Microsoft Releases Enterprise, SMB Versions Of Operations Manager

Microsoft Wednesday released to manufacturing its long-awaited MOM 2005, an enhanced management software platform that simplifies and automates the design and management of Windows Server System. MOM 2005 is slated to be available Oct. 1.

It is the first major upgrade of the platform since MOM 2000 debuted in 2000. In March 2004, as the industry awaited the release of MOM 2005, Microsoft said that it would release for the first time an Express version of MOM 2005 that would help reduce IT management costs for SMB-focused channel partners and their customers.

This week, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft said the pricing for the enterprise server license is $729 and $2,689 for an Operations Management License that covers five MOM 2005-managed devices. Meanwhile, the Express version -- renamed MOM 2005 Workgroup Edition -- is priced at $499.

One solution provider said the debut of a workgroup edition is a clear signal that Microsoft is in touch with the needs of the SMB channel and its customers.

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"This is long overdue. We have several clients that we will recommend MOM 2005 Express to immediately because it will over the long run save them money that would otherwise be spent on manually troubleshooting problems," said Marc Harrison, president of Silicon East, a Microsoft solution provider in Manalapan, N.J. "The release to manufacturing is a real sign that Microsoft is beginning to fulfill Orlando Ayala's promise to focus on and provide products targeted at small and medium business." Ayala is senior vice president, small and midmarket solutions and partner group, at Microsoft.

The Workgroup Edition offers most of the same features as MOM 2005 including performance monitoring, built-in application intelligence for identifying IT issues and tools for ensuring high service availability for Windows Server System components, but for a restricted number of servers. MOM 2005, in contrast, provides support for thousands of servers.

Other solution providers said the concept of improved Windows management sells well to all audiences but they are uncertain about interest in stand-alone products from Microsoft since many enterprise customers outsource their monitoring services and most SMB customers don't use anything at all.

"People talk about business process management, and if a company is doing a major overhaul [of its infrastructure] MOM will be an added feature set that's brought into projects. But the service has been largely outsourced for the last five years and small companies just haven't done it," said Paul Freeman, president of Coast Solutions Group, Irvine, Calif., a distributor of technology services. "I don't know if small or medium-size budgets would handle it. But my sense is that MOM 2005 is one of those technologies [that's] nice to have but not [one you] need to have."

Jason Harrison, owner of Harrison Technology Consulting, Nashville, N.C., said the need is there, but solution providers will have to educate SMB customers. "The demand is consultant-driven. A lot of customers aren't familiar with this type of tool, but the need is definitely there," he said. "The management tools to date have been cost-prohibitive. We had some clients spring for Net IQ but it was a couple thousand dollars. This Microsoft product will fill that void. It will be very affordable."

Another Microsoft solution provider, IT Synergy, Phoenix, said MOM 2005 Workgroup Edition will have greater appeal to partners when it offers key remote features.

"I know it is useful in larger environments, but the SMB customers don't seem to have it on their radar screen," said Michael Cocanower, president of ITSynergy. "The one issue I have with MOM is that I'd like to see it have a much stronger story around the remote support method. I'd like a MOM infrastructure that I can hook 100 different SMB clients to simultaneously, and then we offer network monitoring as a value-added service. There isn't a good story there today."

Meanwhile, NetIQ said it will begin shipping in September its NetIQ Extended Management Pack Modules 1.5 for MOM 2005. The XMP modules will allow MOM 2005 users to manage non-Microsoft applications running on NT 4.0, Unix and Linux. MOM 2005 runs on Windows Server 2000 and Windows Server 2003.