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Microsoft Corp. conceived of its System Center Essentials as a way for small organizations to manage their IT assets, but before it even enters beta testing, management service providers and VARs say they already envision SCE as a tool for managing and monitor the assets of small organizations.

SCE installed at an SMB (small or midsize business) client and tied to the next-generation MOM (Microsoft Operations Manager) server at a central site would enable a service provider to monitor and manage the IT assets and operations of several SMB organizations, like so many branches of a single enterprise, MSPs and Microsoft officials predicted.

SCE was designed to allow an IT generalist a single window into an IT environment. By reporting back to a MOM server, an MSP or VAR could extend that window and repeat the practice over links to multiple SCE servers.

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“We’re getting something in the hands of both channel partners and end users that would enable VARs to reach right out into the individual servers in their clients’ environments,” said Eric Berg, the lead product manager for SCE.

“Most of our management tools out there have been built for the enterprise or high mid[-market], at best. Here is a solution that is built for the SMB and a way to manage those SMBs like an enterprise would manage remote locations.”

Solution providers, such as ClearPointe Technology Inc., already deliver a similar solution using Small Business Server and MOM 2005. The practice is currently the fastest growing of ClearPointe’s offerings, said John Joyner, the senior engineer on ClearPointe’s enterprise design team.

SCE and MOM Version 3.0 provide a more integrated architecture and less complicated synergy, Joyner added.

“We like the cookie cutter approach it offers,” Joyner said. “It’s simple and easily replicated and allows [us] to create a satellite system of SCE reporting to a main console.”

MOM server Version 3.0 may be able to handle upward of 30 SCE servers, both Microsoft and Joyner said.

The MOM 3.0-SCE link also improves on the previous connection between MOM 2005 and SBS, which required a VPN to connect. The direct link is more secure and leaves less of a footprint on the client, Joyner said.

The solution is also easier to sell because SCE is self-contained and doesn’t require any network routing or security, he said, so the modular is easy to drop in.

Microsoft said it expects to begin limited beta testing of SCE and MOM V3 in the first quarter of 2006, and a more publicly available beta test in the fourth quarter of 2006. Both products should be available in the first quarter of 2007.