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Dashboarding is actually very important with SCOM, and most of it is due to the way people operate. People like to have visual overviews of the status of machines/networks/applications and health states and alerts split by functions and so on. The machines don’t care about it, but the people who have to use it to solve the alerts (system admins) and the people who want to have visual insight in the monitoring data (helpdesks, managers) need these to do their job even better.
Dashboards can be used to visually group health states for an application together and show them to somebody who does not know how an application is setup (for instance who does not know that a website with name x running on a machine y and a database z on a machine r is important for this application and how they are linked).
Dashboards can be used to group alerts and health states of certain machine groups together for the system admins who are responsible for those machines, or perhaps the same based on the product they support. Most management packs have already created views targeted at application roles, so you will see alerts and health states relevant for that product when you go into the views belonging to that management pack. In many cases these views are not being used to their potential (or not at all) and that is not a good thing. I would say especially if you have more than 20 alerts open in total for the whole environment, which is the case often enough.
Dashboards can also help to show how things are arranged physically, for instance network devices and datacenters and racks and locations/sites. These are nice to display in dashboards.
So what options do we have?
First of all there are the views and dashboards already in the management packs.
Second you can make a simple dashboard view in SCOM that will show a few alert/health/performance views in one screen.
Third you can make targeted alert/health/performance views within scom and use those in the SCOM dashboard views.
After this you will start moving out to products that are built for dashboarding:
Savision Live Maps is still my all-time favorite and has all kinds of network/location/application/business related dashboards you can take advantage of. Check out their website for examples. I just love their product(s) and use them for everything. I am not being paid to say this by the way, although I will accept any and all payments *grin*. All jokes aside, I have been using this for years and it still has advantages that other products do not yet provide and they stay ahead of the game.
Visio add-in for SCOM. Microsoft has built a connector between Visio and SCOM, which make it possible for you to make a drawing with network devices and servers and databases and make those state enabled by linking the objects in the drawing to the objects in SCOM. It is not layered like Savision is, but in several cases this is all you need to have. This is the Visio 2007 version and this is the Visio 2010 version.
Service Level dashboard. This is basically an add-in for SharePoint where you can display service levels gauges for whatever you specify. For instance you have built a distributed application and you now have a health state for it that you can see turning from green to red and back again. Now you would like to state that the application needs to be in a green state 98% of the time and that is what the gauge will show you… if you make the service level it show in green and once it crosses the lines it is into red territory. It looks fancy and managers will love it. Check it out here.
These would be the best choices to work from in my opinion.