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SCE 2010: Part 2: Comparison & Thoughts

5:56 pm in Uncategorized by mikeresseler

Hey All,

In my previous post (link) I described in short what System Center Essentials 2010 is.  In this post, we are going to dive a little deeper and compare SCE 2010 with Operations Manager, Configuration Manager and Virtual Machine Manager.

While Operations Manager, Configuration Manager and Virtual Machine Manager are three different products, with three different consoles, SCE combines them all in one product, one console.  But, SCE is built for midsize businesses, meaning that it doesn’t contain all the functionality of it’s three ‘big brothers’.  Here’s the comparison

SCE 2010 versus Operations Manager

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The table above shows the differences.

  • Monitoring of Windows Servers, Clients, Hardware, Software and Services (both)
    • The big difference is the way Essentials monitor network devices.
  • Management packs with expert knowledge (both)
    • As stated previously, Essentials will use the same management packs as Operations Manager so no differences there
  • Agentless Exception Monitoring (AEM) (both)
  • Add monitoring wizard (both)
  • Reporting (both)
    • 1st difference, Essentials doesn’t have a data warehouse.  In Operations Manager, you can retrieve data for one year and it works with an operational database and a data warehouse database.  Essentials only has one database and contains 40 days of data max.
    • Although there are many reports built in in the product, you can’t do authoring.  Operations Manager gives you flexibility if you want to create your own reports but essentials doesn’t have that possibility
  • Branch Office Monitoring (both)
    • As already said, Essentials is a one box solution, so if you are monitoring servers or clients in a branch office, then everything needs to go over the wire, while Operations Manager gives you the flexibility to place gateways, multiple MS servers.
  • Role Based Security (only OpsMgr)
    • If you want to work with Essentials, you need to be a local admin on the SCE server or a domain admin.  End-of-story.  Operations Manager gives you the flexibility of working with different roles, where you can give limited access to certain users.  SCE doesn’t
  • Connector framework (only OpsMgr)
    • Operations Manager has a connector framework allowing you to connect the system to other tools (helpdesk systems, other Management Groups…)  SCE doesn’t.
  • Audit Collection Services (only OpsMgr)
    • Operations Manager has something called Audit Collection Services (ACS).  With ACS, you have the possibility to do audit tracking on security, and save this to a special database for compliance reasons.  SCE doesn’t have this
  • Web Console (only OpsMgr)
    • Operations Manager gives you a webconsole where you can log on and do almost everything that you can do with the installed console.  SCE doesn’t have this.  If you want to work with SCE, you need to have access to a console.
  • Cross Platform support (only OpsMgr)
    • Operations Manager can monitor non-windows environments such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux for example.  SCE can’t

SCE 2010 versus Configuration Manager

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  • Patch Management (Microsoft and Third Party) (both)
    • Although the table doesn’t say so, but there is a difference between SCE and SCCM.  SCCM has much more flexibility then SCE.  But everything that you can deploy as a patch with SCCM can be deployed with SCE.
  • Software Distribution (both)
    • SCCM is much more flexible and allows you to do advanced packaging.  SCE is about deploying MSI and EXE with some parameters but in the end, it is only capable of doing basic software distribution.
  • Hardware and Software Inventory (both)
    • SCE collects quite a lot but can’t be extended.  If you need additional inventory then you can use SCCM that can be extended through the use of MOF files
  • Branch office updates and software distribution (both)
    • Again, don’t forget that essentials is one box, so software distribution and patches are flying over the wire.  Ok, it is using BITS, but still, keep that in mind when choosing a solution.  SCCM can work with distribution points remotely
  • Operating System Deployment (only ConfigMgr)
  • Desired Configuration Management (only ConfigMgr)
  • Wake on LAN (only ConfigMgr)
  • NAP integration (only ConfigMgr)

SCE 2010 versus Virtual Machine Manager and Hyper-V console

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In this table, there is the comparison with Virtual Machine Manager but also with the Hyper-V console

