If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:
When I’m discussing what the mission critical systems are of any given organization, email often comes up as one of the most crucial and important service to maintain. It’s not a surprise since, although it’s not categorized as line-of-business or core application, people rely on email at some level to perform their regular job tasks. And with this in mind, proactively maintaining a healthy messaging infrastructure should be on the top of the list for every Systems Administrators throughout the world (and I’m sure it is, as I remember a survey from a couple of years ago where for over a third of CIOs and IT managers, a week without e-mail is more traumatic than events such as a minor car accident, moving to a new home, or getting married or divorced).
In case you’re running Microsoft Exchange Server, System Center 2012 Operations Manager (SCOM 2012) can provide the necessary monitoring and alerting to help maintain those messaging servers to ensure they run smoothly without any problems. The latest Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Management Pack (MP) includes a complete health model and a full complement of diagnostics-based alerts. This MP is also much simpler than its predecessors and more user focused, with a simplified dashboard that makes it easier to quickly determine what users are experiencing.
Like the previous versions of the Exchange MP, Microsoft invested all its internal experience running Exchange servers into the development of this software piece. And this time, the Exchange team is also sharing all the knowledge acquired through the management of Office 365 and Exchange Online environment, with its extreme demands on availability and performance.
Exchange Server 2013 introduced a new feature called Managed Availability, which comes with monitoring built in. This latest management pack leverages the capability of Exchange to detect and automatically recover from performance and availability issues, thus reducing alert noise and administrative overhead.
In terms of interoperability, this Management Pack does not upgrade the Exchange 2010 Management Pack, this is a completely new MP. It is possible to run these Management Packs side-by-side as you upgrade your Exchange environment from 2010 to 2013.
One thing you’ll notice with the Microsoft Exchange 2013 Management Pack is its simplicity (some might say too simple). It contains 3 views, less than 20 classes and about 75 monitors that cover Exchange component health (such as Hub Transport health), customer touch point health (such as “is OWA working”), clustered scenarios, as well as dependencies monitoring (“is Active Directory healthy”). Monitoring covers primarily availability and performance scenarios.
This simplicity in the management pack also means a lower impact to the Operations Manager environment and a better scalability.
The following are some of the new features in the Exchange 2013 Management Pack:
Using Health Explorer (Figure 1) you can dive into the monitoring capabilities of the Exchange Management Pack, exposing all the available monitors. As depicted in Figure 2 and Figure 3, each monitor has a link to online knowledge.
Figure 1: Exchange 2013 Health Explorer
Figure 2: Heath Explorer for Exchange 2013
Figure 3: Online knowledge article
If instead of using Health Explorer you open the management pack using MP Viewer (Figure 4), you’ll have a hard time trying to find the 75 monitors included. That’s because most of them are just not there, the MP leverages the information provided by Exchange 2013 Managed Availability.
It might be fun to also open the Exchange 2010 MP (Figure 5) and compare both of them. This will give you a clear image of all the simplicity within the latest Exchange management pack.
Figure 4: MP Viewer with Exchange 2013 MP
Figure 5: MP Viewer with Exchange 2010 MP
Managed availability is defined as a set of internal processes made up of probes, monitors, and responders that incorporate monitoring across all server roles and all protocols. With managed availability, internal monitoring and recovery-oriented features are tightly integrated to help prevent failures, proactively restore services, and initiate server failovers automatically or alert administrators to take action. Managed availability moves away from monitoring individual separate slices of the system to monitoring the end-to-end user experience, and protecting the end user’s experience through recovery-oriented computing
Managed availability includes three main asynchronous components that are constantly doing work: probes, monitors and responders.
The specific set of probes, monitors and responders within Exchange 2013 Managed Availability are referred to as health sets. Health sets are further grouped into functional units called Health Groups. There are four Health Groups and they are used for reporting within the SCOM Management Portal (Figure 1):
Figure 6: Exchange 2013 Managed Availability
Managed availability runs on every Exchange 2013 server and it is implemented in the form of two processes:
Systems Center Operations Manager is used as a portal to see health information related to the Exchange environment. The alerts within the System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) portal indicate unhealthy states as reported by the Managed Availability components in Exchange 2013.
Each server executes its own probes, monitors itself, and takes action to self-recover, and escalates to SCOM via the Operations Manager agent when needed. This is a different approach from previous versions of Exchange and the corresponding management pack, where all events were escalated to a central SCOM server that would have to decide, based on the correlation engine, to raise an event or not. Pushing everything to one central place didn’t work, that’s why now each individual Exchange server acts as an island.
Notification and alerting to Operations Manager is handled via events, so the Management Pack has a set of simple event monitors that trigger based on these events. Events are logged to the Microsoft > Exchange > ManagedAvailability > Monitoring event log via the Escalate Responder.
Figure 7: Exchange 2013 Managed Availability Event Log
To view health, you use the Get-ServerHealth and Get-HealthReport cmdlets. Get-ServerHealth is used to retrieve the raw health data, while Get-HealthReport operates on the raw health data and provides a current snapshot of the health.
Get-HealthReport -Identity E2K13-MBX1
Figure 8: Get-HealthReport
Get-ServerHealth -Identity E2K13-MBX1
Figure 9: Get-ServerHealth
And so we conclude part 1 of this 5-part article about configuring the Exchange 2013 Management Pack for System Center 2012 Operations Manager. We covered the new features of the MP, and also the native monitoring functionality of Exchange Server – Managed Availability – which decentralizes monitoring and healing actions.
In the next part we’ll cover the installation of the Exchange Server 2013 Management Pack.
If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:
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