On The Importance Of Building Test Environments

One of the things I didn’t quite grasp when I first started using SCOM a few years back was the importance of test environments. SCOM was this bright and shiny new tool that was going to help proactively monitor our servers, increase uptime, and as long as I only installed Microsoft approved Management Packs everything would be alright. This was admittedly extremely naive– but it was good starting point. I was enthusiastic as well as fortunate enough to learn that this was a terrible idea long before making a critical mistake.

SCOM is an incredibly powerful tool, but it has to be used and implemented intelligently:

-Installation guides must be read.

-MP’s should be evaluated in Test or Dev environments first (If you don’t have a test environment build one)

-Blogs should be scoured for relevant info.

-Management Packs should be installed in production because they provide value not just because you happen to have the associated product installed.

Anytime an engineer or admin asks to have a shiny new management pack installed in production and doesn’t want to test it first I remember this slide from a talk I stumbled across from Microsoft’s Management Pack University entitled “Getting Manageability Right” given by Nistha Soni, a program manager on the Ops Manager team at Microsoft:

Getting Managability Right Nista Soni

The talk was for the different Microsoft product teams to help them think about how to build better management packs that are useful to their customers. If a MP reduces total cost of ownership this is a good thing, if it increases TCO then we have a problem. This slide was referencing an iteration of a Microsoft MP–name omitted to protect the guilty– which provided feedback that while potentially useful for a developer at Microsoft, was also inundating their customers/operators with alerts.

Building a useful MP is a delicate balancing act and its important to remember that even the ones made by Microsoft are essentially a work in progress. Each successive iteration tends to get better, but if you just import into production without testing and research you are asking for trouble.

The talk itself is an interesting look at how Microsoft thinks about monitoring and building management packs and is still available here.

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