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Chapter 5 - Sustaining Manageability

Published: November 10, 2004

Labor costs represent a major part of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a computing environment. Labor is normally the largest cost category in any IT operation. This is particularly true in the case of the Windows-based data center, which benefits from significantly less expensive hardware, and often, licensing costs.

An increase in the manageability of a system leads to a decrease in labor costs. The manageability of the Windows environment is thus a powerful economic argument in considering migration from UNIX.

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Manageability Overview Manageability Overview
Windows Server 2003 Manageability Windows Server 2003 Manageability

Manageability Overview

Managing an enterprise computing system requires both a high level of operational professionalism and an appropriate set of tools. UNIX initially earned a reputation for requiring a great deal of arcane knowledge to manage. For example, all administration required manual editing of parameter files and issuing commands.

When use of Windows desktop systems became more widespread, this inconvenient administration of UNIX compared unfavorably to the graphic tools available for Windows configuration. Ultimately, UNIX vendors responded by providing graphical user interface (GUI) based administrative tools.

The growth of Internet access also changed the administration of computing systems, because it enabled the distribution of software updates through the network. For example, patches are now available for download from FTP or Web sites. In the UNIX environment patching both servers and clients is often done manually, which increases the complexity of the task. Although applications can load from network shares, UNIX system patches and configuration changes need to be applied to all systems on the network and may require an administrator to correctly configure the systems for automatic patch distribution. Moreover, even correct configuration may not allow for the installation of some system patches automatically.

In the Windows environment, Microsoft has focused on automating this process by providing Windows Update Services (WUS). WUS is a patch and update tool that offers a simple, effective, and quick way to deliver core software distribution and to update management infrastructure. WUS is comprised of both a server and client component.

Managing the enterprise’s computing resources means managing both client computers and servers, and managing security across a wide range of systems. UNIX system manufacturers provide some capabilities in this area and third-party suppliers offer products to enhance areas that manufacturers do not fully address. The Microsoft combination of Active Directory and the Systems Management Server provides an integrated means to enforce security policies and keep both clients and servers up to date.

For more information on WUS, refer to:
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/sus/default.mspx

Windows Server 2003 Manageability

Each edition of Windows Server 2003 supports a high level of load manageability features:

  • Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition: IntelliMirror®, Group Policy Results, Remote OS Installation, Remote Installation Services (RIS), WMI

  • Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition: All features of the Standard Edition, plus WSRM

  • Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition: All features of the Enterprise Edition, plus vendor-specific services and hardware

  • Windows Server 2003, Web Edition: All features of the Standard Edition, except RIS and WSRM

There are many aspects of system manageability that determine the overall success of a Windows Server System production environment:

  • Patching, or applying corrective changes to, system software

  • Monitoring system health to predict and avoid problems

  • Deploying new or corrected software configurations to all servers and desktops as required

  • Employing skilled and experienced administrators

  • Maintaining mature and formalized operational procedures

Deploying and Managing Updates

All enterprise operating systems require the installation of a steady flow of patches. Often the IT professionals responsible for maintaining UNIX systems are not the same people who are responsible for maintaining the Windows-based file sharing and e-mail servers, and the tribal knowledge of how to sustain a production computing environment is not shared.

Microsoft Systems Management Server is a mechanism for deploying and managing the distribution of software updates to a large number of clients. Systems Management Server (SMS) is capable of optimizing the deployment of applications and security patches by identifying system capabilities of users and locations and adjusting download and update properties accordingly. SMS provides the following functionality:

  • Inventories the number of computers deployed

  • Inventories computer locations and roles

  • Determines which software applications and software updates have been installed and which need to be installed on the deployed computers

  • Schedules the deployment of software updates outside regular working hours, or at a time that has the least impact on business operations

  • Allows administrators to monitor installation status

For more information on Microsoft Systems Management Server, refer to:
http://www.microsoft.com/smserver/

Monitoring System Health

Windows System Resource Manager provides resource management and enables the allocation of resources, including processor and memory resources, among multiple processes based on business priorities. An administrator sets targets for the amount of hardware resources that running applications or users (in a Terminal Server environment) are allowed to consume.

Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) provides access to the management functions of local and remote systems. Administrators directly access these management functions and create queries based on this data that will update remote systems on a selective basis. Administrators can monitor local and remote Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP systems directly, and view the resulting data through the command line or retrieve it in XML form. WMI follows the specifications of the industry standard Common Information Model defined by the Distributed Management Task Force, an industry organization involved in the development, adoption, and interoperability of management standards and initiatives for enterprise and Internet environments.

Group policy results allow administrators to see the effect of a group policy on a targeted user or computer. Included in the Group Policy Management Console, group policy results provide administrators with a powerful and flexible base-level tool to plan, monitor, and troubleshoot policies.

For more information on the Distributed Management Task Force, refer to:
http://www.dmtf.org

Deploying Software to Servers and Desktops

IntelliMirror provides administrators with high levels of control of portable and desktop systems running Windows 2003 Professional or Windows XP Professional. Administrators use IntelliMirror to define policies based on business roles, group memberships, and locations. With these policies, desktops are automatically reconfigured to meet a specific user's requirements each time that user logs on to the network, regardless of where the user logs on from.

Remote Installation Services (RIS) allows independent hardware vendors (IHVs), independent software vendors (ISVs), and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to create tools that help network administrators and end users perform tasks such as system BIOS updates, stand-alone system diagnosis, and virus scanning and repair. RIS provides a centralized location to integrate maintenance and troubleshooting tools that are accessible through a network boot.

Application Center reduces application management complexity, replicates any changes made to a server by updating other servers in the cluster, automates the deployment of applications from one server to another, and allows applications to achieve on-demand scalability.

For more information on Application Center, refer to:
http://www.microsoft.com/applicationcenter/

For more information on IntelliMirror, refer to:
http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windowsserv/2003/standard/proddocs/en-us/sag_IMirror_top_node.asp

Deploying Content

Very large Web applications present a management challenge to organizations because of the vast amount of content that must be constantly maintained, while the demand for access by users is high and unremitting. In addition, new channels for access to content appear with ever-increasing frequency.

Microsoft Content Management Server simplifies the process of creating, deploying, and maintaining content-rich Web pages. Content Management Server provides the ability to tailor Web pages to the needs of different browsing devices and effectively target and personalize the experience of individual site users. Content Management Server supports industry-standard load balancing and failover technologies, serves content in XML, and enables XML Web services customization and standards-based interoperability.

For more information on Content Manager Server, refer to:
http://www.microsoft.com/cmserver/

Managing Operations

UNIX customers are accustomed to selecting and adapting multiple third-party products to help automate the management of their systems. Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) is a unified programmable and extensible management environment specific to the Windows Server environment.

MOM was created to help prevent potential IT problems and support issues that do arise. MOM is designed to help staff stay aware of the status of IT health, improve response times to any issues, and effectively share information about key issues.

For more information on MOM, refer to:
http://www.microsoft.com/mom/

Microsoft Manageability Guidance

An important contributing factor in the manageability of the Windows platform is that it comes with a significant amount of detailed prescriptive guidance. This guidance is in the form of patterns and practices contained in Microsoft Solution Accelerators: lab-tested, customer-approved Microsoft best practices that are intended to be used by Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) or Microsoft partners to help customers achieve optimal solutions. The following Microsoft Solution Accelerators that apply to manageability are available:

  • Windows Server Deployment. Describes the efficient deployment of Microsoft Windows Server 2003 using MOM and SMS.

  • Business Desktop Deployment. Describes the efficient deployment of Microsoft Windows XP Professional, as well as Microsoft Office XP Professional or Office Professional Edition 2003.

  • Security Patch Management. Describes the efficient deployment of security patches within organizations using SMS or Windows Update Services.

  • Service Monitoring and Control. Describes the knowledge, tools, and services to monitor services running on the Microsoft platform using MOM.

  • Account Management. Provides guidance for streamlining user account administration and office location changes.

  • New Application Installation. Provides an automated, repeatable method for quickly and efficiently rolling out new application software.  

Sources for Detailed Guidance

For more information on manageability guidance, refer to Microsoft Solutions for Management:
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/overview/benefits/manageability/default.mspx

For an overview of all Microsoft Solutions for Management prescriptive guides, refer to:
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/itsolutions/techguide/msm/default.mspx

For more information on Microsoft Management Solutions for Windows Server 2003, refer to:
http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/default.mspx

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