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Microsoft is serious about systems management

May 03, 20064 mins
Data Center

* News from the 2006 Microsoft Management Summit

I spent last week at Microsoft’s 2006 Management Summit in San Diego. There were many interesting announcements as Microsoft matures in the management space. The company made a big deal out of what is essentially a name change…but I think it is a big deal…as it reflects on the philosophy around IT management at Microsoft. It rolled two key management tools, Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) and Systems Management Server (SMS), under the Systems Center family name. Why do I think this is significant? Because it reflects the kind of product suite structure of IBM Tivoli, HP OpenView or CA Unicenter. This and many smaller telltale signs make it obvious to me that Microsoft is serious about competing in the big leagues of IT management and not just creating management tools for its own systems.

Another example of this grand plan was the announcement of a service desk product, codenamed “Service Desk,” of all things, that will be available in 2007. This is actually a very significant piece of the Microsoft management puzzle as it goes way past being a simple incident management tool, and includes a workflow engine that will provide the basis for automating IT processes across the System Center product family.

Service Desk is a key integration point to the System Definition Model-based Configuration Management Database (CMDB), which will be the foundation of Microsoft’s asset and change management capability. Service Desk will include workflow templates that follow ITIL best practices. With the launch of the service desk product in 2007, Microsoft will have problem, incident, asset and change-management capabilities integrated with both SMS and MOM. Don’t be surprised to see big IT shops and major outsourcers moving in this direction.

System Center also includes a small-and-midsize-business product called System Center Essentials. While the other management products reflect user interfaces optimized for specialists in IT management such as systems management or operations, System Center Essentials combines management functions into a simplified product and user interface for the generalist that must do many management tasks in the SMB. Microsoft defines mid-sized operations as 50 to 500 PCs.

Integration between System Center Essentials and System Center Operations Manager (formerly MOM) can make an interesting service provider tool. System Center Essentials installed at a small or midsize business client and tied to the System Center Operations Manager server at a central site would enable a service provider to monitor and manage the IT assets and operations of several SMB organizations, like many branches of a single enterprise.

Another announcement was the delivery schedule for Windows PowerShell, formerly known as MONAD. Windows PowerShell is a powerful administrative command shell and scripting environment. One use of this functionality was announced by Opalis, a provider of data center automation and enterprise infrastructure software. Opalis will extend the automation capabilities of PowerShell to both Microsoft and non-Microsoft products, such as system monitor, help desk, virtualization, and backup applications. Administrators can perform live interaction with these systems from the command line, regardless of platform, as well as through long-running automation policies via Opalis Integration Server. Opalis Integration Server has a large library of integration widgets to most of the major management products. Using Opalis Integration Server, you can tie together different vendor products. One use might be to tie outsourced operations to in-house run systems where the outsourcing vendor uses different tools than are run in-house.

The Opalis product is one example of vendors taking advantage of the many jump-off points being provided by Microsoft to further extend the System Center tools into non-Microsoft environments. There are many other examples, but I do not have space to cover them here.

Microsoft is creating a service desk, a CMDB and incorporating ITIL based processes as part of a highly integrated suite of IT management products. It is also supporting an ever growing ecosystem of partners that allow the tools to be used in many different environments and with competing products. Looks like the play-book from the long standing leaders in the IT management space, and a solid strategy to be taken seriously.