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
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.