To get started, let's look at what products are shipping today and what each product is designed to do. This will help to shape the discussion around the current products that are part of the System Center offering.
System Center is the name for the Microsoft Systems Management family of products. The System Center products are built to help with integrating systems management tools and technologies to enable IT personnel to better support operations, reduce troubleshooting time, and improve planning capabilities. The System Center feature components include operations management, change management, storage management, incident and problem management, capacity planning and management, and data protection. The current management-related products from Microsoft include the following:
Microsoft Operations Manager 2005
Systems Management Server 2003
System Center Data Protection Manager 2006
System Center Capacity Planner 2006
System Center Reporting Manager 2006
Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 (MOM 2005) is a solution to enable operations management that provides event and performance management, proactive monitoring and alerting, reporting and trend analysis, and system-specific knowledge and tasks to improve the manageability of your servers and applications. While MOM 2005 is primarily focused on managing Windows-based servers, there are third-party solutions that enable you to manage server applications and services running on other platforms as well. MOM 2005 includes a variety of features designed to make it easier for administrators to deploy and use the management tools, improved support for management packs and reporting, and features to ensure that the management infrastructure is secure and reliable. As a component of the System Center, MOM 2005 is a cornerstone of the operations toolset.
Systems Management Server 2003 (SMS 2003) enables you to manage client computers and servers within your organization, including tasks such as troubleshooting, software asset management, software distribution, software updates, reporting, and many others. It is a comprehensive solution for software distribution and systems management and can be integrated with MOM to ensure that systems are updated appropriately.
In addition, Windows Software Update Services (WSUS) enables IT administrators to deploy the latest product updates to Windows Server 2000, Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP operating systems. By using WSUS, administrators can fully manage the distribution of updates that are released through Microsoft Update to computers in their network. SMS tends to be used in larger enterprises more exclusively, but there are some use cases for WSUS as described in earlier chapters.
Another area of the System Center solution stack is focused on data protection. Microsoft realizes that data protection is increasingly important to IT administrators. As the volume and value of data created and managed within business operations continue to increase, conventional backup systems require operational and labor overhead. While providing some protection, those solutions are typically hard to use and can be unreliable. The System Center Data Protection Manager 2006 (DPM) product is designed to provide efficient, continuous protection of critical data while removing the burden of scheduling and tracking backup jobs, and maintaining backup systems on multiple servers. By centralizing protected data on the DPM server, DPM enables rapid disk-based recovery of files, folders, shares, and servers while saving administrators' time and reducing the downtime cost associated with recovery. DPM also provides flexible synchronization and replication options that enable administrators to fine-tune synchronization and replication behavior to best match their requirements and operating environment. As a result, DPM delivers a solid data protection solution and fills an important need in the System Center architecture.
System Center Capacity Planner 2006 helps to increase operational efficiency by providing a way to efficiently plan an Exchange 2003 or MOM 2005 environment for immediate needs and future requirements. To realize the full benefits of this technology, IT administrators need to implement the operational processes and best practices necessary to effectively manage Windows-based systems and applications. This includes the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) and components of Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a framework of best practices to promote the definition and delivery of quality services in the IT sector. System Center Capacity Planner 2006 helps the IT administrator to effectively size an application implementation by:
Providing and analyzing infrastructure sizing information for distributed server deployments: Capacity Planner provides an easy way to identify the hardware, software, and architecture required for an organization to deploy an enterprise application. It also provides prescriptive architecture recommendations tailored to the requirements of the enterprise.
Delivering hardware utilization analysis: Capacity Planner simulates the user workload on a model of the IT infrastructure. It calculates the utilization of each device of the infrastructure including servers, disk subsystems, LANs, and WANs. With this information, the IT administrator can determine if the proposed deployment will meet current and future performance and capacity requirements.
Delivering transaction latency analysis: Capacity Planner can calculate the latency of key transactions running on the infrastructure. For example, in an Exchange 2003 environment, the IT administrator can view the latency of an e-mail sent from one branch office to another. If the delivery time for the e-mail is unacceptable, Capacity Planner provides analysis to guide the IT administrator to upgrade the specific hardware component that is in the critical path of the transaction.
Providing hardware and architecture "what-if" analysis: The IT administrator can propose changes to a modeled IT infrastructure to determine the most desirable hardware configuration and architecture. Once the model is changed, a load simulation can be run to predict, for example, how much mail traffic will be generated or the impact of a change in hardware performance such as disk speed. This helps the IT administrator better understand how to design for future capacity needs.
With all of these different operational requirements and tasks facing the IT organization, access to critical information is important to effective management from a process and technology perspective. With an ever increasing quantity of data and new regulations to comply with, many IT professionals are looking for tools to help integrate the information and enable better decision-making. Often the data is spread across the organization and it is not easily available. IT has to dedicate a great deal of resources and sometimes develop custom solutions, just to put data together and produce the necessary reports. The System Center Reporting Manager 2006 is a step in helping address these concerns through providing a data warehouse and reporting platform to enable the integration of management data. Building upon the reporting capabilities in MOM 2005, System Center Reporting Manager enables the following:
Access to data on IT systems resource utilization
Support to better plan hardware, software, and security update deployment
Ability to obtain data necessary to troubleshoot more effectively and in less time
System Center Reporting Manager 2006 also provides reporting capabilities through a data warehouse tuned for query performance and the ability to off-load historical reporting from operational databases. If you are planning to consolidate servers, analyzing if your servers are equally loaded, or trying to better understand how server performance has varied over many months, you will need to integrate server performance data with business data over a long period of time. System Center Reporting Manager 2006 provides a data warehousing ability and enables visibility into asset information, performance, and business data regarding all servers and server groups in your environment.
Additionally, with System Center Reporting Manager 2006, you are able to analyze purchase trends before making a decision. You are also able to evaluate and compare server performance across vendors before acquiring new equipment. This helps the IT administrator use the systems management and operational data to drive costs out of their environment and to make objective decisions regarding IT investments. While most organizations strive to do this today, it can be challenging if you don't have the right information.
System Center Reporting Manager 2006 also provides you with information to evaluate efficiency and effectiveness regarding the deployment of new applications and security updates. This enables you to improve these processes and planning. With System Center Reporting Manager 2006, you are able to analyze the impact that such configuration changes could have on the performance of your servers. Another benefit of System Center Reporting Manager 2006 is to help IT professionals responsible for support determine the scope of their activities, get a better sense for number of installations that need to be supported, or ascertain hardware characteristics. This information can be broken down by cost center, business unit, and geographical region to enable detailed analysis by portion of the infrastructure or business unit being supported.
System Center Reporting Manager 2006 increases operational efficiency by providing a platform for integrating operations management data and change and configuration management data. In order to realize the full benefits of this integrated technology, it is also important for enterprises to implement the operational processes and best practices necessary to effectively manage Windows-based systems and applications, including Microsoft Operations Framework and ITIL.
All of these products that are part of the System Center solutions are designed to address real problems faced by IT professionals. While not all of the products are completely integrated, over time the integration will become more comprehensive and valuable.