With the release of SCOM 1801, Microsoft has released a full HTML5 dashboard for SCOM. There are no more dependencies on silver-light. So how does the new dashboard compare to third party SCOM HTML5 dashboards?
full disclosure: I have used SquaredUp for years in lab and production environments. I have recommended it to several clients during SCOM deployments. I received a NFR license after my SCOM 1801 upgrade post.
Available SCOM HTML5 Dashboards
When Microsoft came out with System Center 2012, Microsoft recognized that there were opportunities for a third party ecosystem. Many of these third party tools add value to your System Center investment. For SCOM this meant HTML5 dashboards. First, lets take a quick moment to talk about what third party addons are available. There is Live Maps from Savision. System Center Webtop from Fyrsoft. And SquaredUp. I have personally used all three of this solutions in a lab environment and System Center Webtop and SquaredUp in production environments. As you may have guessed from the title, my personal favorite, and the one I recommend to all my SCOM clients is SquaredUp. I currently use the community edition in a production environment.
For the purposes of this post I will be limiting the comparison to SquaredUp community edition since it is free, as is the new SCOM 1801 dashboard. The paid version of SquaredUp offers far more features, like Visual Application Discovery & Analysis which is comparable to Azure Log Analytics Service Map.
The features of the Community Edition can be found here. Ultimately the only two features you don’t get from the first paid version are Open Access dashboards and export data to Excel. You also get 3 named users.
The Dashboard Landing Pages
As you can see, if you’ve ever used SCOM before, this looks just like the SCOM console with the Azure theme applied to it. Its very responsive and so far you can do everything that you can do in the Monitoring tab of the SCOM console. It would be nice if it had the full console capability with the authoring and administration panes.
Next, the SquaredUp landing page.
SquaredUp has included a number of pre-built dashboards that require no configuration for you to see your SCOM data with. For instance when I click on the Top N Performance, this dashboard loads.
This is automatically pulling performance data from SCOM on your monitored objects. Some the included pre-built dashboards are for SQL and IIS. If you can’t find what you’re looking for SquaredUp has a community where others have uploaded their dashboards for download.
Building Dashboards: a real World Comparison
For the rest of this comparison I’m going to compare creating a dashboard in SCOM 1801 to a SquaredUp dashboard for Hyper-V I created for my production environment. This dashboard actually came about because our environment was being accused of causing latency across shared SAN storage. This latency was affecting other environments beyond our own. Thanks to VEEAM Management Pack, SquaredUp dashboards and SCOM reports I was able to prove in real time and with historical data that it was not our environment causing the latency. For sure this covers one small sample of whats possible when you start pulling data from SCOM.
A fairly simple, yet effective dashboard. Displaying our Hyper-V Disk IOPS, MB/s Usage and Latency on the left. On the right it gives a top 10 N for CPU and Memory. I have slightly modified it from Cluster Shared Volumes metrics to Local Disk metrics, as I don’t have a SAN or a cluster in my lab. Note: SquaredUp dashboards are built on JSON and are easily exportable and transferable.
Getting started, we create a new Dashboard which requires a Management Pack. (SquaredUp doesn’t require MPs to store their dashboards)
Once that is created we’ll add a widget in SCOM. Select Performance widget, then select our VEEAM Hyper-V Hosts Group.
One thing I definitely like in the SCOM 1801 Dashboard over SquaredUp is the metrics section. In SCOM 1801 it shows all available metrics for the Group/Object you’ve selected.
Vs SquaredUp you have to have a decent idea of what you’re looking for. For instance, you don’t get any metrics until you search. Here I’ve searched for % and I have actually seen instances where there are more objects available after Memory / % Memory Used. But you have to get more specific to narrow the results.
Edit 6/12/2018: after posting, SquaredUp reached out and informed me if you press the down arrow in metrics field, all available metrics will show up.
Moving on I’ll select IOPs as the metric, name and save our widget.
Do the same thing 2 more times for MB/s and Latency and there will be 3 performance widgets. One thing to note, the dashboard kind of just puts the widgets wherever. As you can see below the 3 widget is half cut off.
This requires you to scroll down to see it, or move it. Interestingly, I’ve had the same issue when pinning dashboards in Azure, where the widget is completely off screen.
Now lets create our top CPU and memory performance widgets. To duplicate those widgets from SquaredUp you have to check the “Visualize objects by performance” box.
Our Result Dashboard
One caveat with both of these dashboards, once you start including a lot of disk objects (like my prod environment has) they can get messy, but its very easy to spot the top performance objects. In SquaredUp’s case you can click on any of the objects to be taken to that object in SquaredUp to see more data on it. In SCOM 1801 Dashboard this is not the case.
One more note. SquaredUp offers 4 different types of performance widgets. Performance bar, heatmap and Line graph, all used in this post, and sparklines. SCOM 1801 does not have that many performance widgets.
Scaling and other Issues
The collision issues seem to be pretty prominent in the widgets. I’ve seen this happen only occasionally in SquaredUp.
Also, the widgets do not scale properly. If you notice in my SquaredUp target dashboard, I have very elongated performance widgets, this helps with spreading the chart data out.
As you can see the widget only scales correctly when going down diagonally. Compared to SquaredUp, which scales perfectly.
Scaling also works much better in SquaredUp when resizing your browswer, SCOM 1801’s dashboard doesn’t scale very well there either.
Mobile View Scaling
SquaredUp scales and converts to mobile perfectly.
SCOM 1801, unfortunately does not.
At the beginning of this post, I noted that I use SquaredUp in my prod environment and recommend it to any SCOM client I work with. That recommendation won’t change. Its simply a nicer, more well thought out product. SquaredUp also works with SCOM 2012 R2, 2016, and 1801, whereas the new HTML5 dashboard in SCOM 1801 is only available in 1801 or later. What I would do, is give the SCOM 1801 dashboard to any helpdesk type of people that need to see or modify alerts. This would save on named user licenses for SquaredUp and save time and effort maintaining SCOM Console installations.
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