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Microsoft Enhances System Center For Hybrid Cloud Work

With System Center's new service pack and Windows Server 2012, an IT administrator can create Hyper-V virtual machines and deploy them to internal data center, remote hosting service provider or public cloud, such as a Windows Azure site.

Microsoft upgraded its System Center suite Tuesday to make it a hybrid cloud manager and a more complete manager of the capabilities included in Windows Server 2012, launched last September.

As System Center 2012 and Windows Server 2012 mesh more tightly together, Microsoft has achieved what it refers to as its "Cloud Operating System," in the words of Michael Park, corporate VP for server and tools business marketing, in an interview. The term means mainly that System Center can now scale across many Windows Server 2012 servers, and link up operations that may be scattered across more than one data center.

System Center 2012 was augmented Tuesday with Service Pack 1. It's been extended so that a single instance of System Center's Virtual Machine Manager module can handle up to 8,000 virtual machines on a cluster with 64 hosts. Add another Virtual Machine Manager instance and manage another 8,000 VMs.

The combination of System Center with SP1 and Windows Server 2012 allows an IT administrator to create Hyper-V virtual machines and deploy them to his own data center, a remote hosting service provider or a public cloud, such as a Windows Azure site.

If the hosting service provider is one of 14,000 that has equipped itself with its own version of System Center, then the enterprise IT manager will be able to see any type of workload -- on-premises, in a hosting service provider's data center or in the Windows Azure cloud -- from a single System Center console. That's because Microsoft supplies Service Provider Foundation as part of the hosting provider's version, and it includes an API that lets an on-premises system call to a service provider system to gain a view of a particular running workload.

[ Microsoft previously upgraded System Center for the cloud era. See Microsoft System Center 2012 Focuses On Private Cloud. ]

"System Center can be the glue that brings it all together for the customer," said Mike Schutz, general manager of server and tools business marketing, in an interview. Microsoft has previously talked up some of the capabilities now included in Service Pack 1. "This release puts an exclamation point on them," he added.

System Center is a suite of eight management modules. Virtual Machine Manager for generating and deploying virtual machines is one; Configuration Manager for capturing the specifications of each server is another. Originally designed to manage Windows Server, it has been extended to also manage several versions of Linux, Oracle Solaris and HP/UX.

Windows Server 2012 included a new version of Hyper-V that could generate a virtualized network on top of a physical network. The capability is essential to using automated processes to provision and manage virtual machines, and it was Microsoft's own step toward creating what rival VMware refers to as the software-defined data center.

But Microsoft has waited until now to give System Center the ability to use Hyper-V virtual networking capabilities. With Service Pack 1, network provisioning allows a newly created virtual machine to be assigned a virtual subnet and virtual routing, defined in System Center policies. The capability brings more automation and flexibility to managing the virtual data center under Hyper-V.

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