Several of my ISV's have expressed a need to support operations. They want to be able to report to operations how their application is performing, whether it needs fixes or some configuration setting is failing. These forward-looking ISV's know that supporting the IT department is a way to increase customer satisfaction with the people who must maintain the app in the field.

Often my ISV's look to System Center. System Center is a combination of several technologies that are being grouped under a single suite of products, which includes a virtual machine manager, data protection manager, and configuration manager, and an update to Systems Management Server (SMS). 

And the particular server that is most interesting to ISV's in the context of monitoring ongoing status of the application is System Center Operations Manager. In the past, this has been called Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM). The Operations Manager download is available now for a 180-day evaluation. Prices for your customers are reasonable too.

So the question comes, where to start?

Probably the first place to start is to learn what System Center is and how it works. Rex Backman suggests starting on the TechNet website that deals with System Center. Here you'll find:

  • Documentation
  • Virtual labs
  • Technical walkthrough
  • How to plan for deployment
  • Management pack catalog
  • And the Operations Manager 2007 technical library

So what is like and how do you go about tying your application to Operations Manager? Adam Burke suggests checking out the Operations Manager SDK and review the steps in creating a management pack. These links will provide you with the overview.

David Aiken explained it to me this way:

Currently for developers to support and build a management pack there are lots of manual steps to complete. The code has to be instrumented correctly, then a management pack has to be built. Although the idea of doing this resonates well with developers, because there has been no developer tooling, it has been hard to get them to do it.

This is changing. Currently the patterns & practices (P&P) team has posted a product (current version available on Codeplex's Design for Operations site) which addresses the first part of the problem – i.e. it allows the developer/architect to design and implement the instrumentation for the app without too many manual steps. There is also guidance out there too.

The next drop of this tool later this year, will also generate a management pack from the developer/architect model.

For now, I would go Codeplex at http://www.codeplex.com/dfo - which contains the developer tool, and a 300+ page guide on how to do it. This site would be updated in Sept/October timeframe to include the management pack generation.

There are also some items on the channel 9 show The DFO Show (Designed for Operations) which shows the designer, and other things.

Finally there is my blog, David Aiken: Management, Building Manageable Applications, Design for Operations, WMI, DSI, MMC, VSMMD and of course Windows Powershell which has some other stuff around this topic too.

For those ISV's who want to support operations, these are the steps to get started and the current state of how you can go about supporting your customer's IT shops. Check out David's blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/daiken/ for the latest information on supporting your user's ops teams.