Top 5 Reasons Why Sysadmins Should Find SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitor a Refreshing Alternative to Microsoft® SCOM


There’s been a lot of buzz around System Center 2012 lately.  Microsoft has made significant improvements to System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), including new capabilities for dashboarding, selective network monitoring and application monitoring for J2E and .NET applications. These improvements are great for very large enterprises that have already invested heavily to get SCOM deployed and keep it running.


SolarWinds offers an alternative for companies that aren’t necessarily in Microsoft’s “sweet spot.”  Here are five differences between Microsoft and us:


Visibility into ALL your supporting resources.

System Center Operations Manager does a good job of providing coverage for Microsoft applications and operating systems and now provides some coverage for Unix, Linux, .NET and J2E.  For other applications and operating systems, you may need to purchase a third-party management pack or create one yourself.  Enter complexity – from importing, compatibility issues and the need to add multiple vendor packs.  Suddenly, the amount of time needed to manage the management tool begins to impact its value. 


SolarWinds provides a different approach.  SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) provides out-of-the-box performance and user experience monitors for virtually any application – Microsoft and non-Microsoft environments – even monitoring of J2E applications.  

Users can also extend monitoring in the same web console to a wide range of network devices and storage arrays, as well as network traffic through native integration of SolarWinds' other products, including Network Performance Monitor and its modules and Storage Manager. 


SolarWinds SAM makes it easy to extend out-of-the-box monitors with WMI performance monitors, SNMP monitors, event log monitors, SQL query monitors, process monitors, Windows Service monitors, DNS query monitors, and all-purpose and script monitors – often through just the click of an icon. With the Nagios Script Monitor, you can even use SAM to alert on scripts you have written in Nagios.

And then, there is thwack, and its 100k+ users.   SAM’s interactive web console enables you to browse, download, and share monitor templates and scripts from directly within the product, giving you access to the expertise offered by super-smart sysadmins without worrying about compatibility.  Microsoft has a vibrant community, technet, which provides a lot of advice for using Microsoft SCCM, but it doesn’t provide free, community-created management packs.

Agentless monitoring.

My agent is down! Is my server down too?   Monitoring with agents adds another layer of complexity – another piece of software to install, upgrade and watch.  There are pre-requisites and compatibility issues.  You can get a glance into all the problems with agent-based monitoring by looking at this Beanspy readme… you get deeper monitoring, but it’s not easy.


SolarWinds’ customers don’t need to devote as much time to deploying and updating monitoring, because of our agentless monitoring and an automated application and server discovery engine for quick assignment of monitors.  Typically, based on reports in customer surveys, SolarWinds’ customers devote less than 10% of one person’s time to administering the SolarWinds product. One customer said they were able to achieve 100% monitoring coverage of their server environment in 2 days with SolarWinds; something they had been trying to achieve with SCOM for approximately 4 years.



Functional dashboards and common sense navigation are standard.

While Microsoft has worked to integrate functionality into the System Center product family (see the integration of Virtual Machine Manager to SCOM via Orchestrator), they haven’t reached the level of usability that our customers expect. Two examples:  dashboards and reporting. 


Cameron Fuller, Operations Manager MVP, covered dashboards here.  “You build Operations Manager 2012 dashboards directly into the Monitoring pane of the Operations Manager console, by creating a new dashboard view.” IT admins want to solve IT problems, not administer management software.  So, we created out of the box dashboards for all of the platforms monitored.  With feedback from thousands of users, we created navigable views to get the user to the root of the problem in very few clicks.


To create custom reports with SCOM, users need a mastery of the SQL Reporting Services. SolarWinds provides the ability to create custom reports with the easy to use Report Writer tool.



Frequent, functional updates under maintenance.

Why pay maintenance if you don’t get frequent function updates?  For the last 4 years, SolarWinds has provided one major version release and at least one minor release each year.  


System Center Operations Manager 2012 released in April 2012; the previous version was System Center 2007, before that MOM 2005, and before that MOM 2000.  Shouldn’t you expect a little more from your vendor when you pay an annual maintenance fee?



SolarWinds SAM is affordable. 

The System Center 2012 license includes a lot of components, but a lot of companies will only need an easy to use monitoring product. System Center 2012 may be too much function and too expensive. 


Also, Microsoft customers may need training and professional services, which may increase the bottom-line.  In recent Linkedin post on the SCCM group, Rohitash Kathuria, a SCCM admin, said installing and configuring SCCM 2012 on one primary site will take a week. SolarWinds doesn't require professional services or training staff because our products can be installed and deployed by IT admins in a DIY fashion.