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System Center 2012: In a Word -- Cool

Microsoft System Center 2012 is packed with new capabilities aimed at addressing today's technology challenges. If I had to summarize what System Center 2012 was about, I would simply say it's about private clouds and mobile device management, two of the hottest topics in the IT world today.

Microsoft is betting the company's future on cloud, and one of the manifestations of that bet is the strong emphasis on private cloud in System Center 2012, with capabilities ranging from self-service to automation and orchestration. Furthermore, System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 can now build private clouds and manage different types of hypervisors such as Citrix XenServer and VMware ESX/ESXi, in addition to Microsoft's own Hyper-V.

But the cool thing about the upcoming release is the way it aggregates physical resources. You now have the ability to find bare-metal servers, communicate with their management port and deploy an image on them. Sure, that's cool, but nothing special; we've seen this before, right? Yet, what's really cool is how you can add it to a resource pool and extend capacity on the fly. It won't be long before we can build clouds that are powered by heterogeneous hypervisors, a cluster made of vSphere, Hyper-V and XenServer, among others.

App Controller is a new feature of the suite and it lets you empower business owners to build, manage and operate services based on service catalogs. Rather than deploy just a single standalone server for a single application, you can deploy a service. To complement App Controller, System Center now introduces Service Manager, a self-service portal where users can customize and request the services they need.

All of this is great, but remember the essence of cloud is automation and orchestration, and that is where System Center Orchestrator comes into play, allowing you to automate processes using run books. What else do you need for a cloud deployment? Operations Manager gives you the ability to diagnose applications and monitor infrastructure. Even though you're in the cloud, you still need to protect your data, and Data Protection Manager is the answer there.

Even Microsoft is acknowledging the effects of consumerization in the enterprise -- so much so that System Center Configuration Manager 2012 will now be able to manage mobile devices with different OSes on them, from Google Android, Apple iOS and Windows Phone to Symbian. I wasn't able to find information on whether BlackBerry would be added to the list. Configuration Manager 2012, however, will find stiff competition in the Software as a Service (SaaS) world from enterprises like MobileIron, OpenPeak and others, which offer powerful solutions that don't require capital investment and offer a better operating expense story. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft offers this solution in a SaaS model as well.

Of course, I wouldn't be this excited if System Center 2012 didn't touch in some way on desktop virtualization. Thankfully, this announcement had a lot to say on this subject, such as IT will be able to optimize application delivery to users based on the device they're using. System Center detects when someone is using an iPad, enforces the iPad policy and delivers applications and desktops that run optimally in iPad mode, such as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, for example. However, if the user's on a laptop, it would deliver applications using App-V and allow offline access as well. All this is seamless, policy-driven and automated -- very cool indeed.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that Forefront Endpoint Protection was renamed System Center Endpoint Protection and has been armed with several new features and capabilities.

As you can see, System Center 2012 is a major release, packed with new features. Needless to say, it's one giant beast, and I really think Microsoft should chop off the private cloud components into a new brand just so the product is a bit more easy to digest.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 04/11/2012 at 12:49 PM


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