Microsoft exec: SMS 2003's pluses outweigh minuses

Bill Anderson, lead product manager of Microsoft's management business group, says that SMS 2003 will help IT pros the most by managing mobile users.

Some administrators warn that working with the beta version of System Management Server 2003 is no cakewalk. A relatively unfriendly interface and Microsoft's reliance on Web documentation make it difficult for IT pros to implement the management software's many new features. However, the new version, expected to be released this summer, will be a worthwhile upgrade for IT departments managing hundreds or thousands of users, administrators said. The software probably will not be suitable for small companies.

In this interview, Bill Anderson, lead product manager of Microsoft's management business group, describes what users can expect in the next version of SMS.

SWM: What are the three most significant improvements Microsoft has made to SMS?

Anderson: The most notable enhancement will be the ability to manage the ever-growing mobile work force. The two challenges IT administrators currently face in managing mobile PCs are the connections over slow, unstable lines and roaming between multiple geographical locations. SMS 2003 will further extend mobile support by providing asset management and software distribution for non-PC devices running Windows CE, Windows Powered Pocket OS or Windows Embedded OS. This functionality will be available via a feature pack 90-120 days after SMS 2003 ships.

Secondly, SMS 2003 extends its optimal use of core Windows-based manageability with improved integration with key Windows services such as Active Directory. Integration with Active Directory allows customers to utilize directory-enabled management to more effectively manage their users.

Lastly, the ability of SMS 2003 to accurately discover and report on key assets deployed and used helps companies save money by offering key extensions to inventory collection, an improved reporting infrastructure and a new software metering solution designed to track application usage for the largest of enterprise customers.

SWM: Did Microsoft make enhancements to SMS based on customer feedback?

Anderson: Yes. For example, Active Directory (AD) integration is a major feature for SMS 2003. Customers wanted to be able to leverage their investment in the AD structure to provide logic for software distribution. An IT administrator can use any AD construct such as a site or organizational unit as an SMS target for distributing software.

SWM: How many testers are in the SMS beta program?

Anderson:There are currently thousands of customers worldwide beta-testing and providing feedback on SMS 2003. Approximately 60 customers have been working with us for over a year as part of our early adopter program as well. These customers have provided detailed feedback into the product development process, with the results being hundreds of changes to the initial SMS 2003 plans that make it an even more complete solution for medium and large enterprises.

SWM: Why should IT pros upgrade from SMS 2.0?

Anderson:The new version will extend the best-of-breed management for Windows servers and desktops to the growing mobile community. Now customers will be able to use SMS to manage all their Windows needs -- from devices to their data center. And, as more and more business is done by enterprises using laptops and handhelds, this is more than just reducing cost of management; it's about enabling business opportunities.

It will reduce costs associated with the purchase of software. With improved inventory discovery, improved metering and improved reporting, customers now have all the knowledge they need to make accurate purchasing decisions and track their enterprise software costs.

And with the tight integration with core Windows services, such as Active Directory, WMI, Windows Installer Services and BITS, customers get the best possible management experience on Windows at the lowest possible cost of operations.

SWM: Are there any price or license changes that come with SMS 2003?

Anderson:SMS currently is sold on a client access license model (currently starting at about $50 per client). As SMS 2003 is in beta, we haven't made final decisions on packaging and pricing yet.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Microsoft releases improved, complex SMS beta

Customers eagerly await Microsoft's SMS 2003 beta

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