  • Templates (Essentials and VMM)
  • VM Cloning (Essentials and VMM)
  • Candidate Identification (Essentials and VMM)
  • Physical to Virtual Conversion (Essentials and VMM)
  • Virtual to Virtual Conversion (Essentials and VMM)
  • Migration across physical machines (Essentials and VMM)
  • Virtualization Reports (Essentials and VMM)
  • Monitoring VMs (Essentials and VMM)
  • PRO tips (Essentials and VMM)
  • Library (Essentials and VMM)
  • Provisioning (All three)
  • VM Configuration and properties (All three)
  • VM State (All three)
  • Checkpoints (Snapshots) (All three)
  • 64 bit guest OS (All three)
  • Hardware Assisted Virtualization (All three)
  • Live Thumbnail (All three)
  • Synthetic Network Support (All three)
  • Import VM (multiple VHD + snapshot (Hyper-V console and VMM)
  • Configure advanced network settings (Hyper-V console and VMM)
  • Inspect Disk (Hyper-V console and VMM)
  • Export VM (Hyper-V console)
  • VMWare Management (VMM)
  • Self-service console (VMM)

 

Thoughts

So above is the comparison of SCE with the three tools (OpsMgr, ConfigMgr and Virtual Machine Manager).  I don’t want to compare it with the Hyper-V console since this is a management console which is free. 

If you have a mid-sized company (meaning around 50 servers or less and 500 desktops or less) you now need to make a decision.  Will I go for the SCE solution, that has less features or do I have to go for the full-blown solution with all the three products.  The answer to that is (as always) not simple.  For each feature that is noted above, you are going to check if you really, really need it.  If you really need it, and it is not included in SCE… well then go for the full suite.  If you don’t need it, consider SCE for a moment.  But what if the company is growing?  And what if it outnumbers the 50 servers and 500 desktops.  For the new version I don’t know if it will be possible, but with SCE 2007 you could buy an upgrade path to the full solutions, and it costs you nothing extra, meaning that you already paid for SCE and pay additional the price for OpsMgr and ConfigMgr minus the price for SCE.  So no loss there.  Again, I don’t have information yet about pricing for SCE so I don’t know if they will keep that option.

Now let’s look at a few different features that are not the same in essentials.  I will just ask some questions that can help you in deciding.  The answer is not to be given by me, but should be taken by the company.

Differences between OpsMgr and SCE 2010

– Network monitoring.  Both products don’t have a “great” way to monitor network devices.  If you need this, then the solution won’t be to upgrade to Operations Manager but to look at 3rd party add-ons for OpsMgr and SCE.

– Reporting: As said, OpsMgr allows you to author and has a data warehouse.  So the questions you need to ask yourself are: Do I really need to author reports or am I happy with the reports (over 60) out of the box?  And for how long do I want to keep my data?  1 year, or the maximum of 40 days in SCE.  Both questions are crucial for deciding.  Do you really want (or obliged to) to keep your performance data for a server for 1 year?  Do I really want to retrieve an alert from a year ago?

– Branch office monitoring: This can be a tricky one.  How is the connection to your main office?  Still using dial-up? SCE might be not a good option.  Having a very slow WAN link which is already overused for other things?  Maybe SCE not a good option.  On the other hand, can I deploy additional OpsMgr roles to that branch office?  Do I have a (virtual) server overthere that can do the trick?

– Role based security: Important one!  Who needs access to the console?  Does it need to be limited for some users?  Then SCE is not an option.  Do you have just a few admins that all have the same rights?  Then nobody cares…

– Connector framework: Are you going to connect your monitoring solution to an external solution?  Then SCE is not an option anymore.  If you want the alerts (for example) to appear immediately in a helpdesk system then you need to consider Operations Manager (and check that your solution has the possibility to connect).  If this is not important, well, another feature gone :-)

–  ACS: Do you need to audit your security?  And if you’re not having a solution in place then ACS can help you.  But then you need OpsMgr.  Otherwise, the options remain open.

– Web console: Do you need to be able to view alerts, performance and other items through a webconsole, then you have OpsMgr that does the trick.  On the other hand, this mostly means that you also need Role Based Security.  If your admins have a console locally installed (We call these consoles the Outlook for Admins) or pushed through RDS or Citrix then they can also access it anywhere.  Make sure that you check with your admins whether they really need it or if it is just something “nice” to have.

