Microsoft ready to spring into management

Microsoft Corp. next month will take its biggest step ever toward supplying a management platform for its Windows servers and applications.

On Monday night at NetWorld+Interop, the company announced that in June it will begin shipping its Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), an event and performance monitoring tool. The tool can be used to monitor Windows 2000, Active Directory and Internet Information Server, as well as specific operating system features such as Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and Microsoft Transaction Server. Additional features can be added to monitor SQL Server, Exchange Server and the other .Net Enterprise Servers.

The first version of the tool, licensed from NetIQ, is the initial step for Microsoft as it tries to create an object-oriented management platform similar in concept to those from Computer Associates and Tivoli.

The difference is Microsoft's ambitious attempt to use its operating system as the foundation for the platform. Critics contend it is a difficult plan to create in the operating system what others have been working years to perfect on specialized platforms. But Microsoft officials realize it must do this to convince users it is serious about playing in the enterprise.

"We have stayed out of management as a major strategic investment," says Cliff Reeves, vice president of .Net server product marketing at Microsoft. "But now our systems are so pervasive, customers are saying, 'You don't do management, but 40 percent, 60 percent, 80 percent of my environment is Microsoft, and if you don't manage it who is going to do it?'"

Reeves says it will be Microsoft. "We will build central management in the operating system. It is no longer described as a feature; it is fundamental."

It's also fundamental to Microsoft's emerging .Net Web services strategy, which describes the delivery of software over the Internet. It's fundamental because the .Net infrastructure is now made up of eight servers, with a ninth announced just last week for Web content management.

"The long-term goal is not to try and provide air cover for managing all these .Net servers," Reeves says. "The goal is to take whatever number of servers a customer has and provide management instrumentation, automatic detection of failures, automatic self-healing and the ability to take pre-emptive action to avoid problems."

But the initial version of MOM represents not much more than a glimpse of that future and a rebranding of the NetIQ product, Operations Manager.

In the future, Microsoft hopes to add to the core operating system a set of hooks to plug in any number of management modules, such as MOM.

Microsoft says its Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), an implementation of the standard Common Information Model (CIM), will become one of those hooks in the operating system. CIM is a standard way to describe system management information.

XML and the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) also are key upgrades to the operating system that provide standard ways to exchange data between applications and the management framework. Those features are likely to hit their stride with a version of the operating system codenamed Blackcomb, which will follow next year's expected shipment of Windows 2002.

On top of the operating system, Microsoft will add MOM; the next version of System Management Server, codenamed Topaz; and Application Center 2000 for managing Web farms. Third-party vendors, such as NetIQ, which announced its Extended Management Packs for MOM on Monday, also will add functionality. Enterprise users can mix and match those modules to create their own customized system.

MOM's management console will provide a single point of access into all the different pieces of management software.

"WMI, SMS, MOM, App Center all solve a specific problem, but they need to share a common architecture," Reeves says.

With MOM, Microsoft will offer two "management packs." The Basic Pack covers Windows 2000 and Active Directory, and is included in the base $849 per-processor price for MOM. The Advanced Pack adds the .Net servers to the mix and will be sold separately. It will be priced at $949 per processor.

It all adds up to a platform that will appeal to small or Microsoft-centric enterprises, according to analysts, who say larger corporations will likely stick with the heavyweight management packages.

Microsoft officials say their platform will be designed to plug into those larger platforms. But Microsoft still must provide the application programming interfaces for that to happen. And critics say a reliance on WMI will require changes in the way applications are written so as to enable them to plug into the Microsoft management platform.

To that end, Microsoft last December created the Microsoft Management Alliance, which is intended to rally third-party vendors around WMI. The alliance now has 250 members.

This story, "Microsoft ready to spring into management" was originally published by Network World.

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