Microsoft&'s support for third-party and custom applications and security improvements in Systems Management Server 2003 Release 2 will expand opportunities for the company and its channel, solution providers said.
Last Monday, Microsoft released SMS 2003 R2 into beta testing, and the Redmond, Wash.-based company plans to release the upgraded software and deployment platform around May, said Felicity McGourty, a director in Microsoft&'s Windows Enterprise Management Division.
The R2 version will feature a new Inventory Tool for Custom Updates, which will allow businesses and partners to automate the deployment of updates for third-party ISV applications and corporate line-of-business applications. The tool can be used to create and publish software update catalogs that could be imported directly into the SMS console seamlessly.
Currently, it&'s possible to package updates in SMS format, but it&'s cumbersome, Microsoft said.
“The news that SMS will support non-Microsoft products is long overdue,” said Paul Freeman, CEO of Coast Solutions Group, an Irvine, Calif.-based partner. “This has always been a major selling point against SMS. Customers will be very interested in this, as will Altiris, since [heterogeneous support] is something that they have used to differentiate themselves from SMS in the market.”
SMS 2003 R2 also includes an Enterprise Scan Tool for Vulnerability Assessment, which checks desktops and servers for software configuration errors and other vulnerabilities, Microsoft said.
Microsoft also announced the release of SMS 2003 Service Pack 2 on Feb. 10 that offers enhanced virtualization and the ability to use SQL Server 2005 as the database engine for SMS. In addition, Microsoft kicked off a promotion that enables SMS 2.0 customers to upgrade to SMS 2003 at a 30 percent discount if purchased with Software Assurance. The support life cycle for SMS 2.0 ends in March.