Service Level Agreements allow IT organizations and their clients to have a common view upon service delivery quality. Service Level Objectives are defined within every SLA in order to obtain specific and measurable metrics which help evaluate and improve the delivery of IT services.
Therefore monitoring SLO targets and outcomes is obviously a very important task. Especially within organizations working by (or starting to implement) ITIL framework.
The whole of Microsoft Systems Center product family is designed to support ITIL processes. Measuring uptime and managing SLO values is no exception.
In this article we will look at 3 ways to track SLO performance based on data gathered by Systems Center Operations Manager.
1. Service Level Tracking Summary Report
This is a report that comes with the default installation of Operations Manager. You will be able to find it in SCOM Console by going to Reporting-> Microsoft Service Level Report Library and running the Service Level Tracking Summary Report.
Right at the first step you face one of the biggest shortcomings of this report- the prompt page. Here you have to tell the report what you are after: find the separate components one by one, insert them into the report and click run to wait for the result.
Yes, that is the second downside. It is slow. The bigger your environment, the worse the performance.
In the end it does give you the data you asked for. Here is output example:
The way data is formatted here is not entirely helpful either. Customers having 20+ services never managed to get a holistic overview of their situation by using this report.
We can sum up that this way of checking SLO and uptime works for SCOM admins who need to check if SLO values are set up correctly for a certain entity. But if you are an IT manager (Service Level Manager, Service Owner etc.) this report will probably deliver more frustration than information.
Hence we jump off to option number two.
2. Service Level Dashboard
This is quite an improvement in usability compared to the above mentioned report. We can now set up dashboards specific to every user, that way allowing them to get a better overview of their area of responsibility. Here is a screenshot of one such dashboard:
We get to this result without any messing about with prompt values and this greatly improves the usability for non-admin users. It is much more intuitive because right on the first screen we see a green cross and a red cross- a call for action waiting for us!
This dashboard, however easy to set up, is not really flexible. Clients send us remarks regarding time frame shown in the report (plus the lack of ability to modify that) and the fact that each dashboard is made for a specific set of managed entities. That means administering these dashboards in larger organizations becomes a tedious task.
After looking at first two alternatives delivered by Microsoft we are still not really user or admin friendly. But we want to know how good we are and if we are improving over time. Let us look at the last option. We recommend it to those clients who really want to keep a close watch on their Service Delivery Performance.
3. Custom made solution
Our most demanding clients asked us for “something” which would outperform the out-of-the-box SCOM reporting solutions for SLO reporting in all aspects: flexibility, ease of use, ease of administration and end-user responsiveness.
The solution was to extract data from SCOM Data Warehouse and transform it into a more reporting-friendly shape then load this newly formatted data into our own Data Mart.
Just finding SLO values and connecting them to managed entities showed to be a bit of a challenge the first time we did this. Going besides the old built-in stored procedures for SLO reporting allowed us to have a much easier data extraction mechanism.
By moving the data into a new structure we gained the freedom to use numerous tools that are available for data storage and reporting. The final solution becomes so easy to use, that with just a short introduction training anyone familiar with Excel (an all-time analyst favorite) is able to slice and dice our data cubes to find the information they are after. Here you can see a chart made by an analyst in Excel showing current month uptime compared to SLO of each service:
And here is another view showing uptime vs SLO of one service for all the months within 2015:
With our custom solution it is also possible to leverage the other advantages of MS Analysis Services such as security, speed and flexibility. Every user can now see just the information that is interesting to their specific role. Most of the reports respond to user queries almost instantly and they have all the freedom in the world to display the information in the way which supports their current business needs best.
The major challenges while making a DIY solution are to keep to the budget and actually deliver something that works. If you do decide to go this route, you need to make sure you hire someone with experience.
More to come
SLO performance tracking is just one of the building blocks. There are numerous metrics within SCOM/SCSM just waiting to be converted into information which can help your IT organization grow and become more efficient.
Hence this is just the first article in this series. Keep a lookout for more examples of how customized Systems Center data warehouse solutions can benefit your IT organization.
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