A light at the end of the stovepipes

I’m out at MMS 2009 in Las Vegas this week, for an annual ritual I’ve been participating in for quite a few years. Attendance is definitely down, but content is as good as ever. This is the first time I’ve attended as a straight-up attendee. I started out in DesktopStandard as a vendor with a booth and then after the acquisition, as a Microsoft employee. It’s interesting to see each perspective on the show. Microsoft folks work very hard behind the scenes to put on a good show, and it always shows in the quality of the content.

Brad Anderson’s keynote was well done. There was a demonstration of wireless Windows 7 deployments via System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) to a group of Microsoft sales team folks sitting in the front row with their laptops as well as an unveiling and demonstration of System Center Online Desktop Management (SCODM). It was especially rewarding for me, since my time at Microsoft included delivering platform code to both of these products, and authoring the agent architecture for SCODM. These are products/services that are very different in implementation, although they share some significant common components – including integration with Windows Update and Microsoft’s Asset Inventory Service (AIS).

I’m hoping to seeing greater integration within Microsoft’s management solutions over time. As it stands nearly every management technology from Microsoft operates largely as a stovepipe. For example, Group Policy, SCCM, Forefront, Network Access Protection (NAP), System Center Mobile Device Manager (SCMDM), SCODM, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), and others, all operate using their own policy languages, transports and interpreters – just for starters. This means that the same functions that should be available across these products/solutions/services are either not consistently available, configuration in one cannot be upgraded/moved to another, and user experience is very different. Equally frustrating is that extensibility differs in each, to the extent available, frustrating the evolution of a rich partner and content ecosystem.

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