Microsoft Management Summit 2007 is taking place this week, and during the event, Microsoft will lay out its plans for the busiest year ever with regards to the company's management products. If you're familiar with the current lineup, which includes such products as Systems Management Server (SMS) and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), be prepared for some name changes: All of Microsoft's management products are being rebranded under the System Center moniker. But these new products aren't just about rebranding. This year, we're going to see some major changes.

First, about those name changes. MOM is being renamed System Center Operations Manager and SMS is being renamed to System Center Configuration Manager. Microsoft says the name changes are all about keeping these interrelated solutions in the same product family, so that customers can quickly and easily understand that they integrate. Too, the new name for SMS--System Center Configuration Manager--is more descriptive: This product is about configuration management, and the new name reflects that.

OK, let's get a bit specific, though it's a big list. Here are some of the product announcements Microsoft will make at the show this week:

System Center Operations Manager 2007. Operations Manager will provide proactive monitoring of your IT services, including distributed applications, applications, servers, and clients. Like so many Microsoft servers these days, it will be roles-based, especially with regards to security, and self-monitoring. The new Operations Manager management console uses a now-familiar Microsoft Outlook-like design and integrates with Microsoft's best-practices data so that you don't get just alerts for problems, but also receive information about fixing those problems, right from the console. This product will be finalized in April and shipped to customers soon thereafter.

System Center Configuration Manager 2007. One big focus is getting all those management packs into the core product while using the new task-based Microsoft Management Console (MMC) 3.0 management interface. Like its predecessor, Configuration Manager 2007 is designed for deploying client software and security updates, and change and configuration management; Beta 2 was released in February. This product will be finalized in late summer.

System Center Data Protection Manager 2.0. The current version of the Data Protection Manager disk-based backup solution is targeted at file servers only, but the upcoming version, (2.0) reaches a much broader audience. It will work with both disk and tape storage devices and will back up Exchange Server 2007 and Exchange Server 2003, SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2000, and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Microsoft Office SharePpoint Server 2007, in addition to Windows Server 2003 and Longhorn Server file servers and Windows Vista and Windows X-based file shares. But the big news is that Data Protection Manager 2.0 will also back up Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2-based virtual servers as well. Beta 2 is expected publicly in April with the final release expected in late summer.

System Center Essentials. This new tool, aimed at mid-sized businesses and also expected in "Centro" Medium Business Server and the next version of Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS), provides a unified console for proactively managing servers, clients, hardware, software, and IT services, while being aimed at the IT generalists who typically work in this market. It's designed for businesses with as many as 30 servers and 500 clients and includes a simple, Outlook-like management console. System Center Essentials recently shipped in release candidate (RC) form. The final version is expected in the next quarter.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager. When you consider the suddenly burgeoning family of Microsoft virtualization products--which includes such things as Virtual Server, Virtual PC, SoftGrid, presentation virtualization in "Longhorn" Terminal Services, and the upcoming Windows Server Virtualization (Hypervisor) add-on for Longhorn Server, it makes sense that Microsoft would finally turn its attention to managing virtual machines (VMs). Virtual Machine Manager will help an organization manage its datacenter-based virtual assets from a central location and include VM provisioning, resource optimization, physical-to-virtual (P2V) conversion functionality, all via a MOM/Configuration Manager-type UI with PowerShell-based scripting capabilities. This product will also be finalized in late summer.

System Center Service Desk. A new product aimed at the service desk, Service Desk (not the final name) will provide tools for managing incidents, changes and provisioning, assets, service requests, and internal knowledge bases. It will include a number of report types and progress-tracking tools and integrate with other System Center products. (For example, you can automatically create and escalate incident reports in Service Desk that are based on services monitored by Operations Manager 2007.) This product will hit public beta in April and be finalized in the first half of 2008.

Oh, and ... Public Beta of Office Communications Server 2007 Is Now Available
Finally, I wrote about Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 last week and noted that I'd provide an update when the public beta was available. Well, it is. Head over to the Microsoft Web site to find out more and grab the beta. http://www.microsoft.com/uc