Q&A: Kirill Tatarinov Discusses Innovations in Microsoft’s System Center Family of Products

SAN DIEGO, Calif., April 25, 2006 – It is one year since Microsoft announced that System Center would be a family of systems-management offerings based on Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF), an extension of ITIL-based industry best practices and process. Now that family is growing.

Over the past year, Microsoft has started filling out the System Center family beyond its two flagship products – Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) and System Management Server (SMS) – adding a number of products and solutions. At the April 24 – 28 Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) 2006, attended by over 3,000 IT professionals, Microsoft announced immediate and upcoming additions to the System Center product family, including an offering in the “service desk” arena, scheduled to be available in 2007, and updates to existing System Center offerings.

Microsoft officials also provided updates on investments Microsoft is making in infrastructure capabilities and in driving industry standards. The combined investments, company officials say, are helping to make real Microsoft’s Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) – a program espousing a vision of delivering self-managing dynamic systems that will help enable customers to achieve higher business value through automation, flexible resource utilization and knowledge-based processes.

To learn more about the enhancements to System Center and its role in bringing Microsoft’s vision of self-managing dynamic systems closer to reality, PressPass spoke with Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president of the Windows and Enterprise Management Division at Microsoft.

PressPass: What is the main customer pain point that System Center addresses?

Tatarinov: Today’s IT environments are complex, and our customers have to deal with managing and operating diverse environments while continuing to deliver the levels of availability, performance and stability required by the business. System Center provides the knowledge and management tools to help IT professionals do just that – gain control of the complex environment, helping IT move from being reactive to a proactive, responsive partner to the business, meeting or exceeding the service levels and keeping pace with the business.

PressPass: Please briefly describe the System Center family of products.

Kirill Tatarinov, Corporate Vice President, Windows and Enterprise Management Division

Tatarinov: System Center is Microsoft’s family of systems-management products and solutions, focused on providing IT professionals with the tools and knowledge to help manage their IT infrastructure. By embedding knowledge into System Center, a large number of repetitive and reactive activities can be eliminated – freeing up valuable IT staff to focus on more complex issues. (See “System Center Solutions,” this page)

PressPass: Please provide an update on System Center. What has changed since the Microsoft Management Summit a year ago?

Tatarinov: Building on our commitments announced at the management summit last year, we continue to make progress along our DSI roadmap, delivering additional functionality and capabilities to our customers. During the past year we increased our solutions capability in a number of areas:

We have added three new products to the System Center family, updated SMS and added a wealth of new management packs for MOM. The new System Center offerings released and announced over the past year are:

  • System Center Data Protection Manager 2006

  • System Center Capacity Planner 2006

  • System Center Reporting Manager 2006

We also released SMS 2003 R2 Beta – which includes a packaging tool for third-party application vendors and customers to publish their application updates in the same catalog format used for Microsoft updates. Customers will now be able to use the tools and interfaces they are familiar with to apply updates across Microsoft, third-party and Line-of-Business applications.

On the MOM front, we added 30 new Microsoft management packs. Also, our partners delivered 28 new management packs covering a broad range of heterogeneous platforms and applications.

True to our commitment to continue to add functionality and value for customers using current releases of our products, and providing an evolutionary path toward future capabilities and enhancements in our products, we released the MOM 2005 SLA scorecard for Exchange Server and the SMS 2003 Desired Configuration Monitoring Solutions. Customers can use these solution accelerators with current products and immediately start benefiting from future functionality planned for the next releases of MOM and SMS.

We also delivered enhancements and increased capability in the area of interoperability, standards and partners.

PressPass: Was any other System Center news announced at this year’s management summit?

Tatarinov: Yes. We announced a number of other significant news items. The next generation of MOM and SMS products – key components of the System Center family – will take on the family name. “MOM V3” will become Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007, while “SMS V4” will become Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007. We have invested heavily in implementing high levels of interoperability between MOM and SMS before giving them the System Center name. With “MOM V3” and “SMS V4,” it is the right time to deliver on the promise to customers that when using two or more System Center products or solutions they can expect interoperability, tight integration and incremental value above and beyond using the individual offerings. The products and solutions will continue to be available in a modular fashion, providing customers with the flexibility to select the different pieces as desired, while also offering the benefits of incremental cross-product functionality and a common usage paradigm across products when more than one System Center offering is used.

