Microsoft includes Performance Monitor with Windows so you can monitor system performance and anticipate future problems. Unfortunately, you really have to know what you're doing in order to use it in an effective manner. You also have to have enough free time to monitor and analyze it.
Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) solves these problems by watching over Performance Monitor counters for you (plus some other counters that are unique to MOM). MOM understands what the various counters mean and what type of problem may be occurring if certain counters exceed their threshold values.
If MOM detects a potential problem, it can take corrective action to head it off before it becomes an issue. If it is unable to fix the problem itself, it will alert you so that you can take appropriate action.
MOM is designed in a way that allows it to provide you with a unified view of a server's health. You can tell at a glance whether or not a server is healthy. If there is a problem, you can drill down to the actual cause of the problem. MOM even provides a wealth of information from the Microsoft Knowledge Base to help you find a fix.
Out of the box, MOM is only set up to monitor Windows. However, MOM is extensible through the use of Management Packs. A Management Pack is basically just a plug-in that you can use to configure MOM to watch over another product.
Exchange ships with its own Management Pack for MOM, but does not actually include MOM. Before you can use MOM to keep tabs on Exchange, you have to get a MOM license.
MOM comes in two different flavors, and its price tag depends on which version you choose. A standard MOM 2005 license costs $729 per server. However, Microsoft offers a licensing plan for smaller businesses called MOM 2005 Workgroup Edition. The workgroup edition differs only slightly from the full blown MOM package and is a lot less expensive. MOM 2005 Workgroup Edition costs $499 for up to 10 servers.
I mentioned above that MOM is extensible through the use of Management Packs, but there are also a couple of other ways that you can extend MOM's functionality:
- Recently, Microsoft released a new version of its Exchange Best Practices Analyzer Tool that takes advantage of MOM integration. In this new version, an event is written to the event logs any time an issue is found. This allows MOM to be able to properly report on the issue and take action if necessary.
- A soon to be released product called System Center Reporting Manager 2005 will use the SQL Server reporting service to deliver reports based on change and configuration management from Systems Management Server, and performance information derived from MOM.
MOM can be an invaluable tool for an Exchange administrator. If you haven't already experimented with MOM, I recommend downloading an evaluation copy and taking it for a test drive.
About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server and IIS. Brien has served as the CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer he has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at www.brienposey.com.
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