The Need for a Management Framework

Windows NT and the early versions of Microsoft BackOffice applications come with a curiously loose collection of management utilities. For example, no obvious connection exists between User Manager for Domains (which you use to create a new account), the Exchange Server administration program (i.e., admin.exe—which you use to define a new email address for a mailbox), or Performance Monitor (which you use to monitor system performance). Each utility has a different idea of the perfect UI. The utilities' only common feature is that they all perform some type of management operation. This lack of similarity requires you to master each utility separately, which in turn drives up the overall cost of systems management.

The reason for such a fragmented landscape is understandable. Microsoft didn't design NT or the original version of Exchange Server for the enterprise. These products' administration tools are best suited for small to midsized companies in which one person or a small group of people typically looks after everything (e.g., the network, storage, user accounts, messaging, database maintenance). In these circumstances, you don't need to worry about dividing work between people, so a management utility such as the Exchange Server 5.5 administration program is appropriate. In enterprise-level deployments, a clear distinction usually exists between different teams' duties, so management tools need to be granular and flexible. (That need is one reason why such a large market exists for third-party NT management utilities.)

Windows 2000 differs greatly from NT in this respect. The emphasis on providing basic OS functions (e.g., setting up file and print shares)—the original reason for many NT deployments—has firmly shifted toward the ability to build and operate an infrastructure for applications. Many parts of the overall system interact with applications, including Exchange 2000 Server.

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