Microsoft is set to introduce a beta of a tool for capacity planning. It is planned to be one piece of a broad suite of tools designed to help companies model, deploy and manage network resources.

The news is scheduled to be announced at the company's annual Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas.

The suite of tools is a departure from Microsoft’s two-year-old plan to offer a single product called System Center 2005, which was planned to ship this autumn, that would integrate System Management Server 2003, Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005, a reporting engine and a modeling tool for capacity planning code-named Indy.

Users can expect a cache of individual tools under the brand name System Center that will perform tasks such as change and configuration management, asset management, application management, IT process orchestration, performance trending, reporting, backup/recovery and capacity planning. The original plan was to build it all into a single infrastructure.

“Microsoft insisted that it is important to develop a management brand that can compete with the likes of Tivoli and Unicenter,” says Peter Pawlak, an analyst with research firm Directions on Microsoft. “I think you will eventually see that name [System Center] applied to SMS and MOM.”

The first pieces of the System Center brand trickled out in March with the beta release of the System Center Reporting Manager 2005, a tool that collects data from SMS and MOM and lets users generate reports that combine information from the two, such as configuration and overall performance. Reporting Manager was originally called Reporting Services and was slated to be an integrated part of System Center 2005.

This week, the second System Center-branded tool emerged when Microsoft introduced System Center Data Protection Manager, a diskless back-up and recovery server that was previously called Data Protection Server.

And next week, Indy is expected to take on the System Center moniker when independent software vendors are given the first feature-complete beta code at the Management Summit. The Indy modelling technology was developed by Microsoft Research. It lets users model a server deployment based on characteristics such as the number of offices and users. A simulation of user workload can be run to determine system capacity, letting users experiment with different hardware, software configurations and user behavior before deploying anything on a live network.

Microsoft plans to demonstrate at the Management Summit how Indy can aid in deploying Exchange Server 2003.

System Center is one piece of Microsoft’s 2-year-old strategy called the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), a 10-year plan to build a comprehensive management platform for Windows.

DSI is designed to provide corporate users with a range of assessment, configuration, monitoring, management and development tools that will support Windows-based software and allow it to communicate its status to the network as a way to automate and improve the security, uptime and general maintenance of Microsoft infrastructure.

DSI's utility computing design is targeted to compete with Microsoft rivals such as Computer Associates, HP and IBM.

“Microsoft is starting to expand out to areas where other management companies have been operating for quite a while,” says Audrey Rasmussen, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates. “I think one thing that would be good is to hear more about the strategy. As companies start to pull together product lines sometimes the vision shifts a bit, and Microsoft needs to articulate their vision in terms of management and where they are headed.”