Microsoft has high hopes for its Operations Management Suite

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This week during its Ignite conference, Microsoft announced the many things that its Operations Management Suite (OMS) can do. For one, it's a far more comprehensive tool to use when managing cloud services, offering options that actually fit cloud services, rather than just cloud-aware versions of the usual System Center options. Let's take a look.

OMS can do a lot

OMS is an Azure cloud service, rather than a tool you need to install in your own servers. And it's not just for managing Azure; it works with any instance in Amazon Web Services and other clouds, managing Windows Server, Linux, VMware and OpenStack. Plus, you can integrate your own servers, including Linux hosts, as well as PowerShell DSC nodes.

The suite is a mix of operations and analytics tools. You can use it for orchestration of your apps, across multiple operating systems and clouds. The Automation Runbook Gallery includes samples and runbooks, or you can use a visual, drag and drop interface on Azure to create runbooks that work with Azure websites, Virtual Machines, Storage, SQL Server and other popular Azure services. Additionally, you can call OMS automation services from GitHub and Visual Studio Online using Azure Resource Manager templates, so you can integrate it with your development workflows.

You can also use it for managing disaster recovery and backup, whether your workloads are on Azure, your own servers or other clouds. It will handle replicating and recovering physical and virtual machines, and you can replicate to your own data center, to a hosting provider, or onto Azure. If you have your own SAN, OMS will integrate with that for replication too.

Monitoring with OMS

Perhaps the most interesting tools in OMS are those used for monitoring. You can see everything from how many servers have been backed up to whether or not there were any errors in those backups--and you can do this across all the cloud services and physical servers you're managing. You can also see which servers have been updated and which need security updates or anti-virus protection, even if they're Linux VMs on AWS or VMware.

You can pull in custom logs from Windows Server and Linux and connect them to the log analytics tools. You can search for keywords, create custom dashboards to monitor logs and do forensic, audit and breach analysis or use the pre-built Solution Packs for capacity planning, configuration intelligence and change tracking. Seriously, you can do a lot.

Change tracking

Even better, change tracking is baked right into the OMS dashboard. This lets you see how many changes have been made to your software and to your instances of Windows Server. It's a quick way to see if anyone is interfering with your servers, or if you're running into problems with an application update that's being applied and rolled back repeatedly. It's also useful for checking on major application updates (which may indicate that you're about to get more support calls to the help desk than usual).


OMS is available both as a cloud license (where you pay for backup, site recovery, automation and operational insights as you use them) or as an add-on license to System Center. There's also a free version with no time limits, although it doesn't include backup. The free version also limits you to running site recovery for 31 days, includes 500 minutes of free automation job-runs and only allows you to upload 500MB of log data (with seven days retention) to use with the following: Change Tracking, Update Assessment, Capacity Planning, Alert Management, Security and Audit, Malware, AD and SQL Assessment solutions.

If some of this sounds familiar, it's because the tools from Azure Operational Insights are what power the log analytics in OMS. But what you get with the new service is a mix of automaton, monitoring and analytics that give you an overview of your workloads on physical servers and in multiple clouds. Like other Microsoft cloud services, OMS might not have all the tools you're looking for straight away, but expect it to get more features rapidly.

[caption id="attachment_58797" align="aligncenter" width="640"]oms The dashboard interface of the new Operations Management Suite gives you alerts from Azure Operational Insights alongside automation tools that work with multiple operating systems and clouds.[/caption]



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Mary Branscombe

Mary Branscombe has been a technology journalist for over two decades, and she’s been the formal or informal IT admin for most of the offices she’s worked in along the way. She was delighted to see the back of Netware 3.11, witnessed the AOL meltdown first-hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and has been a freelance tech writer ever since. She's used every version of Windows (client and server) and Office released, and every smartphone too. Her favourite programming language is Prolog, giving her a soft spot for Desired State Configuration in PowerShell 4. And yes, she really does wear USB earrings. Find her on Twitter @marypcbuk.