We also announced our investment in a new product for the service-desk market, to be delivered toward the end of 2007. This is a very significant announcement as with this product, codenamed “Service Desk,” we are providing two key components that will form the foundation for the entire System Center family: 1) A workflow engine that will provide the basis for how we automate IT processes, and 2) the implementation of the SDM-based Configuration Management Database (CMDB), which will be the foundation of our asset and change management capability. Following DSI’s principle of capturing knowledge in models, Service Desk will include workflow templates – following and facilitating the ITIL-based best practices and process – for a number of key customer scenarios. Service Desk will also deliver unprecedented integration with both System Center Operations Manager (“MOM V3”) and System Center Configuration Manager (“SMS V4”) out of the box – and we don’t mean a toolkit – as part of the Service Desk installation. By adding the problem, incident, asset and change-management capabilities to the System Center portfolio and tightly integrating with both SMS and MOM, we are significantly extending the number of problem scenarios we can help solve for our customers. We believe our customers will greatly benefit from the System Center “Service Desk” entering the market starved for innovation.

PressPass: What are the investments and announcements in the infrastructure capabilities you alluded to earlier?

Tatarinov: We announced the delivery schedule for Windows PowerShell, formerly known as MONAD. Windows PowerShell is a powerful administrative command shell and scripting environment. It will be available as a no-charge Web download in the second half of this year. Also, we announced that the next version of Microsoft Exchange, which will be the first Microsoft application to deliver new automation capability based on PowerShell, will officially be named Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. In addition, System Center Operations Manager 2007 is building a solution based on PowerShell. The Exchange Management Shell in Exchange Server 2007 is based on PowerShell and will save IT administrators valuable hours by allowing routine and repetitive tasks to be automated through a scriptable command line shell. 

In addition, Exchange Server 2007, which is due end of 2006 or early 2007, will include the Exchange Management Console – a graphical console also built entirely on top of MMC 3.0 and PowerShell that will increase administrative productivity through simplified navigation and new filtering capabilities for managing the messaging environment. Microsoft is also providing powerful tools to help IT administrators more easily monitor the health of their messaging environments.  For example, the Exchange Best Practices Analyzer (ExBPA), which is included in the Exchange Management Pack for Microsoft Operations Manager, allows administrators to scan their Exchange Servers providing them with the data they need to ensure their messaging is configured to deliver optimal performance. In MOM, the ExBPA data can be compiled with Exchange Server 2007 performance metrics to give administrators a clear view of the state of their environment.

PressPass: Which customer segment does System Center target and what are the main benefits to those customers? 

Tatarinov: Customers of all sizes can benefit from System Center offerings. System Center management solutions simplify the management of Windows environments through embedding knowledge about policies, process, infrastructure components and application performance and health, and then providing that knowledge to customers as part of the products and solutions. This significantly reduces the cost and effort associated with determining what to manage and how to manage the infrastructure and applications.

PressPass: You mentioned standards earlier. Please characterize partner and industry support for System Center and the benefits to customers of that support.

Tatarinov: Microsoft has made significant progress in this area over the past year. I am extremely excited about the work the team has lead in two critical areas, access and modeling. Since last year, WS-Management was submitted to and ratified by the DMTF, and the momentum of industry partners joining this effort is fantastic. In addition to the four co-authors, another seven partners have joined this effort. [WS-Management is a management standard that describes how system information can be shared through a commonly understood protocol. The DMTF, or Distributed Management Task Force, is the industry organization leading the development of management standards and integration technology for enterprise and Internet environments.] Microsoft is already shipping our WS-Management implementation in Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2, and all of the vendors working on the WS-Management specifications have either already implemented WS-Management or have a committed plan for implementing it. This is great news for our customers with heterogeneous environments because not only does it greatly simplify integration and interoperability across diverse systems and technologies, but it also reduces management overhead.

On the modeling side, with growing partner support for the SDM, Microsoft intends to continue to invest in aligning SDM with available standards and solicit feedback from the industry through design reviews to help streamline how management and development tools communicate operational information across distributed systems. [SDM, or System Definition Model, is a standard way to represent operational information or knowledge for each component of the IT system.]

