Microsoft turning configuration management “on its side”

Microsoft has user-centric overhaul of Windows Server-based System Center Configuration Manager underway

Microsoft is changing up the next version of its System Center Configuration Manager so instead of managing devices it will manage users and their activities across multiple devices.

"It will focus on… providing them an appropriate profile for information access based on the job function of the user together with the device they are using," says Bob Muglia, the head of Microsoft's server and tools division. While he did not name the version he was talking about, Microsoft is slated to ship the Windows Server-based Configuration Manager 2007 R3 late in the first three months of 2010.

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Muglia admitts that it is a big change for the software that has been around since 1996 when it started life as Systems Management Server.

"When I look at the changes we need to do [with Configuration Manager] that is one of the biggest ones that is coming," he says. "It is really turning configuration management on its side and I look at that with both anticipation and a little trepidation because we know it will take customers time to make that key transition."

Muglia says Microsoft is gearing up to help customers through that change, although, he did not give details on how that might happen.

But the change fits into one of Microsoft's recent occurring themes of providing application support across phones, PCs and browsers. And it aligns with the company's intent to provide an integration between security and identity. In the Configuration Manager case, data access policies could be paired with identity credentials and awareness of the user's current device.

Muglia said the data center is where things are booming for System Center, now the fastest growing business in the Server and Tools division with 30% improvements year-over-year.

He said virtualization is driving growth, as well as, strong uptake with Operations Manager.

"Over time what we expect to see is us transitioning our data center offerings to a more complete integrated product which pulls all these things together," says Muglia. "It will help enable these cloud deployments, these on-premise private cloud deployments. We think you need all those components working together. You need configuration management, you need operational monitoring, you need virtualization management and you need backup and archiving."

Muglia says organizations need all those things together, "and that is sort of the direction in which we are heading."

He also says the long awaited System Center Service Manager will finally be out in the first half of next year, but that Microsoft is beginning to take a different angle on that software. Service Manager, formerly called Service Desk, helps administrators work through trouble tickets but also anchors automated, pro-active service requests initiated via other system management tools, and can aid in compliance auditing.

"We are now really looking at Service Manger as something that deeply integrates across everything to provide business process integration in the context of systems management,"  Muglia says.

"We look forward to getting the first release out, but the future of that product will be much more around compliance management and policy management associated with business process and business process compliance. That is the direction we will take that over a longer period of time. "

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