Microsoft System Center 2012's Private Cloud Power, Explained

System Center 2012's self-provisioning and other features aim to help enterprises move to a more automated private cloud.
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The App Controller, Service Manager, and Orchestrator additions are largely completed and approaching a release candidate state, but a few parts of them are unfinished, said Microsoft execs. The 2012 version is scheduled for general availability by mid-year.

The App Controller component is designed to "open up the conversation" between IT managers and business application owners, said Jeremy Winter, group program manager at the Jan. 12 briefing. If the business managers says, "My app is running slowly," the network manager, storage manager, or server administrator can check out their respective areas and see if they can find an explanation, he said.

App Controller is derived from technology that came with Microsoft's Avicode acquisition in October 2010. Avicode produced software that could monitor running applications and report on trends or highlight slow Web server database responses or other performance inhibitors.

[ Find out what Microsoft said at its last CES appearance. See Ballmer's CES Keynote: Nothing To Seacrest Here. ]

App Controller can obtain data from the Operations Manager in the Windows Azure public cloud and provide a view of application performance, whether the application is on premises or in Azure. "Even though you're working with two different cloud environments, App Controller gives you a consistent view" across both, said Winter.

App Controller also gives the application owner the power to configure, manage, and update an application, even if parts of it are operating in different tiers, such as on premises and on the Web.

Service Manager is a key addition to System Center that provides a service catalogue of what's available to end users. IT maintains control over what's offered by building server templates and restricting them to users with the appropriate assigned role.

Orchestrator's functionality was acquired by Microsoft in the Opalis Software purchase in December 2009 and has now been incorporated into System Center. Orchestrator specializes in IT task automation and the integration of related IT steps. It links to other system management systems, such as BMC's, and can import information from the configuration management database that's part of Service Manager. Orchestrator generates run books of particular IT processes that can be used to govern and automate those processes.

Garth Ford, general manager of the System Center and virtualization marketing team, said the suite, when it becomes available, "sets up a fundamental shift in how computing will be done in the future. Agility goes through the roof. Segregation of duty between those who set up and those who consume" has been clearly established.

Ryan O'Hara, director of system center product management, emphasized a point that several Microsoft executives highlighted as the differentiator between its approach to private cloud computing and other vendors' approaches. "Our private cloud is all about the app ... When we think about an application, there are multiple tiers, a hardware profile, a set of configuration settings, a deployment package."

Microsoft representatives in the future will push harder at saying it knows applications as well as virtualization and cloud computing techniques. It hopes that message is strong enough to convince x86 server users that they can rely on System Center to generate their workloads, monitor their operations, and move them around.

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