Microsoft management tools making their mark, users say

Cautious approval was the overall tone at a recent conference, but little was said about two major projects

Users are generally pleased with the direction and pace of development of Microsoft's management software, but are not yet ready to take on Redmond's broad self-healing, model-based management initiative.

That's the upshot from the annual Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) conference in April. Approximately 3,000 customers attended and Microsoft unveiled new pieces of its platform, including System Center Service Desk (SCSD), a workflow-based problem discovery and resolution tool. Also announced was the acquisition of service provider AssetMetrix, whose asset management capabilities will be integrated with Microsoft's management software.

"They are gaining momentum," says Troy Olson, a senior systems analyst for Hutchinson Technology, a manufacturer of suspension assemblies for disk drives. Olson says his company is investigating service desk tools now and lamented Microsoft's timing, since SCSD is not scheduled to ship until next year. "Microsoft can do the best integration among its own stuff, but it has been a long time coming with [SCSD].''

Vendors such as Altiris, BMC, Novell and Symantec already offer similar tools.

Olson and others say Microsoft's System Management Server (SMS) and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) are their focus in terms of building software to manage Windows. But the company's big-picture management model, which builds off of those two products and many others, is not getting their attention. That broad model is defined by the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) and its System Definition Model (SDM), which are the soul of a 10-year plan to create a self-healing, model-based management platform for Windows.

Today, only the development tool Visual Studio supports SDM 1.0. Microsoft says it is ready to introduce SDM 3.0, which it has been working with internally and with partners.

DSI and SDM were not prominently discussed at thesummit, although Microsoft reiterated that SDM 3.0 would be supported in the forthcoming SMS Version 4 and MOM Version 3. The company gave no information on specific tools or capabilities that software will offer.

In fact, the only news Microsoft announced related to those two products was aligning them with its System Centre branding by renaming them System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 and System Center Operations Manager 2007, respectively.

In terms of DSI and SDM, Rick Jones, a systems engineer with Cingular Wireless, says, "I can't think that far ahead." But he does say Microsoft is doing a great job with SMS and MOM.

Microsoft also played up a new tool called System Centre Service Desk, which includes a workflow engine based on the forthcoming Windows Workflow Foundation and incorporates ITIL.

Service Desk also will include the foundation for Microsoft's configuration management database (CMDB), which will host SMS and MOM data. In addition, BizTalk will provide the integration framework for CMDB, System Centre Reporting Manager will handle reporting chores, and SQL Server will provide data warehousing.

Microsoft announced at the summit that it is to acquire AssetMetrix, which runs a hosted service for asset tracking hardware and software, including licensing compliance.

The AssetMetrix catalogue of data can be merged with customers' Microsoft Licensing Statements, which detail the software a company has licensed from Microsoft to produce a licence compliance report.

The AssetMetrix data can be imported into current versions of SMS, according to Microsoft. The AssetMetrix catalogue technology, which includes an agent that collects data from desktops and servers, will be fully integrated with SMS in the next six to nine months. Microsoft officials say they plan to release an "out-of-band" product that works on top of SCCM 2007, as well as continue the hosted service.

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Tags managementMicrosoft

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