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Last week Microsoft hosted the "Best of Microsoft Management summit 2005" at its UK headquarters in Thames Valley Park, marking the first time it has run such an event in the UK.

And very good it was too, with authoritative speakers from the US: Kirill Tatarinov, corporate VP of Microsoft's Windows and Enterprise Management Division, leading development and marketing for Microsoft's management technologies; Michael Emanuel, director, product management for Windows and Enterprise Management; Bill Anderson - lead program manager for the next version but one of Systems Management Server (SMS); and Vlad Joanovic, program manager on the next version of Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM). This was the biggest event Microsoft has hosted at Reading to date and we look forward to more such.

The event was very necessary too, as management of Microsoft systems - once you scale up above departmental level - is still perceived as an issue. Perhaps this should change – Bill Anderson claims that he knows of more users in 100k-plus user sites managed by Microsoft technology than some, allegedly more scalable, solutions have users in total. But enterprise systems managers are cautious and have long memories: for example, Microsoft's Active directory was certainly less manageable than Novell's eDirectory when it was introduced.

So, to some extent Microsoft is playing catch-up with management tool vendors such as BMC (Patrol) and HP (OpenView). It seems to be concentrating on manageability from the ground up rather than from Business Service Management (BSM) downwards.

Microsoft supports the IT Infrastructure Library - (ITIL) for operations “best practice” at last, but it doesn't have a federated, distributed CMDB (Configuration Management Database, a key foundation of ITIL) product yet - in contrast with BMC and Managed Objects, for instance. And of course, the basic concept, of a database of operational systems metadata, has been around since the heyday of the mainframe.

Design of De Times

According to Tatarinov, Microsoft sees itself as adding the “how” to the “what” ITIL prescribes – and, of course, it expects the ITIL community to adopt Microsoft extensions. That is perhaps a little less arrogant than it might once have been once - Emmanuel demonstrated a real understanding of this space when he pointed out that ITIL is about best practice for cost-effective operational management of IT systems but that most of the operational cost has already been locked in by the systems design.

So, you need to design systems for operational managemen and design them to facilitate use of ITIL best practices. The idea of designing and building complete operational business systems - not simply tossing a program over the wall to the business - isn't particularly new, either. But it is a very important idea, not often implemented – and Microsoft is well-placed to encourage it.

Microsoft's approach is built on its Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), which is about modelling the complete IT lifecycle and applying end-to-end, standards-based, policy-based management to it.

In practice this means developing Microsoft's System Definition Model (SDM); and promoting the ws-Management standard through the DMTF (), which Tatarinov claims will bring management tool interoperability. (Up to a point, Lord Copper: only freely-available, independent interoperability testing facilities bring true interoperability).

Expect to see "common engineering criteria” management features (such as health indicators and critical alerts) across the Microsoft product range. And, there's a new maturity in Microsoft's product release strategy, with “major releases” (which change the kernel of the product, or Windows) only every four years, and “minor releases” (which should need less testing) every two years – this will make it much easier for Enterprise customers to manage their environment.

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