Grouping and Filtering Application Stack Dashboards

by bluemedora_editor on July 10, 2017

By: Scott Walsh

In my previous blog post, I discussed using an application group to show a cross-stack dashboard focused on a single application. For instance, you can create an application group for a standard n-tier web application with tiers for web, application, storage and network.  Within these groups, you can add out-of-the-box VMware objects, as well as objects from various management packs, to each tier. It is a pretty straightforward capability, but very powerful.

As a result, you can generate a dashboard with a topology widget in the top left, designed to drive various metrics and health-driven widgets throughout the rest of the dashboard. This offers a great top-down view, but once you implement the solution, a deeper dive may be more helpful. To that end, this blog will provide a few tips that will help when building out an application-focused dashboard.

Figure 1: Dashboard featuring a top-down view with topology widget

In the dashboard shown above, the topology widget drives an alerts widget, health widget, and an object list widget that shows the objects within selected tier. In turn, this object list widget drives a second object list widget that shows children of the selected object. Let’s simplify this by looking at an example.

In our example, we have a topology widget as shown in figure two below. From here, let’s select networking.

Figure 2: Example of the topology widget


Our networking selection populates our object list with our Cisco Switch.

Figure 3: Select the associated Cisco Switch


In turn, our Cisco Switch selection populates our object children list with the ports for the selected switch.

This all looks great! So, what’s the problem? Well, what if our application only utilizes certain ports on the switch? Or, what if it utilizes multiple switches, do we wade through hundreds of switches to find the ones we are looking for? One answer to this is to filter our lists so that only the results (ports) that we want to see show up. So, how do we do this?

The way I will describe here utilizes a combination of a custom group and tagging in order to limit the objects my list can choose from. First, I will describe how I do it, and second, I will discuss why.


Step 1, setup a custom tag to group application objects  

Go to Administration > Inventory Explorer, and click on the Manage Tags icon. The window below will pop up. Click the icon to create a new tag. Note:  A tag can have multiple tag values. For instance, I could create a tag for web applications and a tag value for each web app:


Now that I have my tag values, simply drag objects over the appropriate tag value.  You can see that I have dragged 21 objects into my Blue Medora web application 1 tag value:

Step 2, create a custom group to house my tagged objects

Browse to Environment >  Custom Groups and click the + icon to add a new group.


The window that pops up will take some practice to work with.  For our use case, we want our group to contain objects from two areas:

  • Our original application group (Web App 1 within the applications tab in environment > custom groups)
  • Our tag value within our new Tag (Blue Medora Web App 1)


Name your custom group with something descriptive, and create the following rules in the membership criteria.  Essentially, this is telling our custom group to contain descendents of our original Web App 1 and children of our net Blue Medora Web App 1 tag value:



The above approach provides some flexibility in how you add new objects. Let’s look at a couple of ways I might add new objects, and how this setup might satisfy each requirement.

  • If I want to add a new tier to my environment, perhaps to monitor my hosts, I can simply add the new tier in the application group. The objects I add to the tier are automatically added to my custom group based on the rules I set up.
  • If I want to add new objects to my application, I can just tag them appropriately using the approach described above. They will be added to my custom group.
  • Lastly, what if I want to add new objects dynamically based on a rule, such as adding a new block of VMs based on an IP range? Because I am using a custom group, and not just tagging, I can add a new rule to my custom group and extend it as needed.

In conclusion, hopefully this simplifies grouping and filtering application stack dashboards so you can get the insight that you need.


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