Microsoft sends management products to beta

Microsoft Corp. Tuesday announced test versions of several of its management products, including a new, lower-cost, “Express” version of its Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) product.

The company said it released a beta version of Windows Update Services, the successor to the Software Update Services (SUS) 1.0 patch management product, as well as beta software for MOM 2005, MOM 2005 Express, System Center 2005, and a Device Management feature pack for Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003.

With the beta announcements at the kickoff of its third annual Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas, Microsoft also changed some terminology. The MOM update was previously called MOM 2004 and System Center, which bundles MOM 2005 and SMS 2003, did not have a year tacked onto its name.

Despite adding 2005 to the product names, Microsoft still plans to release System Center and the new MOM version in 2004. The SUS update is slipping slightly, Windows Update Services (WUS) won’t be out until later this year. It was originally due in the first half of the year.

“This week we’re putting Windows Update Services into a limited beta. We will have a broader beta this summer and put it out later this year,” Bob Muglia, senior vice-president of the Windows Server Division at Microsoft, said in a keynote.

New to its management product lineup, MOM 2005 Express is pitched as a less expensive product for organizations requiring only simple monitoring of Microsoft Windows Server environments.

The Device Management feature pack for SMS 2003 extends management capabilities of the product to Microsoft-based mobile devices such as PDAs and smart phones, Microsoft said. This SMS add-on and as well as an Operating System Deployment feature pack are due out in 2004, Microsoft said.

The management products are part of Microsoft’s Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), a plan for reducing IT complexity by improving software manageability. Microsoft cited an Accenture Ltd. study that shows IT professionals spend up to 70 per cent of their time managing systems. The vendor aims to bring that down to 55 percent by automating routine management tasks.

“DSI is a long term vision, but it is also real and here today,” Muglia said.

Besides the beta announcements and changes in the naming convention, which aligns product names with Microsoft’s fiscal year, Muglia’s presentation was low on news, said Peter Pawlak, a lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft Inc. in Kirkland, Wash., who is attending the Microsoft event.

“Very little new news has come out since I was here last year,” he said. “If they have made any real progress with DSI, it must have just happened recently and it is too soon to even report on the progress.”

Muglia did have some smaller announcements in his keynote. Siebel System Inc., for example, released a management pack for MOM. Other partners, including Veritas Software Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. will also offer new add-ons for MOM, Microsoft said.

Additionally, because of the naming convention change, the forthcoming Virtual Server product is now called Virtual Server 2005. Microsoft last month released a private beta of the server-based application that allows multiple operating systems to run on the same processor at the same time and that is due out midyear.

Muglia delved a bit deeper into the forthcoming System Center product. “You can think of System Center kind of like Office,” he said. Microsoft will bundle MOM 2005 and SMS 2003 and add modules, the first being a reporting service that will combine change and configuration data from SMS with operational data from MOM.

“We’re taking our first step with System Center to provide you with the data that you need to run your business,” Muglia said.

Microsoft’s operational tools are viable, but are lacking in some areas, said Malcolm Reitz, enterprise operations manager for Halliburton Co. “MOM has some good stuff but it is not easy to get to,” he said.

Halliburton uses both SMS and MOM. System Center doesn’t seem to add a new level of functionality, but he hopes that it will help manage his Windows environment. “We spend an inordinate amount of time managing instead of adding value to the organization,” he said.

“I like the direction they (Microsoft) are going with the products and that they are building manageability into the products at the beginning instead of trying to add it on,” Reitz said.

– With files from John Fontana, Network World (U.S.)

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