Sorry no cool vendor this week, instead I’m going to cover some other “cool” stuff coming from a company we don’t normally think of as particularly “cool”. Microsoft is innovating in the systems management space, and creating unique technologies with a broad reach. Microsoft has a significant install base of Operations Manager, they come up very regularly on client inquiry, hence I’ve written several research notes focused on this technology.
I was pleased to make it out to Microsoft TechEd this year, after not making it since 2011 (too many vendor shows, need to rotate). Although this year was an off year in terms of major platform launches, especially around System Center Operations Manager (what was called SCOM previously). Microsoft still announced a slew of new cloud based products around Visual Studio highlights included mobile development based on Apache Cordova to allow for building universal Windows apps (Store and Phone) across Microsoft platforms, as well as iOS and Android.
Within Visual Studio online, the updates around Application Insight were particularly interesting in terms of APM, one of my focus areas. Additionally the announcement of improved functionality and capabilities within System Center Advisor are of interest to my coverage of ITOA and APM. Let’s dig a bit deeper…
I can now more publicly talk about the changes which Microsoft has been making over the last 14 months internally, re-organizing the teams which consisted of the Avicode acquisition (Microsoft’s APM technology) underneath the Visual Studio (Developer Division) from being aligned with the System Center teams. This organization change and strategy change facilitated Microsoft to create a developer focused APM product consisting of instrumentation of Java and .NET along with embedded tools within Visual Studio for creating custom instrumentation.
Through this change Microsoft has launched a SaaS only APM product, which over time will be fed into Operations Manager. They have built specific tooling which integrates into Visual Studio making it easy for developers to write their own instrumentation. This instrumentation can include any metric data or custom messages which are sent to the online service (currently completely free of charge as a preview – http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn481095.aspx) and can be viewed, reported upon, and analyzed. Over time this will provide a broader understanding of software analytics across Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies and platforms. While there are limitations in the preview, there is a lot which can be done today.
The online portal also leverages the same Global System Monitor (GSM) synthetic availability monitoring which can monitor a single URL or a set of steps which a user may traverse as they are using a web application. This is already available for free to users of Operations Manager (with some limitations). This is a similar synthetic testing capability you often see offered by Compuware Gomez, Keynote, and over 3 dozen other companies. These technologies are now part of developer centric tools in Visual Studio Online as well.
The APM components can also monitor servers or Azure components in terms of usage and performance information by leveraging built in instrumentation or agents.
System Center Advisor
This System Center component was previously uninteresting from my coverage perspective, focused on identification of configuration problems of systems. The product has always been cloud only, and something part of the System Center suite.
Microsoft has changed things on the preview of this service, including several security and operations use cases. This begins with sending more collected data from System Center components to the online service, such as leveraging OpsMgr (SCOM) as a data source.
The preview includes capacity planning use cases across systems, both physical and virtual, but more interestingly allows for log analytics technology. Event log data is fed from OpsMgr, but I expect this to expand over time. The log analytics today are based on Elasticsearch on Azure under the covers, but the presentation is all web based. The language and analytics are pretty basic, but useful. The speed of analysis is very good based on the demos I have seen, but I have yet to get it up and running in my lab. Regardless, this is the start of some interesting technology from Microsoft. During the preview this is completely free of charge, and you don’t have any costs for storage since the data is all stored on Microsoft Azure.
Hopefully this was helpful, feel free to leave a comment or hit me up on twitter @jkowall