Monitoring your Microsoft Dynamics CRM Infrastructure with System Center Operations Manager 2007

Introduction

For any organisation, Systems Availability is crucial to the business and business continuity. Because of the nature and complexity of a CRM Architecture, it is vital to understand the current state of its various components and computers. The entire CRM Architecture can be centrally managed and monitored using System Center Operations Manager 2007 (SCOM), a Dynamic Systems Initiative from Microsoft to help support and be more effective and efficient, thereby saving time and money. The use of SCOM takes guess work out of the support equation, by identifying the root cause of an issue and providing the appropriate solution. As a predictive product it also provides alerts on unforeseen potential problems, enabling proactive support. In this document we discuss the use of SCOM to manage and monitor the CRM architecture comprising of Windows 2003 server, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 or 2008, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 or 2007, Microsoft Internet Information Server IIS 6 and 7, BizTalk Server 2006, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, Windows XP, 2000, Vista, Microsoft Office 2007 and custom .Net applications

 SCOM alerts are based on real world problems and solutions developed by domain experts and Windows error reporting is linked to latest resolution knowledge. For illustration purposes the diagram below shows the Asynchronous Service Architecture, a small part of the CRM 4.0 Architecture. The Asynchronous architecture is monitored in the SCOM deployment for CRM 4.0.

  

 SCOM Solution for a Dynamics CRM 4.0 Architecture

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 architecture can be complex, depending on deployment. To ensure that all the CRM 4.0 components are functioning properly requires a robust support infrastructure. Microsoft System Center Operations Manager is a software solution that meets the need for end-to-end service monitoring in the enterprise. Deploying SCOM is key to effective support for any organisation that values its technology investment, and takes systems availability and uptime seriously.

SCOM components

Operational Database consists of operational data and configuration data for a management group. A Root Management Server is used for configuration management. Management Agents discover, collect, analyse and manage servers’ and clients’ alerts so as to resolve issues and can also wake failed systems. A Reporting Server provides reports for the management group and is displayed in the SCOM console.

Agentless Exception Monitoring extends monitoring to operating systems and applications. It configures error-reporting clients to redirect their reports to the management server providing information on failure and available solutions. An Audit Collector, found on the management server, provides information on security of managed computers from audit enabled agents. In DMZ configurations, a Gateway Server can be used for agents beyond a firewall or found in Non Trusted Domains.

Deploying SCOM

To setup SCOM OpmMgr and RMS databases, SCOM is deployed on a MS SQL Server where the Action, SDK and Service Accounts are specified. A webconsole is deployed specifying the SQL instance, the database name and SQL Listening port, plus provide relevant accounts. With installation complete, an Administrator has to logon to the SCOM server to complete the setup by configuring Discovery and select the managed objects in addition to configuring computers and devices to manage, and importing management packs[1].

Operations Manager 2007 Reporting is setup by installing the data reporting data warehouse and reporting server for reports and dashboards. It is recommended to install the Data Warehouse and Reporting Server on separate servers. A SQL Server Instance is used for the Audit Collection Service and Audit Collection Database setup and enablement.

SCOM Monitoring

A SCOM Monitor looks at different application aspects, known as Object Types, consisting of system devices or services with one of three operational states: healthy, warning or failure. A Distributed Application Designer is built on Service Oriented Monitoring and is easy to configure using a graphic designer. It can also be used to monitor ports and IP addresses of given systems. It also handles Line of Business Applications.

Roles have to be created to manage the SCOM system. Roles are integrated with Active Directory and they can manage tasks authorised for specified roles.

Notifications can be delivered individually via Email, Pager, Instant Messaging, Session Initiation Protocol, Short Message Service support (SMS) and SMTP via the Notification Device Wizard.

SCOM can be integrated with AD for Security Discovery and Agent Management enabling agent deployment and configuration automatically. The SCOM Discovery Wizard feature uses LDAP identify devices in the Directory to manage agents automatically. The MOMADAdmin tool is used to integrate with AD by creating an admin access point with the ability to specify exclusions through the ADSI Edit[2] tool.

To setup Agentless Exception Monitoring, requires configuring the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) and Error alert routing, transmission settings (through HTTP/S or with SSL with authentication preferences) and Error Crash Behaviour. These alerts can be forwarded to Microsoft and Microsoft will provide available information to solve the issue or in crash cases Microsoft will investigate the issue further.

SCOM Management Features

Through the monitoring space, administrators are able to see in Real-Time the state of systems and or services. Through the health explorer administrators can see the events that are not healthy and can then take corrective action to fix the problem using diagnostics and recovery features found in the management packs. Administrators can work with reports, creating reports for customers etc. and report on planned and unplanned operations and much more. Reports can also be specific, providing information on specific issues.

SCOM 2007 has an excellent and customisable knowledgebase known as Company Knowledge. This knowledgebase is an invaluable resource that provides information on root causes of issues and how they can be resolved. The Company Knowledge is editable, allowing for the addition of company related issues and how they have been resolved.  

 

Company Knowledge is used to capture the steps required to resolve an alert in an OpsMgr installation.  When paired with the Product knowledge (which provides application developers knowledge on the causes and suggested resolution steps for an alert), the two help any operator with the best steps they can take to resolve an alert. Product Knowledge is embedded in a rule or monitor.

 

The power of SCOM lies in the End-to-End visibility of the health and performance of the CRM architecture. This powerful feature empowers support staff to have a complete view of their supported environment, with access to easily accessed information on how to resolve issues affecting their CRM environment in case of an IT issue. They are empowered to take proactive action regarding issues before users can start calling or before systems actually fail, ensuring short Mean Time To Identify (MTTI) and Mean Time to Repair (MTR).

Figure 2 SCOM monitoring in a CRM Architecture

Organisations that have successfully deployed System Center Operations Manager 2007 testify to the ability to provide efficient support and avoiding time wasting extensive manual investigations that can give support a bad name.  Many have deployed SCOM and integrated it with their Helpdesk systems. This integration facilitates the automatic generation of tickets or calls, leading to a significant reduction in waste of support staff effort used to manually create, update and manage tickets or support Calls.

A Microsoft Dynamics CRM (Customer Relationship Management) 4.0 system is built on a three tier Enterprise Architecture consisting of; Client, Application and Data.  SCOM is able to monitor the health and performance of these systems and their applications, easily providing service level monitoring that allows the support team to meet their operational level agreements. Because CRM can be web-enabled, SCOM has the capability to monitor several URLs at any one time and provide real-time data on connectivity status.

Note

SCOM has the capability to monitor non Microsoft technology through Operations Manager Connector Framework. It does this through the bi-directional synchronised partner connector solutions that connects to the third party management packs.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Management Pack

At the time of writing, there is no SCOM Management Pack for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0. However, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 can be managed using SCOM, by converting the MOM 2005 Management Pack for CRM[3]. This particular management pack monitors the CRM Architecture including:

  1. CRM Asynchronous Processing services.
  2. World Wide Web Publishing
  3. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Deletion Service
  4. Microsoft Dynamics CRM databases

 

Deploying SCOM 2007 provides support staff with an easy-to-use monitoring environment to monitor corporate servers, applications, and clients. This coverage gives staff a full view of the organisation’s systems, something that allows support staff to provide pro-active solutions to issues before they happen, enabling them to proactively maintain and reduce resolution times for any issues that may affect overall availability and performance of the CRM system.

 Microsofts SCOM site can be found here

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