Hot off the Press: Microsoft Data Protection Manager 2012 Book

Packt announced today that Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 book has been published.

This is the second book for me and I had the opportunity to work with some great people on it.

Here is the final cover:

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Overview:

Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 with Service Pack 1 is a guide for administrators of System Center Data Protection Manager. By the end of this book, users will be able to carry out automated installs, migrate DPM to new hardware, set up custom reporting, use the DPM central console, and implement offsite DPM strategies such as chaining,  monitoring, and cyclic protection.

In this book you will gain insight from Microsoft Most Valued Professionals into the new features in DPM 2012 along with an understanding of the core tasks that administrators will face, including installing and configuring DPM 2012, workload protection, and managing the system. It will also show administrators how to effectively create backups of the protected workloads and use these backups to recover from a disaster.

It will also contain information on backup networks, client protection, and how to automate tasks in DPM to make your job as an administrator easier.

What you will learn from this book:

  • Implementation of effective Backup Strategies
  • How to use DPM Central Console and SCOM to monitor DPM
  • Carrying out disaster recovery for DPM
  • Automation with DPM using System Canter Orchestrator along with PowerShell
  • Using DPM with workgroups and untrusted domains
  • How to perform common management tasks for DPM
  • Better tape management with DPM
  • Using client protection with DPM

The Team:

Authors:
  • System Center MVP – Islam Gomaa
  • System Center MVP – Robert Hedblom
  • System Center MVP – Flemming Riis
  • System Center MVP – Steve Buchanan
Technical Reviewers:
  • System Center MVP – Mike Resseler
  • System Center MVP – Yegor Startsev

Again a big thanks to everyone involved in this book!

You can order the book here:

 http://www.packtpub.com/microsoft-system-center-data-protection-manager-2012-with-service-pack-1/book

 http://www.amazon.com/dp/1849686300/?tag=packtpubli-20

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Free System Center e-books

Microsoft has released a bunch of free e-books. The list covers a wide variety of technologies. Some of interest me to are SharePoint 2013, Server 2012 and even a couple on System Center. There is a really cool Cmdlet Reference for App Controller and System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager.

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Click here to view and download the e-books.

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DPM as a Distributed Application in SCOM

In Operations Manager 2012 there is something known as a Distributed Application (DA). The purpose of a DA is to give you the overall health of an application made up of different multiple objects. DA’s pull in objects that are already being monitored by SCOM. An example of using a DA could be to provide the health of a web application that consists of backend databases and front end web servers. Both the backend databases and front end web servers are objects that are monitored separately but together make up the entirety of the web application. Monitoring these alone lets you know what the health is of each object but when one of the objects is in a critical state it does not always help put two and two together that these objects make up the components of the web application.

When an infrastructure has multiple DPM servers a DA can be used to get an overall health of your DPM as a service vs… the health of each DPM server through state views trying to track down the root issue. We are going to create a new name for our multiple DPM servers. We need to do this because multiple DPM’s brought together in a DA become a service. We are going to call this "DPM Service". DPM as a DA can be useful for quick spot checking of your DPM service health. Using a DA also allows you to connect relationships between the health of objects that make up DPM. For example you can see the health of disks in the DPM storage pool, tape libraries, SQL databases, protected servers and the DPM servers.

In this post I am going to cover setting up DPM as a DA using the Distributed Application Designer (DAD) and show what it looks like after DPM is a DA. There are a few items that need to be covered before you can setup DPM as a DA. These are:

  • You need to have DPM Central Console installed in SCOM.
  • All DPM servers that will be a part of your DA DPM Service will need to have the SCOM agent installed.
  • Create a custom management pack to store your new DA in SCOM.

Setting up a DPM DA using the Distributed Application Designer

In the SCOM console go to: Authoring.

Right click on Distributed Applications and select Create new distributed application.

The Distributed Application Designer (DAD) will open.

Enter in the information about your DPM Service.

The fields you will need are highlighted in the following screenshot.

