Microsoft Spruces Up System Management Tool

Microsoft has taken its System Management Server 2003 software into its
second release as a beta, adding new features that check for configuration
blunders and improve its ability to track down security exploits.

SMS 2003 R2 is a software distribution and computer asset management tool
designed to help medium to large-sized businesses update third-party and
in-house applications on the fly, without manual intervention.

Such software has become more popular among enterprises who have small or
busy IT staffs and need their technical people to focus on other important
computer tasks. This traditionally helps customers cut costs associated with
keeping up IT systems.

Felicity McGourty, director of product management in the Windows Enterprise
Management division at Microsoft, said SMS 2003 R2 features an inventory
tool for custom updates and a scan tool for vulnerability assessment.

McGourty said the inventory tool is a key improvement, noting that while SMS
2003 helps IT staffers manage updates to all Windows-based applications and
other Microsoft applications such as Microsoft Office, it has been much more
challenging and time consuming to update other vendors’ applications.

Software vendors can use the inventory tool to create a catalog containing
the definitions for their application updates. Customers can then download
updates from the vendor’s Web site in the same format and in the same way
they download Microsoft patches and deploy the updates using SMS.

SMS 2003 R2 has been improved to pinpoint system configuration errors that
might lead to security risks. This is in keeping with customer requests for
software to plug up as many security exploits as possible, she said.

“For many administrators, staying current with security patches and updates
is no longer an option; it’s a requirement,” McGourty said. “Managing
patches for every single machine, whether a desktop or a server, and for all
applications residing on each system can be a time consuming task.”

Microsoft today also unveiled Service Pack (SP) 2 for SMS 2003, which
includes more bug fixes, virtualization support and allows Microsoft’s SQL
Server 2005 to be the backend database engine for SMS.

The pack also allows IT managers to use qualified domain names, eliminating
SMS’ dependency on NetBios and WINS and boosting performance for software
inventory processing.

McGourty said the finished SMS 2003 R2 will be released to manufacturing in
the next several months.

However, the executive said it is important for customers to get a taste of
the software now because businesses that are still using SMS 2.0 Standard
Edition can avoid any additional costs associated with the end of mainstream
support for SMS 2.0 on March 31.

After March 31, SMS 2.0 will enter the extended phase of its product
lifecycle, and customers will need to pay for any non-security related

To smooth the move from SMS 2.0 to SMS 2003, McGourty said Microsoft is
offering a 30 percent discount starting in April on all SMS Server licenses
and SMS Configuration Management Licenses (CMLs) obtained with software

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