Microsoft System Center 2012 SP1 Brings Cloud OS Closer

Microsoft has taken a big step toward fusing the management of on-premise IT equipment with mobile devices, including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, with new capabilities in its new Microsoft System Center 2012 SP1 release, announced Tuesday.

In addition, the update brings the full range of System Center 2012 capabilities to the Windows Server 2012 platform and sets the stage for further enhancements to Microsoft's "Cloud OS" strategy, according to Mike Schutz, general manager of product marketing for Microsoft's Server and Tools division.

"Our strategy over the last few quarters has been to provide a consistent platform across customers' data centers, hosting providers' data centers and Microsoft's public cloud for a new generation of applications, big data and the consumerization of IT. Our vision is one platform that spans all three of these types of data centers," Schutz said.

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The System Center 2012 SP1 release leverages all the enhancements brought to Windows Server 2012, including virtualization, SDN and automation and extends new capabilities aimed at hybrid cloud management, Schutz said.

"These technologies are capabilities that we originally developed in Windows Azure in our own data centers for high-density hosting. Now we're bringing these capabilities and portals to service providers to deploy into their own data centers," Schutz said.

Microsoft has about 14,000 service providers currently offering Windows Server to customers, from low-cost solutions to companies offering targeted vertical solutions and high-level SLAs. "Our goal is to deliver the underlying technology and products so they can build for whatever segment they offer," Schutz said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also announced a new companion service to System Center Global Service Monitor, which runs on top of the company's Azure platform in its global data centers and provides customers with "360-degree monitoring of their external-facing websites," Schutz said. The service is available by trial now and will be more broadly available by March, he added.

Another part of the System Center 2012 SP1 update is integration between Configuration Manager and Microsoft's Windows Intune, which allows users to leverage on console to monitor on-premise, corporate-owned equipment and BYOD devices belonging to employees.

"In the enterprise segment, [companies] used both independently [prior to SP1]. Now, they can unify the experience and extend that experience for the consumer-owned devices. In the smaller customer segment, fewer customers had deployed Configuration Manager. Those companies can get the benefits of Intune as well managing as the next generation of consumer devices."

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Andrew Hertenstein, data center and cloud management manager at En Pointe Technologies, a Gardena, Calif.-based solution provider, said Microsoft's System Center 2012 SP1 will allow his company to offer much more robust management features to customers.

"It's a holistic approach that we weren't expecting from the 2012 release. We were not able to do full management of Windows Server 2012, Windows 8 systems and cloud integrations. A lot of the hardware manufacturers we support have key features that rely on System Center 2012, but we haven't been able to manage those systems that needed Windows Server 2012," Hertenstein said. "The cloud integration and management is awesome. A great example is MDM coupled with Intune, and [it] extends that BYOD pitch we can make to CIOs and CFOs," he said.

In addition, new data protection management and virtual machine management features will drive more opportunities with customers, he said.

"To be able to take those tools to move virtual machines to the cloud, or backup disk to the cloud, to offsite storage -- these are all brand new features we're really excited about. It's like a whole new product and not just a service pack," he said.