Microsoft extends SMS 2003's reach into Windows

Yeah, Windows Live is the popular talking-head topic, but I'm just too sick of it. Unproven software, unproven model, just not worth the type time until Redmond releases even a piece of it beyond beta. 'Nuff said. I like to stick to things I can see, touch, and use right now. This week, that's SMS (Systems Management Server) 2003 SP2.

But before we get to that, a little later today (or yesterday, or last week, depending on when you read this), get set for a big announcement on Office 12. Rumor has it that Feb. 16 has been designated Office 12 Branding Day. Look for a bunch of announcements out of Redmond covering official product names, logo presentments, and especially the varying Office SKU descriptions.

That should be fairly exciting, but if you're more of the systems administration type, then the SP2 update for Systems Management Server 2003 is probably more interesting. This roll-up became available early last week. This is mostly a roll-up of several SMS fix-'em-up patches, but it also includes a number of console changes worth mentioning.

The most obvious is that you can now locate and access management points using domain-style names rather than NetBIOS names. So that means instead of using the typical 15-character NB name, you can use something organized around, for example. This isn't a revolutionary ooh-ah-style feature, but it sure makes some management tasks easier for those heavily dependent on Active Directory naming organizations.

Active Directory integration also goes a bit further in SP2, as SMS will now also support Active Directory Security Group Discovery methods. Frankly, we were all wondering why this wasn't included quite a bit earlier, but at least it's here now.

Last, you've got support on the client-side for IA64, x64, and x86-based Windows editions (although they have specific patch requirements in order to make this work, so read the specs first). There are other upgrades as well, but they're more back-end oriented, like the fact that the software inventory processor is now multi-threaded. You won't see these enhancements as much as you'll feel them.

And if all that download goodness isn't enough for you, there are a few other nuggets still available via Microsoft's SMS 2003 homepage. The top-loading one is a too-enabling Desired Configuration Monitoring. This puppy basically uses XML to allow administrators to define configuration compliance docs and use those to monitor configuration settings on SMS clients. Again, not revolutionary, but sure nice to have.

But the one I like the most are the 40 free scripts available in the SMS 2003 Scripting Guide. This is a fairly nuts-and-bolts tutorial on SMS scripting available as a straight Word download, and it also provides the aforementioned sample scripts as edit guidelines covering all kinds of ground, especially for a variety of auto-run queries against the SMS knowledge store. If SMS is in your infrastructure, then this is pretty much a must-have download.

For the record, SMS 2003 isn't my favorite systems management application, but Microsoft has done a great job of extending SMS's tendrils deep into other parts of your Windows infrastructure. So if you've made the considerable investment into setting up an SMS management architecture, then keeping up with Microsoft's updates and enhancements only makes sense. Enjoy.