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SMS Server Gets Overhaul; Feature Packs Released

Systems Management Server 2003, in beta now, to be integrated into .NET. universe.

The latest version of Microsoft’s Systems Management Server is in beta now, promising integration into the .NET universe, and sporting something new: feature packs that may make their way into other products.

Code-named “Topaz,” and now “Systems Management Server 2003,” the product is scheduled to be shipped during “the first half of 2003,” according to David Hamilton, director of the management business group. The .NET focus includes support for mobile devices, including a new client that uses XML as the data-storing format.

Hamilton said .NET is a natural for SMS, as both technologies are meant for distributed environments. “The .NET universe is heavily dependent on management, [with systems] distributed across an environment and potentially across many companies. With a system that distributed you really need great management.”

Optional add-ons to SMS 2003 are two feature packs: One will add functionality to enhance security patching, while the other will add efficiency to SMS administration. Hamilton said that testers have so far welcomed the idea of feature packs. “We’re going to do more of this feature-pack type of approach and make features available on a more regular basis.” New features were previously added to service packs, but Microsoft has abandoned that strategy.

Without going into specifics, Hamilton mentioned that other Microsoft products might follow suit. “I expect we’ll see some other products take the feature pack approach.” The feature packs will be free to all customers currently running SMS 2.0, the most current version.

SMS 2003 will also be more secure out of the box, thanks to the code review all Windows products received as part of the security initiative earlier this year. SMS, Hamilton explained, underwent an “extensive, month-long review. Out of that came many areas we’ve tightened up. We’re really happy to have done that.” One specific area that changed substantially was user accounts. “We spent a lot of time looking at ways we use user accounts. We thought were specific ways we could tighten up ways we gave user accounts to people.”

SMS 2003 will also tightly integrate with Active Directory. While AD isn’t a necessity to run SMS 2003, Hamilton said that when it’s in place, “SMS works better.” For example, SMS can use the AD hierarchy as the foundation for its own hierarchy. “You can build your own sites and domains on top” of those already set up in AD, Hamilton said.

To apply for the SMS 2003 beta program, go to www.microsoft.com/smserver/evaluation/future/betaprogram.asp.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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