Let's face it, there are probably too many UIs that we use to manage most of our IT environments, but SharePoint certainly seems to be a special case. There are a multitude of views within SharePoint, as well as tools that install outside of SharePoint. Wouldn't it be nice if vendors had a single location to add those management tools that were simply extensions of SharePoint itself!
In a sense that is where the Central Administration Site come in. Microsoft made this extensible and for tools that are farm or enterprise wide in scope and have central configuration this is where it may make sense to embed them. Here at the Quest SharePoint Product group we have started to move a number of our core UIs into common interfaces for specific users. If you have been following any of our new product development (and shame on you if you haven't because I don't think anybody else has been as busy as we have of late) then you have have noticed that some of the management and all of migration tools were recently consolidated into single UI views. You will also notice that for others, the Central Administration UI is the only place where you can manage it. This is for the tools that extend SharePoint capabilities as opposed to directly managing them. Currently four tools have Central Administration UIs, including some aspects of Site Administrator and the Web Parts, but Storage Maximizer and the new AttachThis are managed exclusively through Central Administration and for good reason!
What does this mean for you?
There are two things that happen when UIs are embedded in to Central Administration.
For one installation is streamlined through the use of WSP files. Adding such a solution couldn't be easier thanks to the solution manager in Deployment Manager for SharePoint when it's simply a point and click type of activity!!
Secondly you are leveraging the investment you made in SharePoint and you don't have to invest in other hardware to add to the complexity of your IT infrastructure. As long as the solution is designed properly (and we spend a lot of time to do this) it will have a very small or negligible impact on your SharePoint Farm. Also a lot of the activity was going to occur anyways through the system so better to have that happen at the local level to the Farm.
Below are two examples, Storage Maximizer and AttachThis. From this single view you can manage both and as long as you are a Farm Administrator the URL is simply all you need to know.
Storage Maximizer is our EBS/RBS tool and it needs to be present when SharePoint is running to manage the externalization of your content. For AttachThis, the administrative console is Enterprise Wide and allows you to keep client installs up to date with specific configurations!
Look for continued emphasis on this Simple, Fast and Focused approach to UIs!!