Network Managers: Listen to Your MOMs

REDMOND, Wash., May 8, 2001 — Robin Williams had a problem — and it wasnt just that people kept confusing him with that
“other Robin Williams.”
Robin C. Williams is manager of the Global Management Center engineering group for Data Return Corp., which manages sophisticated Web-based applications for global e-commerce and information management for customers such as Compaq, First USA Bank, Motorola, and H & R Block.

Data Return Corp. oversees the worldwide management of 1,500 servers that run its customers sites. The Global Management Center receives about 300,000 network
every day, ranging from the innocuous, such as a printer being installed, to critical events such as a hard disk failure or security issue. Williams problem: as events streamed into the GMC from servers worldwide, it was increasingly difficult to identify, review and respond first to the most crucial events and, thus, increasingly difficult to provide a consistently high standard of service and keep the networks up and running properly.

“We were rapidly sorting through countless events, trying to identify those that needed attention and those that were just noise,”
recalls Williams.

Take a Server Home to Meet MOM

Williams found his solution, not only for reacting promptly to crucial events, but also for proactively identifying network issues before they become problems. Williams and Data Return have been participating in a beta test of Microsofts forthcoming Microsoft Operations Manager 2000 (MOM).

MOM is a scalable, comprehensive, enterprise-class set of event-management and performance-management tools for Microsoft Windows 2000 Server and Microsoft .NET Enterprise Servers. The new tools help customers reduce the costs associated with managing servers and applications, while increasing their reliability in data center environments. MOM allows administrators to collect and view event information from one location, to monitor servers and applications to prevent problems, and to automatically escalate and resolve problems when they do occur. Microsoft plans to release the product to manufacturing next month.

“Microsoft Operations Manager 2000 is the only solution that can provide enterprise-wide operations management and comes ready to work,”
says Williams.
“It can reduce the amount of time required to manage our event log by up to 90 percent. This allows us to find the most serious problems first and fix them faster. We will be able to devote our team to important issues and ultimately deliver better service to our customers.”

“Microsoft is committed to making the Microsoft Windows operating system the best-managed environment for customers, and the best environment for partners to create extended enterprise management solutions,”
says David Hamilton, director of product marketing for management technologies at Microsoft.
“MOM delivers on that commitment with enterprise-class solutions for operations management of Windows 2000 Server, Windows infrastructure including Active Directory, and .NET Enterprise Servers such as Exchange Server and SQL Server.”

Making Windows

Fully Competitive

in the Data Center

Management packs included with the product and available from third parties provide intelligence about system events and how to deal with them, and provide a way for independent developers to extend MOMs capabilities, enabling it to manage not just Windows and .NET Enterprise Servers but also third-party data center and enterprise software. One such developer, NetIQ, has already been designated the Premier ISV for MOM.

“Data center customers havent had a tool set and clear direction to manage a highly distributed Windows environment in the way that they manage UNIX or other environments,”
says Olivier Thierry, vice president for strategic marketing for NetIQ.
“Now, with Microsoft Operations Manager 2000, they have a single point of daily management for Windows thats uniquely geared to the high volume of events inherent in a decentralized environment.”

Thierry also points out that MOM is a flexible player — data-center managers can roll non-Windows management information into MOM, using connectors and management-pack products from NetIQ and others as they become available. Managers who are comfortable with their existing management tools can roll MOM data into those existing tools. NetIQ, which licensed the Operations Manager technology to Microsoft, is planning to release XMPs (Extended Management Packs) that integrate MOM with Linux, UNIX, Novell, IBM/Lotus Notes, Oracle, SAP and many others.

Even when managers use MOM to manage Windows from a non-Windows environment, they still get more and better information about the Windows portion of their networks than they could from generic management products. For example, NetIQ is building linking modules for MOM that allow network managers for the first time to see in-depth Common Information Model schema for Windows events, even if MOM is passing those events to a non-Windows management tool.

“This isnt just a bonus; MOMs ability to co-exist and integrate with non-Windows platforms gives it a unique and crucial role in data center management,”
says Thierry.
“If an application such as SAP isnt running properly, is the problem with the application, with the database, with the Windows operating system under it, or with the hardware? If a different product manages each network component, network operators have to move from console to console, eyeballing results to try to solve the problem. MOM allows for a natural integration of solutions on a common platform. We cant underestimate the importance of that for network managers.”

Listening to MOM

MOM provides several ways for network managers to understand and respond effectively to network events. First, the software filters events, allowing network operators to see crucial ones — such as a hard disk failure — ahead of mundane ones. Second, it consolidates events, presenting them from the perspective of the network manager rather than that of individual components throughout the network.

For example, if an application or computer cant access a printer, it might make the attempt repeatedly, generating scores of separate events that clog the event log. With MOM, those 40 or 60 events are captured at the source and compressed into a single event which notes that the problem has been repeated for 40 or 60 times.

In addition to consolidating events from a single source, MOM can analyze a series of events from varied sources, understand their relationships, then consolidate or suppress the multiple events. In their place, MOM presents the network manager with a single event that both explains the scope of the problem and offers suggestions for its correction.

For example, if a DNS (Domain Name System) server fails, hundreds of PCs could automatically send a flood of event notices to the hapless network manager. With MOM, those hundreds of events are suppressed and the network manager sees a single event that identifies the hundreds of users affected by the problem and proposes solutions.

Correlation provides a higher level of intelligence to events. When various types of events happen at the same time, MOM doesnt just pass them on to the network manager. Instead, MOM checks its network intelligence information to see if theres a correlation among the events, and if their simultaneous occurrence suggests a specific underlying problem — and solution.

MOMs simulated transaction capability allows the tools to do more than just respond to negative events after they occur. It allows MOM to flag the network operator about potential problems as well. For example, the Active Directory service in Windows 2000 Server operates in part by replicating itself across the system, so that servers throughout the network have up-to-date rosters of network resources, users, the permissions granted to those users, and so on. MOM can monitor Active Directory replication by conducting a simulated transaction, such as putting a specific marker in the Active Directory domain controller, then watching for that marker to appear elsewhere in the network. If the replication doesnt happen or doesnt happen on time, MOM can inform the network operator so the irregularity can be corrected before it causes problems on the network. Similar simulated transactions can check the status of e-mail transmissions, Web-page captures, and more.

Looking Ahead

Data Returns Williams sees MOM helping his company to optimize hardware resources and to provide better customer service.

“MOM can help us grow in leaps and bounds,”
says Williams.
“One of our financial-sector customers needed to prepare for the heavy influx of users during tax season. Using MOM, we were able to quickly provision monitoring services on the additional servers they requested.”
Williams predicts that MOM will be used to estimate when additional capacity is needed throughout the infrastructure, so that any large waves of capacity demand can be absorbed effectively.
“Were looking forward to working with Microsoft and NetIQ to find more new ways to optimize the management of our customers infrastructures with Microsoft Operations manager,”
he says.
“Were just beginning to see how much MOM can do for our organization.”

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