At Microsoft's TechEd conference in June, more than 400 breakout sessions were scheduled. I heard that Jeffrey Snover's talk, "Next-Generation Command Line Scripting: Monad," was among the five most highly rated sessions, and I can understand why: Monad is just cool.

Monad is the code name for the future Windows command shell, also known as Microsoft Shell, or MSH. Monad, which is built on the .NET framework as a fully object-oriented system, is currently in beta (and on the way to becoming the most popular beta download ever). The final release is scheduled for the Longhorn timeframe.

Jeffrey Snover is Monad's architect. When Jeffrey first told me about Monad back in early 2002, I was immediately reminded of the AS/400 Command Language. CL provides built-in administrative scripting capability that includes the capacity to build your own commands on the fly and incorporate them into your scripts. In his Windows Scripting Solutions article "Monad" (November 2004, InstantDoc ID 43995), Alex Angelopoulos writes, "The early MSH beta is strikingly superior to cmd.exe as a tool. MSH is a stream-oriented shell that draws its syntax and concepts from sources as diverse as Korn shell (ksh), the VMS Digital Command Language (DCL), and even SQL (for queries). Its provider framework extends the standard navigation commands for a file system to complex structures such as Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), Microsoft Active Directory Service Interfaces (ADSI), and the registry."

I can't do justice to Monad in a column this short. Fortunately, Jeffrey will present an extended version of his session in a TechEd Webcast: "Next Generation Command Line Scripting with Monad, Part 1 (http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032277850&Culture=en-US) and Part 2 (http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032277852&Culture=en-US). To find out what the community is saying about Monad, check out http://www.proudlyserving.com/, http://www.leeholmes.com/blog/, and http://blogs.msdn.com/arulk/. To get Monad, go to http://beta.microsoft.com (you'll need a Microsoft Passport account). Log on with guest ID mshPDC. Select Microsoft Command Shell, select Survey in the left column, and answer the questions. You'll have access within 48 hours.

Monad is the future, but you need solutions for today's challenges. That's why Senior Editor Karen Bemowski gives you some VBScript troubleshooting tips in our cover story, "When Good Scripts Go Bad," on page 38. Accompanying Karen's article is this month's IT Pro Hero story "Scripting NTBackup" on page 39. Bill Stewart shares a script that makes Windows Server 2003's native utility, NTBackup, easier to schedule.

Update on Data Protection Manager
I want to fill you in on the impact of your feedback to Microsoft about Data Protection Manager (DPM), the new disk-based backup product in the Windows Server System product family. In your responses to the survey for my Hey Microsoft! column "What's Data Protection Manager?" (March 2005, InstantDoc ID 45248), you told Microsoft loud and clear that a low price and simple licensing would be crucial factors in acceptance of this new product.

The price and licensing model have been announced, and the DPM team tells me it has listened to your input. The estimated retail price for DPM Server is $950, which includes a license to protect three servers. The straightforward licensing is modeled after Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 licensing, with a server component and an agent component.

In the same survey, you told Microsoft that you were skeptical that DPM would ship in 2005, as announced. When the company briefed me, they were eager to remind me of your concerns and proud to inform you that DPM will meet the projected schedule—the release to manufacturing (RTM) will occur in August. According to Microsoft, "More than 100,000 copies of the beta software have been distributed since it was made available on April 13, including nearly 50,000 downloads."

The survey also revealed that you want DPM to work with Microsoft Storage Server. Again, the DPM team acted on your request and enabled DPM to work on and to back up Storage Server machines.

Your Experiences
Monad and DPM are dissimilar products, but each comes from a team that listens to customers and takes feedback seriously. I recall Jeffrey as a pioneer in championing community involvement in product development, and the DPM team has gone out of its way to heed your advice about its product. But the proof of their commitment is in your experience with these technologies. Are you a beta tester of Monad or DPM? If so, let me know what you think about them, and I'll report your opinions in this column.