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Microsoft demos hosted service to troubleshoot Windows

At MMS 2008, Microsoft demonstrated a database service that will one day help IT shops compare system performance.

At the Microsoft Management Summit 2008 in Las Vegas, Brad Anderson, general manager of Microsoft's management services division, showcased a prototype of a service that will give IT managers access to a shared configuration management knowledge database gathered from its customers. Anderson met with Christina Torode, senior news writer, to discuss the demo as well as the shift to user-centric computing in this first part of a two-part Q & A.

Part 1 | Part 2 You offer asset and license management as a service. What other service options for management is Microsoft developing?

Brad Anderson: We're developing a prototype that we're demonstrating called an attached knowledge service.

Brad Anderson, general manager, Microsoft's management services division
Brad Anderson
Through [System Center] Operations Manager and Configuration Manager, we collect a set of data from a monitoring and configuration standpoint.

This service uploads that data into a service in the cloud. Customers can then log into that service and start comparing themselves to others across the industry. So a customer can ask, 'Tell me how my service level for my Exchange deployment compares to other companies in the same vertical, or companies that have the same number of mail boxes.'

As we collect scenarios and problems through our consulting and support organizations, we'll actually be able to proactively see what other customers have and the potential to run into a similar problem. We can then proactively download data or suggestions to [IT] and say, 'Hey we just saw this problem with a SharePoint installation and it looks like you have a similar configuration. You might want to look at this particular set of settings, or this particular patch.'

Any release date for this?

Anderson: This is functional code and we have TAP customers who are loading data into this. We aren't announcing availability.

Will this be hosted by Microsoft?

Anderson: Microsoft will host the service but it is an attached service [both customer premise-based and in the cloud].

What's Microsoft's take on how the desktop computing model is evolving and how the new model will be managed?

Anderson: By 2012, one-third of the workforce will be made up of people from Generation Y. These individuals are always connected, and mobile technology is a lifestyle that they want to bring to work.

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How we manage, deploy applications [and] deliver the data gets focused on the user instead of the device. [Users] have that freedom to use the device they want [in order] to accomplish their work whether that is a managed or unmanaged asset. So what is needed [are] intelligent systems that adapt to [users'] needs and deliver applications and data down to the user in a way that's most optimal and most efficient based on their context.

What does that mean for IT managers trying to manage all this if more power and focus is in the hands of the user?

Anderson: That's the root of the issue here. What administrators need is a comprehensive and consistent way of managing the things that users need whether [users] are on a corporate asset or non-corporate asset, on a mobile or a handheld device, a laptop or on an untrusted device.

Virtualization allows us to provide a level of separation between the operating system and the applications [and] between the operating system and the hardware such that users can now roam to different devices and have the applications and data delivered down in a way that makes it easy to use.

We are making investments that will allow IT professionals to build a set of policies that will intelligently adapt to the context of where the user is working -- delivering the applications and data that user needs to be productive.

What technologies are you working on that reflect this desktop model shift and how it's managed?

Anderson: Virtualization will play a key role in this, but it's not just application virtualization, it's also presentation virtualization -- so terminal services. Our planned acquisition of Kidaro also plays into this. What we're building now with System Center lets you integrate all of those delivery methods and then make the decision of how to best deliver the user experience leveraging all of their virtualization assets.

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