Senior vice-president of Microsoft’s Windows server division, Bob Muglia, sat down with John Fontana at the software company’s annual Management Summit to talk about a host of issues, including the company’s development plans for its management and Windows software.
Where do you draw the line between who uses Windows Update Services (WUS) and who uses System Management Server (SMS) to meet their patch management needs?
Bob Muglia (BM): The most important thing that we want to do is provide a software updating and patching solution to all our customers – whether you are a consumer, a small business, a medium-size business that just wants it to work or a large enterprise where you want control. The operating system should just have the basis to update itself. It is very critical. When we think of WUS there are two pieces. One is the infrastructure for getting software bits down to a client or server – that infrastructure will be used by everybody. We will use it for the desktop, for small and medium business, for SMS and we will make that same infrastructure available to third parties. So it will be a consistent infrastructure. The second piece is providing a solution for typical medium size businesses that just want it to work. Not a lot of configuration options, just basic sorts of things to get updates out there and deployed.
SMS, on the other hand, provides a whole lot of control to determine who gets what, when and exactly how it is deployed. WUS is about getting updates deployed where SMS certainly has that capability but it also has software installation capabilities, inventory capabilities, change and configuration management.
Why not offer something like the MOM Express you recently released, a slimmed down package that would give users controls?
BM: Well, today we are a lot better than Software Update Services 1.0 (the predecessor to WUS); WUS is a big step forward. Honestly, it is something we will think about in the future. It’s not so much the software updating capabilities, it is more all these other features that SMS brings to the picture. Frankly, the reason we are not announcing anything is that we have a lot of work to do.
Explain all these patch tools you talked about. Windows Update, Microsoft Update, the client to connect to them. My understanding is that there would be this one site to get all my patches?
BM:You are going to have a tool as part of the client or server that you will use to pull down these updates. Maybe that tool is Windows Update if you are a consumer, maybe it is SMS or tools from a third party. Those are going to pull updates from our cloud of services. Windows Update will stay in place to update Windows components. Microsoft Update is going to be added to update all the other applications that Microsoft builds.
Will it be two sites?
BM: It will be two sites. It will be Windows Update and Microsoft Update. It will not be one big site although technologically they will be identical and we will integrate the view into those sites from whatever tool the customer is using.
You said Microsoft made progress over the past year on the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), but it still seems to be more conceptual than physical products. What is the status?
BM: We have always talked about it as a 5-year to 10-year vision and we still think that is a realistic time frame. On the other hand, pieces are real today. When I talked about DSI, it is about transferring information across the lifecycle of an application and building systematic ways to transfer that information. You have a developer, an operations centre and end-users and how do you get the information transmitted across those. How do you get the flow of this information bi-directionally? We have pieces that are shipping that are substantive. SMS is a key part of it today. Getting software updates, change and configuration data from an operations centre to the end-users and to machines that end-users are using is a critical part of what DSI is all about. Getting data back like corporate error reporting, that is a key part of what DSI is all about. The pieces that we are still waiting for, and you could argue it is one of the most core pieces of DSI, is the System Definition Model (SDM). It is something we made a lot of progress on. We had a design preview recently; we are building it into Whidbey (the next version of Visual Studio). We have a clear roadmap to getting that out the door, but it is still not shipping.
Microsoft typically leads with the developers and it seems DSI is not going to be any different. When Whidbey comes out then the other pieces will begin to fall in behind it?
BM: Exactly. It is the developer piece. DSI would not be a complete story if we did not get information from the end-user and back to the end-user. That feedback loop is a critical part of DSI. But like with almost everything that we do it is an eco-system that involves many, many people. Given that SDM is such a core part of it, it will be what kicks off that eco-system.
It seems like a lot of the components under DSI are existing products or were in development when DSI was announced last year and are now just being tucked under that banner.
BM: Anything that is in an enterprise needs to be managed so in that sense everything has a DSI attribute. It is fair to say that when we announced DSI we were thinking of both the operations and developer pieces and they both were in different stages of development. In some sense, we understood operations, the need for patch solutions, deployment solutions and getting feedback from end-users. We had a greater understanding of that than we had about building this SDM blueprint.
This is the first time Virtual Server was talked about under that DSI banner. Do you risk diluting the definition of DSI and causing confusion in that seemingly everything starts to relate to DSI, much like the confusion created with .Net?
