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Microsoft Shows Private Cloud Features of Upcoming System Center 2012

This week Microsoft is showing off its next version of System Center, a set of products for managing a Windows network. System Center 2012 will include a Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) when it's released later this year that will enable administrators to manage private and public cloud services.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson discussed the next generation of System Center during the Microsoft Management Summit. The big news behind System Center 2012 is the introduction of functionality to help IT managers build and manage private clouds using the infrastructure they may already have, including, the company said, other vendors' platforms and virtualization technologies.

Anderson demonstrated the VMM capability, which provides a single tool that allows IT managers to pool and dynamically allocate virtualized datacenter resources (including Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware, and the open source Xen hypervisors) and Windows Azure resources into clouds for various departments to use in a self-service model. VMM includes new standardized service modeling and configuration and image-based management, which will allow IT to use it to manage business application services, not just virtual machines. VMM is available as a beta download on the Microsoft Web site.

He also shared details about a new System Center project, code-named "Concero," that lets department-level application managers deploy and manage applications on private and public cloud infrastructure.

"Virtualization and server consolidation are important steps toward cloud computing, but it's essential to have management tools that provide intelligence about how the apps themselves are doing, not just management of virtual machine black boxes," said Anderson. "Microsoft's management solutions provide that insight, along with the needed oversight."

A private cloud is an approach to computing that uses resources--a network, servers, storage, etc.--that are dedicated to a specific company. They may exist on site or off site. The private cloud approach provides benefits of public cloud computing--self-service provisioning, shared costs, speedy scalability and elasticity--but with additional levels of control and security.

The new generation of System Center programs also includes:

  • System Center Operations Manager 2012, which will integrate technology from Microsoft's October 2010 acquisition of AVIcode. AVIcode is real-time application monitoring software for .NET and J2EE applications. Operations Manager also adds new dashboards for better service-level agreement tracking and network performance monitoring.
  • System Center Service Manager 2012, which will enable self-service requests from datacenter managers, business unit IT managers, developers, and users.
  • System Center Data Protection Manager 2012, which offers new centralized backup and protection and improved support for Hyper-V and workloads such as those in SharePoint.
  • System Center Orchestrator (formerly Opalis), which provides an IT process platform that automates workflows across systems and tasks.
  • System Center Advisor (formerly code-named "Atlanta"), a secure cloud service that assesses server configuration to help IT avoid configuration problems. A release candidate of Advisor was made available this week.

"The move to cloud computing significantly raises the bar for what is expected in enterprise management solutions," said Chris Wolf, research vice president at Gartner. "It's easy for a vendor to create a tool that automates the creation of a virtual machine and call it 'cloud management.' However, the real value of IT management comes from keeping a service up and running, which means tools that automate configuration and operations must take advantage of application knowledge to ensure an optimal life cycle. Organizations should take this management paradigm shift as an opportunity to reassess current processes and move forward with a platform capable of meeting the complex demands of tomorrow's cloud-enabled IT services."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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