System Center Capacity Planner 2006 Overview (Part 2)

If you missed the first part of this article series please read System Center Capacity Planner 2006 Overview (Part 1).


Model Editor


Like all good users, one of the first things you should do is to save your work. In part 1 we created a sample model and when you’ve created your model using the Model Wizard, you can save the configuration as a System Architecture Model (.sam) file using the File / Save menu option within the Model Editor screen. It’s then possible to later load your .sam file back into SCCP 2006 by choosing the Edit an existing model with the Model Editor option from the opening screen when running SCCP 2006. You may remember the sample model created in part 1; it’s shown below in Figure 1. With a sample model created, the next thing to do is to refine the model to more accurately match your requirements and this is performed using the Model Editor.



Figure 1: Model Editor


You can see from Figure 1 above that the Model Editor’s Global Topology screen is shown. In the Model Editor pane on the left-hand side, you can see other options to configure the site topology and also to display the model summary. If you’ve used MOM 2005, you’ll notice that the Global Topology screen is similar in nature to the MOM 2005 topology diagrams. For instance, if you hover over the various components of the diagram, tool tips are displayed such as the site name, the number of servers, number of users, link speed and link percentage available to Exchange. You can see an example above in Figure 1. Like MOM 2005, you can also export the diagrams to Visio format simply by choosing the File / Export / Visio Topology Report option; other options exist to export the information into Excel format. You can edit top-level information simply by selecting one of the offices or links and choosing one of the options from the Current View Actions pane. For example, you can change the branch office site names by selecting a branch office and choosing the Edit site information option. You can edit the configuration of your actual offices or links simply by double-clicking them to open them up. For example, if you double-click the HQ office you’ll be presented with the configuration of this office as shown below in Figure 2.



Figure 2: HQ Site Topology


Here you can see the components that comprise the HQ office, most notably the three configured servers. Now the Current View Actions pane will display many more options, giving you the chance to perform operations such as adding a server, adding a SAN and so on. Once again, hovering over the various components will display useful tool tips. For example, hovering over a server shows you the processor and disk configurations as well as the roles performed by this server. Of course, you’ll find it useful to select each server in turn and choose the Edit server hardware configuration option to change the server’s name to something more meaningful. I mentioned in part 1 of this article that, during the initial Model Wizard screens, you have to initially configure all branch offices with the same number of users. To change individual office user requirements, all you need to do is to select the Outlook 2003 Cached Users object as shown above in Figure 2 and choose the Edit client profile option from the Current View Actions pane. The lower central pane will then change to be similar to the one shown below in Figure 3, where you can adjust the User Count option. Note the other options available to change the network type and bandwidth along with the server that services these Outlook users.



Figure 3: Client Profile Modification


The same editing principles apply to all the objects within your configuration. For example, you can double-click individual servers and apply a new computer configuration to them or you can double-click a network link and change its properties. As you can see, it becomes very easy to quickly configure the model so that it more accurately represents your requirements.


Hardware Editor


In the bottom-left corner of Figure 1, you’ll see the option to launch the Hardware Editor. This allows you to view the current hardware configurations available in SCCP 2006, as well as add your own new configurations that may more closely match your required configuration. Upon entering the Hardware Editor, you have two configuration choices, namely computer configurations or device configurations.


The computer configuration area allows you to define a computer configuration consisting of a CPU, single disk, or disk array. Obviously, if you’re attempting to create a computer configuration that will use a CPU specification not currently held within the SCCP 2006 library, you’ll need to add the device using the device configuration area first. This area is shown below in Figure 4, where you can see the creation of a brand new CPU specification taking place. Note the red exclamation mark icons indicating which properties need to be completed.



Figure 4: Hardware Editor Device Configuration


As well as CPUs, it’s possible to configure new single disk and disk array configurations that you can then use in new computer configurations. Once you’ve created your new device or computer configurations, don’t forget to save them into SCCP’s library so that you can re-use them again in the future. This is achieved by choosing the File / Save hardware library menu option or pressing CTRL-L.




