Microsoft to deliver next versions of SQL Server, System Center in 2012

Microsoft is aiming to launch two of its key enterprise server families of products -- the next version of SQL Server and the next versions of its System Center family of systems management wares -- in 2012, a top company official said today.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

It's been like trying to pull teeth to get Microsoft's server teams to talk about ship-date targets. Luckily, when the President of your division talks, no one can say he's speaking out of turn.

During his remarks at the Citi Technology Conference on September 7, Microsoft Server and Tools President Satya Nadella shared a few of the planned ship targets for two of Microsoft's billion-dollar-business products: SQL Server and System Center.

SQL Server "Denali," which is currently at the Community Technology Preview (CTP) 3 milestone, is due out in "the early part of next calendar year," Nadella told conference attendees. And System Center 2012 -- which is actually a collection of a handful of different systems management products that are currently in testing -- also is due out in the "early part of calendar 2012," Nadella said today.

Microsoft has not officially provided a due date for Denali, as far as I know. Every time I asked, I was told no comment. I had heard from some of my contacts they were expecting the product to roll out before the end of calendar 2011 (possibly at the SQL Pass Summit in October); others thought it would be more likely we'd see a SQL Server 2012 release. I've asked Microsoft officials if they will narrow down the "early part of next calendar year" timeframe Nadella shared today. (No word back yet.)

System Center is a slightly different story. Microsoft officials have been saying pretty consistently that System Center's 2012 point products would be out before the end of calendar 2011. Here's a chart from Microsoft in May at TechEd showing the targeted test and final dates for the System Center family:

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The RTM (release to manufacturing) dates for most of the family members as of this summer were listed as year-end 2011. I'm not clear if that's still the case and if the 2012 date cited by Nadella today is more of a "widespread availability/general availability" date, or if the System Center RTM dates have slipped into 2012. I've asked Microsoft officials for comment. (No word back so far.)

Among the System Center products making up the 2012 family are System Center Configuration Manager 2012, which is going to enable Microsoft to manage iPads and other non-Microsoft devices; System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 ; and a hybrid on-premises/cloud management portal known as Microsoft System Center Application Controller 2012 (codenamed Concero).

During his Citi remarks, Nadella called out Windows Server 8 as Microsoft's "most cloud-optimized server operating system." He also noted that every 25 seconds, since two weeks after its launch in late June, Microsoft is adding a new Office 365 customer.

Nadella reiterated Microsoft's public/private cloud hybrid positioning as being advantageous to customers -- and Microsoft. He also talked about something I hadn't heard Microsoft execs articulate previously: That they believe Office 365 sales will spur Windows Azure usage in a kind of "virtuous cycle." Here's a slide highlighting that idea from his deck from the Citi presentation:

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Microsoft is expected to share more details about Windows Server 8 and Windows Azure -- especially around its developer tool story -- at its Build conference the week of September 12.

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