With Release of MOM 2005, Microsoft Moves One Step Closer to System Center

Last week, Microsoft released Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 to manufacturing. When combined with two as yet unreleased products--Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and System Center Reporting Server--MOM will constitute the software giant's all-in-one systems management package, known as System Center 2005. Although System Center 2005 won't ship until 2005, MOM 2005 is ready now (according to Microsoft, the product will become widely available to customers in September--and greatly improves Microsoft's operations management capabilities).

MOM monitors and manages the event and performance information for the machines in your environment. MOM answers roughly 50 percent of resource-management needs; SMS handles the other 50 percent, which relate to Change and Configuration Management (CCM) concerns. System Center 2005 will combine the two products into an integrated suite that will help you manage your infrastructure's key assets.

MOM has been on a rather slow but steady release cycle. With the release of MOM 2005, however, MOM has come of age: The new version features a radically changed management infrastructure, with a new Microsoft Outlook-like Operator Console that's designed specifically for network operators (the Administrator Console, obviously aimed at systems administrators, is carried over but improved from the version in MOM 2000 Service Pack 1--SP1). From the perspective of the operators managing your systems, the Operator Console will be the most obvious visual change in this release. The console lets you easily monitor the alerts, system states, events, and performance of your managed systems and do so in a richly graphical way.

A new server status monitoring feature will let operators automatically generate "to do" lists that flag problem areas as they come up. Critical errors (e.g., replication blockers, database read failures) are bubbled to the top of the list, followed by Errors (e.g., scripts that don't complete successfully, Global Catalog--GC--connection failures), then Warnings and Information alerts. This type of functionality is crucial because, although MOM makes it possible to automatically handle certain events, you'll likely face situations for which solutions haven't been scripted on a regular basis.

The important new Diagram View in the Operator Console lets you visually inspect the status of your environment by using a Microsoft Visio-style graphical view. In Diagram View, problematic servers and network interrupts are visually called out and readily viewable. And because Diagram View is smart enough to understand the interdependencies of the machines in your environment, it will visually segregate Microsoft Exchange Server routing groups, servers that perform particular roles (e.g., domain controllers--DCs), and the like. You can also export views as Visio drawings for archival purposes.

In addition to the new Operator Console, MOM 2005 includes a Web Console, which provides remote access to many Operator Console functions; an improved Administrator Console, which is basically a home page for MOM's administrative options; and a new reporting service that's based on the Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services engine; this latter service provides dynamically generated reports that are based on queries that execute against the MOM data warehouse. (The previous reporting engine was based on the Jet database engine.)

MOM 2005 is a big release, and I'll be looking at it more closely in the coming weeks. But if you have any questions about MOM 2005 or the wider System Center 2005 release that Microsoft expects to ship next year, please let me know. I'm curious to know what you think about this release and what problems you have managing your environment's assets.

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