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Microsoft to detail platform integration, SMS 2003 at summit

The Microsoft Management Summit next week in Las Vegas will see the company roll out some details on the consolidation of its three main platforms, as well as the latest test version of SMS 2003.

After several years of selling Windows manageability products in a piecemeal fashion, Microsoft next week will articulate a management vision that will include news about the integration of its platforms and features. An announcement about those plans is expected at the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas.

Microsoft has said it will release details about a comprehensive management architecture that incorporates its three main platforms: Application Center, for managing Web-based applications; Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), an event manager for servers; and Systems Management Server (SMS), a client manager. The server products are being merged, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

The company is also expected to release technology that helps to make applications more self-describing so they can be moved between computing resources in a more flexible and transparent manner.

Microsoft will also distribute the second beta release of SMS 2003, which is due to ship in September. The features are unchanged; SMS has just been enhanced with the removal of some bugs and improved performance, said Mike Niehaus, an IT consultant at Marathon Oil, in Houston. Microsoft said that it will also discuss plans for some new SMS 2003 feature packs, due out after the product ships.

Niehaus, who is testing SMS 2003, said that he is interested in learning more about the features Microsoft will add to SMS down the road. His only concern is that Microsoft may try to shift the product away from its current role as a tool for software delivery and inventory.

"If they start adding features that venture into other areas, they are features that are not necessary to us," he said. "New features are good, but we want the [existing] features to work as well as they can."

Microsoft will drive home its intention to have a platform that is easy to use out of the box. One analyst familiar with the company's plans said that what may seem easy to Microsoft may not prove to be easy for customers, given the complexity of the integration.

But Microsoft's biggest challenge going forward may be overcoming the polarization in the management space between the enterprise server IT managers and the desktop managers. Though both are aware of each other, there is little collaboration or exchange of views between the two, said Richard Ptak, president of Ptak & Associates Inc., Amherst, N.H.

Microsoft has an uphill battle ahead of it as it tries to crack the enterprise market; it currently remains restricted to enterprises that already use Microsoft servers, Ptak said. "Over time, Microsoft will be tackling more enterprise jobs, but we are a long way from them changing from a desktop mindset to an enterprise mindset."

Separately, patch management and security are expected to be major themes at next week's conference. There will be a variety of product introductions from exhibitors, including Ecora Software, Portsmouth, N.H., and New Boundary Technologies, Minneapolis.

Ecora will release a version of its patch manager that will be expanded to work with the entire Microsoft suite of servers, including SQL Server, Active Directory, Exchange, Office, Outlook and Terminal Services. The software also improves on its scalability features, so that it can patch a geographically dispersed enterprise.

New Boundary Technologies will release the latest version of its patch management software.


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