Microsoft releases management tools

Microsoft releases management tools

Microsoft on Tuesday released a handful of software products that are key elements in its drive to develop a comprehensive management platform for Windows. The company also released the first beta of its newest corporate patch server.

During his keynote at Microsoft's IT Forum conference in Copenhagen, Bill Gates, chief software architect for Microsoft, announced the general availability of Microsoft Operations Manager 2005, Virtual Server 2005 and the Virtual Server 2005 Migration Toolkit. Gates also announced the availability of two feature packs for Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003 for device management and operating system deployment.

Gates also unveiled the long-awaited beta of Windows Update Services, a free Windows server add-on that runs behind a firewall and automates the acquisition and deployment of patches. The software, which was originally due in May 2004, will now ship in the first half of 2005.

While Gates did not announce anything that has not been expected, the software is among the first pieces of Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative, a 10-year plan to create a platform to support a self-managing Windows environment built around applications that can signal to the network their management needs.

"The distributed nature of computing makes it challenging for customers to manage the cost and complexity of their technology investments," Gates said in a statement released by Microsoft. "We are committed to a unique approach that builds operational knowledge into the applications themselves, enabling customers to reduce complexity now and in the future."

Rivals such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems are developing similar utility computing platforms.

Next year, Microsoft will rollout System Center 2005, an integration of MOM 2005 and SMS 2003, and the next version of Visual Studio codenamed Whidbey, which will introduce a core component of DSI called the System Definition Model (SDM).

Microsoft considers MOM 2005 and its management packs for servers such as Exchange and SQL Server to be Version Zero of SDM. The MOM management packs monitor the inner workings of particular servers and supply data to MOM. SDM is defined by XML-based documents that are embedded into applications to communicate management and operational needs to the network.

"What they are saying is something like SDM allows you to think about management from the beginning and build that into your development and deployment methodology, the whole lifecycle of your application," says Mark Ehr, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates. But Ehr says Microsoft has a long way to go to clarify and deliver on DSI and SDM.

On Tuesday, Microsoft began to introduce the concept of modeling to its DSI roadmap, which was first introduced in March 2003. Whidbey will include a modeling tool called Whitehorse, which lets developers consider infrastructure and protocol requirements as part of the application development process.

Microsoft Tuesday introduced three kinds of models it will develop under DSI: health, task and configuration.

"Health is how an applications behaves across its lifecycle, the configuration model is how an application is set-up and configured and the task model is how an application behaves and what it does," says David Hamilton, director of the Windows and enterprise management division at Microsoft.

Hamilton said that Microsoft currently does health models using MOM management packs and won't start wading into configuration and task models until the release of Whidbey and with a capacity planning tool called Indy, that will ship with the second version of System Center sometime in the Longhorn timeframe.

Gates said in his keynote that modeling is one of three pillars of DSI, along with "knowledge" and "lifecycle." The pillar concept is new to Microsoft's DSI definition and Gates did not elaborate.

"This is peeling the onion back a bit," says Hamilton. "Really this is year two of a 10-year DSI project and Bill is talking about year four, five or six and there is a long way to go and a lot more detail."

Microsoft did provide details on the feature packs for SMS 2003, including the Device Management Pack that performs device discovery, hardware and software inventory and distributes software. The OS Deployment Feature Pack helps desktop administrators create a Windows Desktop image and deploy it in an automated manner.

Both feature packs fall under the DSI model.

Microsoft also introduced Solution Accelerator Business Desktop Deployment Enterprise Edition, which is guidance and a set of tools designed for unattended desktop deployment of Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Office 2003. Microsoft says the tool allows users to deploy the software for under US$100 per desktop.

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