The upcoming version of Microsoft's Windows desktop manageability software reached a milestone Tuesday as Redmond rolled out System Management Server (SMS) 2003 Release Candidate 1.
SMS 2003 is expected to become available in late September. The beta version of the software, formerly code-named Topaz, was released last September, and the second beta has been available since March.
SMS 2003 promises mobile support for laptops, improved integration with Windows components such as Active Directory, and better asset discovery and management with improved metering and Web-based reporting tools.
Customers and analysts have hailed the new version of SMS as a much improved version of the software, which was plagued by bugs in earlier versions. "This is the first version of SMS that seems to be mature, well-tested and ready for deployment, unlike previous versions," said Peter Pawlak, senior analyst on server applications at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based consulting firm.
Pawlak said that software distribution and inventory tools like SMS 2003 give large companies a competitive advantage by giving them the ability to react. "If you've got hundreds of thousands of desktops, what are you going to do?" he said. "Without [a tool like this], you can't react to threats."
Customers will welcome the software, particularly since it's been delayed on several occasions. "It has been a long time," said Kevin Bowlin, an independent SMS consultant based in San Antonio.
Bowlin has tested the software all through its development process, and he said that the trials have gone well. He is currently developing the Software Update Services feature pack by making modifications that improve the accuracy of the patch management tool for the military environment.
Over the long haul, Microsoft's three main manageability platforms, SMS 2003, MOM 2004 and Application Center, will be combined into a suite of products and eventually, one integrated platform called System Center.
System Center is expected to be available around the same time that Microsoft releases the Blackcomb version of its Windows Server [around 2006 or beyond].
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