Kent Compton

Software runs the world!

What do YOU want in Windows Server "Centro"?

What do YOU want in Windows Server "Centro"?

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I'd to get your opinions on the types of functionality and features you'd like to see in Windows Server "Centro".  The skies the limit!  Please note: I won't reply to your comment unless I need clarification (we might already plan on doing the feature).   

I'd like to understand better what are the kinds of IT tasks in your Midsize Business you perform on a day-to-day basis that you would like to see Microsoft fix? 

Oh, and please let me know if you are a partner or a mid-size business.  Thank you in advance.

  • First and foremost, Office Sharepoint Server 2007 (or whatever SPS 2003 it becomes) if I understand correctly that Centro is going to be the next level up from SBS.  Sharepoint is good stuff and once you start using it you want the real deal.  Bump SQL Server up to at least Standard Edition so we get SSAS because even the little guys are starting to get business intelligence and scorecards.  Keep ISA 2006 or better, add SMS and MOM and tie it all together with central management!

  • I think a robust integrated backup tool would be great.  The tools from 3rd party vendors are alway cumbersome and require loads of cash.

  • First, this is a spectacular idea for a server "class."  There's a world of difference between Micro companies (1-24 desktops) and small companies (25+).

    Second, you should remember that the folks in the 25+ desktop range probably have a budget rather than just spending money when something breaks. They understand they need to spend something on technology even if they don't "love it" strategically.

    Third, I'll assume that the best features of SBS 2003 and Server 2003 are included. So on top of that, I'd like to see:

    - Easy (obvious?), straight-forward migration tools.
    -- For migrating same server to new hardware (keeping all desktops and users in place).
    -- For migrating all users from older (NT4/2000) domains to the new Centro domain. Literally, drop this server on the network and click the Migrate Now button.

    - Create a Disaster Recovery Wizard. It should wrap up all of the active directory users, passwords, email settings, etc. but be hardware independent. Create a dvd image that can be burned right off the server. When the river comes calling, you should be able to take this DVD, stick it in a completely new server, click go and have a system that will operate for 60 days until you can straighten out licensing, media, backup tapes, etc. It's perfectly okay if this process can't be done by a $30/hr cage monkey. Consulting hours are to be expected. But increasing the speed of recovery is worth a little something extra.

  • Just some things off the top of my head:
    - A more robust version of RWW
    - Live Meeting built in for internal/extenral use
    - Migration tools for moving from SBS or single W2K3 platform
    - Image backups of servers/workstaitons
    - NTBackup that works with auto loader tape devices (like the Exabyte 1x10)
    - ability to monitor multiple servers (internal/external)from a single screen

  • I will echo what Karl said based on our experience in the midmarket. Most seem to be concerned with migration and consolidation, from what they currently have an are bleeding money on support costs to something that is maintainable and supportable. So going from one broken pot to another is simply not the option, your product will be ignored if it is percieved as yet another Microsoft crippled bundle. I'm not saying that to crticize you, I am a Microsoft partner and that is the reflection of what market is saying to me every time I mention spending more on Microsoft tools.

    So there are technical and business needs.

    Business needs are on virtualization and scalability. Whatever and however Centro is pushed out the door please resist the urge to push what you think is right for the customer. Some customers will need SQL Workgroup, some SQL Enteprise, some will get by without SQL at all. Some will love to have DPM, others would cringe at the price because they already purchased Veritas and their in house staff will put a big block to spending on your software. Do you see where I'm getting here - allow us, as your partners, to give our clients flexibility to pick and choose the functionality they need without the "relicensing" penalty common in SBS.

    On the technical front, consolidated and fine grained administrative tools. Please try not to stick everything in a wizard, 500 seat companies are not maintained by dropouts from the accounting or other fields, they have sophisticated system administrators and administrative separation needs. For example, most places have tiers right above helpdesk that only have certain priviledges to modify certain attributes for users Exchange mailbox. Wizarding everything and expecting a larger company to hand over full administrative priviledge to a single person is near suicidal and will not fly in the midmarket.

    As for the wishlist, it varies by customer, by size and by budget. By far and wide, we can license a Microsoft solution that we need. I would beg you to spend more time working on the core of this solution that addresses above immediate concerns of the market and let LOB apps and servers added when neccessary and where appropriate.

    - Vlad Mazek

  • I don't think all those things have to be bundled in a Suite. But maybe put them on the same DVD.

    But look at what Veritas does with Backup Exec. One CD has pretty much all their backup options. As you enter license keys, you get access to those options. So if I want one version of SQL over another, I just buy the license for that version.

    The "bundle" could be simply better pricing for the initial setup.

  • First, thank you all for your comments. I really appreciate them.  