BM: Let me take a little exception to that. In some senses the key is for us to explain an overarching framework to get to what DSI is all about. And then the question is how do each of our products fit into that. Some are just participants like BizTalk Server. Will it be under the DSI umbrella? Sort of, yes.
But what about Virtual Server? The last I heard is that it was going to be for consolidation and software testing.
BM: Yes, that is sort of how I explained it, recently. So when customers talk to us about why consolidation is important they say it provides them with a better way to manage all there servers and it’s in that context that we think about Virtual Server under DSI. That is different than BizTalk.
Let’s shift gears a bit to System Center (a combination of SMS and MOM). What will be different about that product than just running SMS and MOM together?
BM: Version 1 will come out before the end of the year. The way to think about System Center 2005 is that it is Microsoft’s brand for management products and it is a family brand. SMS is a member, MOM is a member and we will introduce a new member of that family for reporting services. System Center takes data from both of the databases that exist in MOM and SMS and creates a data repository with a set of reporting services on top that allow people to build these reports that cross between the two things.
Would I as a Microsoft customer have an interface then into both of those databases that I don’t have today?
BM: Yes. It is sometimes called an independent data warehouse. You create a new schema that allows a new set of reports to be created. What the product is really about is building customised reports that really combine the operational data from MOM with the change and configuration data from SMS. Reports you simply couldn’t build without this component or without those two products working together.
Are those reporting services built off the SQL Reporting Services?
BM: It is all SQL Reporting Services and it is us building the pieces around that to pull the data from the databases and populate the schema in a pre-determined way.
Now what about Version 2?
Muglia: What we will do is build on SDM and use it as the glue component between all the components of System Center. When you think about these families of products, Microsoft has done this for years. It is our MO. We take products that have independent histories and bring them together into cohesive families. We learned this from Office. When you do that you need to have something to glue these things together. In Office’s case, it was OLE. With Visual Studio, we did the same thing.
The glue is managed code. With System Center, the technology that will glue these pieces together, that will appear in Version 2, is SDM. And the key to that is now you have a model that describes the relationship between all these applications. This is super valuable for change and configuration and super valuable for operations. Today we are flying blind. We don’t have that model.
You had this recent Jupiter bundle of servers that came undone because customers said they didn’t want to buy the pieces together. Are you convinced that people want to buy SMS and MOM together?
Muglia: We haven’t even decided how to package these things. So I would separate these things. I think what I just described is valid. Would I ever have a single box with SMS, MOM and other things in one box? I don’t think I need that to do what I just said. I think the value is in creating a mechanism to create integration between these pieces. So how people purchase it is a separate decision.
What is the roadmap for server upgrades to the Windows operating system? What is between Windows Server 2003 and Longhorn?
Muglia: We are certainly building Longhorn server. When we shipped (Windows Server) 2003, there were a whole set of innovations that we had under development at various stages. And obviously we want to get that innovation out to customers. Some of it has shipped such as Windows SharePoint Services. Some of it will ship next year like the next version of the .Net runtime and the Common Language Runtime that will come in Visual Studio 2005 timeframe. So we know there are still things that we can deliver in the 2005 timeframe and we are still working on how we package that and deliver that to customers.
So will there be considerations for what is delivered, how it is delivered, how it is priced and how it is licensed? Will it be part of Software Assurance?
BM: If you signed up for Software Assurance, you will get it. That is one thing we are certain of.
There is similar talk on the client side with XP Reloaded. What is happening there?
BM: You can repeat everything I just said about the server and apply it to the client.
Can IT assume that this will be Microsoft’s MO going forward – that between major releases there will be releases such as these?
BM: We always do these out-of-band sorts of things. We know, assuming that if everything goes well, that it will take us a minimum of two years, probably three, between major releases of Windows. That is a fair amount of time so we want to have vehicles to get these upgrades out to customers. Once every three years we are going to upgrade the kernel and major components of Windows and in between those major components there is value we want to deliver. We know customers go through long evaluation cycles for these major updates. What we want to do is have a way to deliver value between those major updates where they don’t need to go through that same level of evaluation. Where we really just build on top of the previous release. Customers only need to test the new capabilities, they don’t need to go back and test everything.
That is true for client and server.