Sorry to steal a title from a very well known OpsMgr book, but I can think of no better way to describe the new R2 beta release of everyones favourite monitoring tool.

I have just returned from the R2 TAP summit for Microsoft's latest revision of Operations Manager and I have to say that this is definietly looking like the release that is firmly going to put the product at the top of the management tree.

Being involved with the product all the way back to it's Sentry days when I was with Mission Critical Software, it has been an absolute delight to watch this platform progress through it's various versions.

I have to admit though that my love affair with this product hit a serious rocky patch with the release of OpsMgr 2007 RTM, and I, like many others of you out there went through some questioning times battling with some of the early issues with the build.

Well I am glad to say, that the product team also felt this pain too, and have had a long and hard look at the way they release their products and after the introduction of some very stringent new engineering criteria have finally produced a platform that is not only rock solid, but is also bristling with new features, new concepts and for once is bursting to get out of the traps.

The R2 beta finally went live on connect on Thursday of last week and I was one of a fortunate group of people who got to test drive it early and WOW what a ride.

The first thing that astounded me was the sheer all round performance of the product, "Yes I did actually say all round performance", being with 2007 since it's early beta, perfromance is a word that I have never used in the same sentence with OpsMgr, but this thing moves like Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the Brazillian Grand Prix......I started things off by clicking the icon for the Operators Console and then sat back in my chair to wait the customary minute or so for the console to appear and POW ! up it came, with a very slick new looking splash graphic, and it didnt stop there, I can gracefully flick between panes, scroll through mountains of alerts without losing half of my screen and fire up tasks and views instantly without so much as a hesitation. I have to say, back in the day, when I first heard that they were combining all of the consoles from MOM 2005 into a single UI, I thought the cost would have to be a big hit to performance and nothing in RTM led me to believe I was wrong, but I think the guys have squirted some axle grease into the code as it now handles like its on rails.

Next I moved onto the management pack import wizard and if you, like me, go through all the frustration of having to connect to the catalogue to download the latest MP's every time you deploy the product (or for you admins every week), so you can get the latest and greatest additions to your MP family then your far flung prayers have now been answered as we now have a "check catalogue" button, that not only lets you pick your MP's straight from the online MS catalogue but will also check your existing ones for updates, and if this is not enough for you MP catalogue whores out there, then it actually brings them down, unpacks them and automatically deploys them OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU TOM........

Next is something that my very good friend, Oklahoma die hard (damn, by how much did your boys smash the Techs), and all round rock star Justin, has been working on under the covers, a brand new MP Template for process monitoring. Yes, just when you thought you may just never see another MP template again, the team come up with the Mother of all MP templates "The Process Monitor", got to be one of may all time biggest asks from customers, a quick and easy way of smashing the problem of managing those runaway processes. In just a few clicks you can be tracking down those unwanted, runaway, HPOV, CA or BMC agent processes, allowing you to do the only decent thing and terminate those mothers....Seriously though this is a cool little wizard that lets you not only look for and terminate unwanted processes, but lets you limit the number of certain processes starting as well as allowing you to gather information on how a number of processes that form a workload are performing, very, very cool (I know I need to get out more).

Next on my list of stuff to try (and I am getting very excited now), is the new update to the OLEDB MP template....I have to say that I was a left a little bit disapointed by the original rev of this, especially as I saw it fall completely short of products such as SiteScope in terms of functionality, but now we are talking, no more just connecting to a DB for this little tiger, now its full on SQL query time baby ! Just grab your favourite SQL query off those lovable rogues in the SQL DBA team and whallop, instant LOB application DB call simulation (calm down, I said simulation SQL jocks not stimulation). This was so seriously missing and now is there by default so you can not only fire those queries in but you can take results back and pass them to diagnostics, measure performance and availability from different levels (and locations) of your app and best of all you can slam them into into your Service Level Dashboard and show that gorgeous girl in marketing just what a cool and intereseing dude you really are (hey dont knock it till youve tried it boys).....

So next is onto a little new addition to the very sexy web console, da dah ! the all new, web based, "Health Explorer", now isn't this just the feature that you were so missing from this console that stopped you from using it all the time, and whats more its, slick, is launched exactly the same way as it is from the thick client, and makes sure that you never miss that awesome experience of watching your all those red blobs curl out of the tree, letting you know (on a Friday afternoon no doubt) that you have just trashed the company mail server.

Next I dived into reporting to see if the mad Jock Mr Savage has had time to unravel the time old OpsMgr mystery for us of what object goes with what report, and fair play to the haggis eating, wok loving Highlander, hes added an all new object picker for report parameters that allows you to find the right target for customising your report so you can easily work out how to get that Exchange availability report to the boss by 5pm to prove to him that you are not a complete numbwit (shouldnt be spending all your time flashing your new dashboard at the girl in marketing mate).

So as you can imagine I am getting OpsManagered right out by now, thinking to myself, surely there could not be any more surprises, but then I find out that I am merely tapping on the product teams window pane, and guess who is there to open it with a big smiling face and rather large penguin tattoo on his arm, but TechEd Europes Top talker himself (see you do have some mates), and the epitome of smoothness, Mr Barry Earthmover, and boy does he move the earth, not just cross platform monitoring that betters anything on the market today, but fully integrated, seemless, instantly deployable from the console cross platform monitoring. Now guys, I have to state in public, this new feature, extension, limb (whatever befits it)  ABSOLUTELY KICKS TOTAL ASS, you click on agent discovery as normal, but instead of the usual boring old windows only discovery you get a screen split into three, Windows, UNIX\Linux and network. Choose the middle one and in less clicks than I have had hot supermodels you have a fully deployed and monitored cross platform agent, and is this experience a good one, the agent is built in Open Source Pegasus, yes thats right Microsoft writing open source code, is that a pig I see above, and the cross plat team have even written the Base O/s MP's for you, and boy are these good, and dare I say better, yes better than some of the existing Windows MP's (I still love ya Tom), as well as a ton of flavours already there and more readied in time for release, I think that this is going to spank some some serious cheek when it hits the street. All we need now is a nice Penguin icon in the computers view and the story is complete, come on boys you know it makes sense...

Other cools things I sampled were th new maintenance mode which actually puts a server into maintenace mode properly before you reboot rather than embarrasing you with a heartbeat failure on startup, a new overrides summary view..... HORAY, no more reching for Boris's toolkit, a brand new Authoring console making it even easier to knock up that Management Pack for contolling your garage door, support for managing upto 1000 URL's (ideal for clicking on your blog to make your stats look impressive to your mates....hey it works for me), new subscribe mechanism for notifications (hey sounds like something of System Center Community, Pete ?) and last but very much not least the integration of something very special to me THE SERVICE LEVEL DASHBOARD (remember the girl from marketing), and not just the inclusion of the report that brought a little sexy back to your OpsMgr installation but the inclusion of a whole new addition to the Authoring experience, the ability to create and define Service Level Objectives on almost anything you monitor in OpsMgr so you can tell you boss that besides being a numbwit you can actually demonstrate 5 9's against his sandwich ordering app.....WHAYYYYYY!

A massive pat on the back to the whole product team from me anyway for a quality code release, delivered on time, with top new features and packed with almost everything I have ever heard from customers thats really needed in the product, keep it coming.................

Gordo Loves R2 x x x


Inframon The System Center Specialists