21 June 2016 blogs Bob Cornelissen 8 min read
Most of the SCOM monitoring deployments I have seen have started with either one of the IT Managers or one of the IT specialists of a company pushing the project, and the resulting implementation ends up being limited to the IT island. However, there is an alternate approach you can try in order to make your SCOM deployment a success.
What are you going to need?
Think about a serious monitoring project you want to run for a medium to large size implementation. Whether you are an IT Manager, System Admin, Project Manager, Project Member, or Consultant, you want to build a meaningful monitoring solution. This should include:
- A monitoring infrastructure you can depend on. A few machines for databases and management servers with preferably high availability.
- Monitoring of base infrastructure components. Hardware, operating systems, virtualization layer, storage, network.
- Middleware applications. For example, SQL and IIS.
- IT related apps. AD, DNS, File Services, Exchange, SharePoint.
- Business applications. Core business apps like those needed for “production”, sales apps including web presence, HR and so on.
Implementations vary in sizes, however, it doesn’t matter what size it is, you will need to invest in order to get a good monitoring solution. It does not matter which monitoring solution you are actually building. In this case, I will relate this article to Microsoft SCOM.
To start with, you will need hardware (even if it is virtual hardware), software for the operating system and the monitoring solution, add-on software to extend the monitoring solution, human resources and time/effort. As you know the saying: “Time is money”, and so are the other items you need. You need a project budget to do this!
Where is the budget?
As previously indicated, in many companies the IT department seems as though they are an island. They are not visible enough to be seen as being a true part of the business. If you are in this situation, what can you do about it if you want maximum support for your project? Connecting with the business is very important if you want to make the monitoring and the IT department step out of their island. If you want your IT department to be seen as adding value to the company and its business processes, you have to involve the business (Managers and App Admins).
You have to ensure that they obtain valuable and relevant information about what is going on, which can be presented on dashboards that gives them insights they need. Even those that are not directly involved in details of the application or how it works, however they will still want to know what went wrong and where to look or who to communicate with. All these rolls back to the highest Managers, like Board of Directors and CEO/COO/CFO since they are required to be on top of things and stay in control.
You also have to consider the company structure. Who are usually budget holders and influencers: CxO level Managers, Board of Directors, IT Managers, Company Business Unit Managers. If you only have the support of the IT Manager, this might mean it is hard to get enough budget together to build your solution.
How to go about it?
Monitoring is one of those areas where we have a good chance to bring IT and the business together, which, in my eyes, is how it should be. Next to an IT champion, what you need is a business champion for your project. Try to find out if there is a need from the company to monitor business applications or services. The need should be there already; it is about getting in touch with the right people. If you can convince them to participate in a Proof of Concept (POC) with a business service, to be combined with and implemented within your monitoring project, this will be your entry point.
Once the monitoring environment is built up, and you add both IT services: such as Exchange and a business application, like an ordering website or server based back-end application, you can show the combined value of what you are building. Make sure you are showing those parties involved what you are building; not only when you are finished.
It’s also important to be able to have intensive contact with one or more of the Application Administrators of the services you are building the monitoring for, and to keep them involved in the process. They know how the application works and on which servers / databases/ websites/ Windows Services/ etc., the service relies on. This is the main source of information that is needed in order to build the monitoring solution. It will allow you to display the information in dashboards so that it is clear to the other stakeholders within the company.
The goal is to provide an insight of how the monitored components work together to provide the business service for diverse stakeholders within the IT department (Managers, Service Desk, System Admins, Specialists) and to the business departments involved for this service (Managers, Application Specialists, the users of the service involved) and the Managers responsible for how the business runs. Of course, not everybody involved needs to understand every technical piece of the puzzle. However, this will make clear that several pieces of the puzzle are in monitoring and dashboarding, and this gives faith that those who are supporting the service are able to pinpoint problems before, during or soon after an issue occurs. At the end, it is a valuable thing to do root-cause analysis and find out how a broken piece relates to the service, and who is impacted.
A while ago, I was doing a project for a company in the healthcare industry. They were building up to several migrations related to their main business service system and surrounding systems. They were also building a new desktop solution, thus they needed to have these components in monitoring. We found that the existing monitoring solution needed to be re-created with the basic IT services monitored. So did the required company business services integrated at the moment of the big migrations.
The request was based on a request by IT Management, but the important part was the combination with the main productivity and business service monitoring. During the migration, this became apparent when monitoring dashboards were used to keep track of the moving parts of the infrastructure and became visible to the Board of Directors. It was important for them to know the project was monitoring what was happening, which meant that the end-responsible people (the Board themselves) were in control.
For the next monitoring project at the same company, when it was time to extend the monitoring further across the infrastructure components, there was a new IT Management team involved. This IT Management team also understood the value of monitoring, therefore they decided to implement more dashboards for IT services and a Command Center (like a NOC). During this project, a Manager and an Application Admin from the business side were heavily involved. For this reason, a lot of business services went into monitoring and dashboarding, showing immediate value to the business. This way the monitoring provides added value to both the IT departments and the business departments involved. It brings more parts of the business together and lets them stay in control.
This is a great example how IT can be an integral part of the business by providing the monitoring components for both IT services and Business services. The combination of those have a significant impact that helps the company to stay in control of their main processes.
If you want to find funding to implement and run a successful SCOM monitoring project, I advise you to find both an IT Manager and a Business Manager to support your efforts. Start monitoring infrastructure components and the IT related services running on top of it. Implement monitoring for those services and servers which support the main business of the company! This gives added value to the monitoring project and is an ideal opportunity to bring the business and the IT departments together. Being in control and being able to respond quickly both actively and proactively to (potential) issues of supporting services, and providing insights in how and where these services are running is highly important. And one more thing: it is fun to monitor business services, because it makes monitoring come alive!
About: Bob Cornelissen
Bob Cornelissen is a managing consultant for BICTT in the Netherlands. Bob has been a System Center consultant, specializing mainly on Operations Manager for several years now. He has been a Microsoft MVP for Cloud and Datacenter Management specializing in monitoring solutions for 5 years .He can be found on the Technet forums for SCOM, and SystemCenterCentral. You can also check out his blog post here.