As it strives to improve its reputation in the server and desktop management arena, Microsoft announced on Tuesday Virtual Server 2005 and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 as well as the first public beta of Windows Update Services.
These were a few of the management offerings, resources and tools debuted by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates at the IT Forum conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, as the company faces increasing pressure to help customers and their solution advisers get more from their desktop and server software.
While Virtual Server 2005 and MOM 2005 were launched late in the summer, Microsoft used the forum to highlight new tools, feature packs and resources for those platforms designed for customers and partners.
Gates, for example, announced the availability of the Virtual Server 2005 migration toolkit to aid in the migration of operating systems and applications from a physical server to a virtual server.
Microsoft also launched two Systems Management Server 2003 feature packs designed to automate the deployment of updates and patches to mobile devices and operating system images to desktops.
The SMS 2003 Device Management Feature Pack and the enhanced SMS 2003 Operating System Deployment Feature Pack are available now.
The company also announced a Solution Accelerator for Business Desktop Deployment, which promises to reduce the cost of a Windows XP and Office 2003 deployment to less than US$100 per desktop.
Microsoft has been working for several years on reducing the cost and complexity of managing Windows server environments and more recently has pushed desktop deployments as security problems surfaced and customers dragged their feet on deploying new software.
Microsoft recently held an airlift for partners designed to educate them about the tools and accelerators to improve customer management and deployment plans.
For instance, vendor also launched this week TechNet Plus 2.0, which offers subscribers access to evaluation software without time limits, and professional technical support to help IT professionals -- or solution providers -- resolve mission-critical issues at customer sites.
Observers note that the company is reaching out more vigorously to partners to prove its ROI and TCO stories on both the desktop and server to fend off Linux and grow its platform business, especially as Microsoft ends tech support for NT at the close of this year.
Microsoft's resellers and licensing specialists said Microsoft is working harder with channel partners to prove the value of its software in measurable ways and increase deployments.
"We're seeing an interest in deployment services and are engaging with the Microsoft field on deployment opportunities," said Harry Zoberman, senior vice president of marketing and operations at ASAP Software, a Microsoft software reseller and licensing services specialist. "That's a difference between now and nine months ago."
In addition to its migration kit for Virtual Server 2005, Microsoft announced a series of promotions and availability of NetWare migration tools, prescriptive guidance, training and technical support for customers that migrate from NetWare to Windows Server 2003.
Novell is encouraging its declining NetWare base to migrate to its Suse Linux platform.
With this promotion, NetWare customers in the United States that make the decision to migrate to Windows Server 2003 can take advantage of a US$600 partner services subsidy for each Windows Server 2003 license and 50 Client Access Licenses purchased, up to a maximum of 25 subsidies per customer, a value of as much as US$15,000, Microsoft said.
Microsoft also announced this week a partnership with Dell to enable standards-based end-to-end unified management solutions that span software and hardware and offer unified management interfaces.
As part of that, Microsoft and Dell unveiled a plan to integrate Dell's firmware and BIOS with SMS 2003.
The companies announced the SMS 2003 Inventory Tool For Dell Updates, a one-click deployment tool that gives administrators and solution providers an easier method for quickly deploying software updates, operating systems and other applications across Dell PowerEdge server platforms.
Additionally, Microsoft promises to enable easier application development and management by integrating into its next generation of Visual Studio 2005 next year its long-promised modelling schema called System Definition Model (SDM).
SDM-enabled applications developed using Visual Studio, for example, will give developers a better method for modelling information flow between applications and managing them across Microsoft's existing and future management products including the System Center, which is due in 2005.
Microsoft has embarked upon a number of initiatives designed to improve the use of software in the data centre, enterprise and at SMB sites, including its Dynamic Systems Initiative Trustworthy Computing and Common Engineering Criteria plan, announced last May.