jmbrinkman

SCOM 2007 R2: Monitoring vSphere Shoot Out

In Operations Manager, Virtualization on November 1, 2011 at 20:52

Update: I’ve done a mini-review on SCVMM/SCOM 2012 and vSphere monitoring

We are a Microsoft shop. And a Vmware shop. We use SCOM to monitor everything and vSphere to host all our servers. So you can imagine how crucially important it is for us to properly monitor vSphere. With SCOM. Of course Virtual Center does a great job in giving us basic information about our hypervisor environment and the state of our virtual machines. But without the information about our applications SCOM provides and no real way to relate the two sets of data we really needed a way to get that information into one system.

Of course, there are other monitoring solutions, both for vSphere and for Microsoft applications. But we want to take advantage of our investment in SCOM and we firmly believe that SCOM is the best options to monitor  a 99% Microsoft infrastructure.

We were not the first facing this challenge. Because a challenge it was. We did our best to look at as many options as we could and in the end made a choice based on both functionality and price.

In this post I want to give a short overview of the solutions we looked at and give my personal opinion on each of them.

The contenders

In no particular order:

We also expressed some interest in a management pack created by Bridgeways, but they were very slow to respond to our request for a evaluation and once we got a response the amount of information we had to provide in order to evaluate the pack was so huge we decided it was not worth the effort.

Small disclaimer: we really did our best to give each solution a fair shot, however it could be possible that additional configuration or tweaking would increase the performance or the quality of the data. On the other hand we didn’t take into account how hard to was to actually get the solutions working – because the installation process (especially under Windows 2008) wasn’t always easy though nothing we couldn’t handle.

Round 1: What do they monitor – and how?

All of the solutions work through vCenter, with the exception of QMX which is able to monitor vSphere hosts directly through SNMP and SSH. I guess you could configure Jalasoft or even SCOM itself as a generic SNMP device or build your own sets of monitors and rules but in general you will still need vCenter as a middle man to monitor your hosts.

None of them consists of just a Management Pack – they all need a service running on either a SCOM server or a separate server with access to SCOM. Jalasoft and QMX are frameworks – so its possible to monitor other devices as well which makes it easier to digest that you need to add another component to your monitoring infrastructure – SCVMM could also be used to monitor Hyper-V or to manage vSphere and Hyper-V.

Jalasoft’s Smart MP monitors just vCenter. Hosts are discovered as part of the vCenter server but aren’t represented as separate entities. SCVMM monitors both vCenter, hosts and virtual machines however it will not give you any vSphere specific data such as CPU ready times, Memory swapping etc. During our tests a vSphere host failed and we had fixed the problem before SCVMM alerted us. QMX gives you an afwul lot of options – it can monitor vmware logs, syslogs on the esx servers, esxtop data (my personal favourite) and also give you the possibility to create custom filters on log files to trigger an alert if an entry matching the filter is logged. It also is aware of vCenter alerts en events but I didn’t find any monitor or alerts relating to DRS or HA.

Veeam monitors just about everything that makes vSphere vSphere. Also a lot of work has been put in the knowledge in the alerts as well – and the alerting is really quick and accurate. Therefore Veeam wins this round.

Round 2: Pricing

vSphere is expensive – period. And since vCenter has its own monitoring capabilities it could be hard to justify another large investment. As always its hard to define a ROI on solutions that mitigate risks if it is possible at all. QMX for vSphere is free. Extensions for other devices are not and are generally somewhat more expensive then other solutions (for instance for networking devices) – but I’ll talk more about that in round three.

With Jalasoft you pay per device. If you have one vCenter server, you pay for one device. SCVMM is a a part of the System Center Suite. If you have the proper agreement with Microsoft you get it for “free” once you’ve joined the dark side.

Veeam is so closely aligned with vSphere – they even have (or at least had with vSphere 4.*) the same pricing model. And the price per socket is quite high. But you could ask yourself – if proper monitoring, performance analysis and trend based alerting can increase my consolidation ratio I will be able to host more servers per physical host and need less sockets, less vSphere licenses and less Veeam licenses.

QMX is completly free – except for the OS license for the machine you host it on – so QMX wins this round.

Round 3: Vision, Tactics, Strategy..whatever

This round is about how the solution fits in a management or monitoring vision. So the outcome is going to be very subjective. But hey – when vendors talk about a journey to the cloud they are talking about just that – a vision or even a paradigm if you want about how to manage infrastructure to properly deliver services to users.

If you are virtualizing your infrastructure you are consolidating. So one thing you don’t want to do is to introduce a monitoring server sprawl. Despite the name the current incarnation of the System Center Suite is not at all an organic whole. Still using SCVMM makes sense, especially if you also use Hyper-V in your environment – but you would still need to check vCenter regularly as well because otherwise you are going to miss crucial information about the state of your environment.

Jalasoft and QMX are frameworks. QMX also gives you the possiblity to extend System Center Configuration Manager and has the broadest support for other non-Microsoft platforms and devices. Jalasoft is very network oriented but has a great integration with another add-on to SCOM, Savision LiveMaps.

Veeam – as described in the previous rounds – is very vSphere oriented. It does vSphere, it does it very well, but you will still need something of a framework next to Veeam and SCOM to monitor the other layers of your infrastructure such as your SAN storage or your network.

I put my faith in the frameworks. And I think its inevitable that a solution like Veeam will be built by either Vmware themselves or one of the vendors that offer a monitoring framework at some point in the near future. This round goes to QMX because of the integration with SCCM and the support for just about any non-Windows platform or application out there.

So the winner is..and some final thoughts

I think QMX is the best option available today if you are looking for a solution that is very configurable, affordable and has enough promise for the future to justify investing time and money into making the framework part of your monitoring infrastructure. But….

  • There are other options – vKernel has quite a nice toolset and claims to connect to SCOM – I will be testing that soonish
  • SCVMM 2012 is said to prvoide better vSphere integration and SCOM 2012 is said to have improved network device monitoring. I will look at those two in detail as well and report back with my findings.
  • You could build your own MP – you get get all the relevant data from vCenter using Powershell and SNMP gets and traps
  • SCVMM 2008 has a nasty habit of setting custom properties on your virtual machines – but you can us Powershell (isn’t that ironic) to get rid of those properties – for more info : VCritical article
  • Since Powershell and vSphere are so compatible I’m really surprised that I haven’t found a solution based on just Powershell to link SCOM and vSphere together.
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  1. Hi, have you look on to SCOm 2012? May i know which one do u prefer, maintaining the SCOM 2012 for monitoring the Moxa switches and Cisco or buying QMX. we do have SCOM 2012 and would like to enhance it buy buying QMX but then QMS network part (MOXA and Cisco) has no difference in what SCOM SMNP does. Please advise.

    • Hi,

      We face the same dilemma ourselves ( cept we have Avaya switches) at the moment – personally I’m inclined to stick with scom 2012 and see what we build to augment it if needed.

      Once I’m done testing I’ll post an update to this post with my scom 2012 findings.

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