Microsoft touches on cloud management system

Will sit below the virtual machine layer and work across the cloud and on-premises infrastructure

LOS ANGELES –Almost as a forgotten footnote, Microsoft introduced System Center "Cloud" Tuesday providing little detail other than a name on a slide during the opening keynote of the annual PDC conference.

The slide said Microsoft would ship a beta for System Center "Cloud" sometime in 2010. During the morning keynote, Bob Muglia, president of the server and tools business at Microsoft, briefly touched on System Center "Cloud" almost as an aside saying it would sit below the virtual machine layer and work across the cloud and on-premises infrastructure.

The slide showed an architecture with System Center "Cloud" covering "system management" duties for the servers and services that spanned operating systems (Windows and Azure), relational databases (SQL Server and SQL Azure) application services (a new developers construct called the Application Fabric), programming model (.Net) developer tools (Visual Studio), and applications (including both internal and cloud versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Dynamics).

"We will provide a way to connect and manage across these two environments," Muglia said referring to on-premises and the cloud.

Later in an interview, Scott Ottaway, senior product manager for Windows Server said, Microsoft would have a "unified console for managing on-premises and cloud assets in the same way."

He admitted that Microsoft has a lot of work to do in order to "make this stuff work well. I am going from one domain to another and that is not trivial. It is not a scenario that is in the tools today. There are a bunch of scenarios we have to add and that includes new innovation and feature capabilities."

He said the work would span System Center Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) and the unified console. He said he could not comment on any details but to expect a VMM component and an Operations Manager component. He also hinted that PowerShell, a command line and scripting tool finding favor with network administrators, would be part of the glue holding the management platform together.

"We have PowerShell in both places," he said, referring to the cloud and on-premises.

What he did not mention was Microsoft's ongoing and delayed work on its Service Manager console, expected to ship in 2010, but he did say Microsoft introduced some of the concepts for System Center "Cloud" at its Management Summit in May.

At that summit, Microsoft said it was aligning its management tools and the cloud. Company officials said the System Center family of server and desktop management tools would become one cornerstone of Microsoft's software-plus-services strategy to meld internal networks with cloud-based resources. The intent, Microsoft officials said, is to manage both internal networks and hosted networks from a single set of tools.

Those tools, however, are all in different stages of release and upgrades.

Operations Manager, the 2007 R2 version, has added cross-platform support for Linux and Unix environments, service-level monitoring and deep support from partners.

Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008 R2 has shipped with controls for managing the Live Migration features of the server's Hyper-V platform.

But it will be the version of VMM after the R2 release that will bring critical features for provisioning and managing virtual machine-based resources between public and private clouds. At MMS, Microsoft demonstrated a feature called Cloud Federation that simplified the management of workloads on different networks.

A new version of Configuration Manager will ship in 2011, following October's shipment of the 2007 SP2 version. The SP2 version includes features such as conditional delivery, which lets administrators set policies on how users will access applications based on what device they are using.

The big picture is to integrate System Center tools into a logical whole that can analyze and aggregate data from the "infrastructure fabric" that houses hardware, operating systems and applications as separate entities.

But the ability to create that logical whole is missing because Microsoft has yet to ship Service Manager, which it first unveiled in 2006.

The problem resolution software has been delayed repeatedly due to Microsoft's inability to get the System Center tools to work together smoothly.

Service Manager is designed to pull all management data together and act on the results based on policies and workflow rules.After another delay last year, Service Manager is now slated to ship in 2010.

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John Fontana

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