Microsoft details new licensing plans for its cloud management suite

Microsoft has taken the wraps off its new licensing plans for System Center 2012, its cloud-management suite.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

With all the cloud hype, it's sometimes easy to forget that "clouds" are just a bunch of servers located in datacenters -- whether they be customers' own, hosters', or tech vendors' datacenters.

On January 17, Microsoft will highlight that fact by positioning its new System Center 2012 system-management bundle as key to managing both private and public clouds. (It manages private cloud systems on-premises and customers' and partners' locations. It manages public clouds in that it manages Microsoft's own datacenter servers.)

Here's how and where System Center fits into the latest iteration of Microsoft's cloud "marketecture" slide. My take: Microsoft these days is positioning all of its on-premises server products as part of its "private cloud" family and its Microsoft-hosted ones as its public-cloud family. (I still find this a bit confusing, as its System Center management suite is shown as part of its private-cloud offerings, but "management" is listed as something that Microsoft offers in common across its public- and private-cloud wares.)

(click on diagram above to enlarge)

During a Webcast today, Microsoft is announcing -- as I had heard rumored for a couple of months -- that it will be selling System Center 2012 as an integrated bundle only and not as previous versions of the System Center family have been offered, as individual point products.

There will be two System Center 2012 SKUs: Standard and Datacenter. Each includes the same bunch of eight point products, but with only two "operating system environments" (OSEs) supported for Standard, and an unlimited number supported for Datacenter. (OSEs can be physical and/or virtual machines, as explained by Tech Republic last year.)

Microsoft also is announcing today that the Release Candidate of System Center 2012 is available to customers. Yes, many of the eight point products in the family already reached RC status late last year, but today's RC is all of those products integrated so they use a single installer.

Microsoft officials aren't offering publicly a release-to-manufacturing (RTM) and/or launch date for the final version of the System Center 2012 suite today, but that is expected to be announced around April, timed to coincide with the company's annual Microsoft Management Summit conference. (Last year, officials said to expect the new System Center in the early part of 2012.)

Microsoft officials said that 50 percent of existing System Center customers already buy the full suite of products. Those who don't are going to be offered various incentives and offers to make it less painful for them to buy the whole bundle.

Microsoft is playing up the "single bundle" concept as a way to simplify its private/public cloud message. At the highest level, Microsoft is emphasizing that System Center 2012 will allow customers to manage private and/or public clouds. The hope in Redmond is that by getting customers more comfortable with cloud-computing concepts -- like self-service, elasticity, automation, etc. -- that they'll be more amenable to moving to the public cloud (at some point).

So what's new in System Center 2012 beyond the licensing and packaging model? Here is what the Redmondians are saying about each of the eight point products in the suite:

App Controller (codenamed Concero): New addition to System Center with the 2012 release. This is an integrated  management portal providing them with a single view of their private and public cloud resources. From App Controller, they can deploy and manage services and virtual machines.

Orchestrator: Adds workflow automation and third-party integration with the 2012 release. (This is the new branding for the Opalis workflow technology that Microsoft acquired in 2009 and integrated into System Center.)

Virtual Machine Manager: With the 2012 release can now manage even more hypervisors from not just Microsoft, but also select third parties. This is the part of System Center that adds the long-promised server app-virtualization capability to Microsoft's cloud offerings.

Configuration Manager: Integrates with System Center Endpoint Protection, providing users with an integrated anti-malware solution. Also adds improved settings-management with remediation in the 2012 release.

Service Manager: Adds more self-service management capabilities and new datawarehousing and reporting features in this release.

Operations Manager: The 2012 release adds more Unix/Linux management functionality, customizable dashboards and more/better app-performance management and network monitoring. Technology from Microsoft's AviCode acquisition is included here.

Data Protection Manager: New in this release is new role-based administration and item-level recovery for VMs.

EndPoint Protection: The security client formerly known as Forefront EndPoint Protection is now part of System Center and  is integrated with Configuration Manager. This component is a new addition to the System Center family as of this release.

Update: Here are a couple more related posts potentially of interest:

While on the cloud topic, on January 16, Microsoft rival Amazon announced it would make Windows Server 2008 R2 instances freely available as part of its EC2 Free-Usage Tier to those interested in kicking its tires. Is this Amazon hoping to blunt Microsoft's coming announcement of persistent VMs allowing Windows Server, Linux, SQL Server and SharePoint to run on Azure? Perhaps...

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