– Cross Platform Management:  Do you need to monitor non-windows environments?  Are they supported by the cross-platform agents from OpsMgr?  Are there third-party add-ons that can deliver the same functionality?  Make sure you know these answers before deciding

Differences between ConfigMgr and SCE 2010

– Patch management: How much do you want to automate in the patch management?  If you want to automate the entire patch management process, including installing and rebooting of your servers then SCCM is the way to go.  But if you don’t want to do that, and if you are perfectly happy with doing the user patch management almost fully automated (meaning just approve certain updates where you don’t have an Auto-rule for) and the server patch management more manually, then the both products can do the same.  (But keep in mind that the way to handle the patch management is quite different in SCCM)

– Hardware and Software inventory:  Simple question, what do you want to know from your hardware and software.  If you don’t need to know some really really specific items where you need to adjust MOF files or write your own WMI queries, then SCE will do the job.  You need to know more, go for SCCM.  It all depends how important that data is.

– Branch office updates and software distribution: Check above, think about the connection bandwidth again.  Don’t forget that it uses bits and will download its updates during the day when traffic is low but still, this can be crucial for the decision

– Operating System Deployment: Do you need Operating System Deployment?  Yes? SCE doesn’t have this.  But wait, before you shout SCCM!  Do you need zero-touch deployment, meaning don’t touch anything, boot the computer through wake-on-lan or intel vPro or is a light-touch deployment (meaning press F12 in the lightest case) enough?  If the LTI choice is enough, then bing MDT 2010 asap.  (And put it on the same server as SCE ;-))

– Desired Configuration Management: Do you want DCM?  With this you can create baselines (for example: Windows Server 2008 R2, IIS, Powershell enabled, HIT driver version x, Latest patches, AV version x etc…) and do you want a tool that checks if all is OK (you can do the same for your workstations) then go for SCCM.  If you are not interested then this is another feature that you don’t need.  (By the way, this is a very nice feature, but takes time to deploy, but still very nice feature ;-))

– Wake on Lan: SCCM has it.  SCE doesn’t.  SCCM can use wake-on-lan for its purposes.  If you want this, then go for SCCM, but, first ask you network team if they allow it (you can’t believe how many network people start shooting the moment I drop the words Wake on Lan… Welcome to the real world gentleman.  Wake-on-lan is great to have, and not every workstation has Intel vPro. :-))

– NAP integration: SCCM has NAP integration.  With the right policies this is a great feature.  Imagine that a workstation is denied through NAP and quarantined to a separate Vlan.  At that moment, SCCM can be used to automatically push all the requirements.  User disabled Anti-Virus?  Don’t think so.  User doesn’t have the latest patches… You guessed it.  If you need this, then SCCM is the tool.  If not (because you use NAP but update a quarantined workstation another way) then we loose another feature to choose from :-)

Differences between Virtual Machine Manager and SCE 2010

Before I start, one important statement.  I said I’m not going to compare the hyper-v console with SCE 2010, but you do need to keep in mind that some features that can’t be done by SCE but only with Hyper-V require more work.  It’s much easier to do this from VMM then by doing it through the Hyper-V console.  Why?  Well, you need to know on which host the virtual server is residing.  But if you have a limited set of hyper-v hosts, then this is still perfectly possible.  If you have a lot of hyper-v hosts, then start considering Virtual Machine Manager,  but then again, you probably are over the 50 server limit…

– VMWare management:  You need to manage also virtual servers running on ESX?  Use virtual machine manager.  It connects through your Virtual Center and you can do everything which virtual center can.

– Self-service provisioning:  This is a fantastic feature if you have people that need to be able to create their own servers or if you want certain people to be able to restart their own servers and follow the boot process.  This is quite often used in development environments where the developers have their own environments (and infrastructure guys don’t want to restart every five seconds a server that is blocked by a bad code or wrong formed SQL query)  But again, do you need this in your environment? 

