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Microsoft Management Summit 2006: A Power Supply in Every Pot & First Impressions

I’m at the Microsoft Management Summit this week in San Diego. As promised, I won’t be throwing up my raw notes, especially since yesterday’s notes are 16 pages of scribbles on the conference provided paper.

Juice for the Foot-long

Why’s that? Cause I forgot my power cord at home. Sure, I remembered to get my phone cord, and even my Commander Cellphone Enabler cord. But not the cord for little foot-long. After a debacled trip up and down the trolly/train, I proclaimed “screw it!” and took a cab up to the mall where I had a brief moment of serenity in the Apple store, surrounded my all those over-priced but sexy computers.

The end result, is that I now have 3 power cords available for the PowerBook. Kim, of course, suggested I look into getting a couple more so we’d have one in every room. Perhaps for the car too.

As a side note, I seem to be the only Apple here, which makes sense. The whole point of the conference would be moot if you didn’t have WinTels ;>

Homogeneous Systems Management

Yesterday was the analyst track. And a track it was: 8 hours of being briefed about MOM, SMS, System Center (the new “brand” name for MOM and SMS), DSI, SDM, and all manner of other TLAs.

I’d like to write-up some less off-the-cuff thinking over the next few days, but I’ll spend the rest of this post as a first cut at my take, in the broadest of terms.

Microsoft’s fundamental position is:

  1. The Microsoft stack is the most effective, both in cost and functionality for a business a to buy and use. The reasoning is is because (a.) it’s good code, and, (b.) it’s fully integrated.
  2. Microsoft Management is going to be the best at managing that stack.

To put the messaging another way: if homogeneous is what you want, Microsoft is the way to go. They’re in-depth at managing the Microsoft stack first, and concerned with other stacks second.

I have little quibble with the integrity and completeness of that view, but that’s because the first premise carves out a “domain of success.” That’s a classic approach to logic you learn in philosophy. Always set up the state machine so that the obvious conclusion is what you desire. Some might call this “gaming the system.” In the case of Microsoft Systems Management, that’s a bit too dismissive of the reality of the shops that are 100%, or even 90%, Microsoft.

Heterogeneous Systems Management

My view of systems management is broader, and even enterprisey. I’m from the heterogeneous school of systems management: breadth first, and then depth. In this view, things like the Microsoft Systems Management stack are treated as management silos to pull information from into a normalized, central (or “federated” if you want to play that word game) pool that works with PCs, mainframes, web services, or anything.

More important than the technology is the commitment to monitor as many things of possible. The end result is often a shallower, more loosely coupled, approach to management. But the result is 100% coverage of your IT if you’ve chosen to a multi-vendor/platform approach to IT.

Good IP

Microsoft is probably the most “closed source” of all our clients. Many of our clients have a dog in the open source fight, and we end up talking about that area quite a lot with them. So, it’s an interesting contrast to sink into the Microsoft discussions that revolve around closed source software. For example, they’re quick to point out that they have great IP in the area of management.

And, frankly, from what I’ve seen, they do. Let me disclaim that by saying: that that assessment is based on slide-ware and conversations, not talking with customers and sysadmins. That disclaimer aside, I’ve been impressed with both the here-and-now technology and the future vision. It may seem snarky to put it this way — well, it is, but it’s also a compliment — but it seems like over the next few released, Microsoft Management, and the stack in general, will be as flexible and “dissectable” as *nix management has been for decades.

For example, I saw a demo of PowerShell (formally MONAD) in this mornings KeyNote, and my reaction was, “ah, finally, I don’t need to download cygwin.” In truth, there’s lot more to PowerShell than just being a beefier command.exe: it’s more like the Python win32 extensions in a shell. I’m going to a session on it in a few minutes, so hopefully I’ll know more later today.

At the higher level, their management suite is moving closer to ITIL. Of course, it’s in that freaky way that Microsoft does everything: embrace and extend. That’s largely based on the pragmatism of not dumping MOF, and instead preserving and migrating all the knowledge and technologies Microsoft and their ecosystem have built around MOF. I’m excited to check out their Service Data Model, or SDM, which seems like the systems management data model I’ve been lusting after for many years.

Closed Standards

Along those lines, there’s an overly cautious approach to standardizing that IP. For example, I asked if SDM was freely available for anyone to use. If it’s a great systems management data model, then other vendors and OSS projects could look to it for their format, and even (as Microsoft does) an implementation of the ITIL Configuration Item concept. But, of course, the answer was no. You can’t use it unless you license it from Microsoft. Granted, the followup was that they desire to eventually hand it over to standards body. Just not now, at the beginning, where it could get bogged down and end up other than exactly what Microsoft wants.

As a regular WS-* basher, I have no problem with the second part of that premise, but I’m quite dodgy on skipping on the free-as-in-beer licensing model. Allowing other people to use your underlying data formats in systems management is beneficial to everyone, especially the platform provider (Microsoft in this case). If this were Office we were talking about, I’d be singing a different tune: the power of that franchise at the moment rests on keeping the data model locked down and protected.

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Categories: Compliance, Conferences, Systems Management.

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One Response

  1. come on man. all the major vendors like to embrace and extend ITIL…