Microsoft's management software has never quite measured up to that of Hewlett-Packard, IBM, BMC, or CA, the "big four" of IT systems management. But the company hopes to begin changing minds about that at the annual Microsoft Management Summit this week, and much of the impetus comes from a rather unlikely place: the integration of open source code into a System Center management product.
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it's extending its management software to Linux and Unix environments by integrating some of the open source OpenPegasus project's code into System Center Operations Manager, and will contribute back. The addition of cross-operating system management, the number one customer request for System Center, represents further recognition by Microsoft that it's not a Windows-only world. It also is a significant move toward putting Microsoft on equal footing as a legitimate enterprise management vendor.
"I don't care what enterprise you walk into, they're not going to be single platform. You just don't see that," said Clear Channel solution architect Curt Smith, a System Center customer, in an interview. Clear Channel uses Linux to operate its radio Web platform, has a bunch of creative employees on Apple OS X, and uses VMware for virtualization. "I want the ability to manage it all from one spot. You can't have a bunch of tools all over the place, or else you'll just end up cracking up."
The move toward enabling broad cross-platform management formally begins this week with a test release of System Center Operations Manager 2007 Cross Platform Extensions, which will provide out of the box service management support for HP-UX, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and Sun Solaris. It may take a while for Microsoft to build real enterprise-wide management credibility, and that starts with actually delivering on the promise of heterogeneity.
"We've established a very strong position in Windows management, but customers want us to do more," said Bob Muglia, senior VP of Microsoft's server and tools business, in an interview. "This is definitely a big step for Microsoft from being simply a Windows-focused management company to an enterprise-focused management company."
Third-party software to manage Linux environments has been available before. But it costs extra and hasn't come direct from Microsoft, so it hasn't been as deeply integrated into System Center and adapters had to be upgraded with each product cycle. Now, those software companies can leverage Microsoft's own integration to provide deeper management of Linux- and Unix-based software.
Novell, Quest and Xandros are announcing their own add-ons that use Cross Platform Extensions to manage SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on a deeper level than Microsoft's software does, as well as Apache, MySQL, IBM WebSphere and Oracle running on Linux and/or Unix. In an interview, Xandros CEO Andy Typaldos said management of SendMail and Scalix is coming, too.
The use of OpenPegasus in Cross Platform Extensions is just a first step for Microsoft in broadening its management horizons. "As I look for the strategic direction I have for System Center, managing non-Microsoft applications and systems is a core part of my strategy," said Brad Anderson, GM of Microsoft's management and services division, in an interview.