Conclusion

Before taking a decision about what tool to use, make sure that you look at all the questions.  SCE is a very powerful tool that has the advantage of one console, but lacks features compared to its big brothers.  It is also a one server solution so flexibility is limited.  You can’t separate roles on different servers.  If you have doubt if one server is capable of managing 50 servers and 500 desktops, I can guarantee you it doesn’t.  Size it well enough and it won’t be a problem.  But think about the features, because that should conclude whether you need SCE or the others…

Just my 2 cents,

Cheers

Mike

SCOM 2007 R2 – Announcement from Jalasoft and Savision

4:09 pm in Uncategorized by mikeresseler

Hey All,

 

Just received this announcement from Jalasoft and Savision:

 

Jalasoft and Savision announced today that they will both be coming out with new versions of Xian Io and Savision Live maps in 2010. These version are more integrated and offer Savision users to use topology discovery from Xian Network Manager Io R2 to autorelate objects in Live Maps

Houston . January 20, 2010 –

Jalasoft and Savision announced today that they will both be coming out with new versions of Xian Io and Savision Live Maps in 2010. The companies have been working together since 2008 in order to create products that complement each other in an endeavor to provide a more complete monitoring solution for Systems Center Operations Manager.
One of the most important features that will be introduced in Xian Network Manager Io R2 is a topology discovery module that gathers information on the relationships between the devices and servers being monitored and provides the information to Savision Live maps in order to facilitate the drawing of your network topology. Live maps uses this information to determine the relationship between devices and servers and automatically draws the connections between them saving the user a significant amount of time.
“Thanks to these new feature and cooperation between Jalasoft and Savision, end-users will be able to create a real topology of their environment, something that was not possible before in Operations Manager” says Arnold Hagens Product Marketing Manager at Jalasoft.
Many other features aside from the ones detailed above are being introduced in the new versions of Savision’s and Jalasoft’s software releases. Both the releases are expected in the first quarter of 2010.
For more information contact:
Arnold Hagens,  +1 888 402 6717

 

For more information: http://www.jalasoft.com/Web/News/Default.aspx?id=36

 

Cheers,

Mike

Operations Manager 2007: Installation of Jalasoft R2

10:58 am in Uncategorized by mikeresseler

With the release of R2 from Xian IO, I had to install it for the first time last week with a customer.  The environment was on a windows server 2008 SP1 64-bit edition.  After downloading the software, I’ve started with the installation.

According to the manual (yeah, from time to time I actually read manuals ;-)) and followed the instructions:

 

First, I had to import the management packs into Operations Manager.  Because it wasn’t certain yet which MP’s will be used in the future, I decided to only import the Jalasoft Core Management packs (see screenshot)

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After that, I had to install the XianConnectorModuleInstaller.  This .msi is found in the correct x64 or x86 (depending on your architecture) folder.

No problems so far.

Third, it was time to start the installation of the product.

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The first screen is the tradition Welcome screen so quickly to Next

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In the next screen, I only had to fill in the User Name and the Organization

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Third screen, now I need to make a decision.  Because Jalasoft gives you the option to different scenario’s, it is always easy to choose this one.  So I decided to use that.  For more information on the different Scenario’s and what they do, you can always check out the manual on their website.

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The next screen allowed me to choose the scenario.  In this particular case, it was a Single Server scenario so I could continue.  This is also the location where you can choose the installation location.  Before you press Next, make sure that you have read the prerequisites for the different parts of the software.  For easy referencing, here they are:

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 SP2:

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 SP2 is required to install the Jalasoft Xian Services.

Microsoft.NET Framework 3.0:

Microsoft.NET Framework 3.0 is required to install the Jalasoft Xian Connector for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007.

Microsoft Message Queue:

Microsoft Message Queue is required for communications between the Xian Services.

Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 User Interfaces or Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 Management Server:

The Jalasoft Xian Connector for OpsMgr 2007 requires Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 User Interfaces or Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 Management Server installed in this machine.

Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 User Interfaces:

The Xian UI Controls for OpsMgr 2007 require Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 User Interfaces installed in this machine.

Microsoft SQL Server 2005:

The Xian Database and the Xian Data Server features require LAN connectivity to an installed Microsoft SQL Server 2005.

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Now you need to decide where you want your database.  The installer will enumerate all SQL instances he finds.  It is also possible to change the database name if you want.

