MOM knows best

The arrival of the finished, shrink-wrap version of MOM 2005 (Microsoft Operations Manager) is a significant event. I covered it in this column nearly a year ago when the first beta appeared, but there have been significant developments since then. Microsoft listened to a lot of the criticism it received for the user interface design, and for the setup and installation, and has, as a result, delivered a product that sets new standards in these areas.

MOM knows best

In case you are one of those people who likes to hop to the end of the column to see if it is a thumbs up or down, I will put you out of your misery right now: MOM 2005 is now an essential piece of software. If you run Windows servers, you should have MOM 2005 installed – there are no exceptions and no excuses. Oh alright then, if your network consists of Windows 2000 servers with some NT, then you have a problem – MOM 2005 requires at least one Windows 2003 server on which to install and run. It can happily manage 2000 and NT servers of course, but you do need one 2003 item on the network to host it. This does somewhat push up your costs, because you will now need Windows 2003 CALs for the clients. So let me refine my recommendation – if you have any Windows 2003 servers in your network, then you need MOM 2005. If you need to upgrade, then MOM 2005 is a hugely effective reason to start your migration now.

So what is MOM? What does it do? And why is that so important? MOM is an operations management server that consolidates every piece of information about your servers and the software you are running on them, and presents this to you as a unified view. This allows you to instantly see the status of a complex network of servers, and perform an ‘eyeball health-check’. As soon as something goes wrong, it is reported in MOM and you can then drill down to find the fault. That in itself would be useful enough, but MOM goes further by encapsulating a galaxy of knowledge about each individual product too, including acres of Knowledge Base information.

If you are the sort of system administrators who looks at the event log only once a server has crashed, then you are badly in need of MOM, as it will bring problems to your notice hours, days or even weeks before you would otherwise have found them. On the other hand, if you love the event logs so much that you have written scripts to roll up all the red entries and forward them to your mobile phone, then you will also love MOM because it makes all that stuff so much easier to achieve. And as this line of reasoning covers most of the system administrators personality spectrum, from one end to the other, there really are no excuses.

Let’s start off with the packaging. MOM 2005 comes in two flavours – a workgroup product costing £380 exc VAT, and the full product at £460 exc VAT per server. So what is the difference? Well, MOM 2005 Workgroup Edition supports up to ten servers, together with all the services that might be running on them: Exchange Server, SQL Server, DNS, IIS and so forth. But that ten-servers limit is hardwired, so you cannot go to 11 just by purchasing an extra licence for the 11th. The full product covers unlimited servers, but you need one licence per box. Obviously the leap in price is significant, and makes putting in the full product for 12 servers somewhat pricey compared to the Workgroup Edition. However, Microsoft’s view is that ten servers should cover almost everyone in the SME space and that only big companies, which are probably multisite too, will need the full product. Workgroup Edition is intended for a single-site network, but the full one allows you to set up bridgehead servers to link together multiple sites.

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