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What's ahead for Microsoft's management projects?

What products will be produced by Microsoft's new Client and Server Manager projects? Two Microsoft execs share some details.

Microsoft's Windows management initiative took a new turn when the Client and Server Manager projects were announced at last week's Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas. The initial announcement left many questions unanswered. "It's still very much a vision," said David Hamilton, director of product management in the Management Business Group of the Windows Division. It's clear that the projects' goal is to develop integrated management products, but what will those products look like? And, how will Microsoft's management strategy play out in the next three to five years?

In this interview, Hamilton and Quentin Clark, Microsoft Server Management Group product unit manager, describe the products that will result from the vision.

SWM: What will be the first products to come out of the Client Manager and Server Manager projects?

We have a series of solution offerings that will be available this summer for our current products. The three we're starting with are tools for deploying security patches, deploying Office and similar applications and monitoring Exchange.

SWM: Will IT managers be able to use the Client Manager and Server manager projects separately?

The assumption is that they're separate. The products that come out of the Client Manager project will be for someone working on clients, in a helpdesk or in managing knowledge workers. The Server Manager project will focus on products for managing servers and applications. The tools will be integrated in a very strong fashion. The user interface will be similar, and the way we instrument things behind the scenes will be similar. So, the same person can use them to handle both client and server management. Because of the split scenarios, it's possible that different people will use them, too.


Even when different people use them, there are still points where you want them to be integrated. You'd use the Server Manager tools f you're deploying a financial application that's very heavily server-based for transaction management, for example.

SWM: In the future, will Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), Systems Management Server (SMS) and Application Center be replaced with the Client Manager and Server Manager tools?

It's still not clear. We're evolving these current products into this new vision, into a new generation of products. What it looks like and how it relates to current products is unclear. It is our goal, in terms of the design principle, to make it will be easy to get from current products to the future projects. We want to make customers' investments in MOM, Application Center or SMS today a very smooth transition.

SWM: How do the two new projects together compare to the framework management products from companies like Computer Associates, Tivoli, BMC Software and Hewlett-Packard?

I really don't think Client Manager and Server Manager are a framework. It's more like an anti-framework because it's scenarios and solutions. The framework vendors themselves are moving away from the big frameworks and are creating scenarios and solutions. They're de-frameworking. They realize that the focus on framework for the sake of the framework isn't where the value is.


If you look at the framework architectures, there's an agent, a console and a database. We'll have those things, too, and we have to build those things, even in Microsoft Operations Manager. We're not building a framework for framework's sake. We're building solutions, and the fact that it smells like a framework underneath is an architectural matter, not a business focus of ours.

SWM: What is the Microsoft Systems Architecture?

The Microsoft Systems Architecture is a solutions offering. It shows people how to develop the architecture of their environments. It's a road map to the architecture of their Internet data center, for instance. It shows how you can build out an Internet data center with Windows products. It's a low-level service offering.

SWM: How will Microsoft incorporate user feedback into the projects' development plan?

This strategy came out as a result of research with customers. We didn't just go out in a dark conference room one day and say, "Hey let's do this."


The reason we're talking about it early and giving customers perspective on it is to get feedback. We do design previews with customers long before we even have solid products.


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