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How can SCOM help SysAdmins?
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How can SCOM help SysAdmins?

A large part of the work we do at Comtrade Software in developing our SCOM Management Packs for F5 and Nutanix is we speak to a number of SysAdmins. Interesting to note that many of the SysAdmins we speak with were aware of the enterprise monitoring solution used by the IT team within their company, but they didn’t see many, if any, benefits for themselves. We have even heard some SysAdmins believe that the SCOM team wants to take control over areas that have typically fallen within their responsibilities and be able to make configuration changes directly themselves.

The most challenging part of the discussion, as I see it, is to convince SysAdmins that there is nothing wrong with any SCOM team’s intentions. To make that clear, it is important to align first on the basics of IT team organization and its purpose by addressing a few of the following areas:

  1. Enterprise monitoring. Purpose of enterprise monitoring and SCOM team is to prevent issues before they affect end users and solve them quickly when they happen.
  2. Differences between monitoring and management solutions. SCOM is a cross-platform data center monitoring SCOM is not a management solution like F5 admin console or Nutanix Prism which are used for hardware and software administration and configuration.
  3. Understanding of SCOM MP configuration. SCOM Management Pack can be configured with read-only permissions to collect hardware and software data so, technically, in that case it is impossible for SCOM users to change configuration of production or any other environment.

Here’s also a practical way to look at the importance of collaboration between SysAdmins and the SCOM team when a specific business-critical application is not available or is working slow for an end user. In such situations, oftentimes a company is likely losing money and the application issue gets management’s attention pretty quickly. For the IT team this is just the beginning of the nightmare.

The story begins when an end user reports an application issue to the HelpDesk team (first line of support) which has the knowledge and tools required to solve most problems. Their knowledge base is built according to past experience and used when it comes to support calls. The majority of issues are usually solved by the HelpDesk team.

In the case where an application issue is complex or HelpDesk team has no solution, such requests are redirected to the Technical Support team (second line of support). First step of technical troubleshooting is usually isolating the component in the application delivery stack which is connected to the application issue. If there is no SCOM Management Pack that automatically identifies a component that causes an issue, it is very common that IT management organizes a meeting in some designated war room and invites people who can help isolate the issue (support team, application owner, networking team, people responsible for storage, virtualization, etc.).  Such meetings can take a lot of time and energy for all involved and the issues are not resolved until the component is isolated.

If SysAdmins are lucky and the components they own are not causing the application issue, they can leave the meeting. All others attendees are asked to continue troubleshooting until the issue is fixed.

All of this can be avoided if an IT organization is able to leverage SCOM Management Packs. They are designed to provide all required information needed to troubleshoot and pinpoint a root cause faster. However, if the IT organization is not using them, then the SysAdmin has to do all the work manually. And for large organizations, the size of the environment can influence the amount of time required to find and fix a particular issue. And, as we all know, time is critical in such situations.

So the ideal as a SysAdmin is to leverage what SCOM Management Packs have to offer. SCOM Management Packs will not only help SysAdmins do their own jobs better but also help to collaborate and communicate more effectively with the SCOM team. Because, at the end of the day, isn’t that what every organization wants to see?