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Taming Windows

Almost two years after revealing a grand strategy for making Microsoft-based systems easier to manage, Microsoft last week made available a slate of products and disclosed new partnerships that should ease some of the biggest headaches businesses get from managing Windows.

Microsoft's new products should help IT managers as they migrate off Windows NT, patch Windows desktops, and manage their Windows servers and business applications, among other things. While the products are critical steps toward making Windows less costly to run, the company still faces hurdles, such as making Windows easier to run alongside Linux or Unix. "I'm skeptical that they will ever really pull off a true enterprise-management solution," says Mark Ehr, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates.

Microsoft's big-picture strategy--articulated by chairman Bill Gates as the Dynamic Systems Initiative--promises a departure from well-established systems-management platforms such as Computer Associates' Unicenter, Hewlett-Packard's OpenView, and IBM's Tivoli. Microsoft aims to build management tools directly into its underlying operating systems and applications, group product manager Eric Berg says.

Microsoft and Dell are partnering to simplify IT operations, says Dell CEO Kevin Rollins.

Microsoft and Dell are partnering to simplify IT operations, says Dell CEO Kevin Rollins.

Even more broadly, Dynamic Systems Initiative is Microsoft's grand plan for creating Windows data centers that adapt to changing workloads. Speaking at Microsoft's IT Forum in Denmark last week, Gates described the Dynamic Systems Initiative as a framework for connecting all IT activities and moving away from managing individual systems and manual activities. "To do this well, we need to bring in all the different parts of the IT life cycle, including developers, analysts, and operations people who need to be connected," Gates said. "To do this really well, it has to be built into the development and modeling tools."

That high-level strategy touched down last week with key products, including general availability of Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 and feature packs for its Systems Management Server 2003; availability of its previously announced Virtual Server 2005 and a migration toolkit to address the growing trend of server virtualization; and the second beta release of Windows Update Services to improve software deployment.

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