Product upgrades, VM tools sparkle at Management Summit

What says 'it's springtime!' more than Microsoft's annual manageability bash? Not a thing, if you ask us. At the Management Summit, look for new versions of SMS, MOM and new tools from third-party vendors.

IT administrators will get a long-awaited look at Microsoft's upcoming management platforms as well as some new tools for virtualization at the company's annual Windows manageability confab this week.

At the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) 2006, taking place April 24-28 in San Diego, Windows administrators will get a peak at new versions of Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), Systems Management Server (SMS) and Windows Software Update Services (WSUS). A number of third-party vendors will also be displaying a variety of management tools for physical as well as virtual environments.

At this conference in 2005, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled Microsoft's strategy as it related to its Virtual Server product. Virtualization tools are expected to take center stage again this year, and there are at least two vendors that plan to release new products in the realm of virtualization management.

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Softricity Inc., Boston, will unveil SoftGrid 4.0. This release is adding remote features and turns locally installed Windows applications into virtual network services that administrators can install and manage from a central location. Altiris Inc., in Linden, Utah, will give administrators a look at its new Software Virtualization Solution plug-in for SMS, which lets Windows managers virtualize applications without customization.

There are few tools for virtualization management, and one analyst stressed the need for more. "IT administrators are looking for solutions in this area," said Stephen Elliot, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass. "Just because you have one thousand servers virtualized, doesn't mean you won't have headaches."

Also at the conference, Configuresoft Inc. will release a configuration-management extension tool. And NetIQ Corp. will release an upgrade to its management tool for Group Policy.

This year, experts will also be looking for insight in other areas of manageability discussed by Microsoft in the past but not fleshed out to anyone's satisfaction.

"Microsoft needs to make its developer tools strategy and roadmap for building [Dynamic Systems Initiative]-manageable applications much clearer than it has been," said Peter Pawlak, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, in Kirkland, Wash.

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