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Microsoft to announce major shift in manageability strategy

And then there was one. One management product, that is. At next week's Microsoft Management Summit, the software maker will unveil its plans for Sydney, a project that sources say will combine Microsoft's three Windows manageability products into one.

Microsoft next week will announce plans to develop an uber-management platform, code-named Sydney, that wraps the current functionality of the company's three Windows manageability products into one, sources said.

The move to a central management platform is a shift from last year's plan to create a client management platform and a server management platform, as discussed by Brian Valentine, a Microsoft senior vice president, at the company's management summit in 2002. Plans for the unified management platform will be unveiled at next week's summit in Las Vegas.

"Sydney" is expected to be available in the same timeframe as Blackcomb, a version of Windows Server expected sometime around 2006. The new management platform will include system definition model (SDM) technology, which is an XML blueprint for deploying and executing applications.

Using SDM, Sydney will be able to describe and define what physical and logical resources an application needs in order to be deployed properly. "Once the technology is in place, the management systems know what to do with it," the source said.

The technology is analogous to IBM's autonomic computing work; IBM uses the term "autonomic computing" to describe a systemic, self-managed method of computing that is modeled after a biological system.

Microsoft's idea is to eliminate agents in the management structure and build the manageability into the operating system and the various Microsoft components, said one source familiar with the company's plans.

This way, there is less need for a heavyweight management product, and Microsoft can build a broader, agentless management product over the long term, the source said. "MOM and SMS will be necessary for a long time, but their long-range goal is to have an enterprise-capable product that doesn't use agents to manage elements," the source said.

It's unclear how and to what extent Microsoft will tie third-party products in with Sydney, or whether it will extend beyond the Windows platform. Microsoft declined to comment.

Microsoft will also discuss Microsoft Operations Manager 2004, which will eventually hook into the Sydney platform. The new MOM will include globalization, reporting tools, improved planning and deployment tools, and improved scalability.

Microsoft will also introduce plans for two feature packs, including one for device management and one for operating system provisioning.

Experts reacting to Microsoft plans said customer reaction will depend on how the software is designed. There are some Systems Management Server (SMS) administrators who would like one large management platform that simply snaps in, said Rod Trent, CEO of Trent is an author and authority on SMS.

"But I would hate to see it thrown together like everything in the kitchen sink, because some companies don't need all of that," Trent said. "That's good for the large enterprises, but not necessarily for small and medium-sized business customers."


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