IT organizations deploy systems management and monitoring technologies in an effort to reduce costs associated with the complexity and effort of deploying and managing large numbers of workstations, servers, and server-based applications in their enterprise environment. Achieving this goal depends on the technology being used to provide scalability to accommodate large environments and to provide an efficient architecture. However, when comparing monitoring and management technologies, the most critical factor to consider is the availability of the operational assistance they offer to the operators and administrators that rely upon these tools. These administrators want to ensure that their systems are highly available and functional for their customers.
Monitoring technologies are only as valuable as the quality of the best-practices they provide. Traditionally monitoring, management, and deployment technologies have been toolsets that depend on customization by IT or consultants to determine appropriate components that should be deployed and how to best configure them to monitor the availability and performance of the customer's specific application or service. Because of this, few organizations have realized the potential value of these technologies. In addition, monitoring tools that are not granular enough in detail can fall short in helping administrators to solve problems once they are identified.
The core management solutions on the Microsoft platform include products such as Systems Management Server (SMS), Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), and the Microsoft Update solution. Through the use of SMS for software deployment, MOM for management alerts and notifications, and Microsoft Update to provide easy access to updated patches for products such as Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, and many others, an enterprise systems administrator has a baseline to enable secure and well-managed systems. MOM provides the foundation for operations management while SMS enables more sophisticated configuration and release management scenarios. Together, these tools can effectively support the full lifecycle for systems management.
For many years, IT administrators have been successfully using Microsoft SMS to manage Windows-based desktops and servers within their organizations. As the number of Windows PCs deployed within these organizations has grown dramatically, SMS has helped IT administrators contain the cost of managing such heavily distributed systems, keeping the overall cost of ownership low while allowing the number of deployed PCs and applications to grow.
However, the environment in which Windows-based PCs are deployed is constantly changing as new technologies are adopted and as PCs are used in increasingly complex configurations. The most recent release of SMS, Systems Management Server 2003, is designed to track and support these changing trends in PC usage and provide support for emerging usage scenarios and technologies. SMS 2003 provides solutions for a number of key issues faced by IT administrators managing Windows-based PC environments today. SMS 2003 addresses the following key problem areas:
Managing computers and users that roam around the network, often connecting over poor bandwidth links or from different geographic locations on a regular basis
Tracking the deployment and usage of software assets in the organization, and using this to plan licensing and software acquisition across the company
Monitoring the patch state of all deployed Windows PCs and applications in the enterprise, and removing vulnerabilities proactively in a closed loop process with real-time patch deployment status
Offering managers and users access to the management data aggregated by SMS, including live configuration and operations reports
Managing Windows PCs securely, but with a minimum of administrative overhead, while fending off the ever-increasing number of external security threats
The core features of SMS, including software deployment, inventory tracking, and remote troubleshooting are supported in SMS 2003. The SMS administration console is shown in Figure 1-1.
In addition, support has been added for the increasing number of mobile users in organizations today. This support simplifies management of Windows-based PCs and users who commonly roam to different physical locations, reducing the IT cost of managing such users and machines and providing seamless one-to-many solutions for desktop, laptop, and server users. Because of increased need to maintain the security of all deployed software in an enterprise, SMS 2003 also adds support for Security Patch Management of deployed Windows systems. This allows administrators to easily monitor the patch state of all systems within their enterprise through a set of powerful web reports. These reports are used to identify any vulnerability in the network, at which point the system can then be used to download and deploy the latest patches from Microsoft's web site to those machines that require them. Additional scenarios and enhancements will be supported in SP2 of SMS, which is scheduled for release in 2006.
Because many organizations are deploying Windows Server 2003 Active Directory service within their networks, SMS 2003 is able to take advantage of this technology, further simplifying the process of managing clients and users. Many Active Directory features map directly to SMS targeting concepts, allowing IT administrators to target software and inventory tasks using Active Directory constructs and containers. In summary, SMS provides a strong set of features to enable software deployment and the management of clients and users.
When it comes to systems monitoring and alerting functions, the core component of that solution is Microsoft Operations Manager. MOM 2005 differs from traditional monitoring technology and assists customers in reducing the cost of management through the use of management packs. These management packs for an application combine the insight of the application developers, a knowledge base for organizational learning and common knowledge surrounding the product along with best practices for operations.
