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Numbers and metrics in their raw data format are helpful. However, consuming facts, figures, performance data, analytics, and many other data sources is much more human-friendly in visual form. There are numerous solutions on the market that provide dashboards for specific vendor solutions or systems. However, what if you had a dashboard solution that allowed you to combine data from any system, even non-IT systems, in the same dashboard solution?
SquaredUp has made the Dashboard Server a standalone product that is separate from its SCOM and Azure tools. It can aggregate data with no specialized data merges, copies, or synchronization processes. A unique angle of SquaredUp Dashboard Server is that it enables creating dashboards for not only IT-specific monitoring and other infrastructure, but also to present business information and data that is helpful across many different teams. Dashboard data can include information for the following:
- Business KPIs
- Service Desk
New SquaredUp features, including PowerShell ^
Chief among these new features is the recent addition of PowerShell support in Dashboard Server. This new feature unlocks querying and pulling information using PowerShell queries from just about any data source.
With SquaredUp 5.1, PowerShell tiles are available out of the box and require no other product configuration. PowerShell visualizations allow connecting to one or more data sources. You can use PowerShell tiles to visualize logs, correlate and aggregate results from multiple APIs, create your own performance graphs, and pull data from sources without an API. You can connect to anything and pull information.
When you think about the prospects of loading a PowerShell module for specific solutions, such as Microsoft Exchange, Active Directory, Microsoft Teams, VMware vSphere, and many more, you are really only limited by the user's ability to work with PowerShell. The new PowerShell functionality allows you to connect to multiple data sources, correlate any data set, calculate metrics, and produce dashboards. You can retrieve data, work with variables, loop through your data, and filter your results.
This new PowerShell functionality opens up a tremendous number of powerful capabilities for creating dashboard visualizations. Before the introduction of the new PowerShell integration, you had to rely on the Web API or SQL features found in SquaredUp to get to your data. PowerShell closes the gap in getting to the information you need to display in a dashboard. Not all solutions have a web API that you can query.
Splunk and Elasticsearch tiles
Organizations today store, search, and analyze vast volumes of data and need the ability to provide real-time answers from their queries. Splunk and Elasticsearch are two of the big players in log searching and analytics. The new Dashboard Server 5.1 release contains two new dedicated tiles to use both Splunk and Elasticsearch with SquaredUp, providing point-and-click configuration of both Splunk and Elasticsearch data sources.
You can write custom queries in the Query DSL or SPL languages. It also allows the use of contextual variables to visualize both Splunk and Elasticsearch data dynamically.
New status tiles for data visualization of external sources
SquaredUp 5.1 introduces new status tiles that enable seeing important metrics at a glance with SCOM and Azure. These tiles can be used with most data sources, including Web API, SQL, PowerShell, Splunk, Log Analytics, Elasticsearch, and others. You can also customize the look of the dashboards, choosing between blocks, lists, dynamic labels, and logic.
Installing SquaredUp ^
I found installing the SquaredUp Dashboard Server solution straightforward and hassle-free. You can install the SquaredUp Dashboard Server on your hardware or virtual machine. SquaredUp has built the solution with enterprise IT in mind. It is aligned with many of the technologies that businesses currently use in their environments, such as Windows Server, SQL, PowerShell, and other technologies.
After signing up on the website, download the installer, and click Next through the install wizard to get the server up and running. I installed Dashboard Server on a minimal configuration Windows Server 2019 virtual machine. The SquaredUp installation wizard automatically configures the required Windows components, such as Internet Information Services (IIS).
After you log in as an admin to the SquaredUp server, you will be able to activate your license key sent from SquaredUp via email and then import the sample dashboards.
Sample Dashboards with the SquaredUp Dashboard Server
One of the things that I like about the SquaredUp Dashboard Server installation is that it automatically installs sample dashboards and data for you to view. It allows easily looking at the sample tiles' settings and seeing how the dashboards are constructed and what scripts are used (in the case of PowerShell) to pull and format the data for dashboard display. It is beneficial, especially when you are trying to speed up building custom dashboards to fit your environment.
Below is a view of the same dashboard data installed by default on the SquaredUp Dashboard Server. They give you a wide range of tiles to take a look at, including the new PowerShell tiles. Click the settings icon in the upper right corner of the screen. It places the dashboards in edit mode.
Once you click to edit the settings on the page itself, you can click the settings icon next to each dashboard to drill into the settings used for the sample data on each.
Creating a PowerShell Dashboard in SquaredUp ^
For my purposes in testing and for many use cases, PowerShell dashboards provide tremendous functionality and capabilities for connecting to and displaying various data sources. Let's take a quick look at how easy it is to create a dashboard in SquaredUp, pulling from a PowerShell source.
The first step when creating a new SquaredUp dashboard is to select a template for the dashboard. The template defines the layout of the dashboard you are creating.
Next, name your dashboard, and set a description. After that, configure the tiles you have as part of the dashboard.
Click Configure tile and select the data source for the tile. Here, I am selecting PowerShell.
Select the data source for the new tile
Now select the type of PowerShell tile you want to display based on the data you are returning from your PowerShell script.
Enter your PowerShell script. You can copy and paste your favorite PowerShell scripts into the script configuration. Here, I am doing something really easy—returning services from a domain controller.
On the response data, you will see a preview of the data returned from your PowerShell script. Once you have the configuration in place for your PowerShell-based dashboard and tiles, you will need to publish the dashboard to make it live on the server.
Below, you can see the service data returned from the domain controller. It's easily viewable in the tile.
Wrapping up ^
The ability to visualize data helps us to effectively analyze what the data is trying to tell us. Creating dashboards is an effective way of visualizing and analyzing data from any number of data sources. I found the SquaredUp Dashboard Server does what it says it can do—easily create effective dashboards and display this information for you to consume via a web browser.
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The recent addition of PowerShell is going to take the SquaredUp Dashboard Server to the next level. If you are looking for a simple way to aggregate information from various sources and present it in an effective web-based solution, I highly recommend the SquaredUp Dashboard Server solution. Check out SquaredUp Dashboard Server here.