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.


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.