After the March 2003 announcement of Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005, Tim Huckaby wrote that Microsoft's objective for MOM "is to help make Windows the best-managed platform that provides the lowest total cost of ownership for its enterprise customers." (To read Tim's complete Web-exclusive article, see "Microsoft Reveals New Enterprise Management Strategy," March 2003, InstantDoc ID 38454.)

Now that MOM 2005 is here, this quote is interesting because of its last four words: "for its enterprise customers." With MOM 2005, Microsoft has also introduced MOM 2005 Workgroup Edition for small environments, recognizing that users in small and midsized businesses also need event management, proactive monitoring and alerting, and system and application knowledge to help reduce costs and improve availability.

This month's survey about MOM shows that small and midsized businesses are indeed interested in operations management. Yet of the 538 respondents, only about 9 percent currently use MOM. The most frequently cited reasons for not using MOM are licensing and cost, and organization size. Many people asked questions such as "Can MOM be used on Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS)?" and "Why is it that companies that are too big for SBS but too small for the enterprise class get overlooked in management tools?"

I took your questions and the survey results to Microsoft's Michael Emanuel, director of product management, Windows and Enterprise Management, to get his response to your concerns. Based on the interest that the survey highlighted and our conversation, I focus this column on the two primary concerns: licensing and cost, and small-business considerations.

Licensing and Cost
"The licensing for MOM 2000 seemed convoluted and expensive," commented one reader. "What's changed for MOM 2005?" The two major changes in this area are the licensing model and the introduction of the Workgroup Edition of MOM 2005.

"There's a lot of confusion over the price of MOM 2000," Michael admitted. The licensing scheme was meant to be incredibly fair in that it charged for the number of processors you were managing, not the number of boxes. So an 8-way server cost you eight times a 1-way server. We were trying to be egalitarian. No one got it."

In contrast, "the licensing model for MOM 2005 has only two elements," Michael explained, "a MOM server license (which costs $729) and an Operations Management License or OML." An OML 5-pack costs $2689. You need to purchase at least one MOM server license to act as the central aggregation point. (The system requirements for MOM 2005 are Windows 2000 Server or later and Microsoft SQL Server 2000. Volume license customers can purchase MOM 2005 with a limited-rights version of SQL Server technology included.) "Each device that MOM manages requires an OML. No additional charge is applied for operator consoles or management packs. Each MOM server can have any number of operator/administrator consoles at no extra charge. Instead of paying a licensing fee for each processor, you now pay for each managed server."

Small and Midsized Businesses
So what about those readers who wondered whether Microsoft would provide "a smaller-scale, lower-cost version for small companies"? Michael told me that "the small company needs just as much, if not more, knowledge and hand-holding as the big company. The small company needs the very best knowledge in real time." So, the MOM developers packaged a subset of the functionality of the full-sized product as MOM 2005 Workgroup Edition. Because it's a subset, you can upgrade Workgroup Edition to MOM 2005. Workgroup Edition requires just one license (which costs $499); you don't need OMLs.

Workgroup Edition is for small and midsized businesses that need to manage 10 or fewer devices and don't need MOM 2005's reporting services and integration capabilities. "The intent was to provide a solution for a shop of any size with an Exchange server," Michael said. "If you have Exchange or Active Directory (AD), you should be thinking about MOM."

Are there any reservations about using older versions of Windows Server? "If you're a Windows NT 4.0 shop, we can't put agents on it, so we'll do remote management. We'd rather you got to Windows 2000 or above so we can provide a more complete management experience," Michael replied.

Michael told me the developers worked from the requirement that, like MOM 2005, Workgroup Edition had to "auto-discover all the pieces of an application such as Exchange server, discover the system's health, and tune itself to a reasonable set of defaults inside an hour or two so that it just runs. That's core to every management system. But small and medium businesses won't need SQL Server reporting services. They need to know that something's going to go wrong, but they're not going to do masses of management reporting and data mining. That's where you make the differences between the full product and Workgroup Edition. You make it easy not only to implement, but also to operate." Besides SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services and a collection of prebuilt management reports that ship with MOM 2005, the other major capability of the full version of MOM that Workgroup Edition doesn't include is the ability to connect to another management system, such as IBM's Tivoli or HP OpenView. (You can read Microsoft's official comparison of the two MOM versions at http://www.microsoft.com/mom/evaluation/editions/default.mspx.)

I asked Michael whether Workgroup Edition users could use Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE—the free version of SQL Server, which you can download from Microsoft's Web sites). He replied, "You can use MSDE with the full edition and with Workgroup Edition. The problem is capacity." Unlike the full version of MOM 2005, "Workgroup Edition doesn't keep performance history. Hence, MSDE's 2GB limit on database size is unlikely to get in the way of Workgroup Edition." In contrast, for the best performance, the full MOM version requires the capacity of SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition. (If you want to use the new SQL Server 2005 Express—the next generation of MSDE—with MOM 2005 Workgroup Edition, you won't risk being limited by MSDE's 2GB limit.)

The Business Case
How do you make a business case for MOM 2005 in a small or midsized business? Michael responded that the value depends on the importance of the function you're monitoring and managing. "How well can you do without it? What would be the value if you just spotted the one problem that brought you down? If you solved that, what would be the benefit?"

The business case boils down to weighing MOM's cost against how much you can save by identifying and preventing potential problems and being able to dedicate fewer staff to operations management. "MOM will identify issues before they become end-user problems, allowing fewer staff to manage larger groups of servers and providing better service to the end user. You have to offset this against the cost of implementation."

Michael cited an example of a MOM early adopter and discussed how identifying one problem proved MOM's value for a large European financial institution. "They have an OpenView system and were very worried about putting MOM underneath just because it added complexity. One morning, MOM pointed out a memory pooling error that was beginning to happen on a trader desk—MOM told them what was happening, where the problem was, and even gave them the fix. So they corrected it. That day, they tell us, MOM saved them millions of dollars because the trader desk didn't go down. This was the first time in 3 years they'd ever got ahead of the problem. So if you think about the price of MOM and compare it to the cost of not having it, it justifies itself in one or two incidents."

I asked Michael whether this example also applies to small business. He replied, "That depends on how well you can do without your Exchange server or AD. If it's critical to your business, losing your system for a day might not cost a small business as many millions of dollars, but it's absolutely as important."

What Do You Want to Ask Microsoft?
In addition to concerns about cost and licensing and small- and midsized-business considerations, reader questions for Microsoft ranged from requesting an explanation of MOM to a request for a virtual demo. (You can download a free 120-day trial version at http://www.microsoft.com/Mom/downloads/eval/default.mspx.) Several themes emerged from the more than 300 reader questions:

  • What's the difference between Systems Management Server (SMS) and MOM?
  • How does MOM integrate with various third-party management suites?
  • Does MOM work with other platforms besides Windows?
  • How do I implement MOM, and how easy is it to use?
  • What's the business justification for MOM (e.g., cost/benefit, ROI, TCO)?

Michael personally responded to these and other reader questions. You'll find his answers plus an audio recording of our conversation and the complete survey results online at InstantDoc ID 44426. For summaries of some customers' experiences, see the Web-exclusive sidebar "Microsoft Case Studies About MOM," http://www.windowsitpro.com, InstantDoc ID 44428.

Management software has traditionally been for the big enterprise. Is being able to diagnose and prevent Microsoft Exchange Server problems worth a $499 investment to a small business? Let me know what you think, and tell me what other topics you'd like to ask Microsoft about.

Corrections to this Article:

  • In this article, MSDE's limit on database size was stated incorrectly. The limit is 4GB, not 2GB.