Microsoft Enlists Channel Help For Server, Desktop Management

Microsoft highlighted two new server and desktop management platforms at IT Forum in Copenhagen Tuesday but emphasized the delivery of the first public beta of Windows Update Services and new

November 17, 2004

5 Min Read
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As it strives to improve its reputation in the server and desktop management arena, Microsoft on Tuesday announced worldwide availability of Virtual Server 2005 and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005, as well as the first public beta of Windows Update Services.

These were a few of the management offerings, resources and tools debuted by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates at the IT Forum conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, as the company faces increasing pressure to help customers and their solution advisers get more from their desktop and server software.

While Virtual Server 2005 and MOM 2005 were launched late in the summer, Microsoft used the forum to highlight new tools, feature packs and resources for those platforms designed for customers and partners.

Gates, for example, announced the availability of the Virtual Server 2005 migration toolkit to aid in the migration of operating systems and applications from a physical server to a virtual server.

Microsoft also launched two Systems Management Server 2003 feature packs designed to automate the deployment of updates and patches to mobile devices and operating system images to desktops. The SMS 2003 Device Management Feature Pack and the enhanced SMS 2003 Operating System Deployment Feature Pack are available now.The company also announced a Solution Accelerator for Business Desktop Deployment, which promises to reduce the cost of a Windows XP and Office 2003 deployment to less than $100 per desktop.

"The push at the desktop is in alignment with what IT directors have stated they will have budgeted for next year. The tools provided by Microsoft, including Update Service, should be considered by anyone deploying Microsoft technologies," said Paul Freeman, president of Coast Solutions Group, an Irvine, Calif., technology services provider and distributor. "Virtual Server and MOM 2005 will play less in the desktop environment and more in the server space, but for someone standardized on a Microsoft platform, these both should be considered as a tool that can help drive down the TCO for Windows servers and overall IT administration."

Microsoft has been working for several years on reducing the cost and complexity of managing Windows server environments and more recently has pushed desktop deployments as security problems surfaced and customers dragged their feet on deploying new software.

Microsoft recently held an airlift for partners designed to educate them about the tools and accelerators to improve customer management and deployment plans. For instance, the Redmond, Wash., vendor also launched this week TechNet Plus 2.0, which offers subscribers access to evaluation software without time limits, and professional technical support to help IT professionals--or solution providers--resolve mission-critical issues at customer sites.

Observers note that the company is reaching out more vigorously to partners to prove its ROI and TCO stories on both the desktop and server to fend off Linux and grow its platform business, especially as Microsoft ends tech support for NT at the close of this year."Microsoft is in a fierce battle with Unix and Linux and they're trying to make management a factor that favors Window," said Peter Pawlak, a senior analyst for server applications at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., newsletter. "Microsoft is out to make the Windows platform the best managed server out there and get customers to upgrade their desktops. They've been harping on this message for two years but they need a broader group of partners to deliver it and they needed better tools and guidance."

He said the updated desktop deployment accelerator, in both standard and zero-touch enterprise editions, are good examples of Microsoft providing better solutions to significant management issues. "The stars are coming into alignment," Pawlak said.

Microsoft's resellers and licensing specialists said Microsoft is working harder with channel partners to prove the value of its software in measurable ways and increase deployments.

"We're seeing an interest in deployment services and are engaging with the Microsoft field on deployment opportunities," said Harry Zoberman, senior vice president of marketing and operations at ASAP Software, a Microsoft software reseller and licensing services specialist. "That's a difference between now and nine months ago."

In addition to its migration kit for Virtual Server 2005, Microsoft announced a series of promotions and availability of NetWare migration tools, prescriptive guidance, training and technical support for customers that migrate from NetWare to Windows Server 2003. Novell is encouraging its declining NetWare base to migrate to its Suse Linux platform.With this promotion, NetWare customers in the United States that make the decision to migrate to Windows Server 2003 can take advantage of a $600 partner services subsidy for each Windows Server 2003 license and 50 Client Access Licenses purchased, up to a maximum of 25 subsidies per customer, a value of as much as $15,000, Microsoft said.

Microsoft also announced this week a partnership with Dell to enable standards-based end-to-end unified management solutions that span software and hardware and offer unified management interfaces.

As part of that, Microsoft and Dell unveiled a plan to integrate Dell's firmware and BIOS with SMS 2003. The companies announced the SMS 2003 Inventory Tool For Dell Updates, a one-click deployment tool that gives administrators and solution providers an easier method for quickly deploying software updates, operating systems and other applications across Dell PowerEdge server platforms

Additionally, Microsoft promises to enable easier application development and management by integrating into its next generation of Visual Studio 2005 next year its long-promised modeling schema called System Definition Model (SDM).

SDM-enabled applications developed using Visual Studio, for example, will give developers a better method for modeling information flow between applications and managing them across Microsoft's existing and future management products including the System Center, which is due in 2005.Microsoft has embarked upon a number of initiatives designed to improve the use of software in the data center, enterprise and at SMB sites, including its Dynamic Systems Initiative Trustworthy Computing and Common Engineering Criteria plan, announced last May.

The criteria is a method of providing an integrated Windows Server System infrastructure for IT operations, applications development and integration. See CRN Report The CEC report published this week details Virtual Server 2005 and MOM 2005 CEC implementation.

Partners said managing desktops, updates and patches has been difficult for customers, and Microsoft's increased focus on desktop and server management is more important than futuristic product plans.

For instance, Microsoft only this week announced the first public beta of Windows Update Services, an update service for the Windows Server 2003 originally scheduled to be available during the first half of 2004.

"Those are all building blocks," said Mark Bakken, CEO of Bedrock Consulting, Neenah, Wisc. "We use all of those things to optimize and consolidate platforms and [Windows Update Services] to take management to the next level."0

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