For managing its upcoming Windows 2003 Server, Microsoft plans to release System Center, a suite that will combine Systems Management Server (SMS) and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM). Several years from now, though, SMS and MOM will both be history. As Microsoft adopts a new "self-healing" architecture, administration and monitoring tools will instead gradually be integrated into the OS, application servers, and applications. Applications will become "operationally aware and able to take part in their own management," as one Microsoft official puts it.
Don't hold your breath, though. The complete implementation of Microsoft's plan for a new systems architecture -- unveiled last week at the Microsoft Management Summit -- will take a good five to ten years, according to Michael Emanuel, a product manager at Microsoft. When the plan reaches full fruition, outside management tools -- including SMS and MOM -- will supposedly become unnecessary.
Applications might even become manageable "independent of Windows," Emanuel said. For that to happen, however, Microsoft must first succeed in convincing other OS makers to adopt elements of its architecture.
A Long Road Ahead...
Other observers also foresee a long road ahead. "It's a complicated process, involving many different players, and I think it will take about ten years to get there. Until then, there's still a lot of serious blocking and tackling to be done," states Steve Larsen, CEO of BigFix, one of Microsoft's third-party partners on the security and management side.
"Microsoft is going to have to completely 'do over' the Windows code," criticizes Ed Brill, senior manager of messaging and collaboration for IBM's Lotus Software.
...But Microsoft Has a Roadmap in Place
Microsoft, though, has already sketched out a roadmap. Windows' revamped, XML-based architecture will float an alphabet soup of new acronyms: DSI (Dynamic System Initiative), SDM (System Definition Model), ADS (Automated Deployment Services), and Windows System Resource Manager (WSRM).
ADS is a new server provisioning and administration tool that is already in beta with early customers like Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, Cable and Wireless PLC, and Rackspace Managed Hosting. Broader availability is eyed for the second quarter.
Windows Server 2003 will provide initial OS support for ADS; the SDM object model; WSRM, a dynamic system resource management tool; and Virtual Server, a tool based on virtual machine technology purchased from Connectix. Other enhancements in Windows 2003 will include network load balancing and Windows server clustering.
The overriding DSI model, however, centers most directly on SDM, an XML-based blueprint for capturing operational needs of applications and then bringing those requirements together with data center policies. On the application development side, Microsoft will start to support DSI in the next edition of its Visual Studio developer toolset.
"For the Microsoft object model to become very widespread, Microsoft must collect the members of its developer community and get them working on it," suggests Dr. Ram Chillarege, president of Chillarege Research and former head of IBM's Center for Software Engineering.
Full DSI Implementation Awaits Post-Blackcomb Release
Microsoft anticipates taking further steps toward DSI with Longhorn, the follow-on to Windows XP, and after that with Blackcomb, the successor to Windows Server 2003. Blackcomb is widely expected to ship in the 2006 to 2007 time frame.
The DSI model won't be fully implemented, though, until "the release of Windows Server after Blackcomb," acknowledges Emanuel.
By then, MOM and SMS infrastructural underpinnings will have faded out of the Windows picture. This means SMS agents, login points, client access points, and distribution points, as well as MOM aggregation points and management points, he says.
Microsoft's current Application Center, an application server for configuration management, will pass away even sooner than that, with the release of Blackcomb.
Emanuel adds that Microsoft has no plans to discontinue any of its other app servers. Meanwhile, despite the imminent release of Microsoft System Center, MOM and SMS will continue on as distinct entities for some time to come.