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Let MOM 2005 clean up your network

Windows network management can get messy. Luckily MOM is there to help clean up. Microsoft's latest Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 has been upgraded enough that it should be a must have for Windows network administrators. This article covers some of the highlights.

Microsoft has improved its Operations Manager 2000 enough that MOM 2005 should become a must have tool for Windows network administrators, according to Scott Fulton. In this article from his Windows Server Reference Guide from Informit, he highlights some of the improvements.

You can simplify network operations on an organizational scale—at least conceptually—by considering it as being comprised of the following:

  • User requests, and the responses to those requests
  • Scheduled actions, and the monitoring of the success of those actions
  • Signals of events, an assessment of the effects of those events, a diagnosis of their causes (if necessary), and the responses to those events

So there are really only three things to worry about, multiplied only by the number of times you need to worry about them in a day. It is this factor that distinguishes you, the network administrator, from the temp hired to answer the phone in the front lobby.

Up to this point, Microsoft has kept mention of Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM)—arguably Windows Server 2003's principal live administrative tool—hidden away in one of the smaller drawers of its file cabinet of featured acronyms. However, with MOM 2005, this drawer may be opened up a bit, and one of WS2K3's more prominent features may finally be given an equally prominent spotlight. At the time of this writing, MOM 2005 is in the beta stage, where it has been for a considerable period of time, though this writer believes it may yet be released in the year of its name.

Perhaps the most refreshing new way for you to see how MOM 2005 works is for you to try it yourself, right now, on one of Microsoft's safe, remote experimental servers at its TechNet Virtual Lab. Here, you can log on as a domain administrator and, for 90 minutes, see for yourself how MOM 2005 enables the setup, scheduling, and monitoring of everyday actions and events, using a language Microsoft discovered in its labs, called English.

Like the MOM 2000 management console snap-in—which was introduced for Windows 2000 and extended, without much change, to WS2K3—MOM 2005 organizes its various levels of control granularity as hierarchical tiers, represented as Explorer-like folders along the left pane. But in MOM 2005, the organization of those tiers has been altered extremely. Although there are now far more levels in that pane to represent, essentially, the same concepts, their organization is now uniform, and easier to picture in the mind.

In other words, categories weren't just placed in the most convenient location for the sake of the program, or to keep the average open folder depth down to 3. So while there's more belonging taking place, and more folders for other folders to belong to, the relationships between the concepts these folders represent makes better sense.

Extending a concept introduced in Microsoft Outlook's Rules and Alerts system, MOM 2005 presents the concept of rule groups: sets of instructions for how WS2K3 should automatically respond to specific system events. Each system event has a code number, and every so-called event rule is a response to such a code. That response is, in actuality, a script; however, in MOM 2005, it doesn't look like a program, but like a Web page.

If the new Console looks strangely familiar, it's because Microsoft has returned to making good use of shared resources. Much of the same code used to package Outlook 2003 appears here, for a different purpose. Here, the non-customized Alerts view shows a list of alerts generated in response to, among other things, event rules. In this list, for example, is an alert that was generated in response to having taken a domain controller offline, which caused a scheduled client-side monitoring event to fail. The failure was, in itself, an event, which could be monitored through the conventional Event Viewer or through the Events view of the new Operator Console. But the response to the event—which bears little information in its own right about system conditions when it occurred—is an alert, which gives you much more information for use in your diagnosis. The lower pane presents this information, along with explanations written, again, in plain English.

Also take a look at the Custom Properties tab. With the Management Console, you can have an alert collect and record more information than the standard (templated) form provides. The data revealed in Custom Properties becomes, in a way, your notice to yourself of what other conditions may be important to you. You're probably already imagining ways you can use Custom Properties to tell you about peculiar system traits or symptoms while you're using alerts to attempt to recreate problems or failures.

Read more about MOM 2005 at Informit, where you will find examples of the management console.

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