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Microsoft customers buying half its managment picture

May 01, 20065 mins
Data CenterMicrosoft

Current Microsoft managment products garner good reviews; questions dog long-range plan.

SAN DIEGO — Corporate users are generally pleased with the direction and pace of development of Microsoft’s management software but are not yet ready to take on the vendor’s broad self-healing, model-based management initiative.

Microsoft gathered 3,000 customers at the annual Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) and unveiled new pieces of its platform, including System Center Service Desk (SCSD), a workflow-based problem discovery and resolution tool. Also announced was the acquisition of service provider AssetMetrix, whose asset management capabilities will be integrated with Microsoft’s management software.

“They are gaining momentum,” says Troy Olson, a senior systems analyst for Hutchinson Technology, a Hutchinson, Minn.-based manufacturer of suspension assemblies for disk drives. Olson says his company is investigating service desk tools now and lamented Microsoft’s timing, since SCSD is not scheduled to ship until next year. “Microsoft can do the best integration among its own stuff, but it has been a long time coming with [SCSD].’’

Vendors such as Altiris, BMC, Novell and Symantec already offer similar tools.

Olson and others said Microsoft’s System Management Server (SMS) and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) are their focus in terms of building software to manage Windows. But the company’s big-picture management model, which builds off of those two products and many others, is not getting their attention. That broad model is defined by the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) and its System Definition Model (SDM), which are the soul of a 10-year plan to create a self-healing, model-based management platform for Windows.

Today, only the development tool Visual Studio supports SDM 1.0. Microsoft says it is ready to introduce SDM 3.0, which it has been working with internally and with partners.

DSI and SDM were not prominently discussed at the Management Summit, although Microsoft reiterated that SDM 3.0 would be supported in the forthcoming SMS Version 4 and MOM Version 3. The company gave no information on specific tools or capabilities that software will offer.

In fact, the only news Microsoft announced related to those two products was aligning them with its System Center branding by renaming them System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 and System Center Operations Manager 2007, respectively.

In terms of DSI and SDM, Rick Jones, a systems engineer with Cingular Wireless, said, “I can’t think that far ahead.” But he did say Microsoft is doing a great job with SMS and MOM.

“We couldn’t manage our servers without MOM,” he says. “We are trying to get to a point where it is easier to manage everything.” He says SMS 2003 Release 2, slated to ship before the end of June, will help make it easier to roll out patches and that his company is developing a test environment to evaluate the SMS Version 4 and MOM Version 3 betas.

Microsoft played up a new tool called System Center Service Desk, which includes a workflow engine based on the forthcoming Windows Workflow Foundation and incorporates IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a set of best practices for IT services management and the Microsoft Operations Framework.

Service Desk also will include the foundation for Microsoft’s configuration management database (CMDB), which will host SMS and MOM data. In addition, BizTalk will provide the integration framework for CMDB, System Center Reporting Manager will handle reporting chores, and SQL Server will provide data warehousing.

Microsoft also said that it is acquiring AssetMetrix, which runs a hosted service for asset tracking of hardware and software, including licensing compliance.

The AssetMetrix catalog of data can be merged with customers’ Microsoft Licensing Statements, which detail the software a company has licensed from Microsoft to produce a license compliance report.

The AssetMetrix data can be imported into current versions of SMS, according to Microsoft. The AssetMetrix catalog technology, which includes an agent that collects data from desktops and servers, will be fully integrated with SMS in the next six to nine months. Microsoft officials say they plan to release an “out-of-band” product that works on top of SCCM 2007, as well as continue the hosted service.

Lineup additionsMicrosoft last week at its annual Management Summit introduced a handful of management tools and other long-term initiatives under its System Center brand name.
System Center Service DeskWorkflow engine, best practices guidance wrapped around management tools.Beta later this year; general availability in the second half of 2007
System Center CarmineManages virtual images on a host machine; VMware also plays here.Beta available before end of June; general availability in ’07
Virtualized OS ServicesMostly for hosting environments to improve performance, scalability.Post Longhorn Server
Virtualized ApplicationsAltiris and others already provide capability; Microsoft’s technology at least four years out.Post Longhorn Server
PowerShellCommandline scripting tool formerly called Monad.Ships later this year in conjunction with Exchange 2007
System Center Configuration Manager 2007System Management Server name gone; SCCM new moniker for SMS v4.2007
System Center Operations Manager 2007Microsoft Operations Manager out; MOM v3 now SCOM.First public beta in May/June; general availability end of ’06