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In the Template box, select the template for the starting point of the distributed application. Chose Blank (Advanced).

Choosing advanced is going to give us a blank template to work from and this is what we want.

Select your custom management pack that you made for this DA and click OK.

Now we need to create a couple of component groups. Let’s create the following:

  • Databases
  • Servers

On the top menu click

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Name your component group

select All Objects

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Now we need to add the objects that will be included in the component groups.

Let’s do a search for DPM. It will pull up all objects related to DPM.

Select the objects you want and drag them out to the appropriate component group.

For example select the DPM databases and drag them to the Databases component group.

Now drag the DPM servers to the Servers component group.

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Now click on

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Now with click on one of the component groups and create the relationship.

You can see this in the following screenshot.

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This is what you should see when it is all done:

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Here is an example of DPM as a DA that is more complex:

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I just wanted to show that we could add a lot of more objects and their relationships if we needed to see that at the top level of the DA.

However in this blog post we are going to stick to the simple DPM Service DA we created.

Viewing the DPM DA

Now that we have created the DPM Service DA let’s take a look at it in action.

Before we do here are some common uses for running DPM as a DA in SCOM:

  • Quickly see what agents are tied to what DPM servers.
  • Quickly see what storage or tape libraries are tied to what DPM servers.
  • Quickly narrow down issues.

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One of our DPM servers and it’s database is offline:

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We have healthy SharePoint Protection Group:

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We have a problem with our HP Tape library and our Exchange Protection Group:

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The following screenshot is an example of viewing the DPM service in the SCOM Web Console.

You will notice this looks the same as it does in the full SCOM console.

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Stay tuned for follow up posts on creating a Service Level Objective for the DPM Service DA and building out some dashboard widgets that encompass the SLA, state view and performance of the DPM service DA.

More information on DA’s in SCOM can be found here:

DA’s on TechNet:

 http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh457612.aspx

System Center MVP Cameron Fuller’s post on Using Distributed Applications to generate actionable alerting:

 http://blogs.catapultsystems.com/cfuller/archive/2010/09/13/using-distributed-applications-to-generate-actionable-alerting.aspx

System Center MVP Kevin Greene’s blog on Creating your very own custom Distributed Application Template:

 http://kevingreeneitblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/scom-2012-creating-your-very-own-custom.html

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SCOM: Heartbeat Failure Alert Tuning

I recently deployed SCOM in a highly distributed network. Most of the edge locations had slow WAN links. These edge locations would often go offline. With the combination of the slow WAN links and them going offline SCOM would flood with alerts/emails on Health Service Heartbeat Failure and Computer Not Reachable monitors.

This had to be tuned out because these alerts were overwhelming for the team. Also as soon as these edge locations would go offline the team would be notified through other network location monitoring tools and from the staff at these edge locations.

These edge locations would often go offline for reasons of power outages or ISP’s going down. These edge locations could also be down for long periods from 2-3 days at a time. Fixing the issues were often out of the control of the team. Receiving alerts during these outages from the edge locations was not helpful. The team still needed alerts right away if servers at the corporate locations went offline. There are several ways to tune alerts for these monitors.

One way to tune Health Service Heartbeat Failure and Computer Not Reachable monitors is to adjust the heartbeat interval (default is 60 seconds) and the amount of missed heartbeats SCOM will tolerate. Note this would be a global change in SCOM across all monitored servers. To access these settings do the following:

In the SCOM console go to Administration>>Settings  in the right hand pane under Type: Agent you will see Heartbeat. Right click on Heartbeat and open the properties.  In the same pane under Type: Server you will see another Heartbeat. Right click on Heartbeat and open the properties. You can see this in the following screenshot:

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Another way to tune the alerts on these monitors would be to go adjust the heartbeat interval on an individual server level. This would only be useful if you have a small amount of servers generating these alerts and know what servers they are. To access these settings in the SCOM console go to Administration>>Settings>>Agent Managed. Find your server/s. Right click on the server and select properties. Under the Heartbeat tab select the checkbox next to Override global agent settings and then adjust the Heartbeat interval.

