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Microsoft plants itself in center of a virtual universe

Microsoft hammers home the message of how it will use its own management platform to compete against virtualization powerhouse VMware.

Microsoft has said that by integrating its own cross-platform-friendly virtualization capabilities with its System Center management product line, it offers IT shops a better story than current virtualization market leader VMware Inc. Brad Anderson, general manager of the management and services division at Microsoft, explained how this will work and how Microsoft can be a single systems management source for enterprises. This is the second part of a two-part Q & A with Anderson and Christina Torode, senior news writer.

Part 1 | Part 2 Microsoft has adopted a cross-platform approach with Operations Manager in its support for Linux and Unix,

Brad Anderson, Microsoft's management services division
Brad Anderson
as well as with connectors to HP OpenView and IBM Tivoli. Is this a direction Microsoft will be taking with System Center?

Brad Anderson: Virtual Machine Manager [2008 beta] will support both Hyper-V and VMware ESX. Microsoft is moving past the border of its own technology.

What inroads have you made competing with established systems management players and where are you running into challenges against them in the enterprise?

Anderson: Microsoft is the youngest of the competitors in this market. Analysts say Operations Manager is the most common tool used in the data center to monitor [Windows] servers. SMS, now Configuration Manager, is the number one tool for doing configuration management on Windows boxes in the data center or on the desktop. As far as competitors, the most common request we've had [from customers] is that they want this to be heterogeneous. Heterogeneous used to mean just cross-platform, but now it also means managing multiple hypervisors and multiple virtual infrastructures.

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Today we are doing both.

Is your strategy, then, to go after the overall systems management market? Or are you mostly focused on the Windows environment and having hooks to other systems management products?

Anderson: We do have aspirations to deliver that single pane of glass.

When I think about what a comprehensive solution is for the data center, my definition is the ability to manage the physical and the virtual -- manage from the hardware all the way through the applications. If you take a look at our competitors in virtualization, they treat the virtual machine as a black box and they do not have knowledge of what is happening with the application.

Our knowledge of the application with Operations Manager lets us put policies in place and manage from where [the information] is coming from… the hardware, from the operating systems or the application. And we take a look at that whole list of information and say, 'What's the right way to run the data center. How should I optimize? What workload can I move?'

So your message moving forward is marrying System Center with virtualization. How will that help you compete against VMware?

Anderson: You ask the customer[s] if they want a single set of technologies, a single infrastructure to manage physical and virtual assets. Or, do they want to deploy two separate infrastructures? They want one. We have a consistent set of assets that manages both with the ability to transition and migrate from physical to virtual, from virtual to virtual and virtual to physical.

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