System Center Opalis: First Impressions

I tried out System Center Opalis 6.3 a little while ago.  I had waited until Microsoft said that it supported Windows Server 2008 R2.  There was no point in looking at it until then.

What did I think of it?

Not much.  Wait; that’s not true.  I’ll be honest.  I thought it stunk.

So far, I think this blog post might be longer than the deployment documentation that was available for it at the time.  That wasn’t good.  I also couldn’t get agents to deploy onto the W2008 R2 machines that I wanted to orchestrate actions on.  The error box gave no useful information.  I couldn’t find any logs.  My lab network was completely open.  I went searching for help and only found others who had the same problem but never found a solution.  Not good.  So I abandoned it, thinking I’d wait until the next major release.

Yes, there are lots of blog posts and videos from Microsoft staff showing how wonderful it is.  But they do have access to DLs (distribution lists that are internal only) where they can get access to troubleshooting information that is not in the public domain.  From my outsider perspective, these articles are just marketing without the substance I need to make the product work.  That may sound harsh to some but it is my opinion, having tried the product, wanting to get it to work.

Back in 2004, I ran the MS infrastructure for a finance company.  It was a "grey field” deployment … a bit of a rip and replace that we did the year before.  You can’t do everything at once so we added to it as we went along.  We were looking for a monitoring solution.  Our MS account manager suggested that we consider MOM 2005.  I didn’t know of Microsoft Operations Manager so I looked it up.  The reviews for MOM 2000 were awful.  Microsoft had acquired it just previously, rebadged it, and started selling it, while working on a new version.  They did the same with Visio, and the same with Antigen (later Forefront for Exchange).  I gave MOM 2005 beta a shot and, soon enough, the beta was monitoring some key machines in globally located branch offices.

Opalis is in that “tweener” stage right now; caught between pre-Microsoft and fully Microsoft.  The idea is great but, in my opinion, the recently acquired product still isn’t up to the standard set by other, more mature, Microsoft System Center products.  We know (from MMS 2011) that a new version is on the way and that it is being renamed to System Center Orchestrator.  Maybe then it’ll work better and be better documented.  Until then, I’m not going to show Opalis too much interest.

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