Executive Overview

Published: April 24, 2008   |   Updated: August 22, 2008


IT departments have ever more sophisticated tools at their disposal to monitor the performance of applications that make the organization run. These tools, despite their sophistication, follow traditional monitoring, which is server-based. As long as the server is in good health, the assumption is that the service is good too.

The performance and availability attributes of the service cannot be measured in just one place, however. Differences in network speed and quality across the company can slow or break functionality for the end user. Furthermore, multiple server and client software components are often combined to provide a service and can each affect its quality. Thus a true picture of the performance and availability of an application can only come from evaluating these attributes from an end-to-end perspective.

IT managers describe their challenge in words such as these:

Our organization is geographically dispersed and we use many common Web-based applications to run critical aspects of our business. The constant availability and performance of these applications has a direct impact on our bottom line. We want to be proactive in securing the performance and availability of these applications and not wait until help desk gets a call from an end user.

Addressing the Challenge

The Service Level Dashboard for System Center Operations Manager is a new Solution Accelerator that addresses the need of IT service managers for near real time, end-to-end reporting on the performance and availability of their line-of-business (LOB) applications. The accelerator provides a unique view of a business application from the user’s perspective by simulating user interactions with the business application and reporting on the experience. A small number of agents are deployed in the enterprise network to provide an accurate sampling of all the different conditions under which the business application operates. The data is then collected and interpreted.

Results are displayed in a single Web-based user interface, providing both top-level and detailed views. The top-level view reports the service level agreement (SLA) status (compliant or non-compliant) for every application being monitored. The detailed views reveal component-level information that can help administrators investigate the possible causes of noncompliance reported at the top level.

Other Microsoft Technologies

The Service Level Dashboard depends upon two Microsoft technologies. It uses System Center Operations Manager 2007 to collect and interpret information and SQL Server® Reporting Services to display results in a dashboard.

Business Scenarios

The Service Level Dashboard can be used to improve the ability of administrative personnel (ranging from IT support employees to executive-level employees) to work with technology-driven services. This Solution Accelerator can help in business scenarios such as these: 

  • You need to determine the overall level of SLA compliance of your business-critical applications and identify those that are out of compliance so that you can assess the management actions that need to be taken.
  • Government regulations dictate that your business stay compliant with the SLAs for certain applications, and you need up-to-date and real-time reports that can help your business do this.
  • You need to be able to quickly identify applications that have performance or availability problems. After you discover a problem, you need a way to investigate possible causes so the problem can be resolved before it hurts the business.
  • Budget constraints prevent you from hiring additional resources, but you need to measure and validate the availability and performance of your business-critical applications against their respective SLAs.
  • Senior management is asking for current SLA compliance information and you need to have summary information at your fingertips.
  • You’re looking for a service level management solution that leverages your existing Operations Manager infrastructure because you don’t want to invest in another comprehensive solution.
  • You want to be able to proactively test various user experience scenarios so you can identify performance bottlenecks before they cause major business impacts.
  • You need visibility into how end-users experience your LOB applications.

Using the Service Level Dashboard

The Service Level Dashboard integrates with Operations Manager to collect and process performance and availability data, as shown in the following figure.


The Service Level Dashboard uses a distributed application model to compile health information for application components into a service report

The Service Level Dashboard is designed to work with an existing Operations Manager infrastructure that is already configured to monitor business-critical applications. Configuring the Service Level Dashboard involves adding the following components to gather and process additional data:

  • SLA definitions. The IT service manager identifies and defines the SLA agreement for a given business-critical application or service.
  • Web application monitors and synthetic transactions. The IT administrator configures and deploys watcher nodes to perform synthetic transactions, such as connecting to the Web site or querying the database. A Web application monitor runs on the watcher node and uses these synthetic transactions to check availability and to measure performance of a Web page, Web site, or Web application. It monitors the Web application and then changes the health state of an object associated with the Web application based on the results of the synthetic transaction.

    It is this change in health state that the Service Level Dashboard records and reports on. The IT administrator configures the thresholds for identifying an error or warning state during a synthetic transaction. For the Service Level Dashboard, an error is equivalent to an availability exception, and a warning is equivalent to a performance exception. Because an unavailable application is, by definition, not performing as expected, availability exceptions are also factored into performance exceptions.

  • Distributed application model. The IT administrator uses an Operations Manager distributed application model to define the application or service. Using the distributed application model, the IT administrator groups Web application monitors and other monitors into applications and regions for the dashboard.

    Operations Manager derives availability and performance percentages independently for each component object in the application model tree, based on the Operations Manager time in state for that object. Any rollup calculations are controlled by the standard distributed application model health rollups.

  • Dashboard reports. As soon as the Service Level Dashboard components are configured and operating, the summarized SLA compliance data will be displayed in the dashboard reports. The Service Level Dashboard evaluates each application over the defined reporting period, determines whether the application was in or out of compliance during that time (and for how long). It then lists the application as compliant or non-compliant, based on defined service level targets. The summary reports included in version 6.0.6278.6 are based on Dundas Gauges.

Exporting Reports

In addition to viewing report data in the Service Level Dashboard interface, you can display the compliance data on SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) reports, and publish the reports using Microsoft® SharePoint® products and technologies.

Download Details

The download includes the following tool and documentation:

  • Service Level Dashboard for Operations Manager Management Pack
  • Service Level Dashboard for Operations Manager User Guide
  • Service Level Dashboard for Operations Manager Planning Guide
  • Sample templates for Web-based LOB applications

You can access the Service Level Dashboard on the Microsoft Download Center.

For more information, or to download an evaluation copy of Operations Manager, see the System Center Operations Manager TechCenter site on TechNet.


Please direct questions and comments about this guide to satfdbk@microsoft.com.


This accelerator is part of a larger series of tools and guidance from Solution Accelerators.


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