Microsoft Details SMS 2003 R2, Configuration Manager 2007

As the company's annual management summit got underway in San Diego Tuesday morning, Microsoft provided a broad overview of its expanding System Center product lineup but later drilled down on the future of SMS, now named System Center Configuration Manager 2007.

During his keynote, Microsoft Server and Tools Senior Vice President Bob Muglia demonstrated System Center's new drag and drop feature for applying new policies, Task-based GUI interface to simplify use and tight integration with the Windows Vista client and the Network Access Protection feature in the next Windows Longhorn Server.

"Window Visa does not stand alone. It's an impotant part of the solution but it must work with Microsoft's management tools and so what we've done with MOM and SMS are they are engineered to work very closely with Vista, " Muglia said. "SMS is being built to take advantage of new image format of Vista.'

While those features drew applause from the more than 2,000 gathered in the San Diego Convention Center, product managers drilled down on a variety of other features planned for System Center Configuration Manager 2007 at a state of the union address after the keynote.

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These include improvements to the client health, self-service software distribution, support for non-Windows platforms and an "advertisement" tracking tool, Microsoft product managers said.

Attendees cheered when Microsoft said it will provide self-healing client technology and a self-service portal that would allow users to access and deploy updates on their own.

Microsoft also drew applause by announcing plans to enhance reporting services, or more specifically, by citing the possibility of moving SMS's reporting services to SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services.

While those features won't see the light of day until 2007, Microsoft touted other pending releases of SMS to IT administrators and partners looking to upgrade customers in the aftermath of free SMS 2.0 support ending in March.

In the near term, the company expects to ship in May a Device Management Feature Pack that has been updated to support Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC and Phone Edition, and Windows Mobile 5.0's password application.

This will allow IT administrators and managed service partners, for example, to use SMS 2003 to manage the new crop of Windows Mobile 5.0 phones and PDAs that are competing head to head against Blackberry devices. This will be included natively in System Center Configuration Manager 2007, Microsoft said.

Microsoft released SMS 2003 Service Pack 2 in February. It also plans to ship SMS 2003 R2 this quarter.

SMS 2003 R2, which is currently in beta testing, offers two key new features -- a scan tool for vulnerability assessment and, more importantly, an inventory tool for custom updates. The custom update tool will allow third-party ISVs to provide updates of their applications and allow customers to more easily update their in-house line of business applications.

Additionally, the tool will allow solution integrators and outsourcers to build catalogs of updates for their clients and other organizations that rely on their services.

Microsoft's top management software chief said the inventory tool for custom updates is high on the list for Microsoft customers.

"For many customers it's very significant to have a consistent update experience and this is one of those important requirements,' said Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president of the Windows and Enterprise Management Division at Microsoft, in a meeting with CRN. "We do have good response from the ISV community."

Muglia said the primary goal is to give IT administrators and partners a simple task-based user interface to replace the object-oriented one in SMS today and extend the company's characteristic drag-and-drop feature to make policy changes.