Gates expands on Microsoft’s IT management vision

Microsoft Corp. is set to provide more details on Tuesday of its vision to simplify IT management and to announce the first public beta of its Windows Update Services (WUS) patch management product.

WUS is a free Windows Server add-on that allows users to download and deploy patches for a host of Microsoft products. A technical preview was released early this year. The WUS predecessor, Software Update Services (SUS) 1.0, only handles patches for Windows clients.

While speaking to an audience of IT professionals at Microsoft’s IT Forum event in Copenhagen, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates also plans on Tuesday update attendees on the company’s ambitious Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), a plan to reduce IT complexity by improving manageability.

In one of his first public presentations about DSI, Gates is slated to expand on what has thus far been an abstract vision of software and hardware with built-in manageability. He is expected to define three technical pillars of DSI: models, knowledge and life cycle, said David Hamilton, director of Microsoft’s Windows and Enterprise Management division.

Microsoft is not ready to delve further into the knowledge and life cycle concepts, but Gates is scheduled to talk in more detail about models and provide a road map and vision for the next three to five years of development of models, Hamilton said.

Gates will specify health, configuration, and tasks as three distinct types of data models that management software will receive from applications or hardware. Together, these models make up the System Definition Model (SDM), a scheme that uses XML (Extensible Markup Language) to describe attributes of hardware and software in an IT environment.

DSI promises plug-and-play manageability. For example, an Exchange Server brought online in a network would automatically inform the management software of its status, configuration, and tasks.

Visual Studio 2005, due out in the first half of 2005, will give developers early capability to experiment with SDM, Hamilton said. The next Visual Studio, code-named “Orcas” and expected in 2006, will offer expanded DSI capabilities, he said.

In a demonstration during Gates’ presentation, Microsoft plans to show how the health and task information provided by server software and used by a capacity planning tool code-named Indy can help an organization merge two IT environments, Hamilton said.

Microsoft demonstrated Indy for the first time at its management conference in March. The product is slated to be delivered at a yet unspecified date with the second version of System Center, a management tool that will combine Systems Management Server (SMS), Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), a data warehousing capability along with Indy and a tool to create and maintain a desired state of a server. The first version of System Center is due next year.

DSI is a comprehensive plan that requires broad industry participation to reach the vision of hardware and software that communicates operational and management needs to management software. Some have described it as utopian.

“I see it as a 10 year vision and we’re probably in year two or three,” Hamilton said.

While Microsoft is addressing the root of IT management problems with DSI, it remains to be seen if Microsoft can pull off the challenging plan, said Peter Pawlak, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft Inc. in Kirkland, Wash. He also wondered if the software maker can persuade developers to invest time and energy into building management into applications.

“Developers will only do it if customers demand it. I am not totally convinced that customers are going to make those hard calls,” Pawlak said.

In an attempt to tie the future to the present, Gates is expected to repeat Microsoft’s pitch that management packs for MOM 2005, Microsoft’s performance management product, are “version zero” of DSI. Management packs are used to monitor a specific server or Windows service, such as Exchange or Active Directory.

Gates also is slated to officially announce general availability of MOM 2005, Virtual Server 2005 and the Virtual Server 2005 Migration Toolkit, two SMS 2003 Feature Packs and updated tools for deployment of Windows and Office. Most of these products have actually been available and Microsoft has detailed them before.

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