Microsoft Scraps System Center; Plans Modules Instead

At the Microsoft Management Summit 2005 in Las Vegas Tuesday, Microsoft's top management software executive said the company will continue enhancing its existing Systems Management Server (SMS) and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) as separate products instead of combining them as previously planned. Instead, Microsoft will offer standalone System Center modules that deliver on the promises of its dynamic systems initiative on top of SMS and MOM.

At the show, Microsoft announced that it plans to release major upgrades of SMS called "Version 4" and MOM dubbed "Version 3.0" in the Longhorn wave of Windows product upgrades in 2006 and 2007. At the Las Vegas summit last year, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant put into beta testing its planned Systems Center product that was originally designed to integrate MOM and SMS into one server.

With that plan canned, the company highlighted at the management show the planned beta release of a new module called System Center Reporting Manager 2005 due in early May and a Community Technology Preview of System Center Capacity Manager 2006. The beta release of the first module, System Center Data Protection Server was announced last week.

Microsoft also is developing code for a System Center console that will unify and simplify the interface into the Windows data center, other Mcirosoft executives confirmed.

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"System Center is a family of management products,' said Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Enterprise Management Division, acknowledging during his keynote that plans for System Center have changed. "It's a suite of modular products. The technology is integrated in modules so that customers can preserve their current investments in SMS and MOM."

Plans for MOM Version 3 include service-oriented monitoring and modular-based management, as well as deeper integration with the platform including "better linkage" with Active Directory and the "roles" feature in the Windows server, Tatirinov said.

SMS Version 4, also due in the Longhorn timeframe, will offer configuration management and the ability for customers to define and enforce IT configurations to meet security mandates and federal mandates such as Sarbanes-Oxley guidelines.

Additionally, Microsoft is working on a vastly simplified, roles-based user interface for the software deployment platform, as well as tight integration with the planned Network Access Protection (NAP) security feature in the next Windows server, Tatirinov said.

Partners said a fully integrated System Center beta never materialized, and Microsoft's revised plans to deliver new upgrades of SMS and MOM as well as System Center modules is fine by them.

"They're not quite as tied together as originally conceived," said Jeff Dimock, a managing partner at solution provider Intellinet, Atlanta. "The plan for a System Center is less clear but we see the vision expanding, and they'll likely develop a slew of new products and add-ons. It's become a management suite, and the future of SMS is headed toward configuration management."

Meanwhile, the System Center Reporting Manager integrates data from SMS and Active Directory, and extensible schema into a database to enable better decision making, Tatarinov said.

The System Center capacity manager, moreover, gives customers and partners a tool for predictive capacity planning for Exchange 2003 and MOM 2005. The module will allow customers to assess their architecture, and perform what-if analysis to predict how applications would perform in a certain scenarios and what bottlenecks could incur before implementing those changes in a production setting.

The company introduced last week the first of these modules, an enterprise backup solution called System Center Data Protection Manager 2006, which also is in beta testing and planned for delivery during the second half of 2005.

Microsoft did not provide any updated guidance on the much-anticipated Windows Server Update Services except to note that it is in beta testing and remains on track for release during the first half of 2005.

There are a flurry of moving parts associated with Microsoft's elaborate management software now coming into play, Microsoft's management executive added.

For instance, the first implementation of Microsoft's Systems Definition Model (SDM) in the forthcoming Visual Studio 2005, and the completion of a WS-Management specification by Microsoft, Intel and Dell are significant achievements that will reduce IT operational costs in the near future, the Microsoft executive said. MOM Version 3 and SMS Version 4 will support SDM, Microsoft said.

Additionally, the planned delivery of forthcoming MOM management packs for managing Windows XP desktops and managing Web sites and Web services -- both due within six months -- will also help reduce management costs.

While he focused primarily on the company's revised plan for Systems Center and the new product roadmap, Tatarinov noted that Microsoft is relying on a "broad ecosystem" of ISV, OEM and systems integration partners to help advance System Center and its core management servers.

On Tuesday, for example, Microsoft announced deals with Dell and ISV partner AVIcode based on MOM 2005, the latest edition of Microsoft's monitoring platform that was released last fall, and the workgroup edition of MOM 2005.

Dell today announced MOM 2005 Workgroup Edition for Dell PowerEdge server, which offers SMB customers and partners enterprise-level systems management and monitoring capabilities for $50 per server. The integrated solution, called MOM 2005 Workgroup Edition with integrated Dell Management Pack, is designed for companies with fewer than 10 Windows servers and costs $499.

At the show, Microsoft also announced a bundling deal with its Baltimore- based partner AVIcode to integrate that ISV's Intercept Studio.NET application monitoring software with MOM 2005.

AVICode's Intercept Studio Operations Edition for MOM 2005 will be available and distributed as the Microsoft .NET Management Pack from the company's Web site beginning in July. It will enable management of .NET Framework applications, allowing customers to establish enterprise standards for monitoring ASP.NET, Web services and .NET remoting applications.

Felicity McGourty, director of product marketing for the Windows and Enterprise Management Division, said Microsoft also is developing code for a System Center console that will unify and simplify the interface into the Windows data center.

She also noted that Microsoft held a "CrissCross" event earlier this week to train systems integration partners on all products under the infrastructure management competency that will be formalized, and held a networking event to line up ISVs with SI partners.

"We have to cross-pollinate our [systems integrators] on new products and ISV partner products," she said.