Texas-based technology services behemoth EDS announced Wednesday that the Microsoft System Center solutions Operations Manager (OM) and Systems Management Server, along with its own patent-pending OM 2005-based Enterprise Operations Manager, will be the server and desktop management solution it will push on its clients.

It may be the solution of choice for the company, but clients — both new and existing –will not be forced to adopt the suite of solutions, said Jack Story, chief technologist for EDS’ infrastructure portfolio.

“We will work with them and take their desires into account,” he said. While consultants will advocate the standard, customers are free to go with the solutions that fit their needs best. “For clients with different tool needs, we’ll manage a customized enterprise management framework,” said Story.

The new standardization will also see consultants target clients who currently operate a heterogeneous environment. “We want to bring efficiency to our clients and customers who have that hodgepodge (of environments) and help them experience an improved model that will enable great efficiency,” said Story.

Warren Shiau, a lead analyst in IT research with the Toronto-based consulting firm The Strategic Counsel, said that standardizing on Microsoft is not much of a gamble. Since EDS is a contract-based outsourcing company, “it’s not going to be an issue — what software package the customer is going with is not (the customer’s) concern. They just care about the cost of the contract,” said Shiau.

EDS and Microsoft are long-time allies — Microsoft is a member of EDS’ Agility Alliance (a coalition of marquee IT companies collaborating on the EDS Agile Enterprise Platform), and, while Story could not comment on what rough percentage of management solutions are Microsoft-based, the press release announcing the standardization said that “Microsoft provides the standard platform for EDS’ desktop and server operating systems, and integrated development environments.”

Said Story: “Operations Manager is also a natural fit with our Wintel server bases and environments.”

“It’s a big deal that they’re standardizing with Microsoft,” according to Shiau. He said that a decade ago, Microsoft was not a big player in the management services field, but it has worked hard to build and enable its management software with enviable capabilities that have made it a market leader.

Story cited what EDS sees as Microsoft’ and its products’ best-of-breed status as incentive for choosing them as its vendor of choice for management solutions. Story feels that the amount of collaboration between the allies is unique in the industry. He said, “We have a lot of interaction with their product team — it’s an embedded model. The breadth and depth of collaboration is unique, I think.”

The partnership is a score for both, as management software is a hot item these days. Said Shiau: “Management solutions have been an issue for IT departments over the last several years. They’re experiencing really high pressure to be incredibly efficient and reduce operating costs.” Microsoft comes out especially flush, as the standardization, in addition to another revenue stream, will protect its installed base from competitors (like Novell, HP, and IBM) with management offerings.

While EDS is open to housing the management environment in its customers’ own data centre or network space (due sometimes, said Story, to the laws in their country or compliance issues), the new standard goes hand-in-hand with the company’s push for its customers to leverage a shared, federated environment, courtesy of Enterprise Operations Manager (which Story calls “the Microsoft Operations Manager of Microsoft Operations Managers”) and coupling with one of EDS’ many worldwide hubs. Currently, three data centres (in Texas, England, and Germany) have deployed the Enterprise Operations Manager. Story says that EDS hopes to have the program deployed at all of its hubs over the 12 months, enabling greater efficiency and lower costs for its clients.

While Shiau thinks there is a good chance that businesses will end up flocking to this type of outsourced infrastructure that EDS is pushing, whether the market will definitively turn that way is up in the air right now. “If you talked to the top 500 companies in Canada, most of them are running things in-house,” said Shiau. “But some huge companies are have outsourced their infrastructure and desktop management-they’re already going along the way.”

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