There are days that products become hot on the spot. It’s all about cloud lately and sometimes it’s amazing how fast things are evolving for us ITPRO’s.

One of these cool products which leverages the possibilities of the cloud, uses the full potential of the virtually endless storage space to store data and use the computing power of the cloud is System Center Advisor.

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When System Center advisor first emerged it was a small service in the cloud where you had to seperately make a small proxy agent to send data into the cloud and configure it to get usefull data. You had to set up or designate a server as a gateway to send data to the online service. The data was only updated once per day and was only available through a webconsole. It was a nice product but it was way ahead of it’s time for the time being. One of the problems it had was the fact that not a lot of people understood the need for advisor as it was branded as just a system center advisor software…

The potential of the product was already there but it had to be easier to use…

Since SCOM 2012 SP1 Advisor got a revamp and is fully integrated in the SCOM console. It received more rules and better performance and people started embracing the fact that they gained access to the vast dbase of microsoft filled with best practices to automatically evaluate their systems. No need for those complex mbsa scans (ouch remember those…)

More and more people started using the service but still for a lot of customers I visited System Center Advisor was not that well known. It was rather a big unknown. As soon as I explained the possibilities they started using and appreciating the service and installed it in their environment.

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source: https://channel9.msdn.com/Blogs/C9Team/System-Center-Advisor-Limited-Preview

Now with the new Limited Preview Microsoft is showing the future of this cool product. All the different and familiar functions are still there but there’s more…

Intelligence Packs

If you are familiar with SCOM you’ll definately will know Management packs but Intelligence Packs? Intelligence packs are the new way of adding functionality to your Advisor environment taylored for your business. It is the key to customizing your Advisor to your environment to show the data you specifically want to show in Advisor.

These management packs are stored in the Advisor Gallery and will be installed online. In a later stadium it will be possible to configure and create your own intelligence packs to gather specific data for your environment to further customize your environment. Similar to what you are doing with your management packs in your SCOM environment.

Currently there are Intelligence Packs for:

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All are available from the Intelligence Pack Gallery and install with just a couple of clicks. Not much configuration is needed afterwards.

The store can be reached through the Intelligence Pack button on the portal:

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Let’s for example take the Log Management Intelligence pack (this will take some time to get used to). It enables a cool new feature to gather eventlogs of your servers in one central place and search and query them to get a one place to get insight in your environment.

After we have installed the Intelligence Pack through the console it will appear in our main portal view:

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(notice that I already played with the other intelligence packs as well)

So if we click on the tile “Log Management” we’ll jump to the configuration and tell Advisor which logs we would like to gather in our Advisor to get the insights with queries. Again this is a great way of gathering all your data in one place. When you have all the data in one place you can use it to get insight in your environment because let’s face it: It’s you who knows your environment best.

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After we have told Advisor to gather the System log on all the machines which are connected to the advisor (both Errors and Warnings) the Intelligence pack will kick in and will gather the info for the first time to give you a view of the collected data.

Search Data explorer

Now that we have data in our Advisor we would love to find out things on our own to get perhaps the root cause why systems are running slow for example. The search can be performed by using the Search Data Explorer. Open the Search Data Explorer on the right to access the search tool:

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This will open the Search where you can start your journey through the gathered data:

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On the right you’ll have common search queries to get you started. Expect more and more lists for search queries to come online but if you really need to create your own search query you can always check out the Syntax Preference link under documentation to get you going.

In fact there are 3 easy steps to get your data:

1. Enter the searcg term:

In this example I’m using * to get all my data because Advisor hasn’t run that long it doesn’t have a lot of data yet so I would like to see what’s already in there:

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Next step is to filter the resulte with the tools in the right column to really only get the data we are after:

The facets are the different objects gathered by type an facets per type. In addition to this it’s also possible to scope what a time frame for the events gathered. This can come in handy when you want to troubleshoot a problem on your environment for example:

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For now this data is not exportable through PowerShell and only available online. Futher down the road in the developement of Advisor it will be possible to query this data through PowerShell to use the data in your own applications.

Feedback

Another feature that has been introduced in the console is the feedback option.

The button is located on the bottom right and will open the feedback page in a separate window:

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This will take you straight to the feedback window.

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People who already worked with connect and forums will find that it’s a mix between those 2. In here you can give tips or requests to further enhance the product with new possibilities but also file bugs you’ve came accross. Members of the community can answer questions to get you going or vote for another request.

This will give you a nice one stop place to get you up to speed fast with the product but most important will give you the opportunity to give feedback first hand. This list will be used by the product team involved to prioritize the new enhancements.

Conclusion

This Limited preview of the next generation of Advisor will give the possibility to gather even more data about your environment and use this data to gain further insight in your environment. Because the system has been setup with Intelligence Packs it’s very easy to taylor the console to your needs. Add the performance of the cloud storage and computing to the game and we have a new additional powerful tool to gather and analyse data.

Will this completely replace all other monitoring needs? Not yet… Will it be a great enhancement to the tools we already have in place? Certainly!

This tool is free of charge during the preview period. So for now the only thing that is stopping you from using this tool is… yourself.

Keep an eye on the blog as I’ll dig deeper into the different intelligence packs when data comes in

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