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New Rev of SMS Previewed

Microsoft Operations Manager 2000 also introduced.

Microsoft has no intention of scrapping SMS or letting its features be slowly drained away by other products, according to the company’s Director of Product Management Technologies, David Hamilton. Hamilton reassured the SMS faithful during the fourth annual Altiris SMS & Windows 2000 Users Conference, which took place in March in Las Vegas.

More than 1,100 attendees from 20 countries heard Hamilton differentiate the change and configuration management capabilities of SMS from Win2K IntelliMirror. He stressed that the only area of overlap was in software distribution (see MCP Magazine’s November 2000 article, “A Case for SMS”).

He also introduced Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2000 as a way to address server management issues. “There’s a lot more to management than change and configuration management,” said Hamilton. “Microsoft wants to make it easier to manage Windows 2000.”

Hamilton described some of the features of the next release of SMS, code-named Topaz, that will focus on better Win2K and Active Directory integration, enhanced support for mobile users, and completely rewritten software metering and reporting solutions. He also detailed some of the management capabilities being built into Whistler that will complement both SMS 2.0 and Topaz.

Hamilton predicted improvement in the long-term to both change and configuration management technology as well as operations management. This will come about via further simplification and rationalization of Microsoft’s management infrastructure, greater integration with core technologies like WMI and AD, and the incorporation of core data sources such as the HCL and Microsoft’s TechNet Knowledge Base.

Martin Dey, development manager for the SMS team, and Brady Richardson, program manager for the Win2K administration group specializing in IntelliMirror, provided a detailed delineation of the features being worked on for Topaz. The pairing of these two systems management heavyweights underscores the degree to which Microsoft is attempting to integrate its desktop management approach.

Dey and Richardson detailed the new feature set of Topaz, expected to enter beta by late summer. Highlights include:

A new code base for mobile users, including bandwidth-aware software distributions, termed “Drizzle support,” where installs are gradually pushed, are interruptible and are saved in a client cache.

  • Active Directory targeting for software distribution by machines, OUs or AD groups.
  • Add/Remove Programs CP integration (goodbye to separate Advertised Programs Manager).
  • Optional site boundaries based on AD sites.
  • Active Directory Discovery method.
  • The ability to create packages directly from .MSI files.
  • Robust, scalable new software metering client.
  • Replacement of Crystal Reports with Web-based reporting, plus numerous infrastructure improvements, such as improved Distribution Point management, the ability to easily stop and/or re-run advertisements, a tool for managing SMS accounts and increased performance and functionality for the SMS Administrator console.

In the meantime, a refresh of the SMS Resource Kit will be hitting the streets by early summer with a number of tools to be later built in to Topaz. These will include new site-monitoring tools, collection building via Visual Basic scripts, a service account change tool, command-line tools for site configuration, a Secondary Site installation tool, inventory extensions for .MSI packages and software listed in Add/Remove Program, and new right-click functionality in the Admin console to force client installs and hardware inventory.

Wally Mead, program manager on the SMS enterprise team, presented a lively session on MOM. Microsoft licensed this technology from NetIQ where it was also called Operations Manager. Mission Critical Software developed the first incarnation of this tool. MOM’s features include:

  • Automatic discovery of manageable nodes.
  • Distributed event management, monitoring and alerting.
  • Automated responses via rules and Knowledge Base access.
  • Operator notifications via e-mail or pages.
  • Reporting and trend analysis through MMC, Web-based Management Console and/or Microsoft Access.

MOM will require both Win2K Server and SQL Server 2000 to be installed, but can monitor NT Server 4.0 and above. Mead emphasized that SMS and MOM are complementary, not competitive. MOM was expected to enter beta testing in March. Because NetIQ’s Operations Manager was already up to version 3.3, this is a relatively mature product currently undergoing only cosmetic interface tweaking by Microsoft before release.

Also entering beta: the long-awaited SMS Installer Step-Up Utility (ISU). This tool is designed to convert SMS Installer executables to .MSI files. That will allow customized software installations to gain the install-on-demand and self-repairing functionality of the Microsoft Installer technology.

To learn more about SMS technology, visit www.microsoft.com/smsmgmt/
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About the Author

Mark Wingard, MCSE, MCT, CTT, works as a desktop management specialist for a major research laboratory. He’s been a network professional for more than 14 years, an MCP since 1992 and currently designs AD implementations and SMS deployments.

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