When you are happy with your model configuration, you can click the Run Simulation button to invoke a simulation. This may take a short while to run and it’s worth noting here that this timeframe is not the simulation workload duration, but rather simply how long it takes for the results of the simulation to appear. One other thing to note with the simulation is that you may receive model adjustment messages when running the simulation. These can be in the form of critical error or warning messages and they inform you that something needs to be addressed with your configuration. For example, if I mistakenly delete the LAN component from the central HQ site and then attempt to run the simulation, the output shown below in Figure 5 is generated within the Model Editor’s Site Topology screen.



Figure 5: Model Adjustments


Naturally, the critical errors should be resolved before continuing with the simulation. To aid in this, note the Help icon towards the right-hand side that opens the help file directly to the relevant topic. Assuming that all is well with the topology, the simulation can then complete. Once the simulation has completed, you’ll be presented with the Results Summary screen similar to the one shown below in Figure 6.



Figure 6: Results Summary Screen


The chart that strikes you first in Figure 6 is the Highest average latency per transaction chart, which shows you the transactions that take the longest to complete. These transactions are shown in the Longest transactions (sec) table in the lower-right corner of Figure 6, but you can also hover over the various columns in the corresponding chart to see the same data displayed. The Bottleneck analysis chart is useful in that it shows you devices, be they hardware objects or network connections, which are the most utilized, thereby allowing you to decide whether you need to add more resources within these areas. You will also notice that the four tables shown towards the bottom of the screen in Figure 6 also have green tick icons shown in their top-left corners. These are known as threshold indicators, and change color depending on the nature of the threshold. For example, the threshold indicators are green ticks if your configuration does not exceed the specified thresholds, whilst they are yellow warning triangles if they are within 5% of a threshold. Finally, they become red ‘X’ symbols if you exceed the specified threshold. Additionally, the various columns in the charts also change color to highlight your threshold issues. You can define your thresholds simply by clicking the Threshold settings option within the Simulation Results pane. Here you can define your CPU, disk, connection and WAN link thresholds as a percentage value and additionally your latency threshold in seconds.


To show the simulation does depend on the information applied to the Model Wizard, I edited the HQ office to increase the number of users to 5000 and re-ran the simulation. The new Results Summary screen is shown below in Figure 7 and most obviously shows an increased CPU usage on Server3, the Global Catalog server. It shows up red simply because I changed the CPU threshold level within the Threshold settings area to force a threshold error.



Figure 7: Results Summary Screen Showing CPU Bottlenecks


The Utilization of server screen, chosen from the Simulation results pane, is useful in that you can get to see the utilization of the various components on each server and pinpoint under-utilized components. This is made really easy on large models by simply clicking the Utilization column to order the components in ascending or descending utilization order. It’s also possible to easily identify latency issues within the Latency by site screen. Here, you can view the various transactions modeled by SCCP 2006 and determine their average latency in seconds. For example, if you elected to implement Outlook 2003 in online (non-cached) mode at one of the branch offices, you may find that the OutlookConnectedLogon transaction produces a threshold alert for the average latency within the Latency by site screen. By clicking the OutlookConnectedLogon transaction, the device latency list is displayed which shows you how long the transaction takes at each device. You’d then be able to view the device which produced the latency threshold, perhaps the WAN link between the branch and central sites.


Of course, when you’ve run a simulation, you can then go back and make any adjustments to your model until you’re happy that it is working correctly. Hopefully, you’ll do this before you implement your system!


Don’t forget that SCCP 2006 can also export your information into Excel spreadsheet format if you require it. By choosing the File / Export menu option, you have the chance to export either a summary or detailed spreadsheet of your model. An example of a summary report is shown below in Figure 8. Note the additional tabs not displayed, such as Device Utilizations, Transaction Latencies and WAN Utilizations.



Figure 8: Summary Spreadsheet




Hopefully within the two parts of this article I have given you an overview of System Center Capacity Planner 2006 and what it’s capable of. Obviously, this is a large application with many configurable options, far too many to cover in depth within this article. I recommend that you spend some time getting to know this application, since it just may help you the next time you need to produce an Exchange 2003 architecture model.


If you missed the first part of this article series please read System Center Capacity Planner 2006 Overview (Part 1).




There are several places where you can get more information on SCCP 2006:


System Center Capacity Planner on


System Center Capacity Planner public forum:


Webcast: Introducing System Center Capacity Planner (Level 200)


Webcast: System Center Capacity Planner Overview (Level 200)

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