Microsoft's System Center 2012 gets first release

Microsoft's IT infrastructure management suite, System Center 2012, is now available to companies wanting to test the product before its general commercial release later this year
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Microsoft has made its IT infrastructure management suite, System Center 2012, available for download to organisations keen to test the technology before it becomes commercially available.

Microsoft System Center 2012 released

The release candidate of Microsoft's System Center 2012 is available for download, Microsoft has said. Image credit: Microsoft

The release candidate, made available on Tuesday, combines eight separate management modules into a single product that Microsoft hopes will be used by large and mid-sized companies to manage infrastructure, create clouds, ensure compliance and set access policies. System Center 2012, which is Microsoft's main IT management product, places great emphasis on the creation and control of private clouds.

"The total investment of this, if you were putting everything together, you'd come to $1bn (£650m)," said Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's management and security division. "We've flipped the model from everything being centred on the device to everything being centred on the user."

We've flipped the model from everything being centred on the device to everything being centred on the user.
– Brad Anderson, Microsoft

System Center 2012 sees Microsoft go up against the 'big four' of enterprise management software — BMC, HP, IBM and CA Technologies — along with virtualisation rival VMware, according to Rene Millman, a systems management analyst for IDC.

"I would say it's still going to be tough for any vendor that doesn't cater to a broad market as opposed to one particular software stack," said Millman.

Microsoft has brought multi-hypervisor support to System Center 2012 to try and assuage fears that it wants everyone to use its hypervisor, Hyper-V, although it also positions its management software as a way of tackling VMware in the mid-market.

"Cloud is great virtualisation coupled with great management... and it requires both to build a great private cloud," said Anderson. "This moves the battle of VMware to a place where Microsoft has strengths."

Eight core modules

System Center 2012 has eight core modules that cater for different parts of the IT stack:

  • System Center Configuration Manager provides operating system provisioning and security management; 
  • Operations Manager helps companies diagnose the health of their apps
  • Data Protection Manager provides backup and recovery services and ensures compliance; 
  • Virtual Machine Manager is an expansive tool for creating and managing VMs; 
  • App Controller gives control over applications, 
  • Service Manager helps with requests and provides a self-service portal; 
  • Orchestrator is designed to spec out the architectures of web applications; 
  • Endpoint Protection provides firewall and desktop antivirus services.

System Center attempts to control a broad array of IT processes, but inevitably there are gaps: for example, companies will need to buy in other products in order to track software licences, whereas VMware is preparing to introduce this feature into its Horizon App Manager software.

Although the System Center 2012 release candidate contains technology that is still being developed, Microsoft hopes that the download, which is free for 180 days, will encourage companies to consider the product for their corporate IT stack.

"When we were defining the capabilities that would be included in the new System Center 2012 private cloud management release our primary goal was to apply our learning from building and operating the cloud services across Microsoft," wrote Brad Anderson in a blog post, published on Tuesday.

"The public cloud brings incredible efficiencies and capabilities, and in the long run public cloud computing is where the world is ultimately headed. However, most customers tell me that they will take a 'hybrid IT' approach for years to come."

System Center 2012 has grand ambitions, but it could struggle to penetrate organisations that use another hypervisor, such as VMware's, according to IDC's Millman.

"A lot of organisations are becoming much more heterogeneous with the advent of virtualisation and the cloud," he said. "Microsoft is not really the one-stop shop it used to be for the mid-market."

System Center 2012 is expected to become commercially available in the latter half of 2012.

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