I could go on for days about SCOM and the URL monitoring and how it needs to be improved. Honestly.. it kinda sucks. So here I will attempt to describe what I think is wrong with it and how I work around it. The items in bold below are what I feel like are failures in the way this was designed.
Also I am not writing this as strictly a “how to monitor a web app” post, there are already plenty of those. This is just about the changes required to make this useful. Here is a good article with the basics on setting up a web application monitor in SCOM.
To begin with, you will need to figure out what you need to monitor. In many cases it is simple enough to pull up the main page of a website and as long as it comes up, is in a reasonable timeframe, and is giving an HTTP status code of 200, you’re OK. This sort of monitoring is useful, but you can do so much more in order to get a lot more out of it. What I like to do is get the devs to code you up something special through some sort of bribery or blackmail. In our case what they did was define 5 business processes, for example “make a payment” and create a page that does the back end work of making that transaction but also the other end of the work which is cleaning up after itself. What you will get in the end isn’t exactly user experience, but it’s a good way to track the ongoing performance of a process relative to itself, and it’s a very good up/down indicator. Since we have dev environments as well, I have those on a development scom server, and I have the below web monitoring in place there as well in the first production like environment. This allows our QA folks to compare state and response time and see if the environment is working before they release code or start a test, but also they can see the impact of the new code by comparing response times from before and after the code release.
- Once you have your URL’s, it’s time to get to work.
Create a web application monitor and give it your URL. The problem with those default settings is that by default you are only logging the transaction response time and not alerting on it. From an alert standpoint, there is no timeout for your web request, matter of fact, the only thing SCOM will tell you out of the box is just if it was eventually able to pull up a URL as long as it doesn’t have an HTTP response code > 400. This default setting is not useful!
To fix this, what you want to do is add response time criteria like this.
Because of a problem with the service level dashboard that I will explain later, I only put one HTTP request in each web application monitor. This brings me to a little UI weirdness here because you can also set response times in the “configure settings” for the specific URL pull like this.
I always leave this performance criteria blank because I can see the other one easier and get more out of it. This one here just seems redundant.
- Seeing the data
Now once you gather some data you will want to, well, see what’s going on. In order to do this, create a new performance view in the monitoring console and scope it to “collected by specific rules”, and then you get to go manually pick your rules. This is where Microsoft fails again, because the list of rules is not searchable and they all have arbitrary names. For web requests I figured out they are called “Performance Collection: Transaction response time total for Name of web app monitor”. like this screenshot.
Now that you have done that, you will be able to see a nice blank performance chart with some stuff to check.
Now when we pick one, we get a pretty graph like this.
This brings me to my next issue with all of this.. it’s that the performance chart settings are user specific.. meaning I cannot create a view of any sort that contains performance information and have the counters checked already. No matter which ones I put in, and it doesn’t matter if you are using a performance view or even a dashboard view that contains a performance view, those have to be selected every time. This is a pain!
This also means that if you wanted to say, get fancy with a URL to a specific view, you cannot just create one of these and have folks click the link and end up at a pretty performance chart with the counters already checked. The fact that you cannot do this is a serious limitation with SCOM, IMO.
- setting up alert parameters (what you cannot change)
You will likely have to play with the values a bit in order to get them not to false alert. And this brings me to my next problem with SCOM web monitoring, it’s that you cannot change anything about how it samples other than where it is from (what host) and how often it samples. What I would love to do is be able to say “only alert when two consecutive thresholds are exceeded”, but that’s not an option. We get a lot of failures at night during our backup window that cause a single transaction to go out of SLA, and we get alerts based on that. As a result, we have to set our thresholds for response time to the highest level it could possibly be so that we aren’t false alerted every night, but this makes it so high that the alerting becomes less useful during the daytime. As of now I do not have a workaround for this.
- stopping duplicate alerts
When you do get your first alert you will see that two are sent.. one for the URL pull and one for the aggregate monitor on the web application monitor. This doesn’t really make sense to me why this would be set up this way at all, so let’s fix it.
Start by right clicking on one of the alerts and open the health explorer for it. Expand it out and you will see something like this.
Each of the red lines has an alert set up for it, and the lower one for the actual request rolls up into the web application one. In my mind the web application one is redundant, so I am going to disable it. Right click, choose “monitor properties”, go to alerting, and uncheck it.
Now you will receive one alert instead of two.
- useful alert details
Of course the text of the alerts isn’t useful at all out of the box (it doesn’t tell you if the URL failed for time, SSL, http response, or anything). I am using this article as a basis for fixing this, but I don’t have it totally worked out yet. This will continue to require some further tweaking.
This post ended up being longer than I intended (there’s a lot to fix) so I am going to break it up into two parts and get the service level dashboard stuff into a 2nd post.