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Introduction to the SSyM Dashboard

This article is taken from the user guide for the SSyM Dashboard, a new feature that extends SSyM System Manager to provide automatic background monitoring and an at-a-glance status overview of critical systems. It is provided here in the Knowledge Base to allow interested customers to learn about the Dashboard concepts before downloading and trying the SSyM Dashboard for themselves.

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

The core of the SSyM Dashboard is the new Dashboard display, which provides summary and detail information relating to all systems that have been configured for monitoring. All configuration takes place through this display, but the monitoring itself is handled by the Central Controller which runs as a Service Display — a display running in an unattended SEM session that itself runs as a Windows service on one or more monitoring servers.

Monitoring data is held in a central Dashboard database, and the latest status can be viewed from any SEM Management Console at any time. From the status view, the user can drill down into the standard SSyM monitoring displays (if they are available to the user) to see further real-time information and, where possible and appropriate, take corrective action.

Status of this Release

This release of the SSyM Dashboard module is intended to be a stable release for customers interested in learning about or evaluating new functionality that will be added to SSyM System Manager in a future release. We are still working on adding new probe types and refining the Dashboard functionality based on user feedback so we encourage you to experiment with the Dashboard and let us know what you like and dislike about it, and what you'd like to see in future releases.

The Dashboard makes use of various SSyM System Manager displays as data sources; in this release, copies of these displays have been included in the Dashboard module and modified to include the support for reporting Dashboard probe status. You should be aware that the displays in the Dashboard module are not quite identical to the displays found in the current release of SSyM System Manager, so should not be considered interchangable — the displays in the Dashboard module will be used by the Dashboard functionality, but for interactive use you should continue to use SSyM System Manager as before.

(In some cases, the versions of the SSyM displays included in the Dashboard modules also include changes or bug-fixes that are still being tested for inclusion in a future release of the SSyM System Manager module. If you use these displays interactively, please be aware that they may report different values than the standard displays.)

A forthcoming SSyM System Manager release will incorporate the Dashboard and related modifications to existing SSyM displays, at which point the SSyM Dashboard module will be retired. This will not affect the existing Dashboard functionality or configuration.

Getting Started with the SSyM Dashboard

This section provides a brief introduction to the SSyM Dashboard, guiding you through initial installation and configuration. For more details, full online help is provided within the Dashboard displays; this can be accessed via the Help icon in the SEM Selection Window, display windows or menu dialogs.

SSyM Dashboard Concepts

The SSyM Dashboard is an automated monitoring system built around the concept of monitoring policies. Each monitoring policy specifies the statistic to be monitored, the interval at which it should be checked, threshold values that indicate when to indicate a warning or alert status, and when (if at all) these warnings and alerts should trigger notification e-mails. For instance, a policy might state ‘monitor disk usage every five minutes; issue a warning if it gets above 90% and an alert if it gets above 95%, but do not send notification e-mails’.

These policies are then applied to agents, whether individually or in groups; where it makes sense, they can also be applied to individual items on an agent, or such items can be excluded from monitoring if needed. To continue our disk usage example, you may wish to apply the policy only to user data volumes and use a stricter one with notification e-mails included for system volumes.

In the past, configuring this type of monitoring manually using SSyM System Manager has involved creating custom alarm and filter definitions which are attached to instances of SSyM displays and then stored as a saved session within SEM; this session can then be configured to start automatically in the background on a monitoring workstation or server. However, this style of monitoring can be somewhat awkward to configure and maintain as monitoring needs evolve; the Dashboard avoids all of this by automatically starting the correct set of monitoring displays using the Central Controller, which runs in the background as a service display. When you reconfigure monitoring policies via the Dashboard display, the Central Controller takes care of stopping or starting displays within moments, so you don’t need to alter or restart any sessions or services for your changes to take effect.

The Central Controller also takes care of co-ordinating activities between multiple instances, making it easy to set up a redundant secondary monitoring system that will automatically take over if the primary system fails for any reason. Since all Dashboard configuration and status information is held centrally, this is completely transparent to the user; the Dashboard displays will continue to show the latest status regardless of which Central Controller is currently active.

The statistics available for monitoring within the Dashboard are known as probes; each policy is associated with a particular probe type, and each probe type comes complete with default threshold and interval settings you can use as a baseline for your monitoring policies. The data for each probe is gathered by standard SEM displays connected to each agent; for the most part, these displays are stock SSyM System Manager displays, although some probes use Dashboard-specific displays that cannot be used interactively. You can also extend your own custom displays to incorporate Dashboard monitoring support; see the relevant section later in this guide for more information.

