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Will Virtual Machine Manager 2012 clear the way for private clouds?

UPDATE! 2/02/2011

ZDNet UK just posted some screenshots from the SCVMM 2012 demos last week, for anyone interested in a few visuals of the interface in action.


Those who enjoyed Microsoft’s cloud push last year are really going to like 2011. Many of the technologies that have been discussed over the past year are slowly beginning to see the light of day, starting with next version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).

During a live meeting this week, Microsoft product manager Kenon Owens demoed the yet-to-be released SCVMM 2012 (previously dubbed “v.Next” before TechEd Europe in November). Microsoft is positioning SCVMM as a key component for organizations looking to private clouds, and Owens broke down some of the ways the software can be used to control infrastructures and services in a cloud-based environment.

The infrastructure part is based on what Microsoft is calling fabric management. Senior program manager Shon Shah described fabric management at TechEd Europe as “taking a bare-metal machine and provisioning it to be a standalone Hyper-V host or even a Hyper-V host cluster. It also involves configuring the storage and network, which is new in (SCVMM 2012).”

The idea is to allow administrators to take the server, network and storage aspects of their physical resources and specify how those resources are allocated in the cloud. For example, an admin can create various “clouds” in SCVMM, then specify how much access each cloud has to their physical resources (networking, load balancing, storage capacity, etc.). Owens described the whole process as “really just taking logical servers and then passing them up into the clouds.”

Once the infrastructure is in place, services can then be pushed out to admins and users based on Active Directory and identity specifications. Owens said admins will be able to assign group permissions to specific clouds, limit quotas for what certain users can access, and so on — straight from the SCVMM console. “These services are more than just the OS images, but the apps inside it, like SQL Server, etc.,” he explained.

These kinds of definitions are becoming commonplace in any cloud-focused presentation from Microsoft these days. Senior product manager Ian Carlson said the company plans to fight the inevitable cloud fatigue currently washing over IT by being very clear as to how Microsoft defines cloud computing and everything in it. He implied that much of the confusion and frustration is rooted in how different vendors have different definitions for different words, which has exacerbated some of the cloud pushback from IT professionals.

“We are trying to come up with a firm taxonomy of the terms we are using,” Carlson said. “So when we talk about something like an appliance, people know that we mean something very specific.”

A few more tidbits of note:

  • One important update with SCVMM 2012 is that Citrix XenServer has been added as a supported virtualization platform (SCVMM 2008 only supports Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware). It’s Microsoft’s hope that total support for the “Big Three” of server virtualization will give customers more flexibility when managing host groups and clusters in the cloud.
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 is on track for general availability sometime in the second half of 2011, though no specific release date has been set for a beta. A point release for Microsoft’s Virtual Machine Manager Self Service Portal (currently in version 2.0) should be out ahead of that in H1.
  • Microsoft provided no update as to the release of its Windows Azure appliance (expected out by end of year), though Carlson did note that its partners and customers are currently “making progress.”

For more information on System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Microsoft virtualization, visit

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