PressPass: Many enterprise customers run heterogeneous IT environments. How does System Center address issues of interoperability between different systems?

Tatarinov: System Center provides interoperability and integration with heterogeneous environments through two approaches. I’ve already mentioned our investment in driving standards such as WS-Management across the industry. For example, we demonstrated how MOM can monitor Sun Solaris machine instrumented with WS-Management. The second approach is through a healthy and vibrant partner ecosystem that extends products like SMS and MOM to manage heterogeneous systems. Today the Web services-based MOM connector framework is available and being used for integrating and interoperating with other management tools such as HP OpenView and IBM Tivoli. Other partners such as Quest, eXc, Tidal and Engyro are actively developing extensions to both MOM and SMS for managing a variety of non-Microsoft platforms and applications. We are committed to continuing to drive standardization across the industry to help address the reality of customers managing heterogeneous environments.

PressPass: The upcoming deployment of Windows Vista is top of mind for a lot of IT pros. Please explain how System Center will enable customers to take advantage of Vista.

Tatarinov: With SMS 2003, we are refreshing the OS deployment feature pack to help customers deploy Vista using SMS 2003. Obviously, Vista deployment is one of the main scenarios for System Center Configuration Manager 2007 (“SMS V4”). On the monitoring front, we are developing a powerful new management pack that, when combined with System Center Operations Manager 2007, will offer aggregate health monitoring of customers’ client environment so they can detect problems before users call the help desk.

PressPass: Please briefly describe how System Center fits in with Microsoft’s larger DSI strategy.

Tatarinov: System Center is a key component of Microsoft’s DSI strategy to help enable IT to be responsive to business needs. Delivering self-managing dynamic systems requires investment in the infrastructure capabilities, such as virtualization, and the dynamic management of that infrastructure. System Center is delivering the management capabilities needed to make this vision real.

PressPass: What is Microsoft’s vision for System Center? What is the roadmap for the next two years?

Tatarinov: Over the next 18 months to two years, customers can expect the release of SMS 2003 R2, System Center Operations Manager 2007 (“MOM V3”), System Center Configuration Manager (“SMS V4”) as well as the System Center “Service Desk” offering. New versions of System Center Reporting Manager and System Center Capacity Planner are on the horizon. We also plan to release System Center Essentials – an integrated monitoring and configuration management solution. That combines the functionality of SMS and MOM in one, easy-to-use console and is designed specifically for IT generalists in mid-sized businesses. Additional Solution Accelerators and updates to existing offerings will be released, and updates to the management capabilities in the infrastructure can be expected, specifically WSUS 3.0 (Windows Server Update Service).

PressPass: Why should customers choose Microsoft solutions for systems management over competing products?

Tatarinov: Our approach with System Center is to build a tightly integrated but modular set of solutions providing top-class management for all environments, including baking the ITIL-based systems management process into the products and technologies themselves. By embedding the knowledge we already have about managing Windows infrastructure and applications into System Center and providing that directly to customers, and embedding the ITIL-based best practices, knowledge and workflow for improving process, System Center significantly reduces the complexity of management. Our “Service Desk” investment will form the foundation for delivering unprecedented integration across all the System Center offerings, and the basis for embedding industry best management practices and process into System Center.

Comments from Customers

“In the past our administrators could take weeks creating packages for third party and custom updates that we could confidently deploy in our production environment. SMS 2003 R2’s Inventory Tool for Custom Updates has greatly simplified this process by decreasing the time spent to only a few days, and as more vendors publish their update catalogues with ITCU we anticipate this dropping to only a few hours. In my opinion this key functionality alone makes SMS 2003 R2 a worthwhile upgrade by freeing time for us to work on key strategic projects and to provide better customer support to our end users.”

Richard Baasch
IT Operations Manager
US Army– Ft. Lewis

“Adobe and Microsoft have worked together to deliver Adobe Flash Player updates through new technology in SMS2003R2. The Adobe Flash Player Catalog for SMS2003R2 is expected to be available to our joint customers when SMS2003R2 ships. Adobe is pleased to deliver patches and security updates directly to SMS2003R2 customers through the Inventory Tool for Custom Updates, helping to reduce complexity and cost for enterprise customers.”

Emmy Huang
Product Manager, Flash Player

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