We've covered more than a handful of IT monitoring solutions, but few dominate their categories like SolarWinds and Microsoft SCOM, the two contenders in this match-up. From the network to the servers and applications, SolarWinds' suite of solutions ensure that the whole stack is performing optimally; similarly, SCOM/Systems Center 2016 provides monitoring across applications, workloads, and infrastructures. Let's see how they stack up in this head-to-head comparison.
Network monitoring is especially crucial for maintaining enterprise security and business continuity. Without visibility into how applications are performing in the environment and what/how traffic is moving across networks, IT professionals are limited in their ability to design effective, proactive security measures and troubleshoot issues when they occur.
And when problems do occur, these tools drastically reduce mean time to repair (MTTR) and the chance of an outright service disruption—an incident that can cost some enterprises hundreds of thousands of dollar per minute.
Austin-based SolarWinds was founded in 1998 by an ex-Walmart engineer dissatisfied with dearth of competent tools in network monitoring and management space. Through sustained organic growth and a period of acquisitions, the company has developed wide range of tools and solutions in its portfolio—popular offerings recently added include Pingdom and Librato, to name a few.
The SolarWinds UI. Source: solarwinds.com.
By and large, the company's network and server monitoring solutions—Network Performance Monitor (NPM) and Server and Application Monitor (SAM)—and the underlying Orion platform serve as its primary bread-and-butter.
Microsoft certainly needs no introduction, but SCOM is a relatively recent addition to its suite of data center management tools. Acquired from Mission Critical Software in 2000, the flagship IT monitoring solution relies on agents to track the performance/availability of pre-defined environmental "objects": server hardware, system services, operating systems, hypervisors, or applications.
The SCOM UI. Source: microsoft.com.
SCOM was recently overhauled in 2007 and now comes as part of System Center 2016. Newer versions offer a more streamlined management console for monitoring the so-called "objects" in the environment.
Side-by-Side Scoring: SolarWinds vs. SCOM
1. Capability Set
These two infrastructure monitoring solutions are considered best-in-class, with powerful features that cater to the needs of enterprise IT. That said, organizations with heterogeneous environments will get more out of SolarWinds' features, while Windows shops will certainly get more comprehensive monitoring coverage (e.g., Office365 and Azure apps) out of SCOM.
2. Ease of Use
SCOM sports the common Windows-based interface, which is a boon for Microsoft-centric IT professionals; notwithstanding, a common gripe among users is its complexity and level of management difficulty. In general, SolarWinds' updated interface and streamlined management console make it easier to use than SCOM.
3. Community Support
SolarWinds' highly active THWACK community portal provides users with a plethora of community support resources such as product forums, blogs and groups, users groups, and more. Aside from Microsoft Technet resources, SCOM users are out of luck in this regard, save for Reddit and Google.
4. Release Rate
Both solutions have seen regular releases over the years, with major changes arriving with their current releases. Version 12 of SolarWinds features a brand new UI and a host of other improvements, while SCOM was completely overhauled in 2007 and now comes as part of System Center 2016. Release histories for SCOM and SolarWinds are available from their websites.
5. Pricing and Support
Both offerings are geared for enterprise budgets, though Microsoft's pricing structure can be more forgiving in certain scenarios. System Center 2016/SCOM's 2 year licensing schema assumes a 16-core 2 processor server and costs $3,607 for the Datacenter edition and $1,323 for the Standard edition.
SolarWinds NPM licensing starts at $2,895 to monitor 100 interfaces, with additional modules and add-ons available at a cost. Both vendors offer paid-for enterprise support options such as expanded phone/email coverage as well as professional services.
6. API and Extensibility
SCOM 2012 comes with an SDK for automating/extending its features and creating custom applications, but alas—no modern REST API. In contrast, SolarWinds provides both an older SOAP API as well as an updated REST/JSON API for integrating it with modern software.
7. 3rd Party Integrations
SCOM/Systems Center provides integration packs for integrating with other vendors' products—but SolarWinds takes the cake in this category for its breadth of third party options, from automating ServiceNow incident creation to setting up PagerAlert notifications.
8. Companies that Use It
SolarWinds boasts a whopping 90,000+ customer list that includes Fortune 500s and government agencies: Microsoft, the National Park Service, Ford, AT&T, IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton, Chevron, the cities of Tampa and Nashville, and more. Similarly, SCOM is in use by enteprises across the globe—ING, Vodaphone, Fibabanka, Infosys, MPhasis, and Equifax, to name a few.
9. Learning Curve
Unfortunately, new SCOM users will face significant hurdles when learning to use the software, from understanding its terminology to managing/fine tuning alerts and reporting. SolarWinds is a flexible and feature-rich platform that has moderate learning curve in store for new users—however, this pales in comparison to SCOM's remarkably high learning curve.
SolarWinds scores a woeful CSTAR score of 313 that reflects a myriad of security flaws: lack of sitewide SSL, server information header leakage, lack of HttpOnly/secure cookies, and more. Additionally, a dismal CEO approval rating and employee company rating make insider attacks more likely. System Center/SCOM's 689 CSTAR score is a result of various security flaws: server information leakage, lack of secure cookies, missing DNSSEC, and more.
Scoreboard and Summary
|Ease of Use|
|Pricing and Support|
|API and Extensibility|
|3rd Party Integrations|
|Companies that Use It|
|Total||4.6 out of 5||3.8 out of 5|
For enterprises looking to do custom toolchain integrations in heterogenous environments, SolarWinds is the safer bet of the two. On the other hand, Microsoft shops will undoubtedly find SCOM/System Center 2016 to be a better architectural fit inside their Windows-centric environments. Either way, both IT monitoring solutions are geared for enterprises—and priced accordingly.
Monitoring tools have come a long way since the early days of Big Brother. Today's solutions have evolved into powerful software troubleshooting and performance analytics platforms capable of deconstructing and analyzing the entire application stack—infrastructure up—for bugs and issues.
As perimeter-based cyber protection falls to the wayside, a new breed of continuous security solutions are emerging that combine traditional endpoint protection with newer technologies like security information and event management (SIEM) and crowdsourced threat intelligence.