I spent the beginning of last week in San Diego at the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS), the company's annual conference focused on all things systems management. With time to kill on the 15-hour return journey, I began to draft my thoughts only for this post from Coté over at RedMonk to pop into my feed reader. As well as providing excellent summaries of IT management, Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) and the company's System Center product family, Coté provides his impressions of MMS and Microsoft's approach to systems management. Since my impressions were much the same:
- Significant focus on delivery with System Center Operations Manager, Configuration Manager and Essentials, Virtual Machine Manager and Service Manager (although the latter is still a year away)
- Emphasis on modeling - Service Modeling Language, Common Modeling Language (adding the management semantics to SML), CMDB, Management Packs
- Raising the ITIL flag - Microsoft Operations Framework (which Microsoft has until recently failed to exploit despite a long-standing ITIL foundation); System Center Service Manager and CMDB
- Plugging some notable gaps - OEM relationship with EMC for network-aware management but support for a heterogeneous environment requires more work.
I won't repeat them in detail here.
Instead, I thought I would call out something which I felt was largely absent from the two days of briefings and meetings with the Windows Enterprise Management Division team: how they help organisations align what they do from a systems management perspective with business objectives and priorities. Ultimately, as Microsoft claims, that's what DSI is really all about:
A dynamic system is Microsoft's vision for what an agile business looks like—where IT works closely with business in order to meet the demands of a rapidly changing and adaptable environment. The Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) is Microsoft's technology strategy for products and solutions that help businesses enhance the dynamic capability of its people, process, and IT infrastructure using technology
Microsoft has done a pretty good job with its Infrastructure Optimization (IO) Model of outlining a roadmap to dynamic systems nirvana, as well as assessment tools to help organisations understand where they are on that path. The company has also gathered a significant amount of data from its customers which should help IT organisations to justify IO investment to the business.
However, the company hasn't really explained how it can help them to maintain the dialogue with the business once the investment has been secured - understanding and capturing business expectations; providing business-meaningful monitoring and metrics; correlating IT security management (as an aside, Microsoft needs to tighten the linkage between its System Center and security - Forefront, Identity Lifecyle Manager - offerings) with business risk management etc. Microsoft needs to address this, not least because all of its enterprise systems management competitors are claiming such capabilities, be it Business Service Management from BMC, Business Service Optimization from CA, Business Technology Optimization from HP, Service Management from IBM.
There were signs, admittedly subtle ones that were obscured by the focus on new System Center products, in Bob Muglia's Tuesday morning keynote that Microsoft recognises this need:
- Plans to extend Design For Operations to a 'business analyst' audience
- The use of SML (presumably in BizTalk) for business process and key performance indicator modeling
- 2007 Office System (Project Server for portfolio management?) as a component of Microsoft's management offerings
- DSI is "ERP for IT"
Fortunately the timings of my meetings meant that I had a chance to quiz Kirill Tatarinov, Corporate Vice President, Windows Enterprise Management Division, about these small but important aspects of the keynote. He confirmed my interpretations of Muglia's comments in light of aligning IT operations with the business. He wasn't able to go into too much detail but I fully expect to see Microsoft begin to talk about these aspects of its management strategy in the not too distant future.
With Microsoft now four years into its ten-year management initiative it's good to see it delivering the first generation of DSI-era management tools. It's equally encouraging to see that the company recognises that it's not just an IT proposition. The company certainly has many of the assets required to help IT engage with a business audience but Microsoft is already coming from behind when it comes to IT management. There may be another six years of DSI but that's a LONG time in the IT industry, so it has to act quickly if its not to be forever trying to catch up with its competitors.