Microsoft is set to extend its System Center software to manage Linux and Unix machines, the first time that the company has opened up any software in this way.

The company has enhanced the software in an attempt to take on the likes of CA and HP in the data centre management market.

"We think we are a serious player in this game,"said Larry Orecklin, the general manager of the Windows enterprise and management division. "We want to become the systems management platform [in the enterprise]."

To build toward that goal, Microsoft plans to extend its System Center software, which includes Configuration Manager and Operations Manager, across platforms and add application management to its current infrastructure capabilities.

Microsoft plans to move across the divide using the OpenPegasus project, which is an open source implementation of the Distributed Management Task Force's (DMTF) Common Information Model (CIM) and web-based Enterprise Management (WBEM) standards. The project is run by the OpenGroup, and Microsoft has announced that it is joining the steering committee of OpenPegasus.

Linux vendors Novell and Red Hat have incorporated WBEM or its derivatives into their Linux operating systems and Sun and HP have done the same with their Unix-based operating systems. Microsoft has its own implementation of WBEM called Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI).

WBEM is a set of system management technologies, including CIM, for unifying management of distributed computing infrastructures.

At MMS, Microsoft launched into beta a set of extensions called System Center Operations Manager 2007 Cross Platform Extensions. The extensions incorporate OpenPegasus and the XML-based WS-Management protocol developed by Microsoft. The two are used to discover both physical and virtual systems on a network and monitor and manage them. The first agent-based extensions will cover HP-UX, Sun Solaris, Suse Linux Enterprise Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

The extensions are core to a central management platform anchored by Operations Manager 2007.

Microsoft also will release for free Operations Manager 2007 Connectors, which integrate the software with HP OpenView and IBM Tivoli management platforms.

The connectors are based on the same standards as the Cross Platform Extensions, and will ship between April and June 2009 as part of Operations Manager 2007 Service Pack 2.

The beta versions of the connectors will be uni-directional, moving Operations Manager data to the HP and IBM platforms.

When the connectors are completed, they will have bi-directional functionality, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft also released a beta of Virtual Machine Manager 2008 that will support both Microsoft's forthcoming Hyper-V add-on to Windows Server 2008 and VMware's ESX Server.

Microsoft also is introducing Performance and Resource Optimization capabilities that let OEMs develop Operations Manager management packs that monitor unique features of their platforms, such as power management.

In addition, Microsoft lined up 30 partners who will endorse its enterprise distributed management efforts.