Monitoring Exchange 2007 Service Level Agreements

E-mail has become a mission critical application within most organizations, so it has become common for upper level management to mandate a specific Service Level Agreement (SLA) for Exchange Server administrators. In case you are not familiar with the concept of an SLA, a SLA mandates the percentage of time that an application is available. For example, an SLA might mandate that your company’s Exchange Servers are online and available for use 99% of the time.

One of the biggest problems with having upper management to impose an SLA is the fact that many of those managers will ask for proof that the SLA was met. Exchange Server 2007 doesn’t provide an easy way of generating a report that shows whether or not a particular SLA was met, but you can produce such a report by using Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005.

Before you can produce an SLA report, you will need to install the Management Pack for Exchange Server 2007, and configure your MOM server to monitor your Exchange 2007 servers. If you need a copy of the Exchange 2007 management pack, you can download it here.

Importing Reports and Management Packs

Before you can generate the necessary reports, you will have to import the management packs and the reports. To do so, open the MOM 2005 Administrator Console, and then click the Import Management Packs link. When you do, Windows will open the Management Pack Import / Export Wizard.

Click Next to bypass the wizard’s Welcome screen, and you will see a screen asking you if you want to import or export a management pack. Select the Import Management Packs and / or Reports option and click Next.

At this point, Windows will display the screen that’s shown in Figure A. As you can see in the figure, this screen asks you for the location of the management pack that you want to import, and also asks you if you want to import management packs, reports, or both. You must specify the location that you extracted the Exchange 2007 management pack to, and choose the option to import management packs and / or reports. Now, just follow the prompts to complete the import process.

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You must import the Management Packs and the Reports.

If the bottom two options in Figure A are not available, it usually means that the MOM Reporting console is not installed. Installing this console requires the SQL Reporting Service to be installed. Even so, in preparing for this article, I still ran into problems getting the MOM Reporting Console to install.

According to the Microsoft Web site, MOM 2005 installation disks that are slipstreamed with MOM 2005 SP1 contain a bug that prevents the MOM Reporting Console from installing properly. Fortunately, there is a workaround.

Some basic instructions for installing the MOM Reporting console can be found here.

For the most part, these instructions are correct, but if you run into problems, you will need to perform step 6 a bit differently. To get the Reporting Console to install correctly, I had to enter the name of my SQL server and clear the Automatically Detect Virtual Directories check box.

If you do not allow Setup to automatically detect virtual directories, then you must enter the names of the virtual directories that are to be used. Most of the documentation that I have found tells you to enter Reports and ReportServer as virtual directory names. However, on my server, there was a dollar sign and a server name appended to the end of the virtual directory names. Since my server was named MOM, the virtual directory names ended up being Reports$MOM and ReportServer$MOM.

If you want to check to see what virtual directory names are in use on your system, open the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager console (located on the SQL Server’s Administrative Tools menu). Now, navigate through the console tree to Web Sites | Default Web Site. If you expand the Default Web Site container, you can see the various virtual directories contained within it, as shown in Figure B. When you enter these names into the MOM Setup wizard, be sure that you enter only the virtual directory names, and not the entire URL.

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You can use the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager Console to look up the names of the virtual directories used by the SQL Reporting Service.

The SLA Reports

I apologize for getting sidetracked, but I spent the better part of a day trying to figure out why I couldn’t get the MOM Reporting Console, and I wanted to try to help anyone else who may be struggling.

Now that the MOM Reporting Console is up and running let’s take a look at the SLA related reports. To do so, open the MOM Reporting console, and then click the Microsoft Exchange Server link, followed by the Exchange 2007 Service Availability link. When you do, you will see a variety of available reports, as shown in Figure C.

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There are a number of SLA Oriented Reports.

As you can see in the figure, there is an overall service availability report, and there are a number of reports that focus on specific services. What happens next really just depends on which report you choose, but all of the reports work in basically the same way.

When you click on a report, you are asked to specify a date range, and your service level agreement in terms of a percentage, as shown in Figure D. Unfortunately, I can’t show you an actual report because MOM has yet to collect enough data from my Exchange Server. Normally though, when you generate the report, the service’s availability is graphed, and any time periods that fall outside of the SLA are highlighted in red.

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In this article, I have explained that Exchange Server 2007 lacks the ability to produce SLA compliance reports on its own. I then went on to show you how to use MOM to generate these types of reports.