Writing your own custom data collection for OMS using SCOM Management Packs

18 Jul

Note: The process called out in this post contains content or procedures that are not endorsed or supported by Microsoft. This is specifically offered "As is". If your server blows up, we warned you.

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OMS is a great data collection and analytics tool, but at the moment it also has some limitations. Microsoft has been releasing Integration Pack after Integration Pack and adding features at a decent pace, but unlike the equivalent SCOM Management Packs the IPs are somewhat of a black box. Awhile back, I got frustrated with some of the lack of configuration options in OMS (then Op Insights) and decided to “can opener” some of the features. I figured the best way to do this was to examine some of the management packs that OMS would install into a connected SCOM Management Group and start digging through their contents. Now granted, lately the OMS team has added a lot more customization options than they used to have when I originally traced this out. You can now add custom performance collection rules, custom log collections, and more all from within the OMS portal itself. However, there are still several advantages to being able create your own OMS collection rules in SCOM directly. These include:

  • Additional levels of configuration customization beyond what’s offered in the OMS portal, such as the ability to target any class you want or use more granular filter criteria than is offered by the portal.
  • The ability to migrate your collection configuration from one SCOM instance to another. OMS doesn’t currently allow you to export custom configuration.
  • The ability to do bulk edits through the myriad of tools and editors available for SCOM management packs (it’s much easier to add 50 collection rules to an existing SCOM MP using a simple RegEx find/replace than it is to hand enter them into the OMS SaaS portal).

Digging into the Management Packs automatically loaded into a connected SCOM instance from OMS, we find that there are quite a few. A lot of them still bear the old “System Center Advisor” filenames and display strings from before Advisor got absorbed into OMS, but the IPs also add in a bunch of new MPs that include “IntelligencePacks” in the IDs making them easier to filter by. Many of the type definitions are  stored in a pack named (unsurprisingly) Microsoft.IntelligencePacks.Types.

Here is the Event Collection Write Action Module Type Definition:

Event Collector Type

 

Now let’s take a look at one of the custom event collection rules I created in the OMS portal to grab all Application log events. These rules are contained in the Microsoft.IntelligencePack.LogManagement.Collection MP:

Application Log Collection Rule

We can see that the event collection rule for OMS looks an awful lot like a normal event collection rule in SCOM. The ID is automatically generated according to a naming convention that OMS keeps track of  which is Microsoft.IntelligencePack.LogManagement.Collection.EventLog. followed by a unique ID string to identify to OMS each specific rule. The only real difference between this rule and a standard event collection rule is the write action, which is the custom write action we saw defined in the Types pack that’s designed to write the event to OMS instead of to the SCOM Data Warehouse. So all you need to do to create your own custom event data collection rule in SCOM is add a reference to the Type MP to your custom MP like:

<Reference Alias="IPTypes">
<ID>Microsoft.IntelligencePacks.Types</ID>
<Version>7.0.9014.0</Version>
<PublicKeyToken>31bf3856ad364e35</PublicKeyToken>
</Reference>

…and then either replace the write action in a standard event collection rule with the following, or add it as an additional write action (you can actually collect to both databases using a single rule):

<WriteAction ID="HttpWA" TypeID="IPTypes!Microsoft.SystemCenter.CollectCloudGenericEvent" />

Now granted, OMS lets you create your own custom event log collection rules using the OMS portal, but at the moment the level of customization and filtering available in the OMS portal is pretty limited. You can specify the name of the log and you can select any combination of three event levels (ERROR, WARNING, and INFOMRATION). You can modify the collection rules to filter them down based on any additional criteria you can create using a standard SCOM management pack. In large enterprises, this can help keep your OMS consumption costs down by leaving out events that you know you do not need to collect.


