Management, Deployment Ease is Key to BackOffice 4.5

Adding the long-awaited Systems Management Server 2.0 (SMS) and a new version of SQL Server, Microsoft Corp. announced that version 4.5 of its BackOffice Suite is in the second phase of beta testing.

"The most important change is the suite-level deployment and management products we’ve added," says Kevin Breunig, group product manager for BackOffice Server at Microsoft. "We’ve moved from a product that was bundled for licensing to a more integrated package."

Microsoft says the new version of the suite eases configuration by detecting a network’s current configuration, recommending the appropriate component and service pack upgrades and defaulting many common parameters. These features combine to reduce setup time and complexity.

Microsoft added management consoles to the suite as well. Based on Microsoft Management Console, the new BackOffice Server Manager provides a single point of administration for common suite-level tasks. The Server Manager features consoles for helpdesk technicians, Web administrators, branch administrators and central IT administrators.

Intranet Starter Site, a tool to help customers rollout and manage a Windows DNA architecture, is in the shrink-wrapped suite. The starter kit contains application server components, including Web, e-mail, collaboration, database and search servers. Services for host integration, Internet access and desktop management are included as well.

Components were added to build solutions for Office 2000, due out in the first quarter of this year. Among these are the OLAP server in SQL Server 7.0 that integrates with Excel, Exchange Server and Outlook 2000.

Reusable setup scripts and a branch office setup scenario ease deployment. Reusable scripts enable unattended setup scripts to be generated automatically once a standard server configuration has been established. The branch office setup scenario determines the proper setting for remote locations, such as joining an existing Exchange Server site and setting up a secondary SMS site.

"This beta is pretty feature complete," Breunig says. "Between beta 2 and the final version, the only thing that will be added is a new deployment wizard. We are working on it, but customers will have to wait for the shipping version."

The BackOffice Server deployment wizard will allow systems managers to replicate a single server script across hundreds of servers, automatically updating machine names and settings as needed.

Although Breunig would not commit on specific dates, he said the suite will ship in the second quarter of this year. Microsoft also opened its Small Business Server 4.5 to beta testing, and the final version will ship simultaneously with BackOffice 4.5.

"Releasing them in the same timeframe will create an easy upgrade path for users that have outgrown Small Business Server," Breunig says.