Microsoft preps System Center for the cloud

Microsoft is adding capabilities to System Center for both cloud and local deployments

Microsoft is updating the next version of its System Center IT infrastructure and server management suite so it can manage virtual machines in the cloud. It is also adding controls that will allow departmental IT chiefs to manage their own system resources, the company announced Tuesday.

Both additions to System Center 2012 suite, slated for release later this year, are necessary to help central IT departments keep pace with the requests of individual departments within their organizations.

"If [central IT] does not move fast enough, departmental level [IT staff] are not above going around them and [will] procure space on a site like Windows Azure if they want to deploy something more quickly," said Amy Barzdukas, Microsoft senior director of product management.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 allows administrators to deploy virtual machines either on local servers or on Microsoft Azure-based hosted platforms. The administrator can pool virtual machines into different sets, allowing them to establish sets of servers dedicated for specific tasks or lines of business.

The program works with virtual machines using the Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors and with those based on VMware and Xen hypervisors.

"You create a set of virtual machines with standard packages that have the app and the networking [settings], and put those out to the business-level owners," Barzdukas said. Microsoft has posted a beta version of Virtual Machine Manager that can be tested on a trial basis.

The release is timely. Cloud management has gone beyond the task of merely creating a virtual machine and deploying it on a cloud infrastructure, said Gartner Research Vice President Chris Wolf, in a statement. The organization will also need tools to automate configuration and operations as well.

Of the 7.5 million servers with Windows Server software that Microsoft expects to be shipped in 2012, around 1.5 million will be used in "highly virtualized" environments, Barzdukas said.

Also new for Systems Center 2012 will be a program that allows for greater control over departmental allocations of resources. Code-named "Concero," this application will allow an administrator to designate a set of servers or other resources to a departmental manager, giving that manager fine-grained control of how those resources can be used.

"Think of Concero as an administrative console that's been made available to department-level IT. It gives app owners the opportunity to manage their own resources that has been delegated to them by central IT," she said. "They will have a role-specific experience based on what their business unit needs, which allows them to do all the management themselves."

Microsoft announced these two new components of System Center at the Microsoft Management Summit, being held this week in Las Vegas.

In addition to these two new programs, Microsoft also offered more details about other improvements in the next version of the System Center.

Operations Manager 2012 will include .Net performance-monitoring technology that Microsoft acquired when it purchased AVIcode. Technology from another acquisition, Opalis, has been rebranded and updated under the new name of System Center Orchestrator 2012. Orchestrator allows users to automate workflows across different systems.

The updated Service Manager 2012 will allow data-center managers to file their own self-service requests, speeding the approval process for allocation of cloud resources. And a beta of a new service called System Center Advisor (formerly code-named "Atlanta"), which monitors cloud-based SQL Server deployments, has also been launched.

Also at the conference, Microsoft announced that Target deployed Hyper-V and System Center to manage in-store servers. By moving to this platform, Target was able to cut the number of servers it uses in each store from seven to two, Microsoft said. The move eliminated 8,000 servers across 1,755 stores.

Barzdukas pointed out that the Target servers even run, within virtual machines, a homegrown Linux application that Target built to manage pharmacy operations.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is

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