    Secondly, to expand on some of the posts I have one additional question.  Several of you mentioned adding SPS 2007, DPM, SQL SKU x, etc. to "Centro".  Is there a particular reason why you want those products "in the box" versus being able to buy them stand-alone as you can today?  One of the challenges with putting any "suite of functionality" together is getting the right  products and functionality mix. As Vlad mentioned, customers don't want to pay for products and/or functionality that they already have unless they perform much more robustly than what they currently own.  

    I think the impetus is on us (and all ISVs really) to allow/enable stand-alone products to integrate very well with the OS, management tools or SBS/Centro-like products we develop. That is happening today very well in some instances (e.g. AD and Exchange, several backup vendors with WS/Exchange/et al) but it can always be improved.  Achieving modularization via component-based architectures and virtualization are two good ways of getting there (at least on the face of it) but I'm just as encouraged by us simplifying and unifying the way in which an ISV's developer know they have to interact with our products.  For example, MOM Management Packs are our big push today to unlock a lot of management "magic" if an ISV's product wants to tightly play with a Microsoft environment.  Said another way, writing to Windows Server's event log gets an ISV to the game, interacting with an API via WMI lets the ISV do what THEY want to do but creating a MOM MP puts power into the hands of the person administrating the server(s).  Since management is one of the biggest ongoing cost to running IT making management easier is a blessing for everyone. The only people who like IT anarchy are companies who bill by the hour. <g>  Still, at the end of the day I've never met anyone who likes fixing IT as much as adding great, business-enhancing functionality. I'm excited that simplying IT is a core tenet that we're trying to solve with "Centro".

  • Perhaps discussing individual products is not an ideal approach.  Instead, I’m inspired by the declaration “simplying IT is a core tenet that we're trying to solve with Centro".  Toward that end, maybe its better to ask “What is Centro?”,  rather than what’s “in” Centro.

    For the organizations that I know in the mid-market, it needs to be all about simplification and reducing the cost to actually use information technology capabilities.  (And it is decidedly NOT about simplification and cost-effectiveness in today’s world.)  For every 500-seat organization with specialized technical resources, there are 10 organzations in the 100 to 250-seat range that can’t or won’t use readily available technology because its too complex to acquire, deploy and manage. The very problem these organizations face is that reliable capabilty requires those specialized technical resources.

    IT capabilities are just not readily accessible to the mid-market.  They don’t have and can’t afford (or don’t want) the people to devote to infrastructure management.  They’d rather use their limited budget for IT generalists that they can employ to help refine business management processes (read “applications”).

    So, here’s what I’m thinking - from a business management perspective, rather than a technical standpoint.  Note that I’ll intentionall try to voice WHAT is needed (in my opinion only).  Later, any number of people can provide better guidance about HOW (i.e., what products).

    Centro needs to be an approach to IT functional management that revolutionizes accessibilty to IT capabilities for the great mid-size market.

    Role-based server organization management that is
    • Robust (e.g., any server role, including both productivity and LOB apps)
    • Simple (i.e., does NOT require an MCSE to manage)
    • Transparent (e.g., configuration data sink, script generators)
    • Inclusive (i.e., able to manage any supplier or developer who chooses to comply)
    • Extensible (by both developers and deployers)
    • Repeatable (for recovery, mass deployment, scalability, testing)
    • Malleable (readily changeable)

    Capabilities availability management that is
    • Efficient (intelligent, hierarchically expandable, exception-based montoring)
    • Proactive (preventative, redundant, fault-tolerant)
    • Responsive (e.g., load-balancing, failover)
    • Readily correctable (i.e., self-diagnostic)
    • Communicative (support, user, escalation)

    Resource management that is
    • Comprehensive (i.e., ALL hardware, ops software, apps software, users, roles)
    • Coherent (e.g., license management)
    • Predictable (e.g., economically valued, scheduled, functionally coordinated)

    Economically compelling IT capabilities access that is
    • Respectful (e.g., supportive of sunk costs, existing licenses)
    • Labor efficient (i.e., ATTACK the largest IT cost component)
    • Complete (e.g., license AND maintenance)
    • Direct (i.e, Microsoft and Customer – NO MIDDLEMEN)
    • Forceful (e.g., every MS product licensed under Centro is 20% off)
    • Tempting (e.g., free 90 day trial for any MS product to Centro customers)
    • Available (e.g., downloadable CURRENT distribution for any MS product)

    As I read all that, it sounds a little “motherhood and apple pie”.  But I think you get the idea.  Centro needs to be a way for the mid-market to DO information technology, not just another bundle of uncoordinated tools.

  • Personally, from what I have seen so far in BEAT 2 the only thing that I think is missing is to add Shaepoint 2007 instead of 2003. all the other products are the latest except for that one. It would be nice to include OCS or at least the capability to enable a more robust IM than window messenger.

    Overall I think a lot of good thoughts and technology have been put into this product which is a good thing for the mid-market businesses.

    it would also be very good if you could revert back to your default ISA config.



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