Initial Dashboard Setup

Installation of the Dashboard starts by importing the SSyM Dashboard module into SEM. This is done using the usual File ► Import and Export ► Import Module menu option; on the Select page, Browse for and load the SSyM Dashboard.txt file containing the module and then click Next to work through the import wizard pages. On the User Access page, select the users (including yourself!) who should have access to the new library and then continue through the rest of the wizard to finish importing the Dashboard.

(Note that this release of the Dashboard does not include a SEM token to control access to configuration menu options, so the Tokens page of the import wizard will be empty. This is currently expected, but will change in future releases.)

Once the module has been imported, you should find the new SSyM Dashboard library in the Selection Window on the left-hand side of the SEM window. Expand the library folder if needed and start the Dashboard display; in the startup window, select the agent on your Authorization Server, or another Windows agent, and click OK.  A prompt will appear telling you that the Dashboard has not yet been configured and offering to start the Setup Wizard. Click Yes to begin the setup process.

The Setup Wizard will guide you through configuring the Dashboard database and, if desired, setting up some basic monitoring to get you started. If you choose the ‘Configure basic monitoring’ option you will be prompted to select some agents and probe types to monitor; monitoring policies will be created based on the default settings for each selected probe and then applied to the specified agents. Alternatively, selecting ‘Do not configure any monitoring’ will skip this part of the configuration and allow you to start creating monitoring policies from a blank Dashboard.

Once the wizard has gathered enough information to create the initial Dashboard configuration, it will prompt you to install the Central Controller as a service display (see the following section for more details if you are not familiar with SEM Service Displays) before finally showing a summary of the choices you have made. Confirm they reflect what you want to do and click Apply to complete the setup process. Assuming you elected to configure basic monitoring, and installed and started the service display when prompted, the Dashboard window should start displaying status information after a few moments.

Configuring the Central Controller

The Central Controller runs as a service display — a SEM display window that runs in the background using a Windows service. This means that some configuration is required before the Dashboard will begin monitoring activities, but although the Dashboard Setup Wizard provides instructions on how to do this it is unable to complete the installation for you.

If you are already running SEM service displays for other purposes, adding the Central Controller should simply be a case of making sure the SSyM Dashboard library is mapped for the SEM user that the service displays are running as and then enabling the Central Controller option in the Service Displays and Unattended Reports dialog box. There is no need to specify any additional configuration beyond enabling the display and optionally customising the refresh interval, which controls how frequently the Central Controller checks for configuration changes (and, where multiples instances are running for failover purposes, whether it should become the active instance).

To enable the Central Controller service display, follow these steps:

  1. Log into SEM as the System account (or another suitably-privileged account) and ensure the SSyM Dashboard library is mapped. If not, use the Tools ► Library Mappings menu option to map it.

  2. Use the Tools ► Service Displays and Scheduled Reports to open the Service Display and Scheduled Report Configuration dialog box.

  3. On the Service Displays tab, select the entry for the Central Controller display in the SSyM Dashboard library. When not yet configured, it will be shown with a dim indicator and the text ‘- not configured -’ in the Configuration column; if a configuration name is shown instead, skip the following step.

  4. Click the Add Configuration button. The default name for the new configuration should be fine, but can be customised if required; click OK to create the configuration.

  5. Click the ‘Enable this configuration’ checkbox (found below the display details). Optionally, click the Schedule button to customise the Central Controller’s refresh interval.

  6. Click OK to close the Service Display and Scheduled Report Configuration dialog box. If the SEM Service Displays service is already installed and started, the Central Controller should start running within a few moments.

If you do not already have any SEM service displays installed, an additional step is required; as well as enabling the Central Controller display as above, you also need to install the SEM Service Displays service on a suitable Windows system. This system should be one that is always running; your SEM Authorization Server may be a good choice to get started. To configure and install the service:

  1. Optionally create a new SEM user to run the service displays under; this will ensure that the service display environment cannot be accidentally changed, for instance by altering library mappings for an account being used both interactively and by the service display host.

    If you choose to do this, make sure that the new user uses the same agent definitions as the Dashboard end-users; this might be through mirroring a shared base account’s agent definitions, or if your normal user account has its own set of definitions either mirroring that account or copying the definitions into the new account.

  2. Log into SEM on the workstation or server where you wish to install the service, and use the Tools ► Service Displays and Scheduled Reports menu option to open the Service Display and Scheduled Report Configuration dialog box.

