Q&A: Bob Muglia on Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative, autonomic computing

He believes companies will adopt DSI once they see value in the effort

Bob Muglia, senior vice president for enterprise management and storage at Microsoft Corp. helped define Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) and Systems Definition Model and their place in the emerging market for autonomic computing products. He spoke with Computerworld's Matt Hamblen and Carol Sliwa on Oct. 6 about Microsoft's plans and how they differ from initiatives launched by other companies, such as IBM.

What makes Microsoft's DSI better than autonomic products from other vendors? The key distinction ... is that we are looking at what we can do to the developer tools to make it easy to build applications that later on can be managed through the operations part of the life cycle. When IBM talks about autonomic computing, they often talk about the resource-balancing nature of it, and that is something we are also focused on. However, I am less concerned about the use of computer resources in a data center and more concerned about the people cost of developing, deploying and operating applications. So by capturing management knowledge at the development stage of an application as we do, there's a lot to be done to lower the cost of operating these systems.

Is DSI going to be synonymous with Web services management? Is it more? It's not synonymous with Web services management. It's very helpful for Web services management, and yes, it is more than Web services management. The whole idea of DSI is, Can you create a model for what a system looks like? For example, Active Directory is not Web services-based, but I sure would like it to be managed through DSI. I sure would like a System Definition Model to describe the Active Directory environment. Modeling tools would be helpful for such pre-existing applications as Active Directory, SQL Server or Exchange, because Exchange is a multitiered application split across many machines. DSI applies more to the overall Windows environment, with Web services a piece of it.

When they hear of autonomic tools such as on-demand and now DSI, enterprise network managers sometimes say, "Why weren't the vendors doing that 15 years ago?" They are asking, "Why didn't you do this 10 years ago?" Before DSI, all the management vendors were providing products late, with poor and fair degrees of success. It's not because they did a bad job, but they were trying to manage things not fundamentally manageable. The first thing the Active Directory team learned when they built their management pack was AD wasn't manageable.

What are you going to do to get customers interested in the DSI concept in this economy? People have to see value in technology producing business results. If you have got pre-existing systems that are running, in a lot of senses the cheapest thing you can do is continue to run them and not make changes. You'll always incur cost when you make change, and the change doesn't always benefit you the way you want. The fundamental thing is that the technology is delivering some level of business value.

You generate excitement for DSI by making sure people understand that this is the place where they can deliver business value, and in the process, they can roll out applications more quickly and manage them more effectively. As a platform vendor, we think holistically about that. We think about enhancing development tools, what we do in the operating system, what we do within the management pieces, and we think there's a lot of advantage in having that top-to-bottom approach.

What is the revenue potential of DSI for Microsoft? I can talk about what our objectives are, and our objectives are to provide a better environment for people in the Windows platform. That is our primary objective. It's not revenue-driven in the sense of driving revenue for management tools, but focused on making Windows server more competitive in the marketplace. The objectives of the Microsoft Enterprise Management Division are, first and foremost, to make Windows the most manageable platform, and second, build an ecosystem around Windows and management, and third, generate incremental revenue and build products.

By making Windows better, that is the foundation of what we need to do to grow our business. Honestly, although the Microsoft management applications, MOM and SMS, are a substantive business for the company, they really have a tertiary role relative to those other two objectives.

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