Comparing Nagios and SCOM to BizTalk360

|  Posted: December 1, 2017  |  Categories: BizTalk Server BizTalk360

In this article, we will briefly compare few popular general-purpose monitoring solutions to BizTalk360 for operating BizTalk Server.

Nagios Strengths

  • Nagios XI provides monitoring of all mission-critical infrastructure components including applications, services, operating systems, network protocols, systems metrics, and network infrastructure
  • Nagios is extendable by offering a plugin framework, thereby enabling organizations to build their own plugins
  • Hundreds of third-party add-ons provide for monitoring of virtually all in-house and external applications, services, and systems

Nagios Weaknesses

  • Nagios XI is a general-purpose monitoring solution, which contains no out-of-the-box support for BizTalk Server
  • A plugin for BizTalk Monitoring is developed by op5, but it is very limited and not up to date
  • The plugin has not been tested with all BizTalk versions so the plugin might not be compatible with versions later than BizTalk Server 2010

SCOM Strengths

  • SCOM truly is an enterprise platform for Monitoring that supports many technologies including BizTalk. It also has the ability to monitor other Microsoft and Non-Microsoft systems such as Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint, Active Directory, Oracle, and VMWare.
  • The Company and Product Knowledge Base are really easy to use and are easily accessible
  • Performance Counter information can easily be surfaced within the SCOM Console
  • The BizTalk Management Pack includes Monitors and Rules for almost every scenario imaginable
  • The tool is very extensible, provided you have the right skill set within your organization to make those changes

SCOM Weaknesses

  • SCOM is an enterprise platform for Monitoring. The problem with this is that BizTalk is “just another product” that SCOM is capable of monitoring.
  • There are very few value add features that set this product apart from others in this space
  • SCOM requires its own set of infrastructure in order to support monitoring BizTalk and other applications. Configuring this infrastructure is labour intensive and costly, relative to BizTalk360, and hence the steep learning curve, it might require external SCOM expertise in order to implement this successfully
  • When SCOM does not have an inherent feature out of the box, custom Authoring capabilities allow administrators to write custom rules. This Authoring environment is overwhelming for many IT Pros
  • There has not been a lot of innovation in the BizTalk Management Pack. Some performance improvements and increased suppression on rules were included in the BizTalk 2016 Management Pack, but otherwise there has not been much investment in the Management Pack

BizTalk360 Strengths

  • BizTalk360 has delivered on their Design goals that were identified in the BizTalk360 capabilities and feature set
  • BizTalk360 is easy to install and easy to use. You do not have to be a monitoring expert in order to install and configure this tool. This is truly one of the core benefits of the solution
  • The tool is more than just a monitoring tool. It is also a comprehensive BizTalk management tool
  • Features and investments continue to be made in the product. New versions appear on a frequent basis. Customers have a lot of influence in the road-map and the vendor is very receptive to feedback. User’s voice is implemented at http://feedback.biztalk360.com. Also, the Support Staff is very responsive
  • The Governance and Audit features are worth the price of the license on their own. For organizations that have distributed teams, both building and supporting BizTalk applications, these features are must have. For example, BizTalk360 has helped customers to meet SOX compliance
  • BizTalk360’s Throttling Analyzer takes a lot of the guess work out of trying to figure out why a BizTalk Host is being throttled. It also allows you to go back up to 7 days instead of forcing you to monitor performance counters after the issue has been discovered

BizTalk360 Weaknesses

  • For organizations that already have an Enterprise Monitoring solution such as Nagios or SCOM, it may be difficult to convince decision makers of the additional value that BizTalk360 provides. However, even if organizations have properly implemented Nagios or SCOM for BizTalk monitoring, which is quite challenging in itself, organizations still need several consoles to administer BizTalk, while with BizTalk360 most of the administration can be done through one console.

Strength Matrix
The purpose of the following section is to put each company’s offering against each other. These ratings have been made from a BizTalk perspective. One product may provide great functionality in one area, but if it isn’t relevant to BizTalk it will not be accounted for. A three-point scale has been used:

The product excels at delivering functionality required to support the requirement
The product partially delivers the functionality required to support the requirement
The product does not deliver functionality required to support the requirement

 

