Microsoft offers glimpse of management software future

Microsoft has provided more details on the future of its System Center bundle of management products, plans one analyst described as "extremely ambitious."

Microsoft has yet to release System Center 2005, the first version of the product, which bundles Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 and Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003 along with a reporting service. Yet Corporate Vice President Kirill Tatarinov discussed the second release of the product in a speech at the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas.

Tatarinov, who heads up the enterprise management division at Microsoft, filled in for Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, whose keynote presentation at the event was cancelled. Ballmer instead was in Brussels for continued talks with the European Commission's competition commissioner on the European antitrust case against his company.

Tatarinov's presentation repeated a lot of the information Microsoft had given Tuesday in a keynote presentation by Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Windows Server Division. The extra information on System Center, however, was new.

The first release of System Center, due later this year, will add a reporting service to the combination of MOM 2005 and SMS 2003, allowing System Center to combine change and configuration data from SMS with operational data from MOM. The second System Center release will add state management and capacity planning as well as a more advanced data warehouse, Tatarinov said.

Both state management and capacity planning are areas in which management software vendors, including Microsoft, have "under delivered," he said.

State management would allow System Center users to define settings -- for example, which applications should run on a specific server in a network. The system would monitor the state of the server and whether it meets those defined settings.

Capacity planning would help users figure out what resources they needed. For example, it would simplify an Exchange e-mail server deployment, Tatarinov said. Using details on everything from hardware, network connectivity, usage scenarios and time zones, the tool would be able to calculate how many Exchange servers a user needed and where those would have to be placed, according to Microsoft. The company is working on the capacity planning tool under the name "Project Indy," Tatarinov said.

Both the state management and capacity planning features would make extensive use of Microsoft's System Definition Model (SDM), a modeling scheme that uses XML (Extensible Markup Language) to describe attributes of hardware and software in an IT environment. SDM is part of Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), a plan for reducing IT complexity by improving software manageability.

SDM is extremely ambitious, said Peter Pawlak, a lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft, in Kirkland, Washington. "This is very complex. People have been trying to do this for years. It is really hard to model the reality of systems," Pawlak said. "It does seem extremely ambitious to me."

But Tatarinov promised the crowd of IT managers that Microsoft will make its vision a reality. "We will deliver," he said. "DSI puts the center of gravity back into IT operations. It is about giving control back to you."

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