Dell, Microsoft unite software, hardware management

Microsoft and Dell on Monday announced plans to integrate their management products as part of a long-term partnership to combine hardware and software administration onto a single platform.

The two said they would ship in January a free add-on to Microsoft's System Management Server (SMS) 2003 called SMS 2003 Inventory Tool for Dell Updates.

The tool combines the inventory and updating capabilities of Dell's OpenManage 4 systems management software with SMS 2003. The software distribution features of SMS 2003 also will be enhanced to push out updates to Dell hardware.

Today, users must use both products to complete inventory and update tasks. Last November, Dell introduced Dell Update Packages with Microsoft Systems Management Server, a manual tool that was somewhat of a proof-of-concept for the SMS add-on. The new tool introduced Monday is fully automated in providing a single view of what Microsoft software and Dell PowerEdge servers are on a network and what needs to be updated with patches or functionality upgrades.

The SMS add-on automates downloads of BIOS, firmware and drivers from Dell's Web site, as well as updates from Microsoft's patching and other update sites.

"This release is meant to hit the No. 1 pain point today, which is managing the updates to my existing systems," says Eric Berg, group product manager for Windows Server.

Berg says the relationship with Dell is not exclusive and may eventually involve other hardware manufacturers. Dell and Microsoft, however, do have a long-range plan to simplify management across their platforms, including the use of two standards specifications they are committed to today: the Systems Management Architecture for Server Hardware (SMASH) specification from the Distributed Management Task Force, and WS-Management, a Web services specification that provides a common way for systems to access and exchange management information.

SMS 2003 Inventory Tool for Dell Updates is slated to be available as a free download from Microsoft's Web site in January. Microsoft is expected to announce other management upgrades Tuesday when Bill Gates, Microsoft's chief software architect, delivers a keynote address at the company's IT Forum in Copenhagen.

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