Requirement Nagios (with op5) SCOM BizTalk360 Rationale
Application Health
Application Health All products deal with core Application Health scenarios very well. Nagios loses points for less visibility when determining the health of an application.
Platform Health
Host Instance Availability All products deal with Host Instance health scenarios. Good visibility exists when determining the health of a Host instance. The higher rank goes to BizTalk360, because of the Auto-correct feature, for which customization is needed with Nagios and SCOM.
Host Throttling All products provide capabilities when it comes to determining Host Throttling, although in case of Nagios, it will be monitoring of PerfMon counters. BizTalk360 however, provides a more comprehensive experience and allows you, besides Host Throttling monitoring, to historically go back to determine exactly when and why BizTalk was throttling.
Single Sign On Service availability All products provide suitable functionality in this area. BizTalk360 gets the higher mark as it also has an Auto correct feature, which tries to bring the SSO service in the expected state, after a failure
Monitoring SQL Agent Jobs All applications do provide this support. BizTalk360 provides a very friendly user experience, whereas SCOM provide deeper functionality that is found in the SQL Server Management Pack.
Nagios takes the lower ranking as complex customization is needed.
Core Infrastructure Monitoring Nagios and SCOM provide more Core Infrastructure Monitoring, but since we are keeping this relevant to BizTalk, BizTalk360 provides enough visibility to support a BizTalk environment and earns a top score as well.
BizTalk Health Monitor Integration BizTalk Health Monitor (BHM) integration is part of BizTalk360’s core offering and is very easy to setup. No integration exists between BizTalk Health Monitor and Nagios and SCOM. Custom development is required in order to provide this functionality.
Log/Database Query Monitoring All products receive partial scores for these features. Currently BizTalk360 provides no capability around parsing log files. It does provide support for SQL Server databases, but not others. Nagios and SCOM both provide support for both Log and Database Monitoring. The downside is that these features often require custom scripts to be written in order to support the requirement. SCOM loses marks on the usability aspects of implementing these functions, while Nagios loses marks as a separate product will be needed for Log monitoring.
Analytics Nagios has no BizTalk oriented analytics.
SCOM uses a data warehouse for reporting and long-term data storage. Because of the extended reporting capabilities, though not easy to use, SCOM gets the higher grade.
BizTalk360 provides a customizable Analytics Dashboard and many widgets give insight in the performance and processing of messages through BizTalk.
Operating Environment
Process Monitoring This is a core feature in BizTalk360 that detects when something is supposed to happen but does not. An example is not receiving a file from a trading partner when you expect to. Your environment can be completely healthy, but if the trading partner does not provide the file, traditional Monitoring techniques used by SCOM will not detect this. BizTalk360 will detect this scenario and send the appropriate notifications.
Maintenance Mode/Negative Monitoring Nagios supports Scheduling down time, but has no Negative monitoring for BizTalk Server resources.
Both SCOM and BizTalk360 provide functionality in these areas. BizTalk360 provides complete coverage whereas SCOM is only providing partial coverage.
SCOM is able to handle the Maintenance Mode requirements, but not the complete Negative Monitoring requirements. While a SCOM administrator can provide an override when it comes to a Host Instance or Receive Location, if someone starts or enables that BizTalk Service no notifications are generated.
Synthetic Transactions Nagios has support for Synthetic Transactions and other types of web site monitoring.
SCOM does provide additional features like running Synthetic Transactions from different servers within the environment. SCOM also provides deeper interrogation of these downstream applications by using .Net Application Performance Monitoring.
BizTalk360 provides good capabilities that will satisfy most requirements. Besides checking for expected HTTP return codes, it is also possible to fire custom requests and check for certain responses/response times.
Miscellaneous
Integration with other popular Monitoring Platforms SCOM provides broad integration with many other Monitoring Platforms and Service Desk applications.
BizTalk360 integrates with HP Operations Manager, Slack, ServiceNow, Microsoft Teams and provides a simple and elegant way of doing so. One could also develop custom Notification Channels to integrate with other Service Desk applications.
Nagios has slightly less features in this area and therefore gets the lower score
Composite Dashboards All products provide this capability. BizTalk360 gets a higher grade for the simplicity of the tool.
In order to build these types of Dashboards within SCOM, you need to be an advanced user of the system. Nagios Dashboards are not BizTalk oriented
Web based User Interfaces All products provide Web based interfaces. BizTalk360 gets the top grade because administrators can perform most of their BizTalk related activities with just BizTalk360, while with Nagios/SCOM they also need access to tools like BizTalk Admin Console, SQL Server, Event Viewer, Performance Monitor, portals, etc.
Summary Reports Nagios has all kind of reports, but these are not BizTalk oriented
SCOM does not provide a holistic report out of the box. In order to get this type of reports out of SCOM, you need to custom build a report.
BizTalk360 provides a scheduled Summary Report that will give subscribers an indicator that their environment is Healthy. This gives users a confirmation that everything is operating as expected within the environment.
Governance Nagios and SCOM provide both user management, but the no BizTalk operations can be done from these users.
BizTalk360 provides a much finer grained approach to Governance and Auditing.
Knowledgebase Nagios doesn’t have a Knowledge Base, but both SCOM and BizTalk360 include the ability to build up a Company Knowledge base.
SCOM also includes a Product Knowledge base provided by the BizTalk Product Group so it gets the higher score in this area.
BizTalk360 provides the capability to associate KB articles to certain events, like error codes of suspended instances etc. and therefore also deserves the highest rank.

Links

Comparing SCOM with BizTalk360 whitepaper:
https://www.biztalk360.com/biztalk-monitoring-solutions-scom-vs-biztalk360/

Comparing general-purpose monitoring solutions with specialized monitoring solutions:
https://blogs.biztalk360.com/biztalk-server-monitoring-use-biztalk360-scom-solarwinds-hp-operations-manager-ibm-tivoli

Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 25 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.

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