This is part 2 of our look at what’s coming in System Center 2016 Operations Manager. Part 1 covered Apache and MySQL monitoring, and here we’ll look at other new features.
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Paul Schnackenburg

Paul Schnackenburg works part time as an IT teacher as well as running his own business in Australia. He has MCSE, MCT, MCTS and MCITP certifications. Follow his blog TellITasITis.
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The promise of an easy in-place upgrade continues in this release, as long as you’re on Operations Manager 2012 R2. I think most sysops are now familiar with the “Update Rollup train,” with the upgrade to 2016 promising to be just another station on the line. We’ll see if that pans out in reality (I did a clean install of Operations Manager 2016 for this article).

Scheduled maintenance is another (long overdue) improvement, although it’s been available from third party ISVs. In the current version, you can put nodes into maintenance mode, which suppresses alerts while you install patches, install software or hardware, etc. The problem is that you have to put the node into this mode when you start and remember to take it out afterwards, as there is no way to schedule it. Coming in 2016 is the ability to set up a once-off future time or a regular, recurring schedule for maintenance mode.

Creating a maintenance mode schedule

Creating a maintenance mode schedule

About three years ago, Microsoft “abdicated responsibility” (actual words from an Ignite presentation) for keeping a central catalogue of MPs. This is now rectified with the ability to search, download, and install MPs directly from within the Operations Manager console. Coming in Operations Manager 2016 are suggestions for MPs based on products you have installed in your environment but where no MP is installed. It’ll also let you know about updates to MPs that you already have installed, as well as show third-party MPs and offers such as time-limited trials.

MP Catalog recommendations

MP Catalog recommendations

It took until April 2015 for the MP for Storage Spaces (released in Windows Server 2012) to come out. In Operations Manager 2016, the MP will work with both “traditional” (I can’t believe that word is actually accurate here) Storage Spaces and the new Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) that’s coming in Windows Server 2016. There’s also a difference in how this new MP is designed, relying much more on OS components to tell it about topology, instead of relying on all the discovery logic residing in the MP itself. There is also a host of new MPs in the list in my Operations Manager TP4 installation for monitoring other new and improved roles in Windows Server 2016. Nano Server is also going to be supported by Operations Manager 2016 (unlike DPM 2016).

Discovering servers to monitor

Discovering servers to monitor

If you haven’t looked at MPs recently, I would install and experiment with the Office 365 MP, most recently updated in February 2016. It’s another way that Microsoft is lighting up the hybrid experience with your on-premises monitoring solution keeping tabs on your Office 365 tenant in the cloud.

The Azure MP hasn’t been updated for a while, but they are working on it. Switching from certificate-based to Azure Active Directory authentication for the MP is good, but most importantly, the updated MP will automatically discover new Azure services as they’re released.

There have been presentations where program managers have promised performance improvements in Operations Manager, especially in console performance. I’m not holding my breath, as Operations Manager is notoriously slow (unlike OMS), but any forthcoming improvements are of course welcome. Another goal of Operations Manager 2016 is to reduce the MP noise; again, I’ll wait until this becomes reality. My experience is that Operations Manager still requires a fair bit of tweaking until it’s actually telling you what you need to know without telling you a whole lot of other stuff that you don’t need to know.

The ability to author management packs using Visio has been deprecated in SC 2016 (and in the current version), so Microsoft recommends the MP Author product from Silect instead.

After Configuration Manager, I suspect that Operations Manager is the most popular of the SC components. There’re definitely enough new features coming in Operations Manager 2016 to warrant an upgrade, especially if you have a heterogeneous environment, although some of the new MPs should work fine in Operations Manager 2012 R2.

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