Microsoft System Center opens Windows to the cloud

Microsoft advanced its System Center platforms and features at its annual management conference. IT shops watch with interest but -- no shocker -- few are ready for cloud.

LAS VEGAS – Microsoft reemphasized its commitment to cloud computing at the company’s annual management conference here, but IT professionals still ask questions about what it means to them.

The company’s goal to put more organizations on the path to cloud computing starts with its upcoming slate of System Center products. Most of the suite will see major updates in the coming year. This includes new versions of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) and System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), each with added functionality for cloud monitoring and management.

At the Microsoft Management Summit 2011 this week, a beta for SCVMM 2012 was made available with new features for managing server, network and storage resources and allocating them to a cloud environment.

And new features for SCOM should improve the speed and depth of troubleshooting network issues through new monitoring capabilities for private clouds. This includes integration with technology from AVIcode Inc., a Baltimore-based company that focused on .NET application monitoring software. Microsoft acquired AVIcode in October 2010.

Larry Brown, an operations manager with GameStop, a gaming retailer that has already made heavy investments in cloud computing, said he was impressed by the potential speed with which app performance issues could be identified via the SCOM interface. He noted, however, that most companies aren’t as cloud-minded as his own.

That’s not to say that IT pros won’t warm to the idea, though. While last year’s conference was rife with skepticism and frustration at the mere mention of cloud computing, more IT managers were open to listening to the benefits this time around – even if the term “cloud” itself has grown tired.

“I’m completely sick of the word cloud,” Brown said. “I think we need to break out the thesaurus and find something new.”

I’m completely sick of the word cloud. I think we need to break out the thesaurus and find something new.

Larry Brown, operations manager, GameStop

Mike Stanley, an IT administrator with the University of Tennessee, said his CIOs are becoming more and more keen on the idea of investing in cloud computing. “I think the better job we can do of virtualizing workloads and simplifying the way apps are delivered and managed, the better off we’ll all be,” he said.

Stanley said he was impressed with System Center Service Manager product integration throughout the suite. “We are looking to replace our current ticketing and change management system, and based on the demos I saw, the stuff [Microsoft is] doing could really save us a lot of time,” he said.

Still, many IT shops are holding off on cloud computing as they are more interested in the traditional on-premise technologies they currently use.

“We didn’t even make it to the keynote,” said Pat Wilson, a help desk technician with the Arizona-based SRPMIC, who said he was there mainly to learn more about the next version of System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). He said his company currently runs SCCM 2007 R2 in production, and is not likely to make plans for cloud computing any time soon.

“I don’t think we’ll ever use a cloud service,” Wilson said. “The higher ups just don’t want [the company’s data] out of their control.”

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