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Dell, Microsoft make a patch pact for servers

The industry heavyweights want to ease a major "pain point" for their customers, Dell's CEO says.

Dell and Microsoft have launched a joint development project to improve the management of Dell servers with Microsoft software.

The two companies said Monday that they have integrated their respective management programs for sending out software patches to servers. The companies also intend to extend the development partnership to address other management tasks, according to executives.

Dell's president and CEO, Kevin Rollins, and Bob Muglia, senior vice president in Microsoft's server division, announced the partnership at a press conference in Paris.

Rollins said that the first product to come from the joint work will combine Dell's OpenManage 4 server management software with Microsoft's software installation program, called Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003.

With the product, systems administrators will be able to automatically send hardware-related patches, as well as operating system and application updates, from SMS rather than using separate tools. The tool, called SMS 2003 Inventory Tool for Dell Updates, will be available in January with the purchase of SMS or as a free download to Dell customers.

"Our customers' No. 1 pain point and cost is managing change in the form of managing updates and patches to their servers," Rollins said.

Using the application internally, Dell support professionals were able to update thousands of servers in an hour, when it used to take one night to update only 100 servers, Rollins said.

Typically, corporate customers need to employ separate update programs for each type of server they own and different tools for software-related patches.

Dell and Microsoft said that they are seeking to drive industry standards to cut down on the number of server-specific management tools. The two companies are participating on a specification called Systems Management Architecture for Server Hardware (SMASH) being developed at the Distributed Management Task Force, a standards body.

Muglia said that the Dell partnership, which was started about a year ago, is not exclusive and that Microsoft is looking to work with other server manufacturers to simplify management.

He said that Microsoft intends to engage partners like Dell to further its Dynamic Systems Initiative, a multiyear program to reduce the cost and labor dedicated to maintaining corporate data centers.

By the end of the year, Dell intends to have centers established around the world to provide services related to the installation of its management products, Rollins said.