Microsoft expands datacentre simplification plans

Microsoft will soon begin delivering software components for an initiative aimed at reducing datacentre complexity, with the goal...

Microsoft will soon begin delivering software components for an initiative aimed at reducing datacentre complexity, with the goal of making it easier for companies to deploy and manage applications across large groups of servers.

The Dynamic Systems Initiative aims to alleviate what Microsoft viewed as a "crisis in the datacentre", said Bob O'Brien, group product manager of Microsoft's Windows Server division. IT managers face a profusion of data, devices, applications and personnel, and need technology that will help them integrate and run their intricate environments, he added.

Microsoft's project centres on a software architecture specification for developers that aims to make applications more flexible and self-descriptive. The first deliverable based on the initiative, according to O'Brien, will be Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 software, due out on 24 April. Other components will roll out over the next several years, with at least one more piece scheduled to arrive before the end of 2003.

Microsoft spoke about the program briefly last month during a presentation at its Silicon Valley campus. Further details of the initiative are scheduled be discussed next week at the company's annual Microsoft Management Summit, in Las Vegas.

Microsoft has developed a specification it calls the System Definition Model, which is an XML-based blueprint for building functionality into applications that will allow them to describe their own operational requirements. If an application can describe its own deployment, resource and security requirements, it can be more easily and flexibly managed, O'Brien said.

Microsoft has been working closely with a number of hardware, software and services partners on its Dynamic Systems Initiative, including Computer Associates International, Electronic Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

Sun Microsystems and IBM are each working on their own heavily hyped initiatives for addressing computing complexity.

But Microsoft's approach to the problem is unique, and likely to pay off for customers more quickly than projects from other suppliers, said Tom Bittman, an analyst with Gartner.

"[Microsoft is] a little late, but they're also coming at it from a different way. They're approaching this from an inside-out perspective, focusing on the applications first," he said.

Windows Server 2003 will include several features developed as part of the Dynamic Systems Initiative, O'Brien said. Most of those features will be found in the Enterprise and Datacenter editions of the software, though some will appear in the Standard version.

Later this year, Microsoft will deliver the second technology created under the initiative: Automated Deployment Services, an addition to Windows Server 2003, that will aim to drastically reduce the time needed for imaging and deployment of server systems.

The software, which Bittman described as "very simply, an image sprayer", will be particularly effective in blade-server environments, he said.

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