Microsoft Operations Manager, affectionately called MOM, gathers information about systems and applications across the enterprise so you can react to problems more quickly and avoid many potential problems altogether. MOM is a pretty complicated piece of software, but once you understand the basics of how it works, you can get down to the dirty work of deploying it. In this Daily Feature I’ll explain how to plan the infrastructure you’ll need for MOM and how to get the deployment ball rolling.

Establishing the initial goals
In any deployment, the first step is to establish the goals that define your desired result. In MOM’s case, your goals can be summed up in two parts. First you must decide why and how you want to collect information from your enterprise. Then you need to know what to do with that information once you have it.

You should start by reviewing your entire enterprise to get the “big picture” of your network, systems, and infrastructure. What are the problems, or potential problems, you want to monitor, either to avoid them or fix when they do occur? What applications need to be monitored by MOM? Are application packs available for them, or will you have to develop your own? What needs to be monitored in each application?

As you and your deployment planning team ask these questions and begin to understand what you want to monitor, remember that MOM doesn’t limit you to monitoring computers. Through SMTP, syslogs, and other generic logs, you can monitor a broad range of equipment, systems, and applications across the enterprise—for example, hubs, switches, and routers. MOM lets you monitor Microsoft as well as non-Microsoft operating systems. As with devices, applications need not be Microsoft-centric as long as they can generate standard logs or place their events in the appropriate event logs.

After you’ve decided what devices and applications to monitor, take a look at each device or application to determine what information you need to collect. Remember that you can monitor performance counters as well as events. Performance monitoring lets you track issues that can potentially lead to device, network, or application problems. For example, you should monitor disk space on file servers, database servers, and other systems in which dwindling disk capacity can cause problems. Monitoring routers and managed switches can help you quickly identify network problems. Doubtless, there are many other items for which you’ll need to monitor performance across the enterprise. Take a look at all your systems to determine the performance criteria you need MOM to monitor to reach your management goals.

You’ll also need to decide what changes to make in specific devices or systems to enable them to participate in the collection-gathering process. For example, you’ll need to install the SMTP service and configure it on workstations if you want them to generate traps for MOM. You might need to reconfigure other devices and applications to produce logs in a format MOM can use.

Planning the infrastructure
After you’ve evaluated the enterprise and determined your monitoring and management goals, you can turn your attention to planning for the infrastructure changes required to implement MOM. First, MOM must be installed on a domain member server running Windows 2000 Server or .NET Server. You can’t install it on a domain controller or a stand-alone server. The size of your enterprise and number of systems to be monitored will determine which components you install and how many servers you use. If you need to monitor fewer than 100 computers, you can install everything on one server. However, you should still install at least one other MOM server for redundancy.

As the size of the enterprise grows, you’ll probably need to install MOM across multiple servers, which offers several advantages. First, it enables you to modularize the installation with different departments or groups having at least some control over their implementation. You still retain centralized control through alert forwarding and the hierarchical structure offered by MOM through configuration groups, Data Access Servers, and so on. Deploying MOM on multiple servers lets you monitor systems across a firewall, distribute reporting or management, or avoid the potential problem of a single database growing too large to manage. You need a pretty good understanding of how MOM functions to break up the installation, so this part of your deployment plan will develop over time as you gain experience through your pilot deployment.

Part of the final deployment planning is structuring the collection network. You need to consider how you’ll group workstations for agent installation and management. As you work up the chain, determine where you need consolidators, and how many. Throughout this phase you’ll begin to develop the configuration groups that will let you manage systems downstream of the consolidators and Data Access Servers. As you plan the logical layout, keep redundancy and availability in mind. Each group needs to have redundant Data Access Servers to ensure that collected data is passed up the food chain to the central database.

After you’ve designed the collection network, take a second look to make sure it will function within the enterprise framework. For example, you might need to make changes to firewalls across the network to allow for MOM’s traffic. During this second look, make sure you don’t have any weak links in terms of redundancy.

