The beta release of the next version of Microsoft’s flagship monitoring application, System Center Operations Manager (SCOM 2012), has been made available for the public to try out for the last few weeks. While technology previews have been available internally since the beginning of the year, this is the public’s first look at the new release. Final release of SCOM 2012 is expected by the end of this year. (This article and others to follow on the beta release of SCOM 2012 may describe features that could be altered in the final release, although no major changes are expected.)

SCOM is a well-established product with a reputation of being the most complete monitoring solution for Microsoft environments. SCOM 2007 R2 (the current release) added cross-platform support for several Unix and Linux operating systems. Microsoft wants to continue to broaden the appeal of SCOM with the 2012 release by adding features that allow more applications and non-Windows devices to be monitored “out of the box”. Two of these features are the network monitoring and application monitoring components, which are conveniently installed automatically during a default setup of SCOM 2012.

Much improved setup experience

A critique of previous releases of SCOM was that it entailed a rather complex procedure to prepare for and install the product. Microsoft has addressed this with a streamlined setup that is much faster to complete. In SCOM 2012, the first feature that is installed is the management server. The operational database is created on a SQL server during setup of the management server. This is different than previous versions of SCOM that required the operational database be installed prior to the first management server, so this saves time and a number of steps. Figure A shows off the new setup wizard that includes in-line links to install missing prerequisites.

The SCOM 2012 beta setup includes in-line links to install missing prerequisites. (Click to enlarge.)

SCOM 2012 requires access to an instance of a server running Microsoft SQL Server 2008 SP1 or SQL Server 2008 R2. The instance of SQL server must already exist and be accessible before you start your first management server installation. Here are a few considerations before installing SCOM 2012 beta:

  • SCOM 2012 server components such as management servers and gateway servers will only install on the 64-bit Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system.
  • If you plan to use the network monitoring features of SCOM 2012 in a large environment, you should move the ‘tempdb’ database to a separate disk on the SQL server that has multiple spindles.
  • When installing the SCOM 2012 web console feature, .NET Framework 4 is required; however, you must install Internet Information Services (IIS) before installing .NET Framework 4.

Network device and application monitoring included

Two significantly improved features of SCOM are automatically installed during setup; these are the network device monitoring and the application monitoring components. Both features represent technology acquired by Microsoft in the last few years that will be bundled into the basic SCOM product.

  • SCOM 2012 provides the ability to discover and monitor network routers and switches, including the network interfaces and ports on those devices, and the virtual LAN (VLAN) that they participate in. Previous versions of SCOM included a rudimentary and generic network device monitoring capability that did not scale well. SCOM 2012 is a game-changer with a new network device monitoring engine based on “Smarts” technology originally developed by EMC Corporation. SCOM 2012 will positively identify specific network devices, and can monitor hundreds of devices such as network switches at the port level and correlate this information with server and application health models.
  • In SCOM 2012, you can monitor ASP.NET applications and web services from server- and client-side perspectives to get details about application availability and performance. The data can help your development team pinpoint solutions for better performance. This technology is basically a simplified version of the deep .NET application monitoring acquired from AVIcode, now an integral part of the SCOM product. In the beta release, only web applications can be monitored and not executable services. (Through a separate download at the SCOM 2012 beta site, you can evaluate a new J2EE monitoring feature that can detect flaws in Java 2 Enterprise Edition applications.)

Download links

Download the beta release of SCOM 2012 for testing and evaluation at this link:

You can download just the documentation, such as the “Quick Start Guide to Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2012 Beta” at this link: