In my last commentary, I wrote about Microsoft's recently revealed long-term enterprise management strategy. At the Microsoft Management Summit, Microsoft made numerous key announcements related to tools dedicated to application and system management for enterprises of all sizes. Microsoft addressed the following significant topics:

Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) is receiving great initial support throughout the industry. DSI's intent is to provide simplicity, automation, and flexibility to IT operations. Its mission is to unify hardware, software, and service vendors around common software architectures. DSI will provide the plumbing for a unified management architecture and is backed industrywide and supported by a number of successful companies in the system management space. DSI is similar to Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative, which, at the Microsoft executive level, attempts to improve customers' experience in the areas of security, privacy, reliability, and business integrity. DSI's mission is to figure out how to unify the vision of managing enterprise environments.

Frank Artale, president and CEO of Consera Software, one of Microsoft's key DSI partners, summed it up by saying, "The ability to manage a truly dynamic system begins with strong software architecture. Microsoft is taking a leadership position with Dynamic Systems Initiative, enabling ISVs--Independent Software Vendors--to create products that support the architecture. Beginning with Automated Deployment Services, Consera and other leaders in enterprise management tools are leveraging this infrastructure to help customers better manage these sophisticated and complex environments."

The System Definition Model (SDM) is an XML-based blueprint that captures and unifies the operational requirements of applications and their dependencies and integration points. SDM is exciting in that it will define an explicit contract between development, deployment, and operations across the IT life cycle. Applications will describe themselves at the SDM level. SDM is an important enterprise component that will effectively virtualize a distributed system, making it easier to manage and deploy.

Automated Deployment Services (ADS) beta 1 is an administration tool that reduces server-provisioning complexity. ADS uses a subset of SDM specifically for server provisioning. ADS can automatically deploy hundreds of highly customized Windows Server system images across the environment in minutes, instead of days or weeks as is currently required.

Microsoft System Center is the future solution to provide complete application and system management capabilities for any size of enterprise. The first version of System Center will be a product suite, which comprises Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2004 and Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003. The suite will eventually evolve into an integrated solution that builds on all aspects of the DSI, including the new SDM-based architecture.

MOM 2004, the next version of the event- and performance-management solution for Windows-based servers and applications, will enhance the existing MOM solution in many areas. New features include auto-alert resolution, state monitoring, topological views, an intuitive task-based operator console, broader management pack support, and enhanced reporting capability.

Since writing my last commentary, I talked with Bob Pulliam, Microsoft product manager and technology evangelist in the Enterprise Management Division, about the impact of Microsoft's product plans on the future of Microsoft Application Center2000. Application Center 2000 is a deployment and management tool for Web-based applications. It reduces the complexity of managing Web-based applications by facilitating management of the Web applications on an entire Web farm from one console. Microsoft's product announcements make it hard to speculate where Application Center 2000 fits in the mix, if at all. Pulliam said, "Application Center plays a key role in the management of today's Web applications. As Web applications and our Web infrastructure develop, the platform itself will assume the task of simplifying the deployment and scaling of these applications."

Ultimately, Application Center 2000 will become obsolete because its functionality will integrate into System Center and other applications. But such action is 4 to 5 years in the future--in the "Blackcomb" (the next version of Windows Server) timeframe. For now, Application Center 2000 will go into maintenance mode. Application Center Service Pack 2 (SP2) is shipping in the next 90 days and features fully integrated support for Windows .NET assemblies, IIS 6.0, and Windows Server 2003.