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Now the software needs a user to run the services as.  Here it went wrong.  I always got errors saying that the account was not a member of the administrator group.  After consulting with Jalasoft support, I heard that for the installation it is necessary that UAC is off (This requires a reboot!).  So I stopped the installation, turned UAC off, restarted the server and tried again, now I could get past this window.

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Next thing is the location of the Jalasoft Connector, the RMS server and the Management server of Operations Manager.  At this point, which I didn’t realize at that moment that it would cause problems, I saw that the installer took the IPv6 address.  So I’ve changed it to the correct IP addresses (all IPv4) and continued.

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Again I needed to tell the software the location of a component (Jalasoft Dataserver this time) but since it was a single server installation, it was the IP of the current server.  Note that filling in the 127.0.0.1 address is not a good idea.  Use the correct IP of the server.

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In this screen, the installer asks the preferred IP.  I choose for the IPv4 address.

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A lot of questions, but then again, a lot of components so again an IP for the server that runs the Xian Network Manager Server (The same one in a single server scenario)

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Starts to get annoying but also the IP address of the Task Server needs to be known

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Finally everything is OK, so I can start installing.

The installation went quickly, there is no reboot necessary (well, actually there is, since I turned UAC back on ;-))

So I started the console for Xian and I got an error.

After reading through the documentation and unable to solve the problem myself I contacted support (again).  They told me that in some cases, with the use of IPv6, the IP addresses are not correctly registered in some configuration files and that I needed to change it manually.  Here is the procedure they gave me:

“ In some cases (for example IPv6) the IP address is not correctly registered in the configuration files of Xian. You need to that manually. Check the the following files in C:\program files\jalasoft\xian network manager io

   – Jalasoft.Xian.Services.ConnectorService.config

   – Jalasoft.Xian.Services.DataServer.config

   – Jalasoft.Xian.Services.NetworkManagerServer.config

   – Jalasoft.Xian.Services.TaskServer.config

   In these files look for the ipAddress entry name and correct the value to the ip address that you are using. Note that you cannot use localhost (127.0.0.1).

   Now restart the the jalasoft services.

After that, the program worked perfect.

Basically, I’ve learned a few things:

1) The software runs on an 2008 x64 platform

2) Watch out if IPv6 is configured.

3) Jalasoft support contacted me twice in less then 2 hours after submitting a case through the website!  So Jalasoft, if you read this, keep up the good work on your support team 😉

 

If you ever encounter these problems, I hope this post helps a little bit to install the software.

Cheers,

Mike

Operations Manager 2007: Free Version of Live Maps

5:50 pm in Uncategorized by mikeresseler

Hey All,

Just heard from Savision:

The Netherlands – Tuesday, March 17, 2009 Savision B.V., the leader in Microsoft® System Center Operations Manager visualization, today announced the availability of a free version of Live Maps for Microsoft Operations Manager 2007. Microsoft Operations Manager administrators everywhere can now benefit from the extraordinary visualization capabilities of Live Maps v3. The free version is fully functional and allows IT organizations to create three maps of any type.

Follow up:

Live Maps allows IT organizations to easily conceive, build and maintain large-scale monitoring maps. New wizards and templates allow IT professionals to quickly construct dynamically updated network and application topologies, geographical views, complex business processes and executive dashboards. Network link-awareness features ensure that the full IT picture is provided. This ensures that employees at all levels, from the IT operator to the business executive, have access to the information needed to proactively manage IT problems.

“Associating IT failures to our applications and IT services is a difficult proposition without understanding the relationships between components that connect a specified service. Being able to visualize these relationships and their associated alerts is a vital element that our organization has strived to achieve for years“, said Brian Muffley, Global Framework Engineering Manager (ICT), Lend Lease Corporation. “Live Maps allows us to meet this requirement and provides a dynamic environment that simplifies impact analysis and availability monitoring. We have found that Live Maps is helping us to communicate the health of our services, not only to applications and support teams but also to senior management by utilizing their dashboards and drill through technology.”

The free version of Live Maps may be downloaded at www.savision.com/free.

Certainly worth checking out 😉

Cheers,

 

Mike