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Microsoft lays out management software plan

The company announces new software and additional details of its plan to make Windows systems easier to manage.

LAS VEGAS--Microsoft on Tuesday announced new software and additional details of its plan to make Windows systems easier to manage.

The company said at the Microsoft Management Summit here that a new release of its Software Update Services, renamed Windows Update Services, is entering testing this week. The software, which is scheduled ship later this year, is designed to let system administrators keep PCs and servers up-to-date with the latest patches and bug fixes.

The software was originally set to ship as SUS 2.0 in the first half of this year but will now ship in the latter part of 2004. In an interview, Bob Muglia, a Microsoft senior vice president in the company's Windows Server division, said Microsoft wanted to add in some security enhancements, such as giving administrators the ability to force users to install new patches in Windows before they shut down their PCs.

At the conference, Microsoft also said Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 is entering the final testing cycle and that System Center 2005 will go into beta testing this week. The products enable big companies to manage collections of servers running Windows.

The software is part of Microsoft's broader program to make Windows networks more manageable, an effort known as the Dynamic Systems Initiative.

Microsoft cited a study by consulting firm Accenture that found that corporate information technology workers spend up to 70 percent of their time maintaining existing systems. With DSI, Microsoft hopes to reduce that total to 55 percent by automating various tasks involved in updating computing systems.

Muglia offered an overview of DSI during his keynote speech later Tuesday. He noted some tangible initial steps the company has taken. Last week, for example, Microsoft gave about 50 customers and partners a preview of the software that will make up the System Definition Model--an XML tool that developers can use to outline how their software operates. That, in theory, makes the programs easier for IT workers to manage.

"DSI is a long-term vision, but it's also here today," Muglia said.

Muglia described DSI as focused on improving the amount of information shared between the people who write software, those who manage it and those who actually use it. Such discussions can be divided into two strands: dialogues between IT managers and developers; and interchanges in which people actually using the software give IT managers and developers their feedback. The System Definition Model addresses the former discussions, Muglia said, while better error reporting and other tools will help the latter.

Muglia also used his speech to announce that Microsoft will ship a slimmed-down "Express" version of MOM. The new version, due to ship later this year, is aimed at smaller businesses with fewer servers.

"It won't manage hundreds or thousands of servers," Muglia said, adding that it will have a more attractive price than other versions.

While many of the products Muglia discussed have 2005 as part of their moniker, most are still slated for delivery this year. Microsoft is shifting its naming scheme to align with its fiscal year, so products in the second half of a calendar year carry the following year's name.