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For more information about both of those visit:

Heartbeat and Heartbeat Failure Settings in Operations Manager 2007

 http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc540380.aspx

Neither of those helped in my situation because we needed these alerts right away from one group of servers but not from another. Here is what I did to tune these monitors so that the team would not become overwhelmed by the alerts.

In this particular environment there were some things I need to point out before I go into the solution.

  • The team did not want to monitor heartbeat or ping basically connectivity to the edge servers at all. They were more interested in gathering performance data, status of the applications on those servers and more.
  • The servers that live in the edge had different sequence in the computer name vs. the servers that lived in the corporate locations. The naming schema was structured like this:
      • Corporate location # 1 server names: PROD100-xxV or PROD100-xxP.
      • Corporate location # 2 server names: PROD200-xxV or PROD200-xxP.
      • Edge server names: PROD404-xxV or PROD404-xxP (404 would actually match the number of that edge location. This would vary from edge to edge.).

The name schema was a big helping in breaking things out. So I basically created an edge server group in SCOM dynamically excluding all corporate locations. Here is what it looked like to build this:

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Building the logic:

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What it looks like in the group:

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By doing that the members would consist of all servers from all edge locations without including any servers from corporate locations.  This member list was built dynamically so that the team did not ever have to worry about adding edge servers to the membership.

After the edge server group was built in SCOM I was able to target overrides on the Health Service Heartbeat Failure and Computer Not Reachable monitors towards all the servers in all edge locations. The overrides disabled the Health Service Heartbeat Failure and Computer Not Reachable monitors on the edge servers while these monitors remained active on all corporate based servers. Here are some screenshots of the overrides:

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So after creating the edge servers group and putting the overrides in place the alerts went down and the team was happy. This may not work for every scenario. Below are some links with other ways to tune the Health Service Heartbeat Failure and Computer Not Reachable monitors.

Heartbeat Failures, although a valuable diagnostic tool, can prove a colossal pain in large distributed environments.

 http://blog.mobieussystems.com/bid/194964/SCOM-Heartbeat-Failures-Tuning

Health Service Heartbeat Failure, Diagnostics and Recoveries

 http://blogs.technet.com/b/jonathanalmquist/archive/2010/01/11/health-service-heartbeat-failure-diagnostics-and-recoveries.aspx

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Deduplication for Microsoft DPM using Crunch

With Microsoft DPM 2012 RTM and SP1 protecting deduplicated data on Windows Server 2012 volumes is possible but there is no deduplication on the DPM storagepool. This is a feature that has been needed and requested in the community for some time. DPM administrators have wanted a way to shrink the storage footprint for their DPMs.

Now with BridgeSTORs newest product Crunch deduplication is possible on the storagepool.  The nice thing about this product is that its sold on a Deduplication as a Service (DaaS™) model helping organizations avoid CAPEX. Crunch performs deduplication at the block and file-level. For more on how the deduplication works in Crunch check out this video they made.

http://vimeo.com/50332899

BridgeSTOR has moved from a physical appliance to a virtual appliance. Using a virtual appliance opens up many options of where to place the virtual machine such as a Hyper-V VM on the DPM server itself. Crunch not only offers dedupe but also serves as long-term disk storage for DPM and a way to push DPM data up to cloud storage. Here is a diagram they mad ethat shows where Crunch fits in the DPM architecture.

BridgeSTOR DPM

Crunch also has built in VTL so it allows for your DPM data to be stored to disk configured as virtual tape. The last thing I want to mention about Crunch in this post is that it does not require an enormous amount of hardware resources. Crunch does this by performing the deduplication at times of low system activity paging the hash table in and out of memory, eliminating the need for multiple processors and large RAM configurations.

I hope to do some testing of Crunch in the future to see what it can do! I will be posting another blog with my findings. For now you can visit www.bridgestor.com if you want to know more about it.

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