Installing MOM
You need to perform a handful of tasks before you actually install MOM. MOM’s Setup program checks to see if these tasks have been completed before you can continue. The tasks vary a bit, depending on your installation type. For example, you don’t need to install SQL Server if you’re using the Express setup option, which uses the Microsoft Database Engine (MSDE) rather than SQL Server. The Setup interface provides a pre-installation tasks section that you should follow prior to beginning the MOM installation. Steps here include setting up the central computer and optionally configuring an existing SQL Server to work with MOM.

The pre-installation task section also explains the accounts you must create for the Data Access Servers and consolidators, and the rights required for them. You must also set up an e-mail account for outgoing notifications and configure service options for the services on which MOM depends.

When you’re finally ready to install MOM, Setup provides four basic installation options:

  • Typical—This option installs all core components on one computer, which is suitable for monitoring about 100 computers. It supports security roles and a database larger than 2 GB.
  • User Interfaces—This option installs the MOM Microsoft Management Console (MMC) and reporting tools.
  • Custom—This option lets you control component placement to support a large number of computers and distributed management. It supports security roles and a database larger than 2 GB.
  • Express—This option installs all core components and is suitable for a relatively small number of computers. It offers a maximum database size of 2 GB and no support for security roles.

If you’re just evaluating MOM, choose the Express option. Otherwise, choose the option that fits your needs.

Throughout the installation process, Setup prompts you for various bits of information. For example, you have some decisions to make regarding accounts. If you want to use the same account for the Consolidator and Agent Manager components, you can’t specify a local computer account—you must specify a domain account. You can specify separate accounts for the Consolidator and Agent Manager if you desire. The account for the Consolidator component must reside in the Administrator’s local group for the Consolidator computer and on all agent computers that Consolidator manages. Setup tweaks accounts and groups as necessary.

Here are other tasks that Setup will perform or prompt you to perform:

  • Sets the database size and location, as well as log file size and location
  • Prompts to start sqlserveragent service
  • Prompts to configure Agent Manager and Consolidator service startup to automatic and start after Setup finishes
  • Specifies configuration group name
  • Specifies the location for Web console files (defaults to inetpub)
  • Specifies the method for sending notifications, whether Exchange or SMTP: if Exchange, specifies server name and mailbox; for SMTP, specifies server name, return address, and SMTP port
  • Specifies which events you want written to the database—you can choose All Events (not recommended) or only specified events that match one or more processing rules
  • Specifies which management pack modules to install

After you specify all of the requested information, Setup stops several services, and then proceeds with installation.

Post-installation configuration
There are several tasks to complete after you install MOM. The first task is to install the collection agent on the computers you need to monitor. As a part of this process, you’ll add the computers to a Managed Computers rule on the agent’s manager. You can install agents manually, but in most cases you’ll probably let the agent manager component install the agents for you. The MOM console lets you approve installation on target computers before proceeding with the installation.

You must also configure notifications after installing MOM. This includes specifying the e-mail server, creating notification groups and populating them with administrators’ contact addresses and schedules, and configuring processing rules to use the appropriate notification method(s).

When the agents are in place and the notification scheme is ready, you’ll need to add and configure management-pack modules to manage specific applications across the enterprise. A management pack adds the rules, filters, reports, and other objects you’ll need to begin monitoring an application with minimal additional setup or configuration.

After all of MOM’s components are in place, it’s time to go through the deployment with a magnifying glass to further develop the infrastructure and fine-tune data collection. For example, you’ll no doubt spend some time creating and modifying processing rule groups and computer groups to suit the goals you established. You should also take some time to familiarize yourself with the management consoles and reporting tools.

Give MOM some pilot training
Deploying MOM to manage your enterprise is a complex task involving multiple components and steps. Not every application requires a pilot deployment, but I recommend you perform such a pilot deployment before rolling MOM out across the enterprise. Time spent planning and learning in the early stages will save you a lot of trouble during full deployment. As you build the pilot, try to structure the pilot network to resemble your actual network, at least as much as possible. Tools like VMWare and Virtual PC are invaluable for simulating application servers without investing large sums in hardware.