Microsoft's shadow looms large over the systems management software sector. Yet typically, the company's technology is solely targeted at Microsoft software environments, a strategy that is not expected to change.
And while its Windows 2000 server products – shortly to be re-branded .Net servers – include a number of features designed to aid systems management, such as Active Directory, the mainstay of Microsoft's systems management technologies are embodied within Systems Management Server (SMS) and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM).
SMS provides enterprise-wide desktop PC management. Its primary function is automated software distribution, but it also includes tools for hardware and software inventory management, in compliance with the industry standard Common Information Model (CIM).
Topaz is the code name given to the next version of SMS, which is due for release from around mid-2002. This promises improved integration with Active Directory for easier management of users' desktops and new software distribution facilities to help overcome some of the difficulties introduced by Product Activation, Microsoft's anti-piracy technology.
MOM represents the flagship of Microsoft's systems management technologies. Based on the AppManager code licensed from NetIQ, MOM is a rules-based package for performance monitoring and event management of the Microsoft server environment.
In addition, in some instances, MOM can invoke SMS to automatically fix problems. "Say MOM identifies some sort of software problem, it could then trigger SMS to deploy a known patch for that problem," says Microsoft server marketing manager Paul Randall. Failing that, alerts can be sent to systems administrators via email, phone or pager.
There are also a number of knowledge modules – intelligent agents – to enable systems administrators to monitor other Microsoft server packages, including Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and Terminal Server.