Next Version of SMS to be Fully Active-Directory Integrated
The next release of SMS, officially dubbed “SMS 2003,” will not merely extend AD—it will become one of a handful of Microsoft products to be directory-enabled; SMS 2003 will also offer significant arc
- By Mark Wingard
When Windows 2000 was first released and the benefits of Active Directory’s
IntelliMirror were being extolled by Microsoft’s marketing department,
there were many in the industry who declared Microsoft’s Systems Management
Server (SMS) a dead product. After all, they reasoned, who would need
SMS now that most of its functionality had been built into Win2K? Indeed,
while Microsoft declared that SMS was still a viable technology to “extend”
the desktop management features of Win2K, it appeared that SMS was viewed
internally by Redmond as the neglected stepchild of the BackOffice family;
a legacy technology most suitable for “downlevel” clients. Even as recently
as last year’s Altiris’ SMS & Windows 2000 Users Conference, it was unclear
how much the next release of SMS, codenamed Topaz, would integrate with
AD. At the conference in 2001, the SMS development team was forced to
spend a significant amount of podium time reassuring the gathered faithful
that Microsoft wasn’t abandoning the product.
The official line regarding SMS at May’s Microsoft Management Summit
was significantly more upbeat. The next release of SMS, officially dubbed
“SMS 2003,” will not merely extend AD—it will become one of a handful
of Microsoft products to be directory-enabled; that is, SMS 2003 will
actually modify the AD schema if an administrator so chooses.
SMS 2003 will offer significant architectural changes, although the Admin
UI and basic functionality will remain essentially the same. For administrators
who choose to modify the AD schema when installing SMS 2003, the marriage
between SMS and AD will include the following advantages:
- AD system discovery—Objects in any AD container can be discovered
and utilized by SMS.
- AD user discovery—All AD users, groups and OUs can be discovered
by SMS and used for targeting software distributions.
- AD site integration—In addition to SMS sites being defined by subnets,
SMS 2003 can use AD sites for site boundaries.
- Global roaming for new mobile client—The schema modification will
allow SMS clients to roam from one site to another without being reconfigured.
- No more domain controller modifications—Schema modification will
allow clients to find SMS servers by searching the Global Catalog.
For administrators who choose not to modify the AD schema when installing
SMS 2003, there will still be a host of Win2K and/or XP improvements,
- Mobile client support—Mobile clients are a new category of SMS clients
that will use HTTP for connectivity to SMS sites and will have a much
smaller client footprint than the standard client.
- BITS or “Drizzle” support—The mobile client will utilize Background
Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) for software distribution, which
is bandwidth sensitive, allows for checkpoint restarts of interrupted
software installations, and features an optional “download and execute”
mode for receiving software distribution packages.
- Advanced security mode—Eliminates the use of the 80 gazillion SMS
- Utilization of Add/Remove Programs Control Panel—As an alternative
to the separate Advertised Programs Manager CP for software distributions.
- Increased support for MSI—MSI packages will automatically become
SMS packages. The SMS Installer will provide native support for MSI
- More robust replication—Utilization of file-level delta replication
of packages between sites and to Distribution Points within a site.
- No more Crystal Reports—The extensible SMS Web Reporting will be
- Revamped software metering—Will provide offline metering and usage
reporting. No more separate database, site servers or Admin console.
- Remote desktop support—For XP clients instead of the existing remote
SMS 2003 is scheduled to go into beta this summer.
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.