MS Beefs Up Systems Management Server

Microsoft Corp. on Monday will officially release Systems Management Server 2.0, although the introduction will be somewhat anticlimactic given the enterprise desktop management tool's long and public beta testing cycle.

Still, even if it "comes out with a whimper because everyone knows everything about it," the new release is significant for the problems it fixes and the new functionality it delivers, said Chris King, an analyst with Meta Group in Burlingame, Calif.

SMS 2.0, which provides hardware and software inventory as well as remote software distribution and installation, is significantly more scaleable than version 1.2. Microsoft tested the new release in the lab with as many as 200,000 clients, according to Michael Emanuel, SMS product manager in Redmond, Wash.

At the same time, Microsoft (MSFT) simplified setup for smaller organizations by using wizards, which help step users through the installation process, and eliminated the requirement to fit the Windows NT domain structure to SMS.

Microsoft also addressed a lack of accuracy in the inventory function of SMS by making it a more dynamic process, King said. Rather than checking against a predefined database to determine what software each desktop is running, SMS now searches for version resource data on each executable on client machines.

Easier to distribute changes
That ability to more dynamically group users according to different criteria -- such as IP addresses or those running Service Pack 1 -- makes it much simpler to distribute packaged software changes to appropriate desktops.

"The most significant new feature for us is the ability to manage package distributions with NT global groups," said beta tester Brent Waechter, manager of desktop services at Nissan North America in Gardena, Calif.

"In the past we'd run a query and then distribute the package to the query results. But the query was static, and a new machine [added after the query was executed] wouldn't get the package. Now users who meet a certain criteria by virtue of being in a group will get the package."

SMS 2.0 also adds software metering, a table for comparing products for Y2K compliance, support for the Desktop Management Task Force's Common Information Model, and new diagnostic tools for network discovery, trace and monitoring.

Although pricing for SMS has not changed with version 2.0, Meta Group's King believes the cost for SMS has come down significantly over time. "Before, you saw prices around $60 to $70 per desktop. Now it's $20 to $40," he said.

The upgrade for SMS Server with 10 client access licenses is $569. The list price for SMS with 25 client access licenses is $1,779.

Microsoft can be reached at


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