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Microsoft's new Windows management czar touts fall releases

Brad Anderson, the new general manager in Microsoft's management and services division, explains what's new in Configuration Manager and his vision for community building and VMM.

In late June, the Microsoft management community advocate, Brad Anderson, replaced longtime Microsoft management executive Kirill Tatarinov. In part one of a two-part series, Anderson discusses improvements to Configuration Manager 2007 over its predecessor Systems Management Server 2003 and how Microsoft, its partners and customers are developing a community for exchanging ideal system configurations.

In part two, Anderson has his sights set on managed services under development at Microsoft and talks about the three areas having the most impact on the future of systems management: growing data centers, software plus services and mobility.

Part 1 | Part 2 What are the big reasons that IT shops should upgrade from SMS 2003 SP3 to Configuration Manager 2007?

Brad Anderson: The investment we made in OS deployment alone in Configuration Manager 2007 is

Brad Anderson, general manager of Microsoft's management and services division
Brad Anderson
equivalent to the investment we made in the entire product of SMS 2003. Now, with OS deployment, IT can use what we call a Task Sequencer to define a series of tasks you want to execute on desktops across the enterprise. Feedback on that feature so far from TAP customers is that they will be able to deploy Windows Vista at less than 10% of the cost it took to deploy previous versions of Windows. With SMS 2003 we delivered our first set of OS deployment or imaging capabilities. We had a good solution but it was our first foray and we learned substantially from that.

Are there some areas that you looked at and wished you could have gotten a particular feature into that version?

Anderson: Yes. We will be adding some things in SP1 focused on improving quality and adding support for new platforms since the original version release. Shortly after the release of SP1 [in 2008] we're also releasing Configuration Manager 2007 R2. That will add new capabilities in the area of imaging, such as multicasts. That just didn't make it into this version.

In R2 there will also be substantial integration with the application virtualization capabilities we acquired from Softricity last year, as well as some reporting improvements. We believe that application virtualization should be a first-class citizen inside of Configuration Manager in the same way Microsoft Windows Installer is today. The features in R2 are an option customers can choose to move to and they will need to install SP1 first.

How have you simplified the set up of Configuration Manager versus SMS 2003?

Anderson: We didn't substantially change the underlying infrastructure between 2003 and 2007. You will be able to take an SMS 2003 configuration, upgrade to Configuration Manager 2007 and it should be a service-pack-like upgrade.

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It's much easier to get it up and running now. When you actually get into the day-to-day activities, such as deploying a software update or a new version of Windows, we made it … even to the point of counting mouse clicks to make sure we were making dramatic improvements in the amount of time and the simplicity in which people could walk through those common repetitive tasks.

Microsoft has said that the new Desired Configuration Management feature would take IT shops closer to model-driven configurations and Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative. How so?

Anderson: Now we're able to define a model about how a system should be configured, such as how should Exchange Server be configured, what does a secured desktop look like, or what regulatory controls you need to verify compliance.

So what we and our partners will be doing is releasing models, and these models are based on the Service Modeling Language. At RTM of Configuration Manager 2007, Microsoft will release a number of models, such as how a SharePoint Server should be configured. There will be a vulnerability model that you can use for desktops, laptops and server configurations and verify if there are any vulnerabilities. We will also be releasing models with sets of controls that apply to specific regulatory compliance whether that be SOX or HIPAA.

You mentioned partners developing configuration models as well. How realistic is it to develop a community exchange of ideal vendor configurations across enterprise environments and many vendors?

Anderson: We're going to be building the models across Microsoft applications and platforms. There are a number of partners who will be announcing at the launch of Configuration Manager in November at ITForum in Barcelona that they will also be releasing models. To me, this concept of building a community where the community can share models -- that's a very powerful option.

This is really an area where I see software plus services playing a big part. I can see customers in the future coming up online, seeing a dashboard of what their systems are and how they're configured in respect to those models. [Then they can] compare themselves against others in maybe the same vertical or the same size customers.

Would Microsoft build this community?

Anderson: Very much so. I think this is an example of where the community can play a strategic role in helping to identify and share these models.

You have a lot of System Center brand products coming out at once: Configuration Manager, Virtual Machine Manager 2007, Data Protection Manager 2007 and, not too far off, Windows Server 2008. How will these products work together?

Anderson: Let's take Virtual Machine Manger (VMM) for example. Virtualization brings many benefits and savings, but it's clear that without a strong management tool, a lot of the promises that virtualization brings will not be recognized. So with VMM 2007, customers can do physical to virtual migration, virtual to virtual migration, and centralize management of all virtual machines (VMs) across your enterprise. They will also have a library of all VMs and understand what assets they have and categories of assets. But also, customers want a single set of tools to manage virtual and physical environments so we've done a lot of integration between VMM and with Operations Manager 2007, Data Protection Manager and Configuration Manager in order to deliver an easy-to-use and consistent solution for managing both virtual and physical environments.

Will VMM 2007 manage the Viridian hypervisor or other vendors' virtualization products?

Anderson: The VMM 2.0 feature set, which will be out in 2008, will integrate with the Windows hypervisor and provide management of the new capabilities coming out with the hypervisor. There will also be extensions in version two so that you'll be able to manage VMware virtual machines as well.

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