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Microsoft hits beta milestones but still trails pack

Updates for Virtual Machine Manager and other beta systems management tools were announced at the Microsoft Management Summit, but competing products that are shipping have the edge.

Microsoft hit several milestones this week making good on promises to improve Windows manageability, but many of the company's systems management tools still have a long way to go before they catch up with competing products that are already shipping.

At the Microsoft Management Summit 2007, taking place this week in San Diego, the company said it would make available the beta 2 release of its System Center Virtual Machine Manager as well as Data Protection Manager v2 Beta 2 within 45 days. In addition, the company opened up the first public beta for its service desk technology, now named System Center Service Manager.

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Microsoft added that it will release to manufacturing in the next few months its Systems Management Server Service Pack 3 with AssetMetrix. It also disclosed plans to build and ship an add-on that will support the Intel Corp. vPro with Intel AMT technology after it releases to manufacturing System Center Configuration Manager 2007 later this year.

The company also released its System Center Operations Manager 2007 (SCOM), the latest version of its server monitoring tool formerly called Microsoft Operations Manager, or MOM.

Despite Microsoft assertions that these systems management products offer unique capabilities, the reality is that competitors have an edge because they already have products shipping in at least two of these fronts. Microsoft has trailed VMware Inc. in the virtualization market, and numerous other vendors are selling service desk products already with configuration management databases, or CMDBs.

Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, tried to reassure IT managers in a keynote at the Microsoft Management Summit by saying that the company was just biding its time, but not everyone was satisfied with the explanation.

"Today, Bob Muglia said we waited until the industry was mature enough for us to build a service application so we could get it right the first time, but they are way behind the others," said Nelson Ruest, principal at Resolutions Enterprises, a consulting firm in Victoria, British Columbia.

In addition, Muglia delivered an update on Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative, the company's technology strategy introduced four years ago with the intent of getting developers to build more intelligence into applications to make them easier to manage. EMC Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. said at this year's summit that they would each support the initiative. Microsoft said it would license EMC Smarts network discovery and health monitoring technology for inclusion in a future version of SCOM.

"On the Virtual Machine Manager, interest is phenomenal," Ruest added. "Yet Microsoft won't have its virtualization until 2008. [Microsoft's hypervisor technology, code-named] Viridian won't be out until after Longhorn. It's a massive missed opportunity," he said.

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