Top 5 reasons Why Sysadmins Should Find System Center 2012 Operations Manager a Refreshing Alternative to SolarWinds (#SCOM)

For background here, there was an article written entitled: Top 5 Reasons Why Sysadmins Should Find SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitor a Refreshing Alternative to Microsoft® SCOM. This article discussed five benefits they see to using SolarWinds versus System Center Operations Manager. In this article they referenced an article I had written for Windows IT Pro on how to create your own dashboards in Operations Manager 2012. To clarify on the context of my article, the Windows IT Pro article was written to explain how to create your own dashboards in Operations Manager 2012. There are a significant number of dashboards in Operations Manager 2012, but sometimes you need to make a custom dashboard to meet the specific requirements of your organization.

The top five points from their article were:

  1. Visibility into ALL your supporting resources
  2. “Agentless monitoring”
  3. “Functional dashboards and common sense navigation are standard”
  4. “Frequent, functional updates under maintenance”
  5. “SolarWinds SAM is affordable” 

In an attempt to make a fair comparison between the products, I have spent some time working with SolarWinds and seeing how it compares to Operations Manager when you are an Operations Manager SME. I will start this blog post with my thoughts as a response to the original SolarWinds article.

 

Visibility into ALL your supporting resources

Operations Manager provides monitoring for all important resources including servers, applications (both Windows and J2E), databases, network devices and more. Operations Manager uses a framework where additional management packs can be integrated into the framework to extend Operations Manager’s functionality. There are currently hundreds of management packs available for Operations Manager and all Microsoft management packs are included in the price of Operations Manager.

While SolarWinds provides monitoring for “virtually any application” it does it with little knowledge of what the product actually does. Knowing an error occurred isn’t very useful if you don’t know what to do to fix the error. The Operations Manager management packs include product knowledge from the teams that write and support the product making it unique in the market.

For custom management packs, Operations Manager provides out-of-the-box monitoring for multiple sources including WMI, SNMP, event logs, OLEDB, process monitors, Windows Services, Windows Processes, TCP ports, Windows Azure monitoring, Power Consumption and more.

Operations Manager is supported by multiple communities including www.systemcentercentral.com, www.myitforum.com and Microsoft System Center forums (http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/category/systemcenteroperationsmanager).

 

“Agentless monitoring”

Contrary to the statement implied about Operations Manager, it does support agentless monitoring but is not a recommended solution for the product as agentless monitoring in general does not scale well and will not work in enterprise sized environments. The OpsMgr agents have minimal overhead on the systems that they are monitoring. If an organization has spent four years attempting to deploy agents it sounds like they may have bigger problems than monitoring (see the Software Distribution capability of System Center 2012 Configuration Manager for options to deploy software in large-scale environments).

 

“Functional dashboards and common sense navigation are standard”

There are a significant number of pre-built dashboards which are included with Operations Manager 2012. Management packs can include additional dashboards and these are being added by both the community and Microsoft (for recent community examples see www.systemcentercentral.com where the VMM dashboard pack and the Exchange dashboard packs).

Funny item #1:Cameron Fuller, Operations Manager MVP, covered dashboards here.  IT admins want to solve IT problems, not administer management software.  So, we created out of the box dashboards for all of the platforms monitored.” Ironically, the article that they referenced actually discusses how to build your own dashboards to extend beyond what is included in the box. There are a significant number of pre-built dashboards but Operations Manager is extendible so you can create your own as each organization is different and may have different requirements for what they do and do not want to display in their dashboards.

 

“Frequent, functional updates under maintenance”

Operations Manager and System Center are updated on a regular basis through a process of Update Rollups (UR), Service Packs (SP), and new versions. As an example, Operations Manager 2007 was eventually upgraded to Service Pack 1, then to an R2 release and to Operations Manager 2012. R2 releases have historically occurred every 18 months, and full releases every three years resulting in enhancements to the products approximately every 18 months with regular service packs and update rollups to address issues identified. Effective January, SP1 for Operations Manager 2012 has been released. Management packs are also updated on a regular basis adding new functionality and resolving issues which are identified.