  3. On the Service tab, specify the (SEM) username and password that the service should log in as — this will be the new user account, if one was created above, or an existing user that has access to the SSyM Dashboard module. Ensure the correct Authorization Server details are present and specify the Windows user account under which the service will run, if desired. The diagnostic logging options should be left on ‘No logging’ for normal operation.

  4. Click the Install button at the bottom of the Service tab to install the SEM Service Displays service. You may be prompted to elevate to a Windows account with Administrator privileges if required.

  5. Click the Start button at the bottom of the Service tab to start the SEM Service Displays service. Again, you may receive a UAC prompt if elevation is required.

  6. Once the service has been started, click OK to close the Service Displays and Unattended Reports dialog box, and then use the Tools ► Monitor Unattended Sessions menu option to make sure the service is running correctly. It should be listed in the upper section of the Monitor Unattended Sessions dialog box, with a session name of ‘- Service Displays -’; selecting that item will show the detailed status of the service in the lower section of the dialog box, including the current status of the Central Controller display and any displays it has started.

  7. If the Central Controller display is not listed in the Monitor Unattended Sessions dialog box, first revisit the Service Display and Scheduled Report Configuration dialog and make sure the Central Controller is listed on the Service Displays tab. It should be shown with a lit-up indicator; if the indicator is dimmed, select it and tick the ‘Enable this configuration’ checkbox. You may need to click the Add Configuration button first if the checkbox is not available.

    If the Central Controller service display is enabled but still does not start, the service may be failing to start or failing to log in to SEM. In this case it should have logged an error message to the Application event log, which can be viewed using the Windows Event Viewer applet.

    If the service display or host service still fails to start, please contact Sysgem or your distributor for assistance.

SSyM Dashboard Database Considerations

By default, all SEM databases (including the SSyM Dashboard database) are created as Microsoft Access .mdb files, typically residing on and accessed via the SEM Authorization Server. This allows users to evaluate new SEM functionality without going to the trouble of setting up new production-scale databases (such as SQL Server databases) ahead of time.

Unfortunately a recent critical security update from Microsoft has introduced a memory leak in the Access database driver used by SEM when creating default databases. Although this does not pose a significant problem for lightly-used databases such as the SAcM Logfile or Subscriber databases, the SSyM Dashboard database is accessed considerably more heavily and more frequently; this means that the most-recent (as of the time of this writing in 2018) version of the Access driver can exhaust its resources on the SEM Authorization Server and cause erratic Dashboard behaviour.

Sysgem therefore recommend using SQL Server for the SSyM Dashboard database in order to avoid this problem — in fact, the Dashboard Setup Wizard will display a warning message telling you this if it detects a version of the Access driver known to suffer this problem. To use a SQL Server database instead, perform the following configuration steps:

  1. Configure the SEM Authorization Server service to run as a specified Windows user; this user (the service account) needs to have read/write access to the SEM Authorization Server, SEM OptionsCache and SEM Databases folders under C:\Program Files (x86)\Sysgem (or your SEM installation directory, if different) on your Authorization Server machine.

    (Note that you will need to restart the SEM Authorization Server for it to run under the specified Windows user account.)

  2. Create a new SQL Server database to store the Dashboard data. Grant the service account db_ddladmin, db_datareader and db_datawriter roles in the new database.

  3. Log into your Authorization Server machine as the service account, start the SEM Management Console and use the Tools ► ODBC ► Data Source Administrator menu option to open the ODBC Data Sources Control Panel.

  4. On the System DSNs tab, create a new data source using the SQL Server driver. Give the new data source the name SSyM Dashboard, configure it to connect to your SQL Server using Windows authentication, and select your newly-created database as the default database.

  5. Once you have created the DSN and tested connectivity, you can close the ODBC Data Sources window and (if desired) log out of SEM and the Authorization Server.

  6. You can now start the Dashboard Setup Wizard as usual; it should identify the SQL Server DSN and proceed without warning you about the Access driver version.

  7. Optionally, revoke the db_ddladmin role for the SQL Server user now that setup is complete; this role is only required when making schema changes to the database, such as when creating the database structure during installation. It may be required again when upgrading to future Dashboard versions, though!

Using Custom Displays with the Dashboard

Please note: this is advanced information included for the interest of developers of custom displays within SEM that they may wish to integrate with the SSyM Dashboard. If you do not develop your own custom displays, this section can be safely ignored.

[This documentation is currently being prepared and will be available shortly.]

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