REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 8, 1999 — When sales executives at Turner Broadcasting Sales need help-desk support, they need it in real time. Advertising deals depend on getting sales contracts out the door quickly, and technical problems such as glitches in the applications that generate these contracts can make or break a deal if they aren’t resolved promptly. To deliver the real-time service users need, while lowering the total cost of desktop ownership, Turner Broadcasting Sales, a division of the Atlanta-based media firm, relies on Microsoft Systems Management Server.
Turner Broadcasting Sales uses Systems Management Server to manage more than 1,000 desktops running Windows 95 and Windows NT Workstation and Server in a highly distributed international environment, with offices in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami and Tokyo. Because help-desk support, software distribution, and asset management are now executed remotely from the media firm’s Atlanta headquarters, the company has lowered the cost of desktop ownership significantly, no longer requiring support staff in each of the sales offices for troubleshooting and maintenance.
“Because of SMS, the total cost of desktop ownership for the sales division is the lowest of any group inside Turner Broadcasting,” said Andrew Drooker, vice president, network systems architecture and research and development at Turner Broadcasting Sales. “It has really paid off.”
Systems Management Server 2.0, released this week, is a scalable change and configuration management solution for Windows desktops and servers. It provides administrators with the advanced planning, deployment and diagnostics tools they need to effectively manage environments of any size while lowering their total cost of ownership.
Drooker has been running the version 2.0 beta successfully at Turner Broadcasting’s Atlanta headquarters since October 1998, and he expects to have it installed in all the sales offices by the end of the first quarter.
“SMS 2.0 is a vast improvement,” said Drooker. “The new version gives you a lot more configuration detail and control of the desktop from the server.”
SMS 2.0 provides planning tools that include hardware and software inventory, Y2K compliance testing and software metering. In the area of inventory, it provides richer management information, using an agent based on the Common Information Model (CIM) to gather information from all 32-bit Windows operating systems. Microsoft is supporting the CIM specification, which was developed by the Desktop Management Task Force. CIM is already built into Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4, and will be built into Windows 2000.
Drooker said one of the main reasons his company moved to SMS 2.0 is its Y2K compliance testing functionality. This tool identifies Microsoft software that needs updates and provides advice about where to obtain them. SMS 2.0 comes with a Microsoft database of applications and their Y2K compliance levels and allows administrators to input new databases from Microsoft or other vendors. The database is compared against the SMS software inventory that has been generated by checking all machines in the enterprise. Finally, a series of reports indicating Y2K compliance is generated.
Other planning tools in SMS 2.0 include metering tools that help administrators analyze, monitor and control the use of applications on servers and workstations.It also provides deployment tools that allow administrators to centrally distribute and install software applications and operating systems.
“One of the major cost-of-ownership advantages of SMS 2.0 is deployment,” said Drooker. “Not having to visit each workstation for distributing and updating software – that’s been our biggest savings.”
Enhancements to the deployment tools in SMS 2.0 include added options for targeting software distribution, such as to a combination of users, user groups, TCP/IP network segments and machines, and a software removal feature.
SMS 2.0 also provides new diagnostics tools to help administrators centrally monitor Windows desktops and servers. These include remote control; a new server health monitoring tool, HealthMon, which provides critical performance data on Windows NT Server 4.0 and Microsoft BackOffice processes; a network monitoring tool; and a network topology tracing tool, which makes systems management tasks network-aware. The tracing tool provides a graphical display of the network routes between servers within a site, allowing for easy analysis of the potential success or failure of an action, such as software distribution.
“This tool is one of the best things about SMS 2.0. It lets you discover everything out on the network, including PCs, servers, routers, hubs and other network devices,” said Drooker.
SMS 2.0 is scalable, providing management solutions for any size environment. In the case of Turner Broadcasting, SMS 2.0 will allow the company to manage desktops in the Tokyo sales office from the central site in Atlanta. In addition, there are several features to manage slow and disconnected environments.
“SMS 2.0 is really helpful for slower connections,” said Drooker. “Before the new version, we had to design our own solutions for software distribution. We would have the laptops dial in, run the login scripts, and then just hang there for awhile. Version 2.0 recognizes that the laptop is running over a RAS line and doesn’t install new software. This is a big plus.”
The new version of the management solution also has been designed to work well in smaller environments. It features a new setup and administrative user interface designed to make the management tool easier to install and use. The installation has been combined with Microsoft SQL Server installation to ease setup requirements. The setup options install and configure SQL Server in preparation for Systems Management Server, without eliminating any of the flexibility of SQL Server installation. In addition, Systems Management Server includes a host of database maintenance tools that remove the requirement to be SQL Server-literate.
“You don’t have to be a SQL guru to understand the terminology that pops up on the screen during installation,” said Drooker. “It asks you questions as it guides you, such as how many clients you have, and it figures out the size of the database for your SQL devices.”
The administrative user interface also has been redesigned to be task-oriented and intuitive. Key to this redesign is the development of Systems Management Server as a snap-in to the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), the addition of wizards and a new Help engine. MMC allows different Microsoft products to be administered from one user interface.
Drooker expects that once the new version of the enterprise management tool has been deployed to the sales offices worldwide, the sales division will be able to deploy software much more easily than before because everything is done in real time. In addition, he expects SMS 2.0 to greatly simplify tasks for the help desk and increase their response time.
Drooker is also looking to SMS 2.0 to prepare Turner Broadcasting Sales for the future. “With the deployment of Systems Management Server 2.0, we’re in a better position to deploy Windows 2000.”