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SMS 2003 R2 Beta Begins

Microsoft announced Tuesday it has begun public beta testing for Systems Management Server 2003 Release 2.

“This second release of the core SMS 2003 product provides our enterprise customers new tools designed to significantly reduce the time and resources they invest updating third-party and in-house applications, as well as easily identify system configuration errors that might lead to security risks,” says Felicity McGourty, director of product management in the Windows Enterprise Management division.

Planned for release to manufacturing in May, SMS 2003 R2 adds an inventory tool for custom updates as well as a scan tool for assessing managed systems’ security vulnerability. The inventory tool enables third parties and customers to create and publish a catalog containing updates, using the same schema and format used for Microsoft updates. SMS 2003 R2 can then scan those catalogs in order to enable deployment of updates to third-party and custom applications.

Additionally, the vulnerability assessment tool scans for common configuration errors and network policy breaches. It scans systems’ configuration settings in order to identify potential vulnerabilities, and reports on settings found to be out of compliance with internal policies.

“The scan tool looks at about 100 different registry settings and asks, ‘What, if anything, has changed and is not conforming to corporate policy?” says McGourty. Among other items, the scan tool will monitor whether a firewall has been turned off, or if a user’s password is non-conforming to corporate policies.

SMS 2003 R2 will load on top of SMS 2003 Service Pack 2, which provided a rollup of about a dozen fixes and introduced some changes to the supported configurations, McGourty said. For example, the service pack provided enhanced virtualization support and also enabled Microsoft SQL Server 2005 to serve as the backend database engine for SMS, according to Microsoft documentation.

Microsoft will introduce promotional discounts to encourage organizations running SMS 2.0 to upgrade to SMS 2003 R2. Mainstream support for SMS 2.0 ends on March 31. Extended support for the product, which Microsoft introduced in 1999, runs through March 31, 2011.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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