Microsoft Pushes Big Toe into Enterprise Storage

Redmond is making new forays into the enterprise with iSCSI and other technologies, writes Storage Supersite Editor David Morgenstern. Might it take a page from its successful Mac application efforts?

With the eyes of the computer industry focused on Intels latest microprocessor, up north in Redmond, Microsoft on Wednesday made several announcements about enterprise storage. As mentioned by my colleague Mary Jo Foley on Microsoft Watch, the companys latest developments involve Windows support for standards and a reorganization that moves Redmonds systems-management products under the companys enterprise-storage unit.

Following the ratification of the Internet SCSI standard by the Internet Engineering Task Force, the industry has waited on Microsoft for support. In an announcement, the company said an iSCSI driver will be available in June for Windows 2000 client and server, Windows XP client and the forthcoming Windows Server 2003 platforms.

According to the company, more than 60 vendors have signed up for iSCSI products, and Microsoft will launch a qualification process in June after the release of the driverware. And future hardware purchasers can look forward to the "iSCSI Designed for Windows Logo Program," which will "ensure optimal reliability and interoperability with Microsoft Windows products.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also shook up its Management Business Group, renaming it the Enterprise Management Division. In a statement, vice president Kirill Tatarinov said three product lines have come to roost in the division: Application Center deployment and management tool, Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) server-management software, and Systems Management Server (SMS) deployment and diagnostic maintenance tools for Windows.

To Microsofts thinking, IT managers are "forced" to purchase third-party management products because "the majority of the systems and applications are not properly instrumented and managed out of the box. Tatarinov said the forthcoming Microsoft architecture include a comprehensive management infrastructure and the company will deliver a "comprehensive enterprise management system to take advantage of this built-in manageability and to provide a complete end-to-end management solution for complex enterprises."

On the cusp of next weeks Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas, the company is making an effort to show that its server management tools are out from under the rest of the Windows development. And the new Divisions holdings model in many ways other management packages on the market.

Of course, we all have to wonder if corporate customers will buy the thesis that the Enterprise Management Division will be any less Windows-centric than it was in the past in its Management Business Group incarnation.

Perhaps Microsofts experience in the Mac market may shed some light on this current question.

In 1997, after a series of disastrous ports of Windows versions of Office, Microsoft founded a separate business unit for the Mac platform. The unit relocated southwards to the Silicon Valley and hired a bunch of Apple veterans. It charged them to develop Mac-centric versions. And they did.

The later Mac versions of Office and other programs were worthy Mac programs that took advantage of the alternate operating systems technologies and interface. Mac users have acknowledged them as essential pieces of their everyday workflow, for their functionality, not because of their compatibility with the predominant Microsoft culture.

On the other hand, perhaps the Mac experiment will be the exception that proves the rule. The new enterprise organization may have great difficulty shaking a Windows-centric focus.

For Microsoft, the Mac market is a small market, a backwater. Contrast that with enterprise computing—one of Microsofts last unconquered territories. And despite any name change for the Division, or Group, or whatever, Microsoft is determined to make sure that the future of enterprise computing sports a Windows logo.

David Morgenstern is a longtime reporter of the storage industry as well as a veteran of the dotcom boom in the storage-rich fields of professional content creation and digital video.