Microsoft lets customers have it both ways

Being able to manage Windows-based clients and servers from a single console looks like a concept whose time has yet to come. That won't stop Microsoft from giving customers the option.

At this week's Microsoft Management Summit 2004, users seemed to agree that combining the functions of Systems Management Server and Microsoft Operations Manager into a single product is a nifty idea, just not one that they have a need for at the moment.

Nevertheless, Microsoft will press on with System Center, and the software maker likely will have a first release of the product ready to go by the end of this year, or early next year. In fact, Microsoft manageability executive Kirill Tatarinov was thinking two steps ahead while addressing an audience at the conference on Wednesday. With the first version of System Center months away, he outlined features that will ultimately end up in version 2, such as System Definition Model.

To the relief of many users at the show, Tatarinov reiterated an earlier Microsoft pledge that customers will continue to be able to use SMS and MOM as independent technologies if they want. System Center will not be an all-or-nothing proposition, he said.

SUS becomes WUS

A day earlier at the management summit, senior vice president Bob Muglia gave attendees a heads-up on Software Update Services 2.0, the much-anticipated next release of Microsoft's free management utility. The key takeaway here is that Microsoft is giving SUS a new name and a new release time frame. SUS will now be WUS -- Windows Update Services -- and a final release won't come out until late this year.

In fact, don't be surprised to see most of Redmond's manageability products held back until next year, since many of them have 2005 in the name -- such as MOM 2005 -- and because "later this year" (read: "probably next year") keeps cropping up during public discussions.

While Kirill Tatarinov was taking the stage for Wednesday's keynote in Las Vegas, his big boss was vacating that spot to meet a more pressing obligation. Chief executive Steve Ballmer jetted off to Europe for 11th-hour talks with the European Union in hopes of settling a long-simmering antitrust dispute over Microsoft's media player. The high-level talks appear to have been for naught, however, because EU antitrust honcho Mario Monti later declared the settlement talks dead. The EU, which has been wringing its hands for months on whether to sanction Microsoft, says it will announce its ruling March 24.

Microsoft moves to block Oracle

Back in the U.S. courts, Microsoft has asked that Oracle be denied access to a chunk of the 20,000 documents Redmond turned over to the federal government as part of the case against Oracle's bid to purchase PeopleSoft. Microsoft's lawyers argue that 5% of that stack of papers contains confidential corporate information that competitors such as Oracle shouldn't be able to get their hands on.

On the storage front, Microsoft has announced that the newest version of its messaging platform -- Exchange Server 2003 -- now supports two key storage technologies. The software maker says Exchange will allow users to access their servers using Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI) and network-attached storage (NAS) software.

In other messaging and storage news, new Radicati Group research found that the market for e-mail archiving and retrieval software will grow by more than $2.3 billion over the next four years. Why? Radicati says there are two chief reasons: increased storage needs and because companies need to save a lot of their e-mails to comply with the reporting requirements of U.S. regulations such as HIPAA and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

This week, Microsoft took a bow for its Shared Source Initiative. The 3-year-old program, which allows partners, governments and educational institutions to view Microsoft's source code, recently marked its millionth member. No one's been identified as lucky member No. 1,000,000, however. One wonders if they at least got a toaster out of the deal.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Microsoft won't force unified management on customers

SUS renamed, management products pushed back to '05

No deal in EU, Microsoft antitrust case

Exchange 2003 adds new storage support

Shared Source signs up millionth member

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