The competitive strategy behind the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) is to capture both IT skill and knowledge and make them available within Microsoft s products, so it s interesting to examine the management product lineup with that in mind. Today, the System Center family includes Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005, Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), and Data Protection Manager (DPM). Here s the road map for the upcoming and existing management products and forthcoming versions of the existing products.

Capacity Planner
Microsoft recently released System Center Capacity Planner 2006, which lets you determine sizing for Exchange Server and MOM deployments. In addition, Capacity Planner helps you assess architectural choices for future deployments, perform what-if analysis, model performance of current deployments, find future bottlenecks, predict user experience, understand the impact of changes, and optimize your upgrade path.

In a briefing on System Center, Director of Product Management Eric Berg told me this release of Capacity Planner is a first deliverable on a more powerful long-term technology using the value of underlying modeling to address MOM 2005 and Exchange. Longer term, we'll generalize the technology so you can create models for various applications and do planning and what-if analysis on more than Exchange and MOM.

Reporting Manager
System Center Reporting Manager 2006 is for enabling better business decision-making. It integrates data from MOM, SMS, and Active Directory (AD) and includes extensible schema. This offline data warehouse provides consolidated views of multi-site hierarchies and streamlined query and report creation, as well as data consolidation across multiple management groups.

System Center Essentials
This product will soon be in public beta and is slated to ship in the first half of 2007. Berg said, The midmarket wanted us to integrate SMS and MOM capability into one console. System Center Essentials brings together software distribution and core monitoring capability in one infrastructure with one easy-to-use UI. The functionality is a subset of the enterprise tools features.. Longer term, System Center Essentials will be a standalone product, as well as part of the new midmarket server codenamed Centro. System Center Essentials technologies will also be used for Small Business Server (SBS).

Data Protection Manager
The current version of Data Protection Manager (DPM) is a file protection and recovery tool. In 2007 and beyond, DPM will back up and restore other applications and add capabilities that include integration with Storage Area Network (SAN) environments, high availability, and increased scalability. Berg said, We see a lot of traction today in the enterprise, but more in the branch office setting with file and print protection. DPM will penetrate the datacenter with the next release.

SMS 2003 R2 and Version 4
SMS 2003 R2 will be released free of charge to Software Assurance (SA) customers in the first half of this year. New or existing customers who aren't part of the SA program will be able to obtain SMS 2003 R2 with a new license purchase. Berg told me, We re extending SMS in enterprise vulnerability assessment and providing one central place for enterprise customers to deliver all their third-party software extensions. Third-party ISVs will be able to package their software in a format so that enterprise customers have one central source for deploying all software updates. Today, you have one pipe through which you can update your entire stack hardware, the Microsoft OS, Microsoft software, and third-party software. Thinking back to DSI and how we re unifying and making management more automated top to bottom and thinking about the entire stack, SMS 2003 R2 is a perfect example of where we re going.

Director of Product Management Felicity McGourty added, SMS 2003 R2 promises to improve client security and simplify the distribution of updates for line of business (LOB) and third-party software applications. SMS 2003 R2 includes a new Inventory Tool for Custom Updates (ITCU). According to McGourty, ITCU lets third parties (including ISVs) and customers create and publish a catalog containing updates using the same schema and format as for Microsoft updates. SMS 2003 R2 can now scan these catalogs, saving administrators time and effort for deploying updates to third-party and custom applications.

In addition, SMS 2003 R2 includes Scan Tool for Vulnerability Assessment (STVA). McGourty said, STVA scans around 100 configuration settings for identifying potential vulnerabilities, reporting on settings that are out of compliance with internal configuration policies.

In connection with SMS 2003 R2, McGourty announced a special offer: To ease the transition from SMS 2.0 to SMS 2003, we are offering a 30 percent discount starting in April on all SMS Server licenses and SMS Configuration Management Licenses (CMLs) obtained with Software Assurance. The is-count promotion will be available to any new or existing customers purchasing SMS 2003 licenses.

The next major release of SMS, code-named SMS Version 4, is planned for release in the first half of 2007. Eric explained, We re doing a lot to improve and unify OS deployment, taking the technology that we had in Windows Automated Deployment Services and integrating some of that capability for a unified OS deployment experience in Windows Vista and Office 2007.

In addition, Berg continued, We re further simplifying the UI and the experience with managing SMS. This is a big introduction of the System Definition Model (SDM) into this desired configuration management capability. The best example of this for SMS is desktop configuration. Some companies want all desk-tops to have a certain configuration and want SMS to monitor it and inform the administrator if it drifts out of compliance. SMS can either notify the administrator or automatically return to the desired configuration. Again, we re taking the richness of software models and the knowledge about where you want that system to be and letting the tools do the automation around that knowledge.

MOM Version 3
Further down the road is MOM Version 3. Berg explained, We'll take MOM from being a device-management technology to being a true service-oriented management technology. We are completely replacing the schema with the SDM so that you can model complete distributed applications. The view from the MOM console will not be all the servers in the rack but will show the finance application or Exchange. MOM will model all the dependencies, so when a problem comes up in a front-end Web server of your HR application, you know if it will impact your entire application and you can start to monitor service level agreements (SLAs) around a whole application, not just an individual component.