Achieving a unified view of platform health

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March 2016

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click this graphic to view Microsoft Operations Management Suite Overview video

Click on the graphic above to view video "Microsoft Operations Management Suite Overview."

Microsoft IT is investing in and onboarding a new manageability solution called the Microsoft Operations Management Suite (OMS). OMS will manage our datacenter and cloud assets more holistically, moving beyond monitoring and alerting. Key features include powerful real-time log analytics, custom dashboards, and task automation.

Learn how we manage platform health today, and how we plan to transition to OMS to manage both on-premises and cloud IT assets, using a single point of control.

Platform health management today

In the last five years, our platform health management process has changed significantly. The function used to require a central operations team that processed and managed alerts, exceptions, events, and change requests. Today, platform health management is much more self-service. For example, customers can request their own configuration changes; however, those requests are still made through custom interfaces.

Although we have made significant strides toward self-service functionality, managing and reporting platform health is still a complex process. To monitor all enterprise assets in our hybrid cloud—both in datacenters and on the Microsoft Azure platform—we must maintain and manage a variety of tools, as shown in the following table.

Table 1. Platform management tools

Tool

Functionality

System Center Operations Manager

Alerting, self-healing, and remediation

System Center Configuration Manager

Patching, data distribution, and collection

Virtual Machine Manager

On-premises virtualization

Windows Azure Pack

Azure cloud platform infrastructure management

Service Management Automation

IT process automation for Windows Azure Pack for Windows Server

System Center Orchestrator

Workflow orchestration

Third-party tools

Configuration and asset management

Sometimes, the data that is collected by these tools does not translate seamlessly, and it can be complex to normalize and synthesize.

Wanted: a single point of control

We want to make managing our hybrid cloud less complex and less tool-intensive. The goal: create a simplified and inclusive view of all IT assets, regardless of where they reside, from one dashboard. The dashboard needs to capture inventory and its associated configuration data, and robustly manage logs, events, and alerts. We engaged with the OMS product development team and determined that OMS meets these requirements.

OMS will allow us to simplify, consolidate—or in some cases—completely replace components of its existing toolset. Additionally, OMS will augment System Center Operations Manager performance and configuration data collection. Portions of System Center Configuration Manager reporting will also be augmented by OMS.

As an early adopter of Microsoft technologies, we have early access to OMS internal code. However, like other enterprises, we need to deliver internal projects within the constraints of time, cost, and quality. You might be surprised to learn that we face many of the same challenges that are familiar to you, such as implementing rolling upgrades while not disrupting existing processes.

OMS adoption

OMS simplifies and unifies a collection of IT operations functions, such as comprehensive troubleshooting, change tracking, and update assessment. OMS provides a holistic and comprehensive view—a single point of control—across both on-premises and cloud data. The product supports log analytics, automation, recovery, and security.

We are actively onboarding and investing in the adoption of OMS. We continue to work closely with the OMS product development group to verify scalability, features, and functionality. The plan of record is to first use OMS to enable on-premises assets to transition to the cloud, and implement log collection and configuration management. For example, OMS data collection helps us identify cloud candidates using the Capacity Management Solution. Once those assets transition to Azure, OMS becomes an active management tool. Next, we will create, evaluate, and integrate solutions on the OMS infrastructure, working with a variety of internal service owners and customers.

Early benefits

We are in the early days of adopting OMS, but we have quickly seen benefits of scale, simplicity, and scope as OMS collects real-time metrics across the entire environment. The native product has been easy to use and simple to experiment with. OMS Solutions constantly evolve and are released in the background. Because OMS is not dependent on a release cycle, we can continually derive more benefit.

We were able to quickly test-drive both the OMS agent for Azure and OMS Azure Subscription onboarding options. Using the OMS agent for Azure to port existing System Center Operations Manager instances and agents to OMS workspaces was very straightforward. Every existing agent and its associated data were immediately live in OMS. OMS solutions could be deployed immediately against those agents without having to create permissions, network ports, and so on. For IaaS instances in native Azure Subscriptions assets—meaning not joined to a corporate domain—using the Azure Subscription onboarding option meant that assets and data were quickly added. Before OMS, these non-domain-joined assets were outside of service boundaries and their performance, configuration, and log collection data was not collected.

Microsoft has seen immediate value from the native OMS dashboard experience. By triangulating pre-configured OMS solutions such as Security and Compliance, Malware Assessment, and System Update Assessment, OMS provides a quick and comprehensive view of compliance and the security state. OMS identifies where malware protection resides or is missing, sees active threats, and simply rolls the information up to the OMS dashboard where rich, pre-defined reports can be produced. Before, doing this would have required collecting and reporting on data across five different systems.

OMS has scaled easily for us. It was initally applied to 14,000 assets. That number has more than doubled to 30,000 assets, and the goal is to onboard as many as 40,000. Because OMS is cloud-based, there are no physical infrastructure growth requirements, and it easily scales. OMS is only bound by the data use and data retention parameters of the Azure storage account subscription that it is associated with. In comparison, one System Center Operations Manager instance manages about 10,000 software agents. Growing from 10,000 to 20,000 software agents would require an additional System Center Operations Manager management group.

Looking forward

Today we are using OMS to help move on-premises assets to the cloud, and to implement log collection and configuration management. Because OMS integrates with the Azure Automation service, there are opportunities to use collected data and data queries to monitor the ongoing health and welfare of your infrastructure. For example, OMS can detect configuration drift and then self-remediate. In addition to partnering with internal teams to evaluate and integrate OMS infrastructure Solutions, we will test creating custom solutions for specific requirements.

OMS is evolving. We will use present and future OMS features and functionalities to bring us closer to a vision of hybrid cloud management with ever-increasing degrees of automation, efficiency, repeatable processes, self-healing, and automated exception management. We want to see alerts and change requests being managed without the need for—and the risk associated with—human intervention. Automated workflows should provide a more consistent management experience. Advanced telemetry should automate data collection and improve monitoring, at a lower cost. The platform should be able to fix itself. And exceptions should be automatically detected, trapped, and resolved.

For more information

Microsoft Operations Management Suite overview

Microsoft Operations Management Suite overview demonstration

Microsoft IT Showcase

microsoft.com/ITShowcase

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