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Take the pain out of deploying Systems Management Server 2.0

IT managers tell searchWindowsManageability that SMS 2.0 packs so much into one application that it's a monster to get up and running. To reduce the fear factor, sWM asked SMS expert Bill Anderson to offer tips for effective SMS 2.0 deployment and usage.

The slogan from the new Disney/Pixar movie, "Monsters Inc.," could apply to Microsoft's Systems Management Server 2.0. Like "Monsters Inc.," SMS 2.0 "scares because it cares." IT managers tell searchWindowsManageability that SMS 2.0 packs so much into one application -- automating system support, problem resolution, network monitoring, and more -- that it's a monster to get up and running. To reduce the fear factor, sWM asked SMS expert Bill Anderson to offer tips for effective SMS 2.0 deployment and usage. Anderson, Microsoft's SMS lead product manager, also provides insights into SMS technologies and most-used features.

sWM: What is the number one "must do" for any organization moving up to SMS 2.0?

Plan, plan, plan - the most successful customers I've worked with have invested more in the planning and testing phases than in the actual deployments. If your architecture is sound for your needs, and your testing hits all the complexities of your enterprise, you'll see a much greater success.

sWM: How does a strong planning process make it easier to upgrade to SMS 2.0?

It's important to understand how you expect to use SMS 2.0. Many IT professionals begin the upgrade process with the technical focus of doing the install, as opposed to really capacity planning your SMS 2.0 enterprise and designing the right architecture. With the new features that SMS 2.0 brings, many customers may be delivering more software, taking inventory more frequently, or utilizing software metering. All of these components will have an impact on your architecture and design. Here are some key metrics to understand:

  1. Number/size/frequency of software packages to deliver?
  2. Frequency of hardware/software inventory refreshes?
  3. If using metering, how many machines/apps would you be monitoring?

These questions, and several more, are things to really understand to make sure your SMS 2.0 architecture that's on your war room wall, is the right architecture for your enterprise. (You can get more information about planning for SMS upgrades in "SMS Site Design Best Practices.")

sWM: What user issues are involved in upgrading to SMS 2.0?

You have to prepare users for some of the changes they'll see. They may have some more command prompt scripts kicking off for uninstall/reinstall, or they will see new interfaces for packages to be installed from, etc. In all my 1.2 - 2.0 migrations, it's been evident that users can create rollout problems where technical issues don't exist, and well-prepared users are better able to absorb any technical issues that may arise.

Again, look at all the "SMS Site Design Best Practice" documents, the SMS section in the BackOffice Resource Kit, as well as the Administrators Guide that ships with SMS 2.0 for all deployment planning best practices.

sWM: What would be the advantages of a clear install versus a conversion upgrade?

When doing an install where you don't migrate all the package and inventory history of your SMS 1.2 hierarchy, you install a new SMS 2.0 site, de-install the 1.2 clients, and then install the 2.0 clients. For many customers, this allows them to have a clean install of the server, and eliminate any database issues that may have existed with SMS 1.2. However, I've seen customers perform both options with a high degree of success.

sWM: How can IT managers make the transition to 2.0 with the least amount of downtime for remote-control and remote-control clients?

This is always a big concern, since help desks and administrators are so reliant on remote control to save time and money in support costs. The best thing is to prioritize the features your corporation needs to have access to, test EXTENSIVELY to ensure you can deploy these features quickly and successfully, and then just move each site quickly - one at a time - so there is as little gap as possible from when the users migrate from the 1.2 client pieces to the 2.0 elements.

sWM: What advantages do the software auditing and software metering tools in SMS 2.0 offer to enterprises?

These tools offer customers two advantages. With software auditing, it's now possible to track not only what software is deployed, but who is using it. This enables enterprises to determine how many licenses of software they may want to buy in the future, based upon current usage trends. The second benefit is for expensive applications that allow concurrent licensing. SMS 2.0 allows administrators to ensure that only the appropriate amount of licenses are in use at any time so that companies stay compliant without having to overpurchase their software.

sWM: Why did Microsoft move to TCP in remote control? What is TCP's advantage over UDP?

As you know from TCP/IP architecture, TCP is connection oriented, whereas UDP is not. The benefit to customers is that the Remote Control sessions in SMS 2.0 that leverage TCP stay connected much better than they previously did, providing a better overall remote control experience.

sWM: What database management tools come in SMS 2.0?

With SMS 1.2, a lot of the management of the SQL database required a highly skilled DBA to perform. In SMS 2.0, we've created a series of built-in database tasks to help automate the database maintenance and recovery processes so your SMS administrator can focus on delivering key software to his/her business customers.

sWM: How does SMS 2.0 enhance system security?

SMS enables customers to deploy critical anti-virus updates, or security patches, to tens of thousands of desktops and servers in a measured service window.


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