Microsoft will introduce some improved systems management features into its Windows Server 2003 operating system, due to launch next week.
The features are being touted as the first milestones in the company's five-year Dynamic Systems Initiative to introduce more autonomic computing.
Analysts have pointed out that many of the features already existed in previous versions, but will make the operating system easier to manage.
"One of the most important features is that Windows Server 2003 is a lot more straightforward to manage than NT4," said Tony Lock, senior analyst at Bloor Research.
"A lot of the capabilities have been there before, although perhaps in a slightly more primitive form."
Rival vendors have already started along the 'self-healing' system path with IBM's 'autonomic computing', Hewlett Packard's 'adaptive infrastructure' and Sun Microsystems' 'N1'.
But Michael Emmanuel, senior product manager for management at Microsoft, told vnunet.com that the company plans to build smarter applications in the first place.
"It is a multi-year plan to make applications operationally aware," he said. "You need to build management into the application. It starts at the point where you write the application."
Some of the systems management features in Windows Server 2003 are just improvements on those in the operating system's previous incarnation.
The resource management, server clustering and network load balancing tools were all available in various editions of Windows 2000.
But they will now be available across all versions of Windows Server 2003, with modifications such as new user interfaces.
The main new feature is Microsoft Virtual Server, which comes from the company's acquisition of Connectix.
Virtual Server helps with server consolidation and offers an easier migration path by allowing NT applications to run on a virtual server under Windows Server 2003.
Virtual Disk Service and Volume Shadow Copy Services allow users to better manage their applications regardless of the storage devices they use.
"Windows now communicates with the back-end storage and the application just needs to talk to Windows," said Emmanuel.
He admitted that the version of Visual Studio.Net, codenamed Whidbey, due after this year's release, will be critical for the Dynamic Systems Initiative in allowing developers to build applications with self-management capabilities.
"The next version of Windows Server will have yet more resources including things like improved software update services and automation services," explained Emmanuel.
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