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Microsoft Unveils Management Roadmap

Microsoft will combine Systems Management Server and Microsoft Operations Manager into a unified product called Microsoft System Center over the next few years, the company revealed in a management roadmap keynote Tuesday in Las Vegas.

The first step will be to offer SMS 2003, due to ship in September, and Microsoft Operations Manager 2004, newly unveiled Tuesday, in a Microsoft System Center suite next year. Later on the products will be consolidated into a single server. Meanwhile, a third management product, Application Center 2000, will be discontinued and its functionality moved into other products. (See related story).

The streamlined product comes in response to customer pressure for Microsoft to do a better job at providing management tools for the sprawling IT infrastructures that the Windows server-based computing model has created. That pressure pushed Microsoft to buy the Operations Manager technology from NetIQ several years ago, and customers are continuing to push Microsoft toward more cohesive software tools for management of its infrastructure products.

"We feel that we can offer broader solutions to our customers. We feel we can do much more than SMS and MOM do today," says David Hamilton, a senior marketing executive in the management group.

SMS is the older of the two main products going into Microsoft System Center, and the 2003 version is set for a September release to manufacturing. Traditional roles of SMS are software distribution, asset management and remote troubleshooting of Windows-based desktop and server systems. MOM focuses on operational aspects such as event management, proactive monitoring and alerting, reporting and trend analysis. MOM is also currently extensible by an Application Management Pack.

Microsoft plans to add several management features to System Center beyond the functionality to come by combining SMS 2003 and MOM 2004.

Improvements to the software lifecycle will actually go beyond the management group. Microsoft introduced what it calls the Dynamic Systems Initiative, which spans operating system, management tools and development tools. The DSI architecture centers on a System Definition Model, an XML document that stays with an application and explains everything from how the application generates events to how it should be scaled out.

Asset management will come in for an overhaul in the Microsoft System Center timeframe. While SMS offers asset management functionality, Microsoft will do more work to tie asset information to financial information and other business metrics, Hamilton says.

Capabilities of performance management functionality in MOM will be expanded in the System Center product, as well. Microsoft Research has worked on performance trending and capacity planning features that will be built into the product, Hamilton says.

New functionality created by the SQL Server team for the Yukon release of the database will also get some early use in the next generations of SMS and MOM. Microsoft recently announced that enterprise reporting functionality is being built into the upcoming Yukon release of SQL, an announcement that sent some business intelligence vendors' stock prices into turmoil. Microsoft will use the functionality to improve the reporting capabilities of both SMS 2003 and MOM 2004.

The set of moves surrounding the management products fits steps Microsoft has taken across its line of back-end server software to consolidate related functionality in fewer products. Other manifestations of the trend are the planned compression of BizTalk Server, Content Management Server and Commerce Server into the "Jupiter" server in two stages later this year and next year, and the decision to discontinue Mobile Information Server and move its functionality into components within Exchange Server and Internet Security & Acceleration Server.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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