If we look at Performance Data next, we see that there are two custom Write Action types that are of interest to us:

 

Perf Data Collector Type

…and…

Perf Agg Data Collector Type

 

…which are the Write Action Modules used for collecting custom performance data and the aggregates for that performance data, respectively. If we take a look at some of the performance collection rules that use these types, we can see how we can use them ourselves. Surprisingly, in the current iteration of OMS they get stored in the Microsoft.IntelligencePack.LogManagement.Collection MP along with the event log collection rules. Here’s an example of the normal collection rule generated in SCOM by adding a rule in OMS:

Perf Data Collector Rule

 

And just like what we saw with the Event Collection rules, the only difference between this rule and a normal SCOM Performance Collection rule is that instead of the write action to write the data to the Operations Manager DB or DW, we have a “write to cloud” Write Action. So all we need to do in order to add OMS performance collection to existing performance rules is add a reference to the Types MP:

<Reference Alias="IPTypes">
<ID>Microsoft.IntelligencePacks.Types</ID>
<Version>7.0.9014.0</Version>
<PublicKeyToken>31bf3856ad364e35</PublicKeyToken>
</Reference>

And then add the custom write action to the Write Actions section of any of our existing collection rules. Like with the Event Collection rules, we can use multiple write actions so a single rule is capable of writing to Operations Manager database, the data warehouse, and OMS.

<WriteAction ID="WriteToCloud" TypeID="IPTypes!Microsoft.SystemCenter.CollectCloudPerformanceData_PerfIP" />

Now in addition to the standard collection rule we also have an aggregate collection rule that looks like this:

App Log Agg Collection Rule

 

This rule looks almost exactly like the previous collection rule, except for two big differences. One, is that it uses a different write action:

<ConditionDetection ID="Aggregator" TypeID="IPPerfCollection!Microsoft.IntelligencePacks.Performance.PerformanceAggregator">

…and there is an additional Condition Detection that wasn’t present in the standard collection rule for the aggregation:

<ConditionDetection ID="Aggregator" TypeID="IPPerfCollection!Microsoft.IntelligencePacks.Performance.PerformanceAggregator">
<AggregationIntervalInMinutes>30</AggregationIntervalInMinutes>
<SamplingIntervalSeconds>10</SamplingIntervalSeconds>
</ConditionDetection>

Changing the value for AggregationIntervalInMinutes allows you to change the aggregation interval, which is something that you cannot do in the OMS portal. Otherwise, the native Custom Performance Collection feature of OMS is pretty flexible and allows you to use any Object/Counter/Instance combination you want. However, if your organization already uses SCOM there’s a good chance that you already have a set of custom SCOM MPs that you use for performance data collection. Adding a single write action to these existing rules and creating an additional optional aggregation rule for 100 pre-existing rules is likely easier for an experienced SCOM author than hand-entering 100 custom performance collection rules into the OMS portal. The other benefits from doing it this way include the ability to bulk edit (changing the threshold for all the counters, for example, would be a simple find/replace instead manually changing each rule) and the ability to export this configuration. OMS lets you export data, but not configuration. Any time you spend hand-entering data into the OMS portal would have to be repeated for any other OMS workspace you want to use that configuration in. A custom SCOM MP, however, can be put into source control and re-used in as many different environments as you like.

Note: When making modifications to any rules, do not make changes to the unsealed OMS managed MPs in SCOM. While these changes probably won’t break anything, OMS is the source of record for the content of those MPs. If you make a change in SCOM, it will be disconnected from the OMS config and will likely be overwritten the next time you make a change in OMS.

One last thing. Observant readers may have noticed that every rule I posted is disabled by default. OMS does this for every custom rule, and then enables the rules through the use of an override that’s contained within the same unsealed management pack so this is normal. This is presumably because adjusting an override to enable/disable something is generally considered a “lighter” touch than editing a rule directly, although I don’t see any options to disable any of the collection rules (only delete them).

Robert Henry

Robert is a Cloud Architect on Avanade’s Global Azure Cloud Enablement (ACE) team. He has been with Avanade for 11 years delivering Microsoft technology and cloud solutions for large enterprise customers.