Microsofts Vegas Message Was Clear—and Unconvincing

Reporter's notebook: MS pushes a fast move to Windows Server 2003, but OS migration isn't in the cards for years at many firms

Microsoft rolled out the first beta of its Automated Deployment Services for Windows Server 2003 and announced a Dynamic Systems Initiative at the second annual Management Summit in Las Vegas earlier this week. I was on hand, along with eWEEK Senior Editor Paula Musich, to see what Microsoft has in mind for its management products.

Although SMS (Systems Management Server) and MOM (Microsoft Operations Manager) are the traditional stars of this Vegas show, the understudy, played in this case by the soon-to-be-released Windows Server 2003 operating system, was the big attraction. I think this signals a substantial change in Microsofts focus, from stand-alone tools to putting management in the base OS.

For managers who use SMS and MOM, this means that it should get easier to use these products because of tighter integration. It also means that the development cycle, which I have always thought of as positively glacial, will now at least be tied to upgrades in the base OS.

It was an interesting trip to Vegas. There was a huge turnout and attendees brought a keen interest and, significantly, their experience to the conference. At this years Management Summit, I got the impression that IT managers had been making wide scale use of management technologies to track hardware and software assets, manage leases, and distribute software applications and patches. It was also clear that IT managers are dealing with managing multiple OS platforms.

Microsoft partners including Altiris (the company that started the Management Summit) and NetIQ, along with Configuresoft and others, played their traditional card; finding areas where Microsoft is marginal (such as application and configuration management) or nonexistent (i.e., cross-platform management) and filling in the gaps. I think these companies have a lot to offer when it comes to integrating Windows, Unix and Linux in a single management system.

At the same time that some traditional management functions were slated to move closer to the OS, Microsoft has also created the Enterprise Management Division, and hired Kirill Tatarinov from enterprise stalwart BMC Software 8 months ago.

Who is thinking about server migration from Windows 2000 Server to Windows Server 2003? This is an interesting question. More likely, IT administrators are thinking about going from NT to 2000 and Active Directory.

Microsofts line on the migration was equally interesting: Dont wait for Windows Server 2003 SP1. During the opening keynote on Tuesday, a customer asked Brian Anderson, Microsofts senior vice president of Windows, if Windows Server 2003 was really more like a service pack for Windows 2000. He couldnt disagree.

It was impossible to miss the message: Dont wait for SP1 to start considering a migration to Windows Server 2003. This left me unfazed, however, because most corporate IT managers I talk with are just getting settled with Windows 2000. Another OS migration, unless it comes with immediate, substantial cost-control measures, isnt in the cards for years.

Microsoft execs had an answer for that, too. Part of their pitch was for IT managers to migrate just Active Directory domain controllers to the new platform. Is this a worthwhile suggestion? Im going to play around with Windows Server 2003 in the Lab and publish my migration results so you can judge for yourself.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at