up and revolutionising SCOM for your users should be a no-brainer.
The user experience and features you want are there, the time to get up and running is minimal, the cost is affordable, you can trial it in full in your own environment and you’ll have no long-term commercial or technical commitments. You can even see it in action live, just by clicking this link - http://demo.squaredup.com
And, as a little cherry on top, you don’t even have to talk to a sales guy (unless you actually want to) - https://squaredup.com/pricing/
We now four years into our evolution as a company but, as far as we’re concerned, we’re just getting started.
That means you can expect to see lots of developments from Squared Up over the next year and our message is loud and clear; we’re absolutely committed to delivering additional value on top of the SCOM platform and you can look forward to lots more innovations to come from us.
On that note, there was one last request in the forum that caught our eye
Dashboards templates and flexibility - Provide more flexible/easy ways to create fast dashboards
and to that one, we’ll simply say, watch this space...