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Microsoft hopes to connect the lifecycle dots

New storage and systems management releases are part of a three-phase plan by Microsoft to bring logic to the enterprise software development and deployment process.

LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft on Tuesday confirmed that it will no longer try to combine its desktop and server management software into a single product, but it will forge ahead with an initiative that standardizes the software lifecycle.

Today, the knowledge of application developers and IT professionals -- as well as the service expectations of users -- "live in isolation" in an enterprise, according to Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows and enterprise management division. With its Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), Microsoft hopes to connect those disconnected parts of the lifecycle.

At the Microsoft Management Summit, Tatarinov gave an update on the direction of the two-year-old DSI program, including plans for System Center, the product family umbrella that encompasses modular components such as Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) and Systems Management Server (SMS). Previously, System Center was intended to unify MOM and SMS into a single product.

Peter Pawlak, a lead analyst with the Directions on Microsoft consultancy, in Kirkland, Wash., said it was good to hear Microsoft clarify that System Center will not be a single suite for server software because "that failed with BackOffice." Modular management software will also be easier for customers to license because they can purchase only what they require, he said.

DSI, which is based on the System Definition Model (SDM) -- a common-modeling language -- will be delivered in three "waves," Tatarinov said.

The stages of DSI

  • The first DSI wave ends this year and includes System Center Reporting Manager 2005, System Center Data Protection Manager 2006 and Windows Server 2003 R2. The reporting tool, which is in beta, integrates data from SMS, MOM and Active Directory, although customers don't have to have all of those components to get the data consolidation benefits, Tatarinov said.
  • System Center Data Protection Manager 2006, which is also in beta, puts Microsoft in the backup-and-restore business. Because it's disk-based, it "allows for very rapid recovery," he said. Bryan Grant, a consultant with the Stockholm-based systems management consultancy Qbranch, said he saw a demonstration of the tool and "it's very good." He particularly liked that it allows IT administrators to do self-recovery, rather than having to put in a request to a backup administrator.

    And the first wave also includes support for WS-Management, a Web services specification that will be built into the R2 version of Windows Server 2003 that is due out by the end of the year. Tatarinov said WS-Management allows a common way for heterogeneous systems to exchange management information, and he said Microsoft has been working with AMD, BMC, Dell, Intel, Sun Microsystems and others to advance its cause.

  • The second DSI wave, which is planned for the 2006-07 timeframe, will be led by new versions of MOM and SMS, which will take the model-based management approach Microsoft is touting with its SDM construct.
  • Tatarinov said MOM version 3 will enable customers to monitor distributed applications and services in addition to individual servers.

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    And, he said, SMS version 4 will use SDM to monitor the configuration of each component of applications or services to make sure they comply with regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. SMS v3 will also be able to manage the quarantining features of Network Access Protection, which is expected to be ready in time for the Longhorn version of Windows.

    Tatarinov said the next SMS will take its cue from SMS 2003, which he called much better than earlier versions of the product. "I don't have to go around apologizing for mistakes made in SMS 1 and 2 [anymore]," he said.

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    Aaron Taylor, a senior systems analyst at Lockheed Martin Corp., in Bethesda, Md., agreed. Lockheed, which has a 10-year contract to provide IT services to the Air Force, manages 12,000 users and 10,000 desktops for the service branch using SMS 2003. "We love it," he said. "They fixed it this time. It really works."

    On Tuesday, Tatarinov also announced that System Center Capacity Manager 2006, formerly known by the code name "Indy" has been released as a community technology preview. At the Management Summit, Microsoft group product manager Sabrena McBride demonstrated how the capacity-planning tool could be used to predict system bottlenecks and user response times. The demo focused on a fictitious company migrating 1,000 new users to an Exchange Server messaging environment. In the example, the capacity tool showed that disk space could be added to existing servers rather requiring the purchase of a new server -- without sacrificing user response times.

    Felicity McGourty, a director in Microsoft's Windows and enterprise management division, said System Center Capacity Manager 2006 will be released by the end of the year.

  • The third DSI wave is planned for 2008-09, but Tatarinov said Microsoft is not ready to talk about it now. He promised that more details will be available "in the not-too-distant future."
  • Though Microsoft offered no blockbuster revelations at this year's Management Summit, the fact that the company has settled on a strategy and an implementation plan is a big step forward.

    "It's as if there is a maturation in the thinking in management strategies within companies that didn't think about it before," said Rich Ptak, president and consultant at Ptak & Associates, Nashua, N.H. "[Microsoft] went through a period where it felt like it had to come up with something new for the audience every 12 months, and it had no clear connection to what had come before. I think that has changed."


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