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SMS Helps Tie Up Loose Ends

Systems Management Server 2003 gives your customers mature configuration management with a low TCO.

When you talk to any IT manager, the subject of accurate and successful asset and configuration management is bound to come up. This has long been a challenge at companies both large and small.

Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003 is often the solution of choice to help your customers keep these management tasks and the steady flow of service packs and patches in check. 

SMS addresses the myriad technology struggles faced by organizations trying to maintain consistency and currency across their infrastructure. Also, it can provide the same level of functionality as several of its biggest competitors with a substantially lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

SMS is still the same asset deployment and management tool we've come to know and love. Now it also has a number of notable advancements that help support the changing way your customers work:

Microsoft Corp.
Systems Management Server 2003

Release: Nov. 2003

Base Price: $1,219 with 10 device Configuration Mgt. Licenses (CMLs)

Web Site: www.microsoft.com/smserver

Advanced Client Roaming
One of the greatest improvements to SMS 2003 is that it allows mobile workers to move between different local and remote IP segments with no negative impact on software deployment, updates or inventory. It also provides intelligent bandwidth and sensitive connections to SMS site resources while leveraging Active Directory to provide mobile user configuration options.

Security Patch Management
SMS 2003 Service Pack 1 adds the new Inventory Tool for Microsoft Updates (ITMU) to help administrators determine the compliance level of their managed systems. This tool is tightly integrated with Microsoft Windows Software Update Services (WSUS). Your customers can use ITMU to take advantage of the WSUS patch management technology without having to administer separate patch management infrastructures.

Configuration Management
Customers can use SMS to ensure configuration settings remain intact and consistent for all server builds throughout their organizations. Administrators can use it to detect non-compliance with standard server configurations. It supports WMI, AD, IIS Metabase, Registry and File System settings.

Active Directory Integration
SMS 2003 lets your customers use AD sites as a boundary for mobile devices. Because it stores this information in global catalog servers, it's readily available and centrally managed. This makes it easier to control the overall SMS 2003 site boundaries. Because of its extensible nature, your customers can also customize AD to let their mobile users roam beyond their defined site boundaries, while still letting them contact core SMS site resources like distribution points.

Now more than ever, Microsoft seems to regard SMS as part of the foundation for its systems management initiatives. A beta release for an R2 version and talk about plans for a 4.0 release in about 18 months solidifies the role of SMS as a key part of its management product roadmap.

Microsoft will continue to enhance SMS in future releases, including integrating an XML-based modeling technology it calls Systems Definition Model (SDM). Microsoft wants to help developers further integrate SDM-based management models into their applications. In turn, they'll be able to feed this configuration information to future SDM-enabled versions of SMS, as well as other systems management tools. You should keep in mind this message of platform longevity and future integration when presenting SMS to your customers.

Spotlight Highlights

Key Features

  • Ability to let mobile clients "roam"
  • Updated patch management
  • Active Directory integration

Competition

  • IBM Tivoli
  • CA UniCenter
  • HP OpenView Novell ZenWorks

Opportunity Assessment

  • Direct integration with other Microsoft technologies
  • Future longevity and integration of platform
  • Point out lower TCO, as compared to competitors

Competitive Landscape
There are many players at many levels in the asset and configuration management arena. A key competitor to SMS 2003 is IBM's Tivoli family of products. Tivoli is truly a heavy hitter in the industry, although its higher overall TCO and administrative overhead can make SMS 2003 an easier choice -- and that's not just referring to homogeneous Windows networks.

To fully replicate SMS 2003's configuration, patch, asset and mobile device management functionality, your customers will have to implement at least three separate Tivoli products. At first glance, the two products would appear difficult to compare and contrast. However, strictly from a software cost perspective, deploying SMS 2003 can be as much as 40 percent cheaper per managed system than Tivoli.

Some of the IBM Tivoli components that compare to what SMS does include:

  • Configuration Manager
  • NetView
  • Application Dependency
  • Discovery Manager
  • License Manager
  • Provisioning Manager
  • Remote Control

IBM is just now preparing to release a small to midsize business (SMB) version of Tivoli (suitable for organizations of 5,000 seats or less) called Tivoli Express. Reportedly, there will be as many as six modules to this new SMB version.

Tivoli isn't the only enterprise-class configuration management suite. The HP OpenView family has a similarly expansive array of components, including:

  • Application Management
  • Configuration Management
  • Infrastructure Management
  • Mobile Configuration Management
  • Network Services Management
  • PC Configuration Management
  • Server Configuration Management
  • Server Management
  • Windows Management

CA's infrastructure and configuration management tools give enterprise customers a range of solutions for comprehensive desktop, application, middleware, database, workload, server and network management. CA's UniCenter tools are grouped as follows:

  • Infrastructure Management Solutions
  • Desktop Management
  • Application Management
  • Network Management
  • Server Management
  • Database Management
  • Job Optimization
  • IT Documentation and Visualization

The ZENworks 7 suite is Novell's answer to managing diverse technology resources. It includes an integrated set of cross-platform tools that automate management tasks for desktops, laptops, servers and handheld devices:

  • Desktop Management
  • Linux Management
  • Patch Management
  • Server Management
  • Handheld Management
  • Personality Migration
  • Data Management
  • Software Packaging

Marketing and Sales
As with many of its system-level products, Microsoft provides live and on-demand webcasts, technical FAQs and how-to white papers on the Web.

These resources offer invaluable data gathered from actual SMS deployments that are built to last in environments with upward of 130,000 managed systems. One of the companies profiled in these case studies boasts a savings of almost $22 million in the first two years after it deployed SMS 2003.

Besides proving value during your sales presentation, you can also add value. The TCO Assessment for Small and Medium-Sized Organizations Project Guide gives you simple, step-by-step approaches to assess and improve a customer's operational efficiency.

There's also a series of Microsoft Project Guides that give you tools you can use to develop specific, solution-focused services for your customers. These will be most helpful with your vertical market customers or those with extremely focused, specific requirements.

There is a Technical Demonstration Toolkit (TDT) available for Microsoft Certified and Gold Certified Partners. At this partnership level, you'll receive one complimentary TDT subscription. The subscription includes DVDs with customer-ready demonstrations, including supporting material such as PowerPoint presentations, demonstration scripts, videos and other pre-sales collateral. Think of it as your sales pitch on a disk. The September 2005 update featured SMS 2003 deployment.

The Final Word
Microsoft's Systems Management Server 2003 is an all-around logical choice for systems management. Besides its overall lower TCO, you can point your customers to its ease-of-use, design, deployment and day-to-day administration.