Microsoft “Atlanta”

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Microsoft Codename “Atlanta” is a configuration-monitoring cloud service for Microsoft SQL Server deployments. Customers install an Atlanta gateway at each site where there are SQL Servers systems to monitor, and then install an Atlanta agent on each server. Each day the Atlanta agent connects to Microsoft via the Atlanta gateway at its site to upload configuration data. (If you only have one SQL Server, the Atlanta agent and gateway component go on the same computer.)

Microsoft servers in the Atlanta cloud analyze the uploaded data, and then provide feedback to the customer in the Atlanta console in the form of alerts about configuration issues detected. Atlanta’s mission statement is to be a proactive tool to help Microsoft customers avoid configuration problems, reduce downtime, improve performance, and resolve issues faster.

Impressions

Very useful for SQL admins and DBAs, Atlanta seems like a lot of product for a small task. In reality Atlanta is probably only the beginning step for delivery of Microsoft management services from the cloud. We expect in the future that applications in addition to SQL will be added to the Atlanta framework. Right now Atlanta is only a historical configuration-centric engine, there is no facility for real-time performance monitoring and alerting. The web-based Atlanta console itself is written with Silverlight, and is very similar to the look and feel of the Microsoft InTune console, Microsoft’s cloud-based management service for PCs.

Getting Atlanta up and running was very simple.  After signing in with a Windows Live ID and accepting the services agreement at https://www.microsoftatlanta.com, enter your name and company’s name then click “Create.”  Since all of your account data is tied to both your Windows Live ID and a certificate provided for download after registration, it is easy to have the managed SQL Server systems connect to your Atlanta account.  You don’t have to create any Active Directory accounts, manually generate or install any certificates, or set any permissions.  One drawback to this method of authentication is that, currently, only one Live ID can be connected to an account.  If you wish to allow your coworkers to login and browse the data that Atlanta has collected, you have to either share your Live ID and password or begin the setup process again with a new shared Live ID.

Complete data from the agents might take overnight before appearing in the Atlanta console.  The agents running on the SQL Server systems are the same as the Operations Manager 2007 R2 agent that may or may not already be installed, depending on whether you use System Center Operations Manager in your environment.  If the agent is already installed, the Atlanta setup wizard adds an additional management group configuration to the current agent. (More details later in this post.)

The data provided in the Alerts space of the Atlanta console is presented in a format similar to what you would find in the Operations Manager console; however the alerts contain a different type of information that you would find in OpsMgr.  Our installation of Atlanta found missing SQL updates, databases without clean consistency checks, and a missing service pack.  There was also an alert recommending the number of tempdb data files to be increased.  The alerting is similar to what would be found by the SQL Server Best Practices Analyzer tool if run on a regular basis.

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Figure 1. Alerts View.

Atlanta contains two other workspaces that show the configuration current snapshot as well as the configuration change history.  These spaces display data about each machine, operating system, SQL instance, and SQL database.  No data is displayed at the cluster level, although individual cluster nodes are supported and displayed like standalone servers. 

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Figure 2. Configuration Current Snapshot Space.

Using these two spaces, you can quickly look up specifications of the server and its databases, as well as easily see when any of these change.  For example, you can see details such as databases that were added, or properties on databases that have changed. A report on SQL configuration changes is very useful in high-value and high-security environments.

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Figure 3. Configuration Change History Space.

As mentioned, Atlanta uses the standard System Center Operations Manager 2007 agent as the Atlanta agent. If you already have OpsMgr 2007 R2 deployed, when the Atlanta agent is installed it will dual-home your OpsMgr agent to its original management group plus  to Atlanta. Atlanta stores its configuration data in the Windows Registry under its own HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Atlanta key. The registry key for the gateway component includes the thumbprint of the gateway certificate, which is installed as a service certificate for the ‘Atlgateway’ service. The Registry also contains the URLs of the Codename Atlanta web services in the Microsoft cloud the gateway talks with.

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Figure 4. Codename Atlanta Gateway Registry and Certificate.

While Operations Manager uses .XML files to exchange data between its agents and management servers in real time, Atlanta uses a different technique.  Atlanta agents generate one or more .CAB files each day, which are staged on the local Atlanta gateway. The gateway collects all the agent .CAB files and exchanges information over the Internet using the cloud web service.

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Figure 5. Codename Atlanta File System.

Learn More

For additional information about Atlanta, we suggest the following URLs.

Overviews:

Detailed Deployment Instructions: http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/atlanta/ff962510.aspx
System Requirements: http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/atlanta/ff962524.aspx
Planning Considerations: http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/atlanta/ff962505.aspx

Contributor’s credit: Thanks to Brandon Ryan, DBA at ClearPointe, for his help in evaluating Microsoft Codename Atlanta.

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4 Responses to Microsoft “Atlanta”

  1. Pingback: Microsoft “Atlanta” « Dot Net Engineer

  2. Pingback: Microsoft Codename “Atlanta” « mauricekok.nl

  3. Pingback: Microsoft Codename Atlanta… , Le blog de Patrick

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