SMS 2003 (codename: Topaz)
A new Mobile Client, Active Directory Integration and an all-new metering solution are among the highlights of the upcoming SMS release that users have been patiently awaiting. At the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas (on April 30, 2002) Brady Richards (Lead Program Manager) and Bill Anderson (Lead Product Manager) provided an insightful discussion and demo covering the finalized list of enhancements and new features we can expect. Although still not scheduled to enter beta until the summer of 2002, a "preview" release was distributed to conference attendees. Below is a summary based on the conference presentation.
The Mobile Client
The new Mobile Client is designed for remote users, but more and more it is being said that this may be the preferred client for all systems, regardless of their network connectivity. It was developed completely from scratch and is based upon WindowsUpdate.com Technology using HTTP as its communication protocol.
BITS, or "Drizzle" support, is an integrated feature of Windows 2000 and XP and is a key example of why the Mobile client will only be supported for Windows 2000/XP and later systems. This capability allows client systems to download packages in the background and may optionally execute them when the download is complete. The BITS download supports checkpoint restart and is bandwidth aware.
Client installation has always been something of a pain, and this is yet another complaint addressed by SMS 2003. The client will provide a simple MSI setup for installation. The new client also brings with it a new security model, requiring no local account for operation. Another great enhancement is the Mobile Client's ability to use Active Directory to determine the closest distribution point to use. This does not move management of the client to another site, but simply allows you to avoid installing over slow links.
It was announced that the mobile client is intended to released with metering support. Ultimately, this will be dependent upon beta feedback; the release date will not be sacrificed for this feature in the mobile client. If this capability is not shipped in SMS 2003, it is promised to be made available within a few months of its release.
Active Directory Integration
The Active Directory (AD) integration to provided is among the most anticipated enhancements that SMS 2003 is to provide. It will now allow SMS site boundaries to be defined based on AD site names. For migration purposes, or if you simply prefer, site boundaries may be defined based on both AD site boundaries and IP subnets.
AD Discovery allows for the discovery of new systems from AD machine accounts, AD User Discovery allows for discovery of Users and their AD containers, and AD Heartbeat Discovery provides discovery of AD containers for systems assigned to an SMS site. Discovery may be based on any area in Active Directory, including built-in OUs.
SMS 2003 can display advertisements in the Win2k (and later) Add/Remove Programs wizard. This is a selectable option via Package Program Properties. Now, SMS Advertisements will appear the same as group policy advertisements.
For simple packages, a PDF is not required (but is still supported). SMS 2003 can create "package from definition" using MSI directly, so all MSI packages are effectively SMS packages.
Many new software inventory options are introduced with SMS 2003. A new WMI provider to inventory Add/Remove Program (ARP) installed program keys will be included, as will another new WMI provider to inventory MSI component status. These providers will also be available via the SMS Value Pack (expected to release to the web this summer) so these features can be exploited using SMS 2.0. Also among the inventory enhancements provided is an effective reduction of inventory by way of providing an ability to use wildcards. This allows you to limit what is collected (all EXEs in the windows directory, all DLLs that start with…)
SMS 2003 will provide an extensible web-based reporting tool built on the currently available add-in at Microsoft.com for SMS 2.0. It provides a set of automatically maintained high performance SQL views (the view schema is now both documented and supported.) This replaces the Crystal Reports implementation and also will also provide internationalized versions, integrated security and a more extensibility (easy to plug in additional reports).
Metering has been completely rewritten and is designed to be both more scalable and easier to implement. It will be integrated into the SMS console and database. SMS 2003 will provide "offline metering" to determine usage reporting and denial by time of day and/or security group. Note that the enforcement of license limits (online metering) will not be supported.
Rules are set at each site, and with a resource kit tool can be easily cloned to other sites. Metering data is "transaction" in nature and can therefore generate a large amount of data. To help determine how much data, a spreadsheet to calculate these numbers will be provided. All data has traditionally moved up the hierarchy, so it is important to plan for this. Data can be set to not move up the hierarchy (you can still generate reports reading data from remote sites.) For those that have implemented the existing SMS 2.0 implementation, be aware that metering rules and data will not be migrated to SMS 2003.
No More Logon Points
With SMS 2003, there will no longer be Logon Points. SMSMAN currently requires logon points (it is used to install the SMS client bootstrap, compare client IP subnet data with site boundaries and to locate its CAP for assigned sites.) SLP allows CAPs to be used directly, eliminating the need for logon points.
SMS 2003 provides a new Advanced Security Mode. Only the local system account needs to be utilized, greatly reducing the number of security accounts needed. Domain Admin access is no longer required. SMS 2003 also provides Security Rights Delegation. And finally, like group policy software distribution, SMS 2003 now features the ability to trigger MSI elevated installations for users with insufficient permissions in their own context.
Delta replication will only replicate updates as opposed to SMS 2.0, which replicated the entire updated package. This improved replication implementation also provides an automatic self-healing of downstream sites to fix these locations if they become corrupt or are otherwise removed.
Remote control will be available for both standard and mobile clients. It integrates with XP Remote Assistance, which is built into XP and .NET server. The existing Remote Tools feature in SMS 2.0 is still provided across all supported platforms, including XP clients if desired.
The Upgrade Notes
We are told the upgrade process will be very similar to installing a service pack. The initial migration is designed to be very simple, after which you may turn on new features you wish in a controlled fashion. SMS Servers must now have Windows 2000 Server or above as its operating system. Support has been dropped for NetWare and Windows 95, but SMS 2003 can work with an SMS 2.0 child site (including secondary sites) to continue this support where it is required. All SMS 2003 clients will require Internet Explorer 5.0 or above. For those still on SMS 1.2, there is no direct upgrade path offered, so get to work now!