James Governor's Monkchips

Microsoft to deliver lessconfig in Windows Server Longhorn, and how to brief industry analysts (or not)

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There is a moment you should watch out for if you’re ever briefing a group of analysts. I call it the headnod moment, when we’re in flow with you. When you see it, that’s the best feedback you’ll get all day. Do more of that.

I am at an industry analyst briefing by Microsoft about its server products. We were about three hours in before we got the first head nods, a ripple of agreement from the euro-analysts. What got our interest? Simplicity. Peter Meister, group product manager for Windows Server, talked to making Windows more manageable, not through more complexity, but less. 

One of the big problems with managing Microsoft environments is far too many moving parts. Microsoft likes to ding IBM about complexity but you could argue that its got a bad case of projection. Microsoft servers are a configuration fetishists’ wet dream- look at all those knobs to twiddle, they are bright and shiny.  But it seems Windows Server Core is buying into the simplicity theme. Fewer moving parts means easier management, and more effective security, as attack surfaces are reduced. As Peter, who comes from a white hat cracking background said:

“You can’t access something that isn’t there.”

So for service hardening Windows Server Manager is going to be role-based, with four initial examples – DNS, DHCP, File Server, Active Directory….  This functional isolation approach makes a great deal of sense. Microsoft is concentrating on convention rather than configuration. Its a lessconfig approach, that should work equally well for enterprise, mid-sized, small business and channels.

Role-based is also a service oriented approach, which Microsoft isn’t spinning but could. If I only want DNS services then don’t give me all the other gorp…. that makes for better architecture. 

Where is IIS though? Web Server is an important role, and a potential breach point. It needs a similar offering if Microsoft really wants to tackle LAMP.

I can’t claim experience of the new role-based approach, but the approach is right on. Well done Microsoft; I look forward to seeing the new role-based Core Services in production.

Its also worth mentioning how not to get the headnods. Don’t start a presentation on system and service management by telling a group of independent analysts that your model is based on Gartner’s. That is the quickest way to rigid necks I know of. I only gave the presentation partial attention after that- next time start talking to ITIL and Cobit. We will be with you. 


disclaimers: We have consulted with Microsoft on its server management strategies.


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