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Configuration Manager R3 zeros in on power management

Microsoft has put an emphasis on green IT with its next release for System Center Configuration Manager 2007, but will organizations feel the need to upgrade?

Microsoft isn't finished with System Center Configuration Manager 2007 just yet. The next release of the company's popular systems management product will focus on improved power management, though not all organizations will feel the urge to upgrade.

The release candidate (RC) for System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3 was approved this month, with a release to manufacturing expected soon.

According to a Microsoft blog post, the updates include improvements to how administrators report on power consumption trends based on user activity, plus two brand new reporting features. The new reporting capabilities consist of "insomnia" reports for monitoring Windows 7 and Vista machines that fail to go to sleep and environmental impact reports for monitoring things like power consumption and CO2 emissions.

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Mark Mears, an SCCM architect and former independent consultant, said that the return on investment (ROI) gained from power management tools makes the enhancements a step in the right direction for Configuration Manager.

"I really didn't expect Microsoft to take this turn, but looking at the ROI, I don't think they could get away with not doing it," he said.

Mears is currently a systems specialist of Windows design and operations for Macy's Inc., where he works in an enterprise of more than 46,000 desktops. He noted that the new features might not ultimately mean much to larger organizations or those that have already deployed more mature, third-party power management products like 1E NightWatchman or Data Synergy PowerMAN.

So just how far behind is Microsoft when compared to other power management vendors? Matt Tinney is a System Center architect for Windows Management Experts Inc. and former consultant with 1E. He said that while the power management space isn't overly mature to begin with, companies like 1E better understand the pain points of preparing for power management policies across an organization.

"It is one thing to put a machine into standby or to shut a machine down. It's a whole other thing to have the machine woken back up again and ready for the end user the next business day," he said.

Mears said his company is currently testing out products from 1E and other vendors, so the functionality in R3 was unlikely to interest them. On the other hand, smaller organizations that don't need the full functionality of a separate power management product could realize a greater ROI from an R3 upgrade.

"Does it make sense for you to spend money on a different product? Or does it make more sense to [upgrade to R3] at no cost, but be missing a few pieces?" Mears said. "It's all going to be based on what the company thinks their needs are."

That's not to say that there isn't room for both, though. Tinney said he feels that Configuration Manager 2007 R3 can work very well with the additional functionality of products like NightWatchman.

"[With NightWatchman], end user data can be saved prior to a machine being shut off, and a machine can be excluded from being shutdown if there is a particular process running on the machine," he said. "The NightWatchman product just goes one level beyond the R3 power management policy."

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