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Martin LaMonica


Microsoft founder Bill Gates on Tuesday is expected to detail the company’s plan for computer management software and announce a long-awaited Windows update tool.

During a keynote speech at the company’s IT Forum conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Gates is scheduled to outline Microsoft’s ambitious effort to trim the cost of managing corporate data centers.

Microsoft is also expected to announce management-related product updates, including the first public test release of an automatic Windows update service.

Microsoft’s management software initiative, called Dynamic Systems Initiative, is a multiyear plan to wring greater productivity out of systems operators, who oversee company networks. With better management tools, administrators can handle more tasks, such as updating server patches, more quickly.

Improved systems administration has become a high priority for Microsoft’s business software division. Company executives point out that the majority of information technology budgets are dedicated to running existing systems, rather than creating new business applications.

Microsoft competes with IBM, Hewlett-Packard and other companies in the systems management software market.

The first products to come from Microsoft’s DSI will appear next year with the release of Visual Studio 2005, the company’s flagship programming tool. With it, developers are expected to begin to build applications that are less likely to crash or suffer from poor performance.

During his speech, Gates is expected to discuss the longer-term vision for DSI as well as how Microsoft is seeking to improve its management tools, said David Hamilton, director of Microsoft’s Windows and enterprise management division.

Hamilton said that future Microsoft management products, namely Systems Management Server and Microsoft Operations Manager, will be designed to monitor performance of data center components by tracking Microsoft-defined “models.” The models will describe the health of an application, its configuration and the tasks it supposed to perform, he said.

These models can be defined by programmers with a modeling tool that will be part of Visual Studio 2005 Team System, which is set to be available in the first half of next year. For example, a developer can indicate that an e-mail application needs to run on four servers and have a certain amount of bandwidth to meet expected demand.

“Models are a way of tracking the instrumentation of the application in real time,” Hamilton said. “Getting the models right is absolutely critical.”

By describing the company’s long-term plans for DSI, Microsoft hopes to get developers and systems operators familiar with the company’s future products and recruit third-party companies to build add-ons to Microsoft’s systems management software, Hamilton said. IT Forum is expected to have 4,000 IT professionals in attendance.

Also at IT Forum, Microsoft is expected to announce that it has started a wide-scale beta testing program for its Windows Update Service for sending out Windows patches, and that its Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 product and Virtual Server 2005 software are generally available worldwide.

The company also is expected to release enhancements to SMS 2003 for easing large-scale desktop deployments and for installing software to Windows handheld devices.