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Revived initiative promises to unify systems management

IT managers at the Microsoft Management Summit say they are encouraged by the company's pledge to finally move beyond tools that manage only Windows platforms.

Microsoft said it is revitalizing its dormant Dynamic Systems Initiative in an effort to lay the groundwork for a more unified systems management terrain that IT managers will find easier to navigate.

Dynamic Systems Initiative, or DSI, is Microsoft's technology strategy. The company's intent was to get developers to build more intelligence into applications to make them easier to manage. Although the initiative was introduced four years ago, it has seen little fanfare of late.

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All that is about to change, said Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, who kicked off the Microsoft Management Summit 2007 this week in San Diego.

Microsoft will start to "bring the DSI vision to life" in 2007, said Muglia, adding that the company will begin delivering on the initiative via new products and partnerships. One such partnership will be with EMC Corp., which is now reportedly working with Microsoft to embed network management capabilities into the next version of Microsoft Operations Manager.

"It's encouraging to see that they're finally heading down a holistic path to allow IT operations to have a single point, a single pain," said George Maloy, event and management technical lead at truck maker Paccar Inc. in Bellview, Wash. "IT's biggest problem is that we have to use all these different tools to be able to configure and troubleshoot. It's nice to see that they are thinking beyond the Windows environment," he said.

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The company is investing in a number of ways to make Microsoft's System Center product line work with other management products such as HP OpenView, Tivoli and CA, Muglia said.

"We know that organizations live in a heterogeneous world, that they have a lot more than Microsoft," Muglia said. "We will enable interoperability with other management systems so that alerts get forwarded and you get a cohesive, heterogeneous management solution."

Industry standards such as the service modeling language and open source will play a pivotal role in the software company's interoperability work, he said, citing how Microsoft and Novell Inc. are building open source models for Windows Server Management.

"There is an unstoppable trend toward industry standard computing," Muglia said. "With DSI, we used to call it the system definition model. Now it's the service modeling language, which will enable us to create a heterogeneous environment and a common language across diverse systems," he said.

It's nice to see that [Microsoft] will have virtualization management built in because there's nothing to manage it right now.
--Aaron Amendolia,
NFL systems engineer,

Muglia said Microsoft has a lot more work to do until it reaches the point where IT operations can be managed by a single view and systems are self-healing. But the company is taking steps with features like the one in Operations Manager 2007 that recognizes and resolves issues that have occurred in the past.

Scott Macpherson, server engineer and SMS manager with Assurant Health in Milwaukee, said his team has had problems with MOM in the past, but he likes some of the new tools in Operations Manager 2007 such as problem path. This tool gives IT administrators the ability to view only the flaws in a system versus getting all information on that system, he said.

"I also like the fact that the network is now going to come into play in Operations Manager," said Macpherson, referring to Microsoft's new partnership with EMC.

Virtualization as a pillar of DSI

Virtualization is a lynchpin of Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative and System Center strategy to the point where virtualization will be built into everything Microsoft develops, said Muglia, pointing to the work the company is doing with application virtualization through its acquisition of SoftGrid. Virtualization will not be an add-on management product, he said, but rather it will be built into existing and future System Center and server products.

Virtualization is being built into Longhorn, the next version of Windows Server 2003, and Microsoft said it plans to ship its new hypervisor six months after Longhorn ships later this year.

"It's nice to see that they will have virtualization management built in because there's nothing to manage it right now," said Aaron Amendolia, systems engineer with the National Football League, based in New York. "Their vision is catching up to others like VMware," he said.

"[Microsoft Virtual Manager] will be good to have because the cost of Microsoft's [virtualization] technology is better -- it's free, and the licensing is great," Amendolia said.

What DSI comes down to for Tom Intemann, lead systems programmer at Citrix Systems Inc., is whether it will make his life easier.

"End-to-end monitoring is the biggest thing that I'm hoping for," Intemann said. "The ability to troubleshoot across the entire enterprise -- versus individual components and having to backtrack to resolve it -- I'd like to have that ability, to have the system discover an issue and have the system resolve it itself," he said.

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