Microsoft Unveils New System Center Tools, Stirs the Alphabet Soup
Published: April 26, 2006
by Alex Woodie
Microsoft this week detailed some of the additions and changes that will be made to its suite of systems management tools. First, the company announced that the old Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) and Systems Management Server (SMS) names will fall by the wayside when the next iterations of these members of the System Center product set ship next year. Microsoft also announced a new service desk offering, and committed to delivering the MONAD scripting language as the free Windows PowerShell.
Microsoft, as much as any vendor in the IT marketplace, plays the product name change game. Although at times it can be confusing to customers, partners, and the press, changing the names of products--every year, if required--is a necessary evil. After all, corporate IT data center priorities are constantly shifting and products are evolving to address those changes, which results in the IT industry's need to keep product names fluid. Microsoft, with its Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) drive to make servers and desktops more dynamic and pliable to the shifting data center needs, understands this better than most.
To that end, server chief Bob Muglia, speaking at the Microsoft Management Summit 2006 (MMS 06) conference in San Diego yesterday, unveiled some new products, and some name changes to existing products. With the next release of its systems management tools, what would have been Systems Management Server (SMS) version 4 will go by the name Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007, he says. Likewise, what would have been Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) version 3 will be called Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007. The current releases of these products are SMS 2003 and MOM 2005--apparently, Microsoft had gone back to "version" naming with the new products in development, before returning to the "year" naming convention, the naming format its marketing department now seems to favor. System Center Configuration Manager 2007 is due in the first half of 2007, while System Center Operations Manager 2007 is due before the end of 2006, a Microsoft spokeswoman says.
Microsoft said these name changes reflect the high level of interoperability between these products and other members of the Systems Center suite. To review, SMS 2003 is the enterprise-level tool that today helps Windows shops centralize the process of deploying and updating applications to servers and PCs, including the distribution of patches, while MOM 2005 provides real-time monitoring of key server and application health metrics. Many business partners, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, have developed management packs that provide specific monitoring capabilities through the MOM 2005 interface.
Of course, this isn't the first time that Microsoft has stirred the alphabet soup that identifies its cabal of systems management tools. It's been only a year since the software giant unveiled Windows Software Update Services (WSUS), the free patch and update component of Windows Server that was formerly named WUS and, before that, SUS (see "Microsoft Puts the 'S' Back in WUS"). Microsoft also offers a range of other free tools, including its Microsoft Update (MU) software patching service, which functions as a superset of the old Windows Update (WU) capabilities, and the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA). If your head is spinning from all these acronyms, go to Microsoft's Web page Comparing MBSA, MU, WSUS, and SMS 2003 for a rundown on the differences between these products.
Muglia also discussed a new service desk offering designed to play with System Center Configuration Manager (formerly SMS) and System Center Configuration Manager (formerly MOM). The product, which at this point goes by the somewhat obvious codename "Service Desk," (by the way, whatever happened to the cool project codenames like "Blackcomb," Microsoft?) will provide two key components to form the foundation for System Center, Microsoft says, including a workflow engine and the Configuration Management Database (CMDB). The Service Desk solution will include workflow templates that deal with specific problems, and which follow ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) best practices and processes. ITIL standards are being followed at a number of American and European businesses as a way to bring IT systems in line with new regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, that sometimes are less than clear about exactly what steps IT managers need to take to gain compliance.
Meanwhile, Kirill Tatarinov, the vice president of the Windows and enterprise management division at Microsoft, discussed the upcoming release of Windows PowerShell, formerly MONAD, in a PressPass Q&A. Tatarinov also touched on the forthcoming release of Exchange Server "12," which also has a new name, by the way.
"Windows PowerShell is a powerful administrative command shell and scripting environment. It will be available as a no-charge Web download in the second half of this year," Tatarinov says. "Also, we announced that the next version of Microsoft Exchange, which will be the first Microsoft application to deliver new automation capability based on PowerShell, will officially be named Microsoft Exchange Server 2007."
Exchange Server 2007, which Tatarinov says is due by the end of 2006 or early 2007, will include the new Exchange Management Console, which is a new graphical console built entirely on top of Microsoft Management Console (MMC) 3.0 and PowerShell. The new interface will increase administrative productivity by simplifying navigation and offering new filtering options for managing messages, he says.
Tatarinov highlighted some of the other new Systems Center products Microsoft has released over the last year, including the delivery of the new disk-to-disk backup product, System Center Data Protection Manager (see "Microsoft Targets SMBs with Data Protection Manager"), and the delivery of System Center Capacity Planner 2006 and System Center Reporting Manager 2006. Tatarinov is scheduled to deliver today's keynote address at MMS 06.
Muglia says the new products, and the Dynamic Systems Initiative as whole, are designed to help Microsoft's customers fight complexity. "Complexity in the IT environment is a fact of life," Muglia said. "Our push toward dynamic systems will have broad impact and help customers to not only manage this more efficiently but also harness the power of IT as a strategic asset."