Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review: Book ‘System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 Unleashed’

It took me some time to decide whether or not to write a blog posting about this topic.


First of all, I am not a professional when it comes down to reviewing books. So how would I know how to pass any reasonable professional judgment on any book besides telling I like it or not?

On the other hand, I know a ‘bit’ about SCOM and SCOM R2. I will never say I know it all since that is simply impossible. Any SCOM (R2) environment touches so many things like SQL, Reporting,  scripting, MP authoring to name just a few pillars. I have met many SCOM professionals but until now not one who could say to be a guru on all topics.

So how to fill up the gap in once knowledge and experience about SCOM?

Yes, there are many good online resources like the Microsoft TechNet Forums for SCOM, System Center Central, white papers/guides, blogs from Microsoft’s PFE’s and blogs run by SCOM addicts like me.

But what about an index? How to get a real solid grip on it all? I mean, all the resources I mentioned are good but sometimes a good ‘old fashioned’ book is needed which brings it all together and shows the big picture and all the nitty gritty details as well.

And when I came to that thought, it all became clear to me: from this angle, I can certainly write a review about ‘The Big Orange Book, R2’, aka SCOM Unleashed R2. So with this review I will not approach the book like a professional reviewer but as a professional user/implementer/consultant of SCOM.

? Huh? Whether I am unbiased here? No. I do know most of the authors and had the privilege to meet them personally. Great it was! So I came to respect them even more. But you know my blog and the way I run it: I only blog when it is something positive to share. When I do not feel a full 100% good about it, I will simply NOT blog about it. EVER! So when I would think SCOM R2 Unleashed to be no good, this article would never ever have been written. Time is costly and why waste it on negative things?

So let’s start! I have put the review in a Q&A format.

Q1: Do I need to buy SCOM R2 Unleashed as well in order to understand the book completely?
The cover of the book tells one it is a supplement to SCOM Unleashed. But this does not mean one MUST have read that book in order to understand it fully.

The main authors (Kerrie Meyler, Cameron Fuller, John Joyner and Andy Dominey) have gone to great lengths to write a book that stands on its own. In order to achieve that they have been helped by some other great names out of the SCOM world, some of them work for Microsoft and other run their own companies. In short, much much experience, knowledge and angles have been put together to create a book which not only stands on it self but also stands out.

Having said that, SCOM R2 Unleashed refers in some occasions to SCOM Unleashed. So in order to get the WHOLE picture and not ‘just’ the R2 side of it, SCOM Unleashed makes it all complete.

Q2: What does the book contain?
All about the new features of SCOM R2. And not just like: ‘Oh, since R2 Xplat is covered as well’. No way. It contains explanations, examples (in order to write this book the authors had a life lab at hand in order to test it, showcase it and the like), and tons of references. So in the example of Xplat, it takes up about 70 pages of this book. All you want to know about it or wondered about it, is to be found there. Or you are given some url’s where more information can be found. In 450+ pages one is being told what R2 is all about.

A small recap of the index of the book:

  • Chapter 1: Hello! I am SCOM R2 and these are my highlights and capabilities.
  • Chapter 2: What? No Microsoft operating system? But many of them can be monitored by me as well!
  • Chapter 3: Boy! Do I like Windows Server 2008! (Like: Installing, upgrading to SCOM R2)
  • Chapter 4: Did I ever tell you about my new friend, SQL Server 2008?
  • Chapter 5: No! Do not run away now! PowerShell is HOT! Ever seen my extensions? (SCOM R2 and PS. 40+ pages about it!)
  • Chapter 6: Let me introduce my smaller brother who is also doing many more things? Here is System Center Essentials 2010!
  • Chapter 7: Lets go Virtual! (Hyper-V, monitoring Hyper-V and/or VMware, SCOM and virtualization, PRO and the like)
  • Chapter 8: It is all about MP Authoring.
  • Chapter 9: Now it is time to give it all! (High Availability scenario’s, Visio Add-In, ACS, DA’s and the like).

As stated before every single chapter is not simply a list of what SCOM R2 is all capable of, it is showcased, explained into detail without ever getting way to far of the topic. And that is not all. The book also contains 3 appendixes which tell you:

  • Appendix A: How to configure the most commonly used MPs (AD, Exchange, SQL, DNS, GPO to name a few). Please ALWAYS RTFM the related MP guides, but look upon this appendix as an additional source of information based on real field experience. Always welcome information like that.
  • Appendix B: Almost 20 pages of reference URLs!
  • Appendix C: Online resources.

Q4: Do I need to be a real Pro in order to understand it all?
No, you don’t. The main thing is that you are interested and willing to LEARN. Some chapters can take a deep dive but still there is a build up. Take your time for it. The most important thing is that you have real life experience with SCOM R2 and – even better – some kind of test environment at hand. With all the trial versions available today for SQL 2008 SP1, SCOM R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2 (all valid for 180 days), software shouldn’t be an issue here.

Q5: Do I need to read the book from chapter 1 to 9 or can I pick out the things which interest me the most?
Even though the book has been setup that with starting at chapter 1 and going from there one gets the clearest picture of SCOM R2, every chapter stands on its own as well. So when you want to know more about MP Authoring, just start at chapter 8. So the book can be used as a reference as well.

Q6: I already have a SCOM RTM/SP1 environment in place. We are about to upgrade to R2. Does this book tell me about upgrading?
Yes. Chapter 3 will tell you all about it. Chapter 1 & 2 will tell you WHY to upgrade to R2. So when your managers are still wondering whether or not to upgrade, show them those chapters. The other chapters will tell you how to get the most out of it.

Q7: My environment is already at R2 level. I use it on a daily basis. So what good is this book for me?
This book can be looked upon as an index of much of the information to be found on the internet. Like a looking glass. On top of it, it adds many things like advices based on lessons learned out of the field. Also many things are demonstrated. And many times will a SCOM R2 environment not do everything what it can do at a given company. Simply because some functionality is not needed (at that time), but you can still have questions about it. Or you are using a certain functionality and simply want to know more about it. This book shows and tells it all.

Q8: In what format is this book available?
Hello 2010! SCOM R2 comes in two formats: electronic and as a bunch of paper, aka ‘book’. I myself have both formats. The book is at home and the electronic one resides on my notebook. Really works great.

Q9: Wow! I want that book! Now! How & where to get it?
Again: Hello 2010! Open IE and check it out: http://thoughtsonopsmgr.blogspot.com/2010/03/scom-unleashed-r2-available-for.html

Final words 
Instead of more talking/blogging I will try a different approach. The last question should be like this:

Q10: Who should buy AND read this book and why? And who should NOT buy it?

Any one who works with SCOM R2 in any kind of way AND cares about it should buy AND read this book. It tells you all you want to know and where to find more information on the internet when needed. Also the clear demonstrations, pictures and explanations helps one out to get a quick and thorough understanding of SCOM R2 and the power present in the product and most important, how to UNLEASH it. So whether you are a SCOM R2 die-hard or a newbie, this book is a MUST HAVE for everyone.

When you run a SCOM R2 environment and simply don’t care, well DON’T buy it. But remember in a situation like that it is more than likely that SCOM R2 is running you. Also that way SCOM R2 becomes just a blob of software and you are missing out on it all… Like having a Ferrari in the garage and going to your work by bus! So open up your eyes, start IE and order the book online! BUY IT, READ IT and regain CONTROL!

1 comment:

virtualfat said...

thanks for the review. Will get this book.