Enterprise Software

A look at Windows Vista's Microsoft Management Console

Here's a look at MMC 3.0 and some of the new snap-ins that are available in the current Windows Vista beta—build 5270.

As you know, the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) tool provides you with a shell into which you can insert various tools called snap-ins. I've always been a big proponent of using the MMC tool to create customized consoles for various tasks. However, I've always despised Windows XP's console creation process, which is a very convoluted operation that I think could have been designed much better.

With Windows Vista, Microsoft is introducing a new version of the MMC tool interface, which at this point is simply being called MMC 3.0. Version 3.0 of the MMC tool provides more functionality for snap-ins than prior versions and sports a smoother looking user interface that makes it much easier to create, as well as use, consoles. In addition to the new look, many of the existing snap-ins have been enhanced with new features and there are several new snap-ins in Windows Vista, such as the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security, that reveal a new level of control.

In article, I'll take a closer look at MMC 3.0. As I do, I'll examine some of the new snap-ins that are available in the current Windows Vista beta--build 5270.

The new interface features

When you launch MMC 3.0, you'll see an empty console as shown in Figure A. As you can see, the opening console interface looks, for the most part, just like Windows XP's MMC 2.0. However, on the right side console is a new area called the Actions Pane.

Figure A

When you first launch MMC, you'll see an empty console to which you can add various snap-ins.

While in an empty console like this one, the Actions pane looks pretty featureless, but it really stands out once you add a snap-in that uses it, as we'll see in a moment. Then, the Actions pane will display a list of actions, or commands, that are associated with a selected snap-in and provides you with easy access.

The biggest change in the MMC 3.0 is the Add or Remove Snap-ins interface. Instead of having to use a convoluted procedure that involves two separate dialog boxes to build your custom MMC, the new MMC 3.0 combines them into one comprehensive dialog box, as shown in Figure B. This makes it much easier to create custom consoles. As you can see, you simply scroll through the available snap-ins and click the Add button to build your custom console in the Selected snap-ins panel. Other features in the Add or Remove Snap-ins interface allow you to change the order in which snap-ins appear in the console, nest snap-ins under other snap-ins, and add snap-in extensions, which extend the feature set of existing snap-ins. When you're finished, you just click OK and then save the console.

Figure B

In MMC3, a single Add or Remove Snap-ins interface provides you with everything you need in one place.

Some new snap-ins

As I mentioned, Windows Vista contains several new snap-ins. In Figure C, you can see a couple of the new snap-ins that I added to a custom console. Let's take a closer look.

Figure C

This custom console contains a couple of the new snap-ins available in Windows Vista.

Diagnostic Console

One of the new consoles is the Diagnostic Console, which contains a number of tools for tracking system performance. The home page of Diagnostic Console is called Resource View and provides graphs showing the real-time usage and performance of CPU, Disk, Network, and Memory. You can find more detailed information about which processes are using which resources, by clicking CPU, Disk, Network, or Memory drop-downs to expand the display.

On the Diagnostic Console tree, you'll also see System Monitor as well as tools that allow you to the customize of Data Collector Sets, Reports, and Event Trace Sessions.

Reliability Monitor

The Reliability Monitor console shown in Figure D, displays the System Stability Chart, a reliability index which is compiled by Windows Vista's Reliability Analysis Component (RAC) and provides you with an indication of your overall system stability over time. The dates on the x-axis indicate drastic changes to the system that are likely to have an impact on stability, such as operating system updates, application installations, or driver installations. This allows you to track trends in your system's reliability that are related these events.

Figure D

The Reliability Monitor allows you to track trends in your system's reliability that are related to changes and additions to the operating system.

Scheduled Tasks

In Windows Vista, Scheduled Tasks is now a snap-in, as shown in Figure E, rather than a stand-alone utility. As far as the overall goal, Windows Vista's Scheduled Tasks snap-in is identical to its predecessors. However, the new interface allows for more sophisticated scheduling based on a wide range of trigger events as well as the more standard date and time. While the Schedule Tasks Wizard is still available to walk you through the process of scheduling a simple task, you can use the use the manual Create a Task command and have access to a more advanced set of options. Furthermore, the Scheduled Tasks Library provides a host of information as well as additional configuration options for each task in the Actions pane.

Figure E

Scheduled Tasks is now a MMC snap-in in Windows Vista.

Windows Firewall with Advanced Security

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that Windows Firewall, which already has a pretty substantial interface in the Control Panel, has a much more detailed interface as a snap-in titled Windows Firewall with Advanced Security. As you can see in Figure F, this snap-in reveals that this version of Windows Firewall does indeed provide both inbound and outbound protection.

Figure F

The Windows Firewall with Advanced Security snap-in provides access to configure both inbound and outbound protection.

Another feature revealed by the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security snap-in, is that the Windows Firewall can be configured for both stand-alone and domain network configurations. In addition, according to Microsoft, the Windows Firewall settings in Windows Vista are configurable via Group Policy objects to simplify manageability.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that even though Windows Vista's official release date is slated for the 2006 holiday season, some of the information presented here may change between now and then.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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