MOM: Network management, Microsoft style
By Robert J. Shimonski, Net Management Answer Man
You've heard the buzz about managing your systems before. You know the big names in network management like NAI, Concord, IBM, HP, CA and their entire suites of products. What about Microsoft? The company's SMS (Systems Management Server) offers desktop and server management, but is far cry from a full-blown network management system (NMS) that catches and records traps and offers a wide range of network management utilities and services. Up until MOM, the Microsoft Operations Manager 2000, Microsoft was clearly lacking in this area. What does MOM do? Microsoft Operations Manager 2000 will provide your enterprise with quite a few helpful tools to manage your systems efficiently and effective. Let's look at some of the things MOM can help you accomplish.
What does MOM do for you?
Proactive monitoring of your network is the first in a series of services you can get with MOM. MOM will allow you to survey fault management on your network. If there is a problem, then you can respond adequately from MOM's warnings. Make no mistake, however; this is not a fully functional software platform that does it all. MOM can tell you there is a problem, but in most cases you have to know how to fix it. Proactively using MOM means watching and monitoring the console, so you will also need to have someone dedicated to managing the network tool. MOM helps with alerting you to issues on the network via the console. MOM will allow you to do reporting and trend analysis, which is important for any network management technician.
What makes MOM a desirable tool to have? Well, the snap-in management modules are what sold me on MOM. The modules are collections of Knowledge Base articles and other sets of information tied into MOM's architecture to help solve issues on your network. They are even configurable to your specifications. MOM comes with modules to manage over 15 services you may have running, including Windows 2000, ADS, DNS, WINS, DHCP, IIS, Exchange, SQL and many more. In a Microsoft network, any little bit helps when it comes to finding and resolving a problem. In my test segment, MOM actually helped me find a few problems we had with our Active Directory configuration. When it comes to proactive management, MOM's got it in her!
The benefits of MOM
What are some other key benefits for better business value? MOM has a central console that allows for simple deployment and management. You can have agents pushed out on your clients (services you want MOM to manage) all through auto discovery. You can implement this platform out of the box without any additions and produce immediate results, discovering problems you may be experiencing today without even knowing it. MOM uses pre-built rules, scripts, reports, alerts and Knowledge Base articles to help you solve problems immediately. From one console, you can manage thousands of Windows 2000 servers all running .NET services like SQL 2000 and Exchange 2000. Will MOM play nice with something other than Windows based products? Why, yes she will! MOM has the capability for Unix, Novell, Oracle and other platforms with the addition of third-party applications. You can also tweak MOM with the SDK. The software development kit will let you extend the architecture if needed.
MOM can also be configured to monitor traps via SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol). This is by far one of the most important tools in the arsenal. When you think of SMS, which was very good for workstation and server management and deployment, you never had the flexibility of a management console that picked up traps of an event like a server crash. Most of your high level Windows workstations have the capability to run the SNMP protocol for use with a NMS system, hence MOM. MOM can also be set to feed traps to a more efficient NMS system like HP OpenView if needed. MOM can handle performance monitoring as well. Thresholds such as CPU utilization can be set where you need them. If you were to have thresholds crossed, you could also set these thresholds to generate an alert if problems occur. MOM is good at handling alerts as well. MOM can use configured alerts to send e-mail messages, pages, traps, and scripts to admins when a problem is experienced. MOM will handle reporting for you as well. Pre-configured reports and charts aid you in your reporting functions. You can also add new ones with management packs and modules when needed.
Final thoughts about MOM
Just about everyone loves his or her MOM. Microsoft's MOM can be lovable too, but if you're looking for a high-level product like OpenView, this is not it. It is too new and not as flexible as a more advanced product. That doesn't mean it doesn't serve its purpose. The system did work well within the testing phase. It lacked a major learning curve and anyone with a GUI level of knowledge who knows how to use and run network management software will have it up and running quickly.
I thought the minimum requirements for the product were definitely negotiable. You would never want to undercut yourself with hardware-based resources on a NMS system; the minimum requirements would definitely have to be raised if you were putting this in a production environment. Because Microsoft purchased MOM from NetIQ, it brings along a trustworthy and competent reputation, as the NetIQ network management product line is pretty solid. After running the server for weeks and beating on it every way I could, I found it to be quite stable and not prone to lockups or any other Microsoft blue screen disasters.
All in all, MOM is a good product but not a replacement for high-end NMS systems. If you have more moderate expectations, MOM works out well and does what it says it will do very cleanly and easily. I would recommend you test it in your environment first (as you should do with any platform) and make sure you are happy with your findings. All in all, MOM delivers.