What's in Store for SMS?

Last yearwas quiet for Microsoft’s Systems Management Server (SMS), but 2001 could dealSMS users a shake-up or two.

Sinceshipping SMS 2.0 in late 1998, Microsoft has done little to augment the featureset of its flagship systems management product. According to Bill Anderson,product manager for Windows management technology at Microsoft, there's goodreason for this: Rather than adding new features, Microsoft chose toconcentrate on ensuring the trouble-free operation of SMS -- especially inenterprise sites of more than 50,000 users.

"SMS2.0 has been out on the market for about two years now, and it was incrediblypopular and a lot of people jumped on it very quickly," Anderson explains."But we also realized that some customers ran into issues with SMS becauseof its complexity. We had to work with those customers."

To addressthe problems of customers deploying SMS in installations of 50,000, 100,000, oreven 150,000 machines, Microsoft shipped Service Pack 2 (SP2) this past summer.

"Itwas a fit-and-finish Service Pack for SMS that incorporated quick fixes toknown problems as well as additional fixes that our larger customers discoveredin their more complex SMS roll outs," Anderson says. "Once wereleased SP2, we had a rock-solid, enterprise-ready product."

SP2 for SMS2.0 also brought full Windows 2000 support to SMS 2.0.

Only afterRedmond shipped SP2 did Microsoft begin to concentrate on the next version ofSMS, Anderson explains.

Keyfeatures of the next version include full integration with Active Directory,which Anderson says could facilitate a shift in the way that resources aremanaged in the enterprise.

"Wethink integrating SMS with Active Directory gets the best of both worlds andallows the customer to manage resources from a business point of view whilekeeping in mind that there are technology features underneath," Andersonexplains.

Andersonalso says that even though the next SMS will boast integration with ActiveDirectory, it will continue to leverage its own discrete SQL repository ratherthan dumping objects and data en masse into Active Directory.

Otherenhancements to the forthcoming SMS include beefed-up support for laptops andpossibly other portable devices.

"Wedid a really rich customer feedback on SMS, and we found that enterprises aremoving more toward a mobile laptop environment. The ability to manage thosedevices is becoming critical for business," Anderson says.

Expect thenext-generation SMS to facilitate automated software distribution, softwareinventorying, and other management tasks over a variety of WAN links and evenbroadband connections. Moreover, expect third-party partners such as MobileAutomation Inc. or Callisto Software Inc. to provide solutions that allow SMSto manage Internet appliances and other wireless devices.

Whether thenext version of SMS will be renamed in accordance with Microsoft's other .NETproducts, Microsoft has refused to comment. Anderson, however, did raise theprospect of SMS' being rebranded and combined with a new product that will bebased on the Operations Manager software Microsoft licensed from NetIQ inOctober.

NetIQ'sOperations Manager collects information from Windows NT/2000 event logs, SNMPtraps, and from other management repositories and presents it in asingle-console view that intuitively alerts administrators to potentialproblems.

"OperationsManager will not be shipping in SMS, it's a separate SKU. Maybe those twotogether will become Microsoft's management suite, because customers needboth," Anderson indicates. "We'll be releasing [a product based onOperations Manager] sometime in the next nine months or so, and we'll have aMicrosoft version out there for customers to start using that leverages WMI anduses SQL as a repository.”

Andersoncan't confirm whether or not the new SMS will debut within the 2001 timeframe,but he says users should certainly expect a new version of SMS within the next15 months.


Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., www.microsoft.com

NetIQ Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., www.netiq.com