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IT admins want more product integration from Microsoft

What do Windows administrators want? Many say improved integration within the product line and with other platforms.

SAN DIEGO -- Microsoft executives have promised more commitment to developing the company's management platform,...

but plenty of IT managers said they would also like to see an increased focus on beefing up integration between its products and those from third-party vendors.

Many administrators at the Microsoft Management Summit 2006 last week pointed to a need for more compatibility between Systems Management Server, which manages Windows desktops, and Microsoft Operations Manager, which manages the servers.

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"When you are in a larger company, and you're dealing with 2,000 or more desktops, you need to have an integrated way to deal with that information," said Steven Thompson, an SMS engineer for Mass Mutual in Springfield, Mass., who said he uses a third-party service desk product.

Historical barricades

Microsoft has tried to address integration issues in the past but ran into roadblocks. In 2004, the software company backed off an idea to weave SMS and MOM into a single product because IT managers said they wanted to keep the desktop and server functions separate. Because employees in different organizations focus on desktops or servers, the company said it would continue SMS and MOM as separate products.

"There is a difference in user minds about the marriage of two products and integration between products," said Peter Pawlak, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. "What these people are asking for is a better workflow process in the platform."

Now, [Microsoft is] trying not to make decisions that make it harder to manage other platforms.
Peter Pawlak, Analyst,

Microsoft already sells its System Center Reporting Manager 2006, a data warehouse that integrates management groups from MOM and SMS operational databases into a single data warehouse so administrators can see combined reports.

Also at the summit, another technology to enhance integration was announced. Slated for release in late 2007, System Center Service Desk integrates data from SMS and MOM to include workflow automation and integration of management tasks based on the Information Technology Infrastructure Library.

"I think this says that Microsoft is continuing the journey to become more process-oriented," said Rafael Cordona, an administrator with Evertec Inc. in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Cordona added that he had come to the event hoping to hear news relating to what he described as "some kind of central console to integrate functions between SMS and MOM."

But Andi Mann, a senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo., said integrating knowledge of its own products would take Microsoft only so far. Perception among many heterogeneous shops is that SMS and MOM are only good for managing Windows. He noted that Microsoft, mindful of the issue, is enabling partners to manage alternate platforms, including Linux and Unix, using SMS and MOM.

"Microsoft needs to do a better job spreading that message," Mann said. "SMS and MOM are strong in the Microsoft server market. But most enterprises going forward are going to be heterogeneous."

Pawlak said Microsoft is mindful of the need for better compatibility between operating systems. "Microsoft's whole company's practice had been based on doing a great job on Windows and leaving integration with other operating systems to the third-party partners," he said. "Now they are trying not to make decisions that make it harder to manage other platforms."

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