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Microsoft systems management to enter governance fray

Management chief Kirill Tatarinov weighs in on Microsoft's product roadmap as well as its desire to help IT shops tackle regulatory compliance challenges.

  Kirill Tatarinov
The roadmap for systems management products was updated at the Microsoft Management Summit 2007 this week. Some news focused on the Dynamic Systems Initiative, the status of Configuration Manager and the company's new Service Manager, which are all part of the System Center brand. Kirill Tatarinov, who is a Microsoft corporate vice president, met with's senior news writer Christina Torode to outline changes in the roadmap and explain Microsoft's upcoming plans to enter the governance, risk management and compliance arena. Is regulatory compliance a factor in the actual development of System Center?

Kirill Tatarinov: The Dynamic Systems Initiative and Service Modeling Language [SML] would allow us to deliver a very interesting set of capabilities in the area of compliance. We're not talking about it broadly just yet, but it's certainly one of the areas of investments for us. If you think about compliance, it's all about expressing certain policy using a certain language and then making sure your broad environment stays in compliance with the policy. That's exactly what SML is, and [compliance] is exactly one of the applications that we view as absolutely possible.

At this conference, we're not talking yet about Microsoft becoming the provider of a GRC [governance, risk management and compliance] platform, but you should fully expect us to start talking about it in the coming month. It just fits right into DSI and SML and also upcoming investments in the service management product.

Not much has been said in the last year about the Dynamic Systems Initiative, and now Microsoft is saying that 2007 is the year IT managers will start to see some real effort behind this. What can they expect to see?

Tatarinov: This year we're delivering System Center Operations Manager 2007 and that is the product that takes the service model-based management approach to the highest level. You can define the service using the modeling language approach, and you can include it in Operations Manager 2007. From that point on, Operations Manager will be proving end-to-end management of that service. Later this year, System Center Configuration Manager will be delivered. Configuration manager in relation to DSI plays a very important role because it effectively allows you to define desired state, desired configuration of your environment using SML.

What is going on with System Center Configuration Manager? Has it been delayed?

Tatarinov: No. It's right on schedule. Beta 2 shipped several weeks ago and is broadly available and functionally complete. We'll be releasing System Center Configuration Manager 2007 later this year, which is a major, major upgrade to SMS. All the capabilities are in there and we are now in this final late phase where we're receiving feedback from our beta customers.

You came from BMC Software Inc., which is one of the leaders in configuration management database (CMDB). What is Microsoft doing in this area and how does it compare to what's already available?

Tatarinov: Our approach to CMDB is somewhat different from traditional CMDB vendors. Most significantly we're taking SML and making it the schema for CMDB. So that same language that we use to define system components across the board will be the language for us to effectively use as a schema for our CMDB. That creates an environment where everything that we create inside Microsoft will flow into our configuration management database. CMDB in itself is just a database and CMDB is only as good as the knowledge that is supplied into it. Then we're working with our partners on common models. It's basically the completeness of the CMDB that will be a very key differentiator.

Your new Service Desk Manager is in beta. Why come out with a help desk product now when so many help desk products are out there and in organizations already?

Tatarinov: Bottom line is they failed. We all talk to the same customers. You have organizations that took 10 years to deploy a service desk, and there are many cases like that. It's not just an isolated incident. It's a mess and it's just another case where people spend millions and millions of dollars on software and implementation and in many cases it's not implemented yet. And in those cases where it is implemented, it's incomplete. It covers just one of the ITIL discipline, or a couple at the very best. We really saw it as an opportunity and also saw it as an absolute need for our customers.

What's different about your service desk?

Tatarinov: We're using the same philosophy that we applied to Operations Manager 2007. It is easy to use, easy to customize. It uses as much of the available Microsoft infrastructure as possible: SharePoint, InfoPath, Windows Workflow Foundation.

As you've said, people have spent millions already on help desks. What about interoperability?

Tatarinov: If you think about Service Desk, that's where interoperability requirements come to the highest level. So, we joined the CMDB Federation Working Group. There is all this need to integrate workflows and there are certain standards that need to emerge there, so we will be pushing those standards. We will also continue to invest in the point-to-point integration. We realize that we're a latecomer and there's a certain amount of service desk implemented by most of our customers. We will have to interoperate.

What are you doing to make System Center work with other vendors' management products?

Tatarinov: There's no single answer to systems management needs in large enterprises today. People use multiple products and they will continue to want to do it. The connector story is very important to use. So today, Operations Manager connects with HP OpenView, for example. One of our partners, Engyro, has built strong connectors for Operations Manager connecting it with [IBM] Tivoli, with HP, [ and CA] Unicenter. So it's happening. We will make sure that everything we do continues to be connectable and connected by actual concrete point-to-point technologies.

How do you see System Center fitting in with the major systems management vendors like IBM, CA, HP and BMC?

Tatarinov: System Center is the major player. Think of what happened with Operations Manager. It started off as a clear subordinate to the overall hierarchy of management tools. It was pigeonholed to manage Exchange or Active Directory or just rank and file servers. Nobody five years ago would ever think about Operations Manager as their uber enterprise type umbrella tool.

That's changed. Even with MOM 2005 we had a dozen customers who positioned the product as that umbrella manager. From a pure numbers perspective, if you look at the growth rates and look at IDC numbers, we're number five today in distributed systems management. If you look at our growth rate and our competitors' growth rates, next year we will be one of the top four.

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