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Administrators crave instrumentation guidance

Windows administrators are eager for Microsoft to share some knowledge wealth with them, according to an executive with Microsoft partner NetIQ. Specifically, they want the lowdown on setting up instrumentation in the management applications, as well as some insight into Redmond's preferred standards for instrumentation.

This week's Microsoft Management Summit is a great opportunity for Microsoft Corp. to do some explaining.

Systems administrators need to understand the differences among Microsoft's management applications -- Systems Management Server, Microsoft Operations Manager and Application Center, said Kevin Connor, product manager in NetIQ Corp.'s systems management organization, which includes the San Jose, Calif., company's flagship AppManager suite.

Kevin Connor, NetIQ

Microsoft also must provide guidance in the area of setting up instrumentation in the applications, such as Performance Monitor and EventLog, as well as with custom APIs, Connor said. Specifically, Microsoft should take a stance on which of the many industry standards -- SNMP (simple network management protocol), WMI (Windows Management Interface) or WBEM (Web-Based Enterprise Management), or even ASCII logs -- that admins and in-house developers should use to set up instrumentation.

"Customers are confused," Connor said. "What I think people are waiting for is a road map from Microsoft. With the right guidance from Microsoft, those VB, C++ and .NET Framework developers could focus their efforts and begin including proper management information in their applications."

Connor had plenty more to share on the subject of managing Windows environments in an interview with

In the area of Windows management, where do you think Microsoft can improve?

Connor: One thing I think Microsoft could provide is improved guidance on how to use native instrumentation. I have a gut feeling MS will talk about that at the conference next week. In particular, in-house developers forget about instrumentation. I believe Microsoft could provide guidance on how to use them more appropriately. It'd be nice if the metrics were more consumable, such as messages by interval.

What's the most difficult aspect of managing Windows today?

Connor: It's changed over time. The most difficult aspect is that there are a lot of interrelated services. Providing them in a cohesive, correlated way is quite a challenge. People now need to know how systems are interrelated and make that info consumable.

Do you think Microsoft will continue to focus on the enterprise customer?

Connor: Certainly, that's where the money is. We have to get into a definition of what 'enterprise' is. When we think of enterprise, we think of large shops and disparate systems that include Windows, Unix and AS/400. Microsoft gives a big bear hug to IBM [AS/400] and HP [NonStop]. I believe Microsoft does a competent job. I'd be shocked if they changed focus. It's just too important.

Microsoft has been clear that they want to provide better management, MOM being a critical example of this. You see partnerships with Siebel [Systems Inc.], with SAP that are prevalent in the enterprise. You just don't find those [applications] in mom-and-pop shops.

Do you think Microsoft eventually will move down to medium-sized businesses?

Connor: Why wouldn't they? Great Plains has always been more of a midsize player.

Have you done anything in tandem with Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative?

Connor: We don't have any formalized Trustworthy Computing solutions, however NetIQ has always been a player in that space. When Trustworthy Computing came out, we were already there. We were already providing solutions that were a perfect fit. Security and systems management are critical to keeping systems running at peak efficiency.

Trustworthy Computing sped things up. In the last 12 to 18 months we have grown our security product line, including a merger with PentaSafe [Security Technologies Inc.] Vendors like NetIQ were recognizing the demand by corporate customers. We benefit from Microsoft's focus on security. It increases demand.

How tough is it to persuade IT managers to purchase new Windows management software these days?

Connor: Persuading them to come up with the budget is the difficult thing. You justify the purchase by getting rid of the pain. NetIQ has always had a good finger on the pulse of what hurts in IT. We wish budgets were gigantic. But even with flattened IT budgets, we've been able to grow.

Who is your typical customer for AppManager?

Connor: Historically, it's been the operation group within an IT organization. These people were forced to keep their NT and Windows environments running. We would show this to one guy, and they would become evangelists for the product. Our audience has been elevated a bit. We have to talk with CTOs and CIOs. We're no longer a company that makes products that simply appeal to the operations organization.


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