The difference between MOM management packs and similar management technology lies both in the identities of the management pack developers and the methodology used for their development. First, MOM 2005 management packs provide built-in, product-specific operational intelligence, encapsulating knowledge from the individual Microsoft product teams developing the applications, Microsoft Consulting Services, and Microsoft's product support organizations. All of this knowledge is made available out of the box for consumption by the product users. Second, the Design for Operations methodology is used to first analyze and then design the management of Windows applications and services.
The Design for Operations methodology of managing applications is a sharp contrast to the typical way application management has been developed in the past. As opposed to a subject matter expert driving the approach to managing a system, Design for Operations requires developers of Microsoft applications and third-party applications or services to adopt an inside-out approach based on their personal knowledge of the application or services. Instead of simply monitoring processes or services to see if they're running and then generating an alert to a console, Design for Operations requires that an application or service be analyzed and broken down into a framework that will describe the application from a management perspective. This methodology uses three models as the basis for implementing management for a service or application: the Health Model, the Task Model, and the State Model. The models are meant to provide a prescriptive mechanism for ensuring that management is built for every service and application and that the management is aligned with the needs of the administrator who will be running the service. This design point is a requirement of the Windows Server Systems Core Engineering Criteria, which are used to determine whether a Microsoft product can be shipped under the banner of Windows Server System.
The Health Model defines what it means for a system to be healthy or unhealthy, and the model defines how a system transitions in and out of those states. Information on a system's health is necessary for the maintenance and diagnosis of the system. The contents of the Health Model become the basis for system events and instrumentation on which monitoring and automated recovery is built. All too often, system information is supplied in a developer-centric way that does not give the administrator operational visibility of the applications. The Health Model seeks to guide both what kinds of information should be provided and how the system or the administrator should respond to the information. If a management technology is monitoring an application or service without a deep understanding of Health Modeling, IT operators will be required to invest time and resources analyzing the relevance of an alert to the operations of their organization.
The Task Model is used by developers to enumerate the activities that are performed in managing the system. These may be maintenance tasks performed on a routine basis, such as system backup; for event-driven tasks, such as adding a user; or for diagnostic tasks performed to correct system failures. Defining these tasks guides the development of administration tools and interfaces, and it becomes the basis for automation. Used in conjunction with the Health Model, the Task Model can drive self-correcting systems with the appropriate instrumentation. Task Models are utilized by management pack developers in the creation of product or service-specific management Rules and Administrator Tasks. Management packs also leverage the Task Model to understand which error situations can be corrected on the managed system by using self-correcting rules and which will require human intervention. Likewise, Task Models are leveraged to provide IT administrators with preconfigured, remotely launched tasks from a MOM Operator Console that will assist in either error diagnosis or correction. Without the concept of a Task Model, most monitoring applications rely on the IT organization or consultants to write complex scripts and rules to determine how to resolve error situations locally or determine the correct diagnostic procedures or tools needed to remedy a problem remotely.
State Modeling will be increasingly leveraged by future Windows platforms and applications to provide administrators with a comprehensive means of managing both the availability and configuration of systems and applications. State Modeling catalogs the state and settings associated with an application and define the scope and type for each. State may be associated with the computer or the user, it may be temporary or permanent, and it might be user data or operational parameters. Having a strict association of every state entity with a scope and category allows the administrator flexibility in deployment and provides a powerful tool for control. It means an administrator can separately store user data, migrate a user easily from one computer to another, and replicate computer configuration across a data center.
In an early adoption of State Modeling, MOM 2005 management packs provide administrators Health and State information from new views within the MOM Operator Console. In addition to alert views found in other management applications, the State Monitoring view provides MOM operators with a quick overview of server health. Each computer shown in the state monitoring view receives a rating in critical categories. The rated categories include memory and operating system as well as specific application categories, such as Active Directory, SQL Server, and Exchange Server. The operator can expand a particular category to view server status displayed in subcategories, as shown in Figure 1-2.
MOM 2005 provides users with a variety of topological views that show the automatic discovery of nodes and relationships. With topological views, IT administrators can view node status, navigate to other views, and launch context-sensitive actions. This can reduce resolution time for complex problems from hours to minutes, significantly reducing cost and improving service levels. For example, when something happens to an application such as Active Directory, it turns red on the diagram. By double-clicking on the red application, a more detailed diagram opens showing one or more trouble spots in red. The operator can continue drilling down in detail until he or she uncovers the cause. The MOM console tasks and prescriptive guidance are then available to help resolve the issue. Diagram views are shown in Figure 1-3.