Microsoft Eyes CMDB Field

The software maker unveils a new help desk offering and announces its participation in the Configuration Management Database Federation Working Group.

Microsoft will try to move from the kids table at the enterprise management feast to the grown-ups table when it launches the private beta of its new help desk offering and announces its participation in the Configuration Management Database Federation Working Group at the TechEd: IT Forum in Barcelona, Spain.

Microsofts new System Center help desk offering—code-named Service Desk and to be unveiled Nov. 14—includes a CMDB, signaling the software makers entry into an emerging market dominated by the Big Four enterprise management providers. In addition, Microsoft, backed by CMDBF Working Group members IBM and BMC Software, hopes to have the group adopt its SML (Service Model Language). SML provides a language for defining models of data center resources such as servers, networking gear and storage.

"Were entering the CMDB game ourselves," Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president of Microsofts Windows enterprise management division, said in an interview here. "This helps us integrate information from different places and connect information about elements and services from multiple vendors at the enterprise level. We are … in the enterprise [management] game with this."


Service Desk, which will enter public beta in late April or early May 2007, includes connectors that can receive information from non-Microsoft elements.

"Service Desk is an application thats not connected to one platform or operating system. We can bring information from devices, from CMDBs from other vendors and [from] information from existing management products," said Tatarinov.

That ability moves Microsoft beyond managing only its own products and into the heterogeneous management arena dominated by IBM, BMC, CA and Hewlett-Packard. Still, Service Desk wont be available until 2008, while the other four companies already have CMDBs in the market. Microsoft also still leaves other management tasks, such as fault and performance management of heterogeneous systems, to the other vendors.

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Microsofts effort is a "work in progress," said Gartner analyst David Williams in Austin, Texas.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, in its work with the CMDBF Working Group, is encouraging the adoption of SML by other vendors to enable heterogeneous, policy-based management. "SML is something that an application or system owner can take and express their policy on managing and administering their environment. It can be used across management platforms that support SML," said Tatarinov.

IBM is backing Microsofts bid to have the working group consider using SML to describe models of data center elements to help solve an industrywide problem, said Ric Telford, vice president of autonomic computing at IBM, in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

"Whats plagued IT management in the past is agreement in the heterogeneous environment on the descriptions of various resources that make up the data center. The output of SML will be a set of models," Telford said.

SML-based models could be one of multiple object types that the protocol supports, Telford said. "There may be other object types that others would like to have flow between repositories. That remains to be seen. My view is to set a strategy and vision of a common modeling language so that down the road everybody starts creating their models and object types using SML as the modeling language," he said.

Beyond its CMDB efforts, Microsoft is working to change the perception that it is a point tools provider that markets SMS (Systems Management Server) and MOM (Microsoft Operations Manager). Earlier this year, Microsoft expanded the System Center management umbrella to include Service Desk and System Center Virtual Machine Manager, which join the companys System Center Data Protection Manager, Capacity Planner for Exchange and Reporting Manager.

But there wont be anything unifying those elements soon, said Gartners Williams. "I see it as an initiative thats helping Microsoft get its act together. It will take 2007 to give it real meat. No [Gartner] clients are asking about System Center. Theyre asking about MOM and SMS," he said.

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