Microsoft lays out management technology roadmap

Microsoft Corp. offered a glimpse of its management technology roadmap here at the SMS & Windows 2000 User Conference, including a discussion of features in the forthcoming version of Systems Management Server (SMS) and a look at management capabilities expected in the company's Whistler OS and .NET applications platform.

During the opening speaker session, David Hamilton, director of product management for management technologies at Microsoft, affirmed the Redmond, Wash.-based company's commitment to management technologies, despite rumors of the eventual demise of SMS.

"People have questioned the viability of SMS over the years, but [Microsoft] recognizes the importance of getting our software out there by making it easy to deploy and manage," Hamilton said. "There is very much a commitment at Microsoft to SMS. We want Windows to be the best managed environment, and we want a competitive advantage in this area over Sun or Apple's Macintosh."

Hamilton outlined new features in the next version of SMS, code-named Topaz, including added support for remote users, a new software metering client that allows the administrator to track which applications are being run, tighter integration with Active Directory, and a new Web reporting feature.

"The mobile-user feature is the biggest piece of development work [in Topaz]. It manages both well-connected and remote users, allowing an improved ROI," Hamilton said.

Touching on Microsoft's management goals for Whistler, Hamilton said the company is working to optimize its management tools for working in Whistler environments. Whistler is the code name for the Windows XP consumer operating system that is scheduled to ship later this year.

Specific management features expected in Whistler include a native remote control capability designed to aid in the process of remotely assisting and controlling systems, increased scalability and performance, simplified group policies, and a more sophisticated tool for migrating a user's settings and documents from system to system.

In a longer-term outlook, Hamilton said Microsoft plans to build on its .NET initiative to build management functionality into a variety of devices and products.

"As we develop new devices and environments, we are looking to build management capability into them. With .NET we can put these pieces in the development process of these new devices and systems," Hamilton added.

Hamilton also addressed the importance of standards, such as XML, in sustaining enterprisewide manageability.

"We've got the XML religion. We see the value of XML as a standard way to build distributed applications that will work well together. It is important to build standards-based access. Unless we use management standards, it is difficult to work with other vendors," Hamilton said.

Offering an example of vendor interoperability and the importance of tying Microsoft's management tools into the enterprise framework, Hamilton said that Microsoft is working internally to build a connector from SMS to Tivoli Systems Inc.

"Standardized connections are key," he said. "We have to make sure our product integrates with the enterprise network management framework, [whether] it is HP Openview, or Tivoli, etc."

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