Microsoft will dramatically improve the management of Windows machines with the Microsoft Management Console (MMC, code named Slate) due for release with the next major version of Windows NT. This console­which also runs under NT 4.0 and Windows 95­will provide a centralized, consistent, and extensible interface to Windows monitoring and management utilities. In particular, MMC will manage directory services, job scheduling, event logging, performance monitoring, and user environments.

You can visualize MMC best as a multiple-document interface (MDI)-based version of Internet Explorer (IE) in which each child window is a snap-in. A collection of snap-ins is a tool.

Each snap-in can present information in a result pane in default ListView, OCX, or Web view; a TreeView­or scope pane­is optional. Administrators create tools from snap-ins to build customizable views that are oriented toward and integrated into specific tasks. Because each tool requires its own MMC instance, a user will often run several copies of the MMC at the same time.

MMC doesn't provide management behavior. Instead, it provides a common hosting environment for snap-ins, each of which is implemented as an Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) in-process server and hooked to MMC through several new OLE interfaces: Developers work directly with the snap-in Manager and two included snap-ins, Router Monitor and Event Viewer. MMC also hosts ActiveX scripting and lets you launch and chain wizards through a new usability enhancement, called taskpads (or "Getting Started" pages).

You can create tools and save them in custom configurations in a Management Saved Console (.msc) file for later use or share them (even via email). If you don't have the snap-ins needed for an .msc file that you've received, MMC will automatically download all the needed snap-ins for you, which simplifies the setup and sharing of management tools. Because you can use these tools over the Internet, you can set up a Web page that shows the status of all your corporate servers from anywhere in the world. You can also combine snap-ins and give someone access to specific management tools without giving away all your management secrets.

If you're a software developer, your job will be easier. Users have one location where they find the tools they need to manage software packages. This capability reduces support costs. You don't need to reinvent the wheel to create tools to monitor and configure your application or service. This ability can reduce development costs. Users can take the management tools (snap-ins) you develop and combine them with other snap-ins to make better tools.

Using MMC to manage and monitor resources is as easy as using Windows NT Explorer to manage your files. MMC looks a lot like Explorer, with a treelike structure on the left side and a detailed list on the right, as you see in Screen A. In MMC, the listings represent the system services that are currently running. Notice that the services are sorted by Status. You can click a column heading to sort the listing, or right-click a service to stop or start it via the familiar pop-up menu.

Screen B shows Sysmon, formerly Perfmon. We added Sysmon as a snap-in under the Console Root, selected Sysmon, right-clicked over the empty graph, and added the processor time to the graph to show system performance. We can now save the tool set to a .msc file and email it to someone who can use it to look at the system performance (if they are connected to the system and have access).

You can configure MMC to look at the Services on all the machines in your network, and then save those results to a file. You can email the configuration file to someone who can manage the services running on all the machines in your network.

MMC will also implement a new system-level mechanism for providing the information utilities (such as Sysmon) that you need for capacity-based planning. This new system, the Windows Management Infrastructure (WMI), will provide a single instrumentation model that you can implement remotely over HTTP.

Today, NT uses a combination of PerfLib and the Win32 system Registry. Although the NT Registry is secure and you can use it remotely via standard remote procedure call (RPC), Microsoft designed it for more static use. And although NT's PerfLib has a low overhead and is also RPC-remotable, it is read-only and difficult to work with. Win95 also uses the Registry, but with a different architecture. Win95's Desktop Management Registry (DMReg) is built on the Registry APIs but uses a Virtual Device Driver (VxD), offers limited event support, and does not meet NT's requirements for security, performance, and system integrity.

Microsoft will use MMC for many of its technologies, including Sysmon, and for the administration utility for Microsoft Transaction Server (code-named Viper). Eventually, Microsoft will integrate all NT administrative tool applets into a collection of saved MMC tools: These applets will then support remote administration. Microsoft also plans to integrate the console into the Win32 software development kit (SDK) so that independent software vendors (ISVs) will be able to integrate their utilities into the console through defined OLE interfaces.

MMC will make managing your system or network easier by providing you with a common user interface for all your management tasks. You can combine configuration and monitoring tasks into one tool and share that tool with other people. And MMC will let you securely delegate tasks to others without compromising your security.