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Authoring Management Packs – the fast and easy way, using Visual Studio???

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I know what you are thinking.  “Wait, what did he just say?”

 

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Well, hear me out.

Over the years, there have been many tools that we have used to write MP’s.  The SCOM UI Authoring tab, Notepad, XML Notepad, Notepad++, SCOM 2007R2 Authoring Console, Silect MP Author, and Visual Studio.

 

They all have tradeoffs.  I’d argue the most powerful tool over the years that was “somewhat” user friendly was the SCOM 2007R2 authoring console.  Once you learned the quirks, it was pretty good when you needed to make complex MP’s.  But even it was far from perfect.  And moving into SCOM 2012, now that the schema changed, using it becomes VERY challenging to update your existing MP’s.  Silect’s MPAuthor (http://www.silect.com/mp-author) has stepped up in a big way to fill some of these gaps, and they have done a fantastic job of creating wizards that spit out MP’s that are useful, and relatively easy to author.  But they don’t have a wizard for all scenarios, and they don’t offer a way to update the workflows using the same UI that created them, so you are back to XML at that point.

 

Visual Studio has a powerful plugin called VSAE (Visual Studio Authoring Extensions) https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=30169

The challenge with VSAE is unless you come from a developer background using Visual Studio, or you write management packs all day for a living, most people find it VERY daunting to use.  Even with experience, I find adding certain module types VERY cumbersome to use.  I find customers rarely use Visual Studio for authoring because of this.

 

I think that can change.  I have been presenting a different method on using VSAE with my customers and it has resonated very well.  The most powerful part of VSAE to me, is the ability to use Management Pack fragments.

A Management Pack fragment is simply a bit of XML, that contains all the “working parts” for a specific workflow….   Several authors have written about the power of fragments since VSAE launched, but the biggest gap I saw can be broken up into two major issues:

  • Nobody provided a good “library” of workable MP fragments
  • Nobody came up with a VERY simple method to reuse fragments quickly and easily

 

I hope to change that.  I am presenting an MP fragment library for you to download, and a simple methodology to add fragments to a MP you wish to create.  If you can do a FIND and REPLACE in notepad, you can use this.

 

What if I told you, in a few *minutes*, you could write a full Management Pack, that discovered an application dynamically, created views for the app, monitored for events and performance, monitored key services, and could even run your custom scripts against the app using VBScript or PowerShell?

 

I will be starting a blog series, which will include step by step examples of these fragments, and how to use them.

 

You can download the fragment library here on TechNet gallery:  https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/SCOM-Management-Pack-VSAE-2c506737

 

This will be a step by step series.  You really should go in order if you are just getting started, but it isn’t really required except for the first two parts.  You can complete ALL of these in less than an hour, even for a first timer.

 

Part 1: Use VSAE to create a new Management Pack Project

Part 2: Use VSAE fragments to dynamically discover an application based on the existence of a registry key or value

Part 3: Use VSAE fragments to monitor a service

Part 4: Use VSAE fragments to create an alert generating event log rule

Part 5: Use VSAE fragments to create a performance collection rule

Part 6: Use VSAE fragments to add Alert, State, and Performance views to your MP

Part 7: Use VSAE fragments to add custom Groups to your MP

Part 8: Use VSAE fragments to create a Windows Performance Monitor with Consecutive Samples

 

There MANY more fragments available in my download than just what I am documenting here.  These are just a basic walkthrough of VERY common workflows, to show how easy it can be, to use VSAE and create great management packs, quickly.  I will add additional examples as time goes on.  I welcome any feedback or MP fragment requests to be added to the library.

 

One of the important things to remember – is you aren’t limited by the fragments I provide.  You can (and should) make your own fragments, specializing them to your company.  For instance, one of the FIRST things you should do, is download all the fragments, and replace ##CompanyID## with your actual company ID.  This way – that is one step already eliminated in your find/replace steps.  If you ALWAYS do specific things with your classes (such as you always create classes AND groups) then you should combine these fragments into one.  It will just make it that much faster.

 

 

Let the “easy series” begin.  Smile

 

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