SMS show unveils future Microsoft management offerings

Microsoft Corp. gave Systems Management Server (SMS) users a good look at the product's forthcoming features last week and led developers through an in-depth tutorial on a new operations management application due out in beta within weeks.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company unveiled at the SMS & Windows 2000 User Conference in Las Vegas its first entry into the operations management space with Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2000. The application, based on technology licensed from partner company NetIQ Corp., is designed to monitor the performance and availability of servers and applications.

To extract the correct data for monitoring and reporting, MOM leverages modules called Management Packs that sit on top of the application. The modules are designed to work with specific systems, such as Windows 2000, Active Directory, Internet Information Server, Exchange, SQL Server, and others.

Microsoft developers saw a need for a specific product designed to address monitoring and performance analysis not provided by the company's SMS product, which is focused on change and configuration management processes such as distributing, updating, and repairing computer systems. MOM and SMS target different scopes of management and are designed to complement each other, said Wally Mead, program manager at Microsoft.

Another hot topic at the show was the forthcoming version of SMS, code-named Topaz. New features in Topaz, due out in beta this summer, include support for mobile users, enhanced integration with Active Directory, a Web-based reporting tool, and a new software metering client.

One conference attendee said his company recently began deployment of Microsoft's SMS 2.0 and is signing up to beta test Topaz.

"We need a solution to manage all of our desktops and systems. We have some management in place, but it is done by multiple products; so we are really looking to consolidate that under one overall management system," said Brian Dorsey, an infrastructure specialist at Towers Perrin, a benefits administration consulting company in Philadelphia.

In addition to product news, Microsoft outlined its management road map, including management functionality planned for Whistler -- the code name for the forthcoming version of the Windows Server family. Specific management features expected in Whistler include a native remote-control capability designed to aid in the process of 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.

During a conference keynote speech, David Hamilton, director of product management at Microsoft, addressed the important role that standards such as XML will play in the company's management strategy.

"We've got the XML religion," Hamilton said. "We see the value of XML as a standard way to build distributed applications that will work well together."

Microsoft soups up operations managementDesigned to complement SMS, Microsoft Operations Manager addresses monitoring and performance analysis and includes the following features.

* Automatic discovery and deployment of managed nodes* Distributed and automated alerting and monitoring* Rules-and knowledge base-generated responses* Management reporting and trend analysis* Customized alertsSource: Microsoft

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