Lead Image © Shao-Chun Wang, 123RF.com

Lead Image © Shao-Chun Wang, 123RF.com

Monitor Windows systems and Linux servers

Operation Overview

Article from ADMIN 38/2017
The Microsoft Operations Management Suite provides a comprehensive monitoring solution in the cloud that offers a high degree of flexibility and scalability.

Microsofts Operations Management Suite (OMS) [1] is a monitoring solution for the efficient control of local networks, cloud solutions, and hybrid infrastructures. Microsoft has put everything in the cloud, which creates a scalable environment that can be connected to System Center or to another monitoring solution. OMS itself does not require its own servers; rather, individual servers on the network are hooked up via an agent.

With OMS, you can monitor Windows systems and Linux servers, as well as monitor and control VMware and OpenStack. Additional services include capabilities for checking on the availability of physical and virtual servers and entire virtual infrastructures and the implementation of error alarms and inventory and ticket systems. Microsoft has created a two-minute video [2] to introduce the basic features contained in OMS.

Centralized Monitoring for Large and Small

Aside from monitoring servers and cloud services, companies can put together various Azure services with OMS to operate networks and servers with a high degree of availability. For example, you can replicate virtual machines (VMs) for high availability (HA) via Azure Site Recovery, save and restore data in the cloud with Azure Backup, integrate automatic functions inside of Azure, and monitor connected servers with Azure Operational Insights. Although the services can be purchased and operated separately, they have been combined in the OMS solution.

Large companies that operate multiple data centers and are looking for a central monitoring tool profit the most from OMS. The use of OMS makes even more sense if a hybrid cloud is operated with Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS). Smaller companies with just a few servers can also reap advantages from the use of OMS. Typically, smaller companies do not monitor their servers because it does not pay to acquire an all-inclusive monitoring solution. With OMS, however, organizations can save themselves the trouble of building out their own monitoring infrastructure and, with the modular licensing scheme, choose the services they need. (See also the "Testing OMS Free of Charge" box.)

Testing OMS Free of Charge

If testing 500MB of daily upload is sufficient for logfiles and you only want to use the data for a maximum of seven days, you can use OMS free of charge. The free data plan is activated once you register in the environment. With no assistant to help in the installation, you will first need to spend a little time acquainting yourself with monitoring. A business account with Microsoft is required (e.g., one that is used for Azure or Office 365). As soon as you have installed the cloud environment, you can start monitoring the server. If necessary, you will be able to increase the functionality of the environment at any time for a fee. Microsoft provides the price and a list of functionality for the individual packages over the Internet [3].

First Steps in OMS

The interface for administering OMS is web based and flexible to configure. Microsoft offers various apps for monitoring and controlling servers with smartphones and tablets, which only need an Internet connection. In this way, administrators get detailed information about their computing environment wherever they happen to be. Also, it is easy to customize the interface to fit the individual requirements of each user, making for more transparency and flexibility, features which become especially helpful when multiple administrators are working with the GUI to monitor various areas of the network.

With OMS, you can now also perform Active Directory (AD) replication on the network, because Microsoft has integrated functions from the formerly free AD Replication Status Tool into OMS. If your company uses the OMS license without System Center, you should install the cloud agents for the cloud solution on the domain controllers (Figure 1). Then, the domain controllers and their AD replication can continue to be monitored free of charge. Domain controllers send the replication data via the agent to the cloud, where the AD replication service processes and displays the data.

Figure 1: Monitoring servers via an agent. The installation file for the agent is available over the web interface.

Monitoring and Replicating Servers

The OMS functions can be divided into three areas. Generally speaking, you can analyze and interpret all of the server protocols. To do this, the agent sends the data to the cloud. The protocols are interpreted and made available in real time on the dashboards that have been installed in the interface. Evaluation is significantly faster and is also much easier to set up than with System Center. Once the servers are integrated, they immediately transmit data to the cloud.

The second primary area of functionality comprises real-time monitoring of the machines during operation and configuration of the connected servers. If OMS detects a problem with a server, it can trigger a replica that has been transferred to another data center through Azure Site Recovery. It is possible to automate any number of activities, particularly with respect to data transmission or the modification of data connections between on-premises resources and the cloud. You can also use PowerShell cmdlets. As a result, you can use OMS to control and monitor server replications, such as replications in Microsoft Azure or with EMC and NetApp. Therefore, OMS is ideal at creating and monitoring HA in larger environments and at incorporating HA solutions to monitor and control them. The Azure Site Recovery service serves as the basis by replicating the VMs between data centers and the cloud.

Azure Backup also saves data held on important servers to the cloud and restores it if necessary. Companies operating multiple data centers or Hyper-V hosts have the option of integrating Azure into HA by setting up HA in OMS and replicating the VMs with Hyper-V between hosts in the data center. Replication is also possible across various data centers. Azure Site Recovery is a superior administration tool in Microsoft Azure for controlling multiple HA networks.

The third area involves automating administration tasks for connected servers. You can control and monitor all connected resources and servers, and not just the server as a standalone network object. Monitoring and controlling security are important OMS tasks, as is centrally managing the installation of updates.

It should be pointed out that you are able to keep an eye on and control both Windows and Linux servers, which lets OMS perform comprehensive monitoring for patch installations if Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) is used. Additionally, the tool recognizes the status of the virus scanner on the connected servers.

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