Monday, February 19, 2018

Project Honolulu: No SCOM/OMS Replacement

For some time now there is a preview version of Microsoft Project Honolulu available. This is a new web based platform for locally or remotely managing Windows based systems. As such it also delivers a set of tools, providing a ‘one-stop-shop’ for the admins.

Best part of it all is that there is NO Azure connection required. Instead you only install it locally on a server (Windows Server version 1709 or Windows Server 2016) in ‘Gateway Mode’. It can also be installed on Windows 10 in ‘Desktop Mode’. Good to know as well: The web application created by Project Honolulu DOESN’T work with IE! Instead use Google Chrome or Edge.

Project Honolulu supports management of Windows Server version 1709, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012.

Even though there is a lot more to tell about Project Honolulu, I won’t do that. Why? Fellow MVPs Charbel Nemnom and Thomas Maurer  already posted some very good articles about it, so there is no need to repeat it here. Just read their postings when you want to know more about it. Kudo’s to the both of them.

Is Project Honolulu the new on-premise SCOM/OMS?
Therefore I wrote this posting, in order to ask that question. Because I got some feedback out of the field, like: ‘Why use SCOM/OMS if there is Project Honolulu on the horizon?’.

A valid question which needs a good answer.

First let me start with the statement made by Microsoft itself: ‘…It is complementary to System Center and Operations Management Suite, and is not intended to replace these products and services…’.

On the same webpage is also stated what Honolulu is aimed at: ‘…Honolulu is a locally deployed, browser-based, management tool set that enables on-premises administration of Windows Servers with no Azure or cloud dependency. Honolulu gives IT Admins full control over all aspects of their Server infrastructure, and is particularly useful for management on private networks that are not connected to the Internet…’.

IMHO, the real strength of Honolulu is that it enables fast and remote management of Windows Server 2016 Core installations. Until now many organizations refrain from installing core because of the additional administrative burden it creates. However, when Project Honolulu play out as intended, those additional administrative burdens may be a thing of the past.

Honolulu + SCOM/OMS
As you can see, Honolulu isn’t meant at all as a SCOM/OMS replacement. SCOM delivers the monitoring, OMS the analytics with ‘some’ workload specific monitoring (minus Set & Forget alerting!) whereas Honolulu enables the one-stop-shop for the management of the servers running the monitored workloads.

My own Honolulu experiences
I’ve played a bit with it. Not really tested it yet. None the less, it’s impressive how easy and fast it’s installed (in the matter of minutes). In production it will take a bit more time because a real certificate is the way to go, and perhaps some high availability as well. Still, the installation can be done within a few hours, which is quite an achievement for Microsoft Smile.

The web application is pretty fast. Good responses and many possibilities. I can imagine with this tool that it becomes the general management point for on-premise Windows servers.

Also the possibility to manage specialized workloads (see screenshot below), makes the platform even more powerful:

None the less, there are some features I would like to see

  1. Central repository
    One (the Honolulu admin) could add servers as required and everyone (with the right permissions) would see them as well;
  2. RBAC
    Within Honolulu additional permissions can be set, like what servers to manage and to what level, or better what tools are to be used for a specific kind of role;
  3. Categories
    Now one can only add an ‘endless’ list of servers. Why not categorize them per application/workload and so on? Enables a smarter RBAC as well when those categories are RBAC ‘sensitive’;
  4. Auditing
    Today, auditing is a hard requirement. So every action should be enabled for logging, based on  the company’s requirements;
  5. SCOM widget, Management Pack with additional tasks
    Why not publish the Honolulu web app in the SCOM Console? And while they’re at it, add some smart SCOM tasks to launch as well when a certain issue arises.

Just test drive Project Honolulu yourself and feel free to share your own experiences.

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