At the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) 2004 in March, Microsoft revealed its computer-management plans, which are based on the company's Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI). The initiative will add manageability technology to the company's products and help enterprises manage applications throughout their life cycles. This year, Microsoft's key management deliverable will be the next major update to Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), dubbed MOM 2005, which adds proactive monitoring capabilities, better scalability, and interoperability with third-party, non-Windows-based solutions. Here's what you need to know about MOM 2005.

A Platform for Windows System Availability
As just one part of Microsoft's overall management strategy, MOM focuses on the management of Windows-based PCs and servers. Specifically, MOM offers service-availability event handling, which lets you see how your overall network and individual systems are running via alerts generated in response to certain events, such as system problems or failures; performance monitoring to help you forecast load- balancing problems and bandwidth requirements; and a handy rules-based reaction engine that you can configure to automatically respond to specific situations in specific ways.

One of MOM's biggest assets is its extensibility. From its initial version, MOM has supported management packs that let administrators quickly configure the server for certain tasks. For example, MOM ships with management packs for Windows Server System products such as Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft IIS. You can also purchase additional management packs from Microsoft and third-party vendors that let MOM integrate with a wide variety of server software systems. MOM 2005 expands on these capabilities in several key areas.

Proactive monitoring and response. MOM 2005 includes a new Operations Console that includes a state-awareness UI for proactively monitoring the overall health, performance, and reliability of your systems. You can automate scripted responses to problems or use the product's bundled prescriptive guidance, which is fine-tuned for each product you're monitoring.

Better scalability. In addition to taking advantage of the high-scalability features in Windows 2003, MOM 2005 will also ship in a low-cost, low-end version—MOM 2005 Express. This product includes much of the functionality of its higher-end sibling and includes features specifically designed for small businesses. These features include the MOM Connector Framework (MCF), a Web-service-based technology for bidirectionally connecting MOM to third-party management platforms, and MOM 2005 Reporting, a data-reporting engine based on Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services that includes more than 100 predefined reports.

Interoperability. Even at this prerelease stage, Microsoft is touting the third-party add-ons for MOM 2005, and the list is impressive. You can find add-ons for Aprisma's SPECTRUM, Micromuse's Netcool, NetIQ's AppManager, and Skywire Software's iWave Integrator, which provides connectivity with more than 25 third-party customer relationship management (CRM), Help desk, and database management solutions. This interoperability is a nice feature; prices will vary by solution.

Recommendations
According to Microsoft, MOM 2005 is on track to ship in the second half of 2005, but a beta test this summer should help determine whether that schedule is realistic. Whether you should implement MOM 2005 depends largely on your organization: Although you can choose from numerous third-party interoperability management packs, MOM 2005 is very much a Windows server solution. Enterprises with many UNIX or Linux boxes might find a third-party solution to be more cost-effective and better suited to managing heterogeneous platforms.