Microsoft outlines new networking monitor

Microsoft Corp. released System Center Operations Manager 2007 at the company’s annual Management Summit in San Diego, Calif., this week

Formerly known as Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), the updated network monitoring software is being released as part of a new enterprise platform called Microsoft System Center.

One Microsoft representative said Operations Manager is designed to help clients work with increasingly complex network infrastructure and streamline network processes.

“Systems management is a very key area – keeping the systems up and running is a very important aspect to any organization now,” says Derick Wong, senior product manager for security and management at Microsoft Canada Corp.

 “Being able to understand what’s happening on the network and do proactive maintenance and solve problems is key,” he said.

Wong said Operations Manager 2007 tracks the health of applications across operating systems, as well as automating auditing procedures and managing distributed applications across networks.  He also said the software offers managers tools to map out a company’s network on a visual interface. 

“As networks become more complex, visualization becomes more important. It looks visually like a big net [on Operations Manager],” he said. 

Two Canadian firms are already using Operations Manager 2007. One company representative said the software has helped his company manage its network in a “holistic way.”

“Service oriented monitoring allowed us to group those services specifically and monitor those items by the entire application,” said Aidan Cahill, senior systems administrator for the server infrastructure group of Direct Energy Inc. of Toronto.

“The auditing is a great feature. Gathering those security logs that you choose to audit and have it all go into a security application and review that data in an easy-to-understand format is great,” Cahill said.

A representative of Cineplex Entertainment LP said the Toronto company’s adoption of Operations Manager is critical in managing servers across a spread-out network of business outlets across Canada.

“There are servers in everyone of our locations that MOM is monitoring – they’re critical for point of sale operations and it’s very disruptive if it goes down,” said Jeff Kent, chief technical officer.

It helps us at the server administration level and from a time perspective, it saves us a lot of resources.”

One Microsoft system partner supports Operations Manager as a potential cost-saving measure for businesses.

“If I can reduce the amount of screens I have to look at [with Operations Manager], that makes the company money. I make money by helping users do their job,” said Andy Papadopoulos, chief executive officer of LegendCorp. of Toronto

Operations Manager may help network managers looking for simpler ways to understand their company’s network health, one analyst thinks.

“Clients have been calmouring for management tools giving a single pane-glass view. For the longest time you’d have a single console to check how your network infrastructure was doing. Being able to consolidate all that into a single view is nice to see,” said Ross Armstrong, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group.

“The main driver is efficiency and for IT professionals in general to identify system problems wherever they may occur,” he said.

Armstrong has some reservations about Operations Manager, however. He’s concerned about companies locking into Microsoft with the purchase of Operations Manager without ‘best-of-breed’ options being available for customers to use.

Wong said pricing for Operations Manager is dependent on the number of servers each client has. The company is targeting the product at upper mid-market clients and large-scale enterprises with a release date near the end of April.

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