 

“SolarWinds SAM is affordable” 

Notepad is free, but it doesn’t make it as good as Word. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

Funny item #2:In recent Linkedin post on the SCCM group, Rohitash Kathuria, a SCCM admin, said installing and configuring SCCM 2012 on one primary site will take a week.” Ummm… this link discusses a System Center 2012 Configuration Manager installation. It may make more sense to point to a link for someone who is actually discussing Operations Manager…

 

So… From an Operations Manager SME’s perspective why Operations Manager 2012? [My personal top five plus one bonus item]

Operations Manager’s major differentiators when compared with other products include:

1) Operations Manager is an enterprise class monitoring solution designed to provide a framework which can be extended through the use of management packs.

2) Operations Manager includes deep product knowledge for Microsoft products including what to do when an alert occurs.

3) The ability to use all of the items monitored within Operations Manager as a single Distributed Application which provides a health model for both pre-built applications (such as Exchange, Active Directory and SharePoint) and for custom line of business (LOB) applications.

4) Operations Manager 2012 added features include built-in dashboards, network monitoring for 800+ devices, monitoring for J2E applications and deep dive monitoring for .NET applications.

5) Operations Manager 2012 SP1 adds Global Service monitoring which provides a way to monitor websites from locations around the world using the Microsoft Azure cloud.

6) System Center 2012 is sold as a suite, not just Operations Manager. The suite provides full datacenter management including compliance, and automation toolsets that are fully integrated to work together.

2 thoughts on “Top 5 reasons Why Sysadmins Should Find System Center 2012 Operations Manager a Refreshing Alternative to SolarWinds (#SCOM)

  1. net dev

    Cameron,

    Not wishing to be picky here but all you did was point out a few possible errata.  You did nothing to address the bigger question of SCOM vs Solarwinds.  I kind of expected an indication that SCOM can take a years worth of TX/RX traffic on the different vlans into an ESX server and give me baselines and provider me with alerts when those counters exceed 200 MB.

    Your “additions” at the bottom show that you are not focusing SCOM at a enterprise / network level, rather at a eventvwr.msc type of error and really, if I need SCOM to tell me what me the meaning from what we are seeing in event logs I might want to rethink my approach to providing solutions, how many times will we see error “X” until we fix it.  Can’t I just highlight, right mouse click, google and get the same data ?   Can SCOM tell me out of the box how many authentication failures DC2 had this week and put them in a histogram ?  Now how many did DC4 have and of course compare the two ?  Is there a relationship between auth failures and trafic levels directed to those 2 DCs ?  Can SCOM tell me that ?

    For people who are using enterprise level tools SCOM looks like – and your blog seems to reinforce that – a one type of trick pony.  Yes, Windows is the “pony” but my environment has 3 other OSes, and 20+ types of hardware including my environmental equipment.  What are you going to do with their logs ?  Can you even process syslog data ? The Internet blogs do not seem very promising in 3rd party integration.

  2. Pete Zerger

    NET DEV, if you are an actual OpsMgr user, I would be interested to hear what your specific challenges are.

    While syslog is fine for network devices, I am not likely going to be using syslog as the primary source of info for Windows or even *NIX. OpsMgr network device monitoring is not intended to displace other network monitoring tools, but to provide greater visibility into root cause of application failures in your environment.

    I think it’s clear OpsMgr has quite a number of reports out-of-the-box and dashboard views that can be created in the UI.

    Cameron, On the flip side, it would be interesting to see a comparison of SAM application-level capabilities (limited out-of-the-box) versus that of OpsMgr (which has MPs for most every MS enterprise app for free, with others available through the SC ISV partners) complete with component-level monitoring, and automatic discovery of the components and relationships between them.

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