Late one night, you're busy channel surfing when your beeper goes off. The message says, "Error in payroll system--intervention required." Calmly, you press a button on your remote control and instantly access a Web browser from your TV so that you can log on to your home site--your company's NT network. You lean back in your recliner and notice a red flashing alert next to the Payroll icon in the departmental view of your management console. You follow the links and discover a hub port is exhibiting high utilization levels and may be causing network bandwidth problems. You disable the offending port, log your action in the Web-based Help desk system, and all is well. You reward yourself with another bag of chips and continue channel surfing--another problem solved by Super Administrator.
Sound impossible? You won't think so if you check out http://wbem.freerange.com and try the Java version of the demo you find there (if you don't have your browser's security set on, the ActiveX version will try to protect you, and you'll have to press OK multiple times). This demo is a prototype of Microsoft's new Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) technology, which the major systems- and network-management vendors have endorsed.
Microsoft is planning to use WBEM as part of its overall move to reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for enterprise computing. For Microsoft product managers, TCO has become as high a priority as the Internet. Currently, the TCO technologies include the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), Systems Management Server (SMS), Directory Service Administration, Windows Host Scripting, Web Administration for NT, WBEM, and Zero Administration for Windows (ZAW). We will be covering each of these technologies in future issues of Windows NT Magazine; for more information now, point your browser to http://www.microsoft.com/management. (For an overview of some of today's systems management products, see this month's Lab Reports, starting on page 62.)
Currently, software vendors that provide Web-enabled management software are forging a new trail, having only HTTP to work with. WBEM integrates Desktop Management Interface (DMI), proprietary HTTP-based and other instrumentation mechanisms, and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) into an architecture that you can manage with any Web browser. Systems and network management vendors will use this architecture in the form of a software development kit (SDK), to develop WBEM-compliant software that will gather and present management information.
When will we see WBEM-based software? The WBEM proposal has been presented to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and the standards are under discussion. The WBEM SDK is being targeted for late 1997. If the proposal can be moved forward, WBEM will be a part of SMS and the new Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) technology scheduled for Windows NT 5.0, and will be a part of your future.
Getting Started Today
Today, you can download the Web Administration utility for NT Server (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/common/a467.htm) and use your Web browser to perform account, share, session, server, and printer management. This utility requires Internet Information Server (IIS) 2.0 and can't do file system- or application- specific (e.g., SQL Server) administration. Nor does the utility provide dynamic HTML, so you have to reload Web pages manually. Even so, this utility gives you some useful functionality and a glimpse of the future--where you will be able to administer your NT systems from a Web browser, anywhere, anytime.
Something else you can do today to prepare for WBEM is to learn IIS. Unless you want to eliminate all Web-based administration features, IIS will become a requirement of the NT Server environment. Plan to run IIS as part of your NT infrastructure, even if you don't use it for anything but administration. When talking about most future management features, including Web-based Administration and Directory Service Web Browser, Microsoft will assume that IIS is installed.
Maybe NT 5.0 will come with a discount coupon for an administrators toolkit that includes the Microsoft Entertainment Center®, TV Explorer®, a remote control, and the Microsoft Recliner®. Soon you'll be saying, "Can you get me another beer, honey? I've got some serious systems management to do."
P.S. I'd like to hear your opinions on Web-based administration. Drop me an email at email@example.com.
Mark Smith, Editorial Director