Microsoft has given a glimpse into its next generation management software with a demonstration of a capacity planning tool, codenamed Indy.

Indy allows you to model how applications are deployed including the location of servers, links between those servers and number of users. The tool then provides a simulation of the results if a server were deployed under the prescribed model.

The demo was given at Microsoft's annual Management Summit by the company's enterprise management VP, Kirill Tatarinov, who had taken the place of CEO Steve Ballmer after he flew to Brussels to try to strike a deal with the EC.

Without Ballmer, Indy made the loudest impact during the keynote. It will be delivered with the second version of System Center - a management tool that will combine System Management Server (SMS) and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM). "This is an area of the industry that has been over promised and under delivered," said Tatarinov of the ability to do deep analysis of network operations.

No delivery date has been set for Indy or System Center version 2, which is a key component of Microsoft’s Dynamic System Initiative. DSI is a wide-ranging management platform similar to the utility computing systems put forward by IBM and HP. The first version of System Center is due out later this year.

Indy relies on data from DSI’s System Definition Model (SDM), which uses XML-based documents as a way for applications to communicate their management and operational needs to the network.

"It seems extremely ambitious to me," says Peter Pawlak, an analyst with Directions of Microsoft. "It’s a very grand vision. It’s logically the way to go." But Pawlak says it is unclear just how many points on the network will need to support SDM in order to derive holistic management capabilities. "It all makes me wonder how many parts will need to support SDM to build a feasible management model. It could include the OS, the hardware, the applications and the network components. Indy shows the tip of how complex the whole system can become."

SDM is also a key component of Visual Studio 2005 (code-named Whidbey), which is expected to ship in the first half of next year. Developers will use Visual Studio 2005 to build applications that incorporate the SDM model.