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Reflections on Microsoft Management Summit 2004

Apr 28, 20044 mins
Data Center

* Report from Microsoft’s recent management conference

A few weeks ago, I attended the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas, and I thought you might be interested in hearing my take on the various announcements, presentations and meetings (by the way, The Venetian hotel was great).

The big news was that there wasn’t any really big news. Microsoft made a point of emphasizing that it has been diligently working on what it promised last year.

Still, the company announced several new or re-branded products at the show. Microsoft said all of its upcoming management products will carry the “2005” moniker (for example, Microsoft Operations Manager, due for release later this year, will be called MOM 2005). Microsoft says this is because it wants all of its management products to be “in sync” in terms of their naming convention – although I couldn’t resist asking if, perhaps, this was also so that it could cover itself “just in case” one of its 2004 releases happens to slip into 2005. Microsoft insists that is not the case, but time will tell on that one.

Another interesting announcement was a new strategy relating to Microsoft’s “update” (nee “patch”) strategy. Microsoft is renaming Software Update Services (SUS) as Windows Update Services (WUS) – you can imagine the chuckles that acronym generated – and it is currently in beta, with general availability planned later this year.

WUS, which Microsoft insists should be pronounced like “bus,” will combine updates for Windows, Office, SQL Server, and Exchange into one engine, and like SUS, it will be free to Microsoft customers. The company also announced it is working on new patch, er, update technology that will decrease the average size of updates by 30% to 80%. Down the line, the company is planning a product called Microsoft Update Services that will allow third parties to distribute updates via Microsoft’s process.

Microsoft made a number of interesting announcements regarding MOM. In addition to a second-half 2004 release of MOM 2005, it announced 24 new MOM management packs, including Siebel and Veritas. MOM will have a Web services-based connector “framework” that is supposed to make the process of interfacing with the product much easier than before.

The company also announced MOM Express, a simplified version of MOM targeted at small businesses that have fewer than 10 servers and at least one IT administrator. The theory, in my opinion, is to get into the companies while they are small, and then become their standard as they grow. Not a bad strategy, but until Microsoft begins to play better with non-Microsoft operating systems, I predict MOM will continue to have limited appeal as a central “console of consoles.”

At the show there were announcements and demos around Microsoft’s Systems Definition Model (SDM), a set of XML-based schema that the company plans to use as the foundation for management data in the future. SDM is an intriguing idea, but in my opinion it won’t find large acceptance outside of pure Microsoft shops until the company releases it into the public domain (and allows standards bodies and other vendors to participate). Microsoft’s Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), and Whidbey (the next Visual Studio) lean heavily on SDM to inter-communicate, and Longhorn will have a lot of SDM (and DSI) baked into it. DSI is an intriguing idea, but it will require a heavy Microsoft-centric “cradle to grave” investment that many companies may find difficult to swallow.

Lastly, there were a few Systems Management Server (SMS) announcements, including support for industry-standard image files and the release of a new non-Shavlik scan engine (that partnership is ending). Microsoft also announced Systems Center 2005, which integrates portions of the SMS and MOM user interfaces, plus reporting and a “decision base” into one product. It sounds to me like SC is an attempt to make SMS and MOM a bit easier to use for smaller companies and operations personnel.

In summary, I learned a lot at MMS 2004, had a number of very interesting meetings and enjoyed the keynotes (except for Steve Ballmer’s, which was canceled). Microsoft is making progress toward “getting it” with regard to management software, but until it realizes that 99% of the Fortune 1000 also run operating systems other than Windows, the acceptance in the market will be limited. Given Microsoft’s legendary myopia, I am sure that this is deliberate – after all, every machine in the world eventually will be running Windows, right?

If you would like to contact me regarding this article, I would be interested in hearing your opinion. Feel free to e-mail me at, and thanks for reading.