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It's been four years since Microsoft announced the Dynamic Systems Initiative, an effort to develop self-managing computer systems, and a year since the company announced it would converge its management products together into the System Center line with common architecture and user interfaces. This week, Microsoft took a few steps toward realizing both efforts with the release of System Center Operations Manager 2007, new partnerships, and details on the System Center roadmap.
Microsoft System Center may not yet carry the clout of systems management competitors like IBM's Tivoli or Hewlett Packard's OpenView, but company executives say they're leveling the playing field. "We compete with them today and with these new releases, that competition will just deepen," Kirill Tatarinov, VP of Microsoft's Management and Solutions Division. "This is making system center much more of a competitor in the overall market of enterprise management tools."
Still, Microsoft has some ground to make up, being an admitted number five in that market. If it executes well on its System Center and Dynamic Systems Initiative visions, those others may have to watch out. After all, with deep access to the Windows team, Microsoft has the potential to understand the management requirements of its own operating systems better than anyone.
Operations Manager 2007 represents a significant upgrade over the previous version, as the software moves from pure server management to a worldview that encompasses services spanning multiple servers. Using Service Modeling Language, a spec defining a standard way for IT systems to be described and modeled, Operations Manager will be able to manage and understand system performance on a larger scale, rather than server by server.
Though its been backing similar technology for a few years, Microsoft threw its hat formally into the ring with Service Modeling Language last week, announcing that it and several other major software vendors were submitting the language to the World Wide Web Consortium for consideration as a standard. A new partnership this week will bring EMC network management technologies into future versions of System Center products.
On the automation front, Operations Manager 2007 can take some of the burden off of IT staffers by encoding specific remedy actions, accessible with a simple click, directly into knowledge base articles that accompany performance alerts. Additionally, a new Self-Tuning Assessment feature observes a system, watching for baseline performance measurements, and adjusts Operations Manager's default tolerance levels so administrators don't get flooded with false alerts.
Microsoft also announced further details of its product roadmap for System Center, indicating how the line will fill out with tools to manage virtual servers, extend configuration management capabilities, and help smaller companies manage their IT assets. One of those, Configuration Manager 2007, the successor to the Systems Management Server line, will be released in the second half of this year, bringing with it new capabilities to understand optimal system configurations and notify IT workers when those configurations have changed.
Systems Center Data Protection Manager 2007, data backup for Microsoft apps, and Virtual Machine Manager 2007, will enter their second beta testing stages within a month. Microsoft's Service Manager app that contains help desk, inventory and change management elements will go into beta in the next 45 days.
Microsoft still has a ways to go to make its systems fully self-healing and self managing, but products like Operations Manager 2007 and the others in its System Center line and the adotoption of Service Modeling Language push it down that path.