Q&A: Taking a closer look at System Center Operations Manager 2012

Microsoft's Adam Hall runs down the significant changes made to the Operations Manager component in System Center 2012 and the thinking behind them.

IT pros interested improving system monitoring and management can now get their hands on System Center 2012. Operations Manager, a component of the suite, got positive reviews at the Microsoft Management Summit last month. Adam Hall, Microsoft’s senior product marketing manager, sat down with us to discuss how Operations Manger improves the overall strategic value of SC 2012 and how it can save IT shops money.

SearchWindowsServer.com: What are the most strategic improvements to the new Operations Manager?

Adam Hall: There are two major pieces. The first is network monitoring. We already had a good infrastructure solution for monitoring at the operating system level and checking application availability and health. But now we have gone both top and bottom. So underneath we now have network monitoring, which allows us to scan networks and pick up network devices, build out diagrams so we can see how the devices are running in terms of traffic throughput, and what all the port mappings look like. All this allows us to see underneath the infrastructure. On top, we can now do performance monitoring thanks to the technology we have incorporated from our AVIcode acquisition. So now we can know everything about what’s going on from the network layout all the way up to performance of an application.

SearchWindowsServer.com: How do these new capabilities contribute to the overall value of System Center 2012 to an IT shop?

Hall: It does two things. One, it removes the need for multiple tools to achieve the same goal. For instance, many users with Operations Manager might have a different network monitoring tool and some may have a different tool for apps monitoring. On the bottom level we are allowing them to consolidate and not maintain multiple systems, sidestepping the cost of maintaining the software and licensing. And when you have two different toolsets they might talk to each other and they might not. On the top level, the value-add is [to] see if the apps are performing up to the levels of the SLA.

SearchWindowsServer.com: Did the wish list of features from mid-cap companies differ greatly from those of Fortune 1000 accounts?

Hall: It is fair to say that all customers want a number of the same base level features and functions, such as application performance monitoring. Every customer wants to have insights into their applications. But there are the larger organizations that get lit up about high-volume, transactions-oriented capabilities, but you have to be a business of a certain size before that becomes something you really care about.

SearchWindowsServer.com: Can you give me an example of how Operations Manager can save an IT shop time and money?

Hall: At the Microsoft Management Summit we showed the difference between availability monitoring and performance monitoring. This is something that can really help users save money, but also deliver a better level of service. For instance, we have a traffic lights display telling you if you are getting five nines availability or not. When you bring performance monitoring into that, you can look more granularly at the end user experience to see if users are wasting time while they are waiting for an app to do something. If it is taking them five seconds you want to know what happened in that five seconds and be able to measure that. You can then map and measure that against service levels. This also helps an IT department to show it is adding value but enhancing the business through greater operational efficiency.

SearchWindowsServer.com: I assume Microsoft deployed this in-house to test it out?

Hall: Yes we have a couple of major parts of our organizations that served as early adopters for Operations Manager. [About] 100,000 servers were in production with SC 2012 at launch from early adopters, about 10,000 of those were Microsoft internal.

SearchWindowsServer.com: What role can Operations Manager play in helping an IT shop implement and maintain private or public clouds?

Hall: There are two aspects to that. First, Operations Manager has a tight connection across all the System Center components. So when you deploy a virtual machine or service with Virtual Machine Manager, it automatically gets synchronized. Operations Manager is then aware that a change has been made in the environment. It knows that service is to be deployed and it ensures we have a diagram so we can see the basic health of that through Virtual Machine Manager. It also synchronizes to Service Manager as a business service.

From a cloud perspective we are moving to a much more dynamic world where we have self-service and people deploying things out from a pool of resources. IT will be tasked with ensuring that no matter what those people do once they have delegated the right to do something, they become aware of it. Operations Manager has a very key role in that. Also, Operations Manager has a view across clouds allowing for monitoring both on premise apps of infrastructure and clouds but also we can monitor the health, availability and performance of Azure apps as well.

Ed Scannell is Senior Executive Editor with SearchWindowsServer.com. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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