Microsoft adds to management tool lineup

Microsoft on Tuesday introduced two new pieces to its System Center management tool family, including service desk software, and said it was renaming the flagship products of the lineup.

At the opening of its annual Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) here, Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the server and tools business at Microsoft, unveiled System Center Service Desk, which provides a process workflow for management that incorporates data from Systems Management Server (SMS) and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM).

"This is designed to provide an ERP-like solution for IT," said Muglia. "We are bringing together all the IT processes."Service Desk will include a workflow engine based on the forthcoming Windows Workflow Foundation and incorporate IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a set of best practices for IT services management, and the Microsoft Operations Framework.

Service Desk also will include the foundation for Microsoft's configuration management database (CMDB), which includes attributes and methods controlled by SMS and MOM. BizTalk will provide the integration framework for CMDB, System Center Reporting Manager will handle reporting chores and SQL Server will provide data aggregation and data warehousing.

Muglia showed how the Service Desk console can be used to highlight problems uncovered by MOM, create a change request to fix the problem using workflow to gain approval and then tapping into SMS to create a package and roll out the fix.Service Desk, which will go into beta later this year and is set to ship in the second half of 2007, also includes a portal that IT can use to push information out to end-users in an effort to limit support calls.

"Microsoft is saying we are going to get more intelligent about our platform and one way is through management tools that encapsulate the knowledge from across the Microsoft domain," says Stephan Elliot, an analyst with IDC. "The challenge will be getting all the different Microsoft business units to work with them to engineer certain levels of integration.

The second challenge will be whether the management unit can execute on the product.

"Microsoft officials say the management team is already working with the Active Directory team to create a user self-service password reset tool they call a Service Desk Solution Pack that plugs into Service Desk and incorporates Service Desk's portal capabilities and workflow engine. And Microsoft says ISVs can leverage the same technology to create Solution Packs that automate processes associated with their own software.

Muglia also introduced another new member of the System Center family code-named Carmine, which is used to manage images in a virtual environment. Muglia did not provide details but said users will hear more at Microsoft's WinHEC conference in Seattle in late May. He said a beta would be available later this quarter. Muglia also said Microsoft is working on technology to virtualize operating system services and applications, but that would not be available in Windows until the version of the operating system that ships after Longhorn Server.

In addition to those two products, Muglia also said that Microsoft is renaming SMS and MOM. Those flagship management products are key to incorporating Microsoft's modeling technology, called the System Definition Model (SDM), into its overall management platform. SMS v4, which is due to ship in early 2007, is now called System Center Configuration Manager 2007 and MOM is now called System Center Operations Manager.

Muglia also said Microsoft's command-line scripting tool code-named Monad will be renamed PowerShell and will ship later this year as the foundation for management capabilities within Exchange 12, which Muglia announced would be called Exchange 2007 when it ships. Microsoft will then adapt PowerShell for System Center Operations Manager and then their other software applications.

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