Microsoft Readies System Center Managed Services

System Center Essentials 2007, which launched in May, allows IT administrators in midsize companies to manage clients, servers, hardware, software and IT services from a central console.

By installing System Center Operations Manager 2007 in their network operations center (NOC), and System Center Essentials 2007 on a server at each customer's location, partners will be able to provide a remote managed services solution.

In an early March blog entry, Dustin Jones, program manager at Microsoft, announced the release of the public beta of what he called System Center Remote Managed Services, and provided a link to a Microsoft webpage with more details.

However, the link now redirects to the System Center Essentials main page. Jones' MSDN blog, titled "Remote Managed Services," hasn't been updated since March 1.

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Full availability of the System Center managed service is slated for the fall, and Microsoft will provide more details on the effort next month at its worldwide partner conference in Denver, said Jeff Campbell, director of product management at Microsoft.

Microsoft plans to offer more information Thursday in a web presentation to partners in the pre-release program, said John Joyner, senior architect at ClearPointe Technology, a Microsoft partner in Little Rock, Ark., who has been demonstrating the solution to other partners since January.

"I think it's the most viable future that exists for broad penetration of managed services technology into the small and medium business segment. We're looking at it as a killer app in the MSP for the SMB, and think it will quickly win people over," said Joyner.

The challenge Microsoft faces is that there are a lot of well developed system management tools out there, and partners have already made large investments in training, hardware and software to implement these tools, said Michael Cocanower, president of ITSynergy, a Phoenix-based solution provider.

"In the short term, I don't think there is huge pent up demand [for Microsoft's managed services] because these tools are already out there," said Cocanower.

Kevin Baylor, principal at Aequus IT, Bradenton, Fla., is waiting to see how the managed service will fit into the small business market, although he says it will definitely attract an audience of midsize clients.

"For firms that are Microsoft-centric, System Center Essentials makes it easier to plug in and do application monitoring, and it fits nicely into the environment," Baylor said.