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Microsoft aims at VMware with System Center 2012

Offers future-proofing with unlimited VMs

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Microsoft is taking the fight to VMware with a new release candidate of Systems Center 2012 which includes a new pricing structure and eight management tools that run on a unified interface. Ever humble, Microsoft is billing it as the future of private cloud systems.

System Center 2012 comes in two flavors – standard and data center editions – but both consist of eight applications that use an integrated installer. A single license will cover a pair of processors, but while standard users can run a couple of virtual operating systems for around $1,300, the data center edition covers unlimited VMs for just over $3,600 – although volume customers should expect serious discounts.

“This is a clear differentiator,” Amy Barzdukas, GM of communications for Microsoft's server and tools business told The Register. “It gives customers the capabilities needed to build and deploy private clouds, without paying a V tax.”

The move will no doubt be noted by VMware and others in the field, but there’s still a way to go. Of the eight modules, five are at release candidate stage and three are still in beta. The final software is expected to ship in the first half of the year and consists of:

Configuration Manager RC: During Tuesday’s launch webcast, Brad Anderson of Redmond’s management and security division said the new code was “the most significant release of Configuration Manager that we’ve ever done,” because Microsoft is changing its IT rules structure from focusing on the device to focusing on the user.

This means that the BOFH can manage a much larger range of devices, including Phone 7, iOS, and Android. But this comes at a cost: the rules system will have to be completely rewritten. “There is some work involved,” Andrew Conway, director of product management for Microsoft System Center, diplomatically told El Reg.

Endpoint Protection RC: This works closely with the config manager for control and reporting, and the new build adds automatic software and signature updates, and user – rather than device – controls. It uses Microsoft’s basic anti-malware engine, and the vulnerability warning system has been made more efficient.

App Controller 2012 Beta: This is designed to let admins upload and manage applications across public and private cloud environments via a single control system. The 2012 build comes with a variety of templates and project tracking and analysis tools.

System Center Service Manager 2012 Beta: These tools are for deploying services across the cloud, with new reporting capabilities that use data warehousing.

Virtual Machine Manager 2012 RC: This build is being touted as Microsoft’s attempt to be more inclusive, and it’s not a bad effort. The manager works with multiple hypervisors, including VMware, Xen and Azure, and can take capacity from all into a single private cloud.

“This is a unique position for Microsoft,” Anderson said. “In our battle with our biggest competitor [Microsoft, like political candidates, seldom name-checks its foes], we’re the heterogeneous provider and they’re not.”

Orchestrator 2012 RC: This Microsoft management tool improves process automation and integrates with management tools from HP, IBM, EMC, BMC, CA, and VMware, supports PowerShell, and uses a standardized ODATA REST-based web service interface.

Operations Manager 2012 RC: This is the unified management tool that Redmond is so proud of, putting public and private cloud management into a single console, using .NET and JEE for monitoring and diagnostics.

Data Protection Manager 2012 Beta: This tool backs up to disk, tape, and cloud storage, and with this release adds single-window management of all security servers along with certificate-based protection, media co-location, and generic data-source coverage. ®

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