RealTime IT News

Microsoft Unwraps Systems Management Package

Microsoft has launched its Systems Management Server 2003 (SMS 2003) as the first piece of what the software giant promises will be a deep portfolio that helps corporations manage a range of information from data centers to their employees' mobile devices.

The Tuesday launch officially places Microsoft in direct competition with enterprise systems management vendors such as IBM, Computer Associates and BMC.

SMS 2003 focuses on three key areas: it supports mobile devices, enhancements to the metering and reporting functions, and integration with Active Directory, which allows organizations to centrally manage and share information on network resources and users while acting as the central authority for network security.

The latest version of SMS 2003 supports a full management feature set, including software distribution, asset management and remote troubleshooting -- without requiring a set of local servers or services.

The new Advanced Client also uses a Windows technology called Background Intelligent Transfer Services (BITS) to provide connectivity for all management operations over low-bandwidth or low quality network links, such as Remote Access Service dialup and remote Virtual Private Networking. SMS 2003 will also feature a checkpoint/restart function that restarts a failed transmission.

SMS 2003 also allows administrators to track application installations and correlate the activity with actual application usage, a metering feature characteristic of utility computing architectures. This tells administrators what applications are being used, for how often, and how many users are using the same applications. The idea is to enable administrators to more closely gauge the application licenses required for their enterprise.

Uptime and availability are crucial characteristics of a data center. For example, even minutes of downtime in the network of a financial institution can result in millions of lost dollars from transactions that could not be processed. SMS 2003 constantly tracks applications and services in the network and provides tools to compare these with a list of available patches, service packs and upgrades, allowing administrators to circumvent outages.

SMS 2003 features a Web interface to the management database, which includes preconfigured reports spanning the configuration of all machines on the network, the software deployment and usage status, and details of individual machine configurations. This is a big bonus because administrators are commonly required to provide reports describing the progress of deployment and upgrade projects. Manual generation of reports takes administrators time, but with automation, SMS 2003 allows workers to focus their attention elsewhere.

SMS will soon offer greater support for mobile devices, including Windows CE, XP embedded, and Pocket PC, through a new Advanced Client that automatically checks the size of the connection and adjusts transfer rates as needed.

Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president of the Enterprise Management Division at Microsoft, said SMS 2003 has helped early adopters manage 250,000 devices at more than 60 sites worldwide.

SAP America used the product to improve remote management for mobile users, inventory hardware and software, for roughly 7,000 workstations and mobile clients across Canada, the United States and Latin America.

Retail pricing for SMS 2003 with 10 device client access licenses is $1,219.

Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2004, the brother management software to SMS 2003, is now in private beta testing with customers. While SMS 2003 is geared toward letting large companies distribute software updates and patches automatically to clients over corporate networks, MOM monitors network events to stave off problems.

The company intends to consolidate them both into a single console called Systems Center set for release in summer 2004.