Management Pack Authoring Options

Since the release of System Center 2012, there has been a bit of confusion about the authoring options to create your own management packs. The biggest problem with the System Center release was, that there were new authoring tools announced but they were not released until recently – a couple of weeks later after the System Center release.

The most frustrating part about authoring is to get started. First you need find out how to google/bing to get the Authoring toolset and then when you know, it’s still not easy to locate all your needed downloads. MS provides a great new Technet space with Wikis and Galleries, really a gold mine of information, but still, not easy to get all the tools for authoring.

So in the spirit of the famous “authoring Friday”, this post is my personal bookmark collection of all relevant downloads and tools needed for authoring. I will briefly discuss all the available options and hopefully this might be also helpful to get you started…

“Out of the box” – Authoring Options

Technically speaking, you do not really need authoring tools to create management packs. Two options are available without using any tools:

Authoring space in the Operations Console

Using the authoring space you can do a lot of things for your daily operational needs. You can create overrides, monitors or rules from a list huge list of available easy-to-use wizards. There are also a lot of monitoring templates which helps you to create more complex monitoring for Windows Services, Web Applications, TCP ports, etc.

Also see Technet’s Authoring Guide for SCOM 2012 for more information.

XML Editor / Notepad

Since a management pack is XML and basically just a matter of meshing up modules you can of course use an XML editor to create your own MPs. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a walk in the park and has a steep learning curve. Additionally this approach is error prone.

Also see MSDN’s Management Pack Development Kit for SCOM 2012 for more information.

 

The out-of-the-box option is a typical 80/20 (70/30 – you can argue about the exact ratio) solution provided by Microsoft. The offering is great and covers probably 80 (70 or whatever) percent of your needs but at some point you will reach the limit with the built-in options and need to look at different options…

 

Visio Management Pack Designer

When I first saw the Visio MP Designer I was initially kind of “underwhelmed” by it and thought more of it as a “toy” but after I’ve seen some demonstration, I have to say it’s an easy and great experience which will take MP development for certain scenarios to a whole new level. You cannot cover all the scenarios with the designer but if the functionality of the provided shapes are sufficient for your scenario, it’s a great way to create a monitoring management pack forSCOM 2007 R2 and SCOM 2012 (yes, the MPs created with the designer are compatible with 2007 R2).Before you install and use the Visio Management Pack Designer, make sure you have the following installed:

* To design an MP you can use Visio 2010 Professional but if you want to “compile” (create) the actual management pack XML you need Visio 2010 Premium. So working in a team doesn’t really require everyone to install the Premium edition, just the one who compiles the MPs.

When you’ve installed the above, go to http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=30170 and download the Visio MP Designer.

Here’s the official Wiki page for the Visio Management Pack Designer with a couple of examples:
http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/5235.visio-management-pack-designer-for-system-center-2012-operations-manager-en-us.aspx

I’ve been told that there’s also a way to create your own shapes but at this time there’s no example available on how to do it. The ability to create your own shapes will be very useful in the scenario where you have lots of in-house developed applications and application components. SCOM authors can easily just design an application architecture using the Visio designer based on their very own component shapes which include all the necessary monitoring logic.

Visual Studio Authoring Extension

For me personally this is the holy grail of MP authoring and I’m very happy what the awesome SCOM product team created here! Working with the VSAE (Visual Studio Authoring Extension) has the same requirements in terms of skillset and MP authoring knowledge as working with the Authoring Console or XML Editor but it has some really nice features and concepts which is more than helpful in most authoring scenarios. Have a look at Michel Kamp’s blog post about the top 10 reasons why the VSAE is awesome:http://michelkamp.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/10-reasons-not-to-use-the-visual-studio-authoring-extensions-vsae/Before you install the VSAE you need to have Visual Studio 2010 installed. Note that the Express editions of Visual Studio will not be supported! After you’ve installed Visual Studio 2010, download and install the extension here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=30169Here’s the official Wiki page for the VSAE:http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/5236.visual-studio-authoring-extensions-for-system-center-2012-operations-manager-en-us.aspx

Once installed you will notice that you are not only able to author SCOM management packs, you can also create SCSM management packs. A bit confusing is the newly introduced terminology:

  • Operations Manager 2012 Add-On Management Pack:
    is used to create management packs containing features only available on SCOM 2012 (like Dashboards or when you use the new network monitoring modules).
  • Operations Manager Core Monitoring Management Pack:
    is used to create monitoring management packs which will import and work correctly on SCOM 2007 R2 and on SCOM 2012.
  • Service Manager 2012 Management Pack:
    is used for Service Manager MPs. I will post a dedicated blog post about this.

As shown in the Wiki page linked above you can not only create new MPs with this beast, you can also import your existing MPs and let the VSAE slice your MP in all the elements for further processing.

Authoring Console (from SCOM 2007 R2 Authoring Resource Kit)

I’ve used the Authoring Console quite a bit in the past and you can find a couple of tutorials on my blog and on many other sites about how to use the authoring console. Seeing the authoring improvements in the VSAE, I’m not very sad that the good old Authoring Console will be a thing of the past. Don’t get me wrong, it was very helpful, it had a couple of serious issues but you can still use the console for MP development. It could be a bit tricky getting the MP references right but all the MPs created with the authoring console are still compatible and can be imported and used in SCOM 2012 management groups.The limit is quite clear here: features only available in 2012 (like Dashboards or the new network monitoring stuff) can not be utilized using the authoring console.The Management Pack Authoring Guide can be found here:http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee957010.aspx

The Authoring Resource Kit (containing the Authoring Console) can be downloaded from: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=18222

Summary

I know, I’m not going deep on either of the above topics but the sole purpose of this blog post is to provide an overview of the available authoring options for System Center 2012 Operations Manager. It should be a “Getting started”-kind of blog post. I hope it’s useful for you… Happy authoring!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s