Customers eagerly await Microsoft's SMS 2003 beta

At long last, Microsoft has released the third trial version and first public beta of SMS 2003 change and management software. Customers tell SearchWindowsManageability.com they're looking forward to the features and don't mind the wait as long as MS delivers the goods.

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Microsoft Corp. has finally released its long-awaited third trial version -- and the first public beta -- of its change and management software package for Windows.

The third trial version of Systems Management Server 2003 (SMS 2003) features some improvements to its ability to manage mobile clients, better integration with Active Directory, and improvements to monitoring features. The first version of SMS 2003 is expected to ship sometime in mid-2003, company executives have said.

At least one customer who has participated in the private trials looks forward to the improved support for mobile clients, among others. Dana Daugherty, a senior systems engineer at PRA International, a drug development company based in McLean, Va., said that until now he had to custom-build utilities so his users could remain in the database when they were visiting remote offices or working from home.

Daugherty said that although there is a "travel mode" feature for SMS 2.0, it does not work well, and in fact, brings up dialog boxes for the user to configure that lets them change an SMS site. "That's a bad way to do it," he said. "You don't want users determining things like that." "[Travel mode in SMS 2.0] does not acceptably support mobile users," Daugherty said. "Version 3.0 is seemless and offers better support."

The software delivers updates to mobile clients using Background Intelligent Transfer Services (BITS), which rely on Internet protocols such as HTTP, to deliver updates to users. Microsoft is also extending support to mobile clients of all types including PDAs and laptops.

The new beta version of SMS 2003 also includes a reworked metering capability. The software boasts a desktop client and an advanced client that can serve both desktop and mobile clients.

The management software, which was formerly code-named "Topaz," has been anticipated since August. Customers like Daugherty don't mind the wait as long as the product is sound.

"I just want to see a quality product, and that's what Microsoft is promising," said Daugherty, who is also the author of "The Start to Finish Guide to SMS Software Delivery," which is published by Netimpress.com.

Microsoft also said that two feature packs for SMS 2.0 now in beta release will be available later this year: SMS 2.0 Software Update Services Feature Pack gives customers on SMS 2.0 critical updates and lets them ship those updates across the enterprise. SMS 2.0 Administration offers some reporting features to help track enterprise licenses.

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