A Cloudy Microsoft System Center 2012 Outlook

David Tan
Microsoft held its annual Management Summit in Las Vegas this past week, and as expected, one of the primary focuses was around the announcements of upgrades and new products in the System Center family of applications. System Center already consists of a wide variety of applications, which perform all types of functions, from operations management to virtualization management to backup. The System Center 2012 announcement included three new products that increase the breadth of services an IT department can offer with System Center.

The most interesting new addition is probably System Center Advisor. Advisor moves System Center a step closer to the 'self-healing' network management tool we have been hearing about for years. Advisor is capable of actively detecting and correcting server configuration problems, which will help an IT professional spot a potential issue before it becomes a problem, and more importantly focus on the more robust IT responsibilities that actually add value to a business.

Aside from the new products, the upgrades seem to have a very specific focus. While the buzz last year was all about getting your business to the public cloud, there seems to be a very clear focus right now on enterprises building out and managing their own private cloud. Microsoft has clearly heard from some customers that have concerns over public clouds (specifically around security) and is offering alternatives. One of the key features in System Center 2012 is the ability for an organization to use existing infrastructure, along with some other vendors' platforms, and build and maintain a private cloud. There is also an enhanced delegation of authority in the new software that allows business unit managers to support and allocate those private cloud resources more easily, without having to rely solely on the IT staff.

I mentioned there is still some buzz around the use of the public cloud, and since this is Microsoft, that of course means its Azure platform. The new version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (one of the core components of System Center) includes a tool called Server Application Virtualization, or Server App-V. This tool will allow developers and IT professionals to migrate existing applications to the Azure service without having to go through the whole development and installation process. What this means in simple terms is organizations now have the ability to take some legacy applications that are already running internally on Windows 2008 and migrate them directly to the cloud without any significant engineering efforts. This flexibility will undoubtedly encourage more organizations to take advantage of the cloud quicker than they would have if the process involved completely re-writing all applications from scratch.

If you follow Microsoft closely, you have seen its entire focus move toward cloud computing. By embracing cloud configuration and management functions so robustly in its cornerstone systems management platform, Microsoft clearly put one more stake in the ground about the direction of its technology. What's nice is the added flexibility to embrace not only its cloud platform, but other vendors as well as a private cloud option. The software business should be about giving customers a choice how they want to deploy and use technology, and it seems Microsoft gets that. Let's face it, if you haven't at least road mapped your cloud strategy, you are falling behind. System Center 2012 would be a good place to start and help get your organization up to speed.

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