Microsoft's private cloud management solution, System Centre 2012, is being made available today as a release candidate as the software giant looks to steal business from VMware's vCentre offering.
The release aims to help enterprises manage their virtualised cloud portfolio through a set of tools made available via a single interface.
System Centre 2012 integrates what were eight disparate products into a unified solution, which Microsoft claims reduces deployment time from "days down to hours".
The eight products that will be made available as part of System Centre 2012 are:
• System Center Configuration Manager, which does OS provisioning, security management, asset inventory and configuration management
• Operations Manager, which helps companies diagnose the health of their apps
• Data Protection Manager, which provides backup and recovery services
• Virtual Machine Manager, which is a tool for creating and managing virtual machines
• App Controller
• Service Manager, which helps with requests and provides a self-service portal
• Orchestrator, which is designed to specify the architectures of web applications
• Endpoint Protection, which provides firewall and desktop antivirus services
System Centre 2012 will be made available in two editions, Standard and Datacenter. The Datacenter edition is designed for enterprise-level management, where the licence fee is likely to be $3,615, but users will be able to deploy an unlimited number of virtual machines.
Silversands, an IT consulting organisation, has implemented System Centre 2012 as an early adopter, and is using it to improve internal management of its IT systems and also monitor the launch of its new corporate website.
"Prior to deploying System Centre 2012, a request for services from our development department, such as a new virtual server, would consist of a protracted request involving many manual steps, including an email for the request and the creation of a ticket request to the server provisioning process," said Peter Mercieca, business development manager, Silversands.
"With System Center 2012, the request is driven by the Service Manager Self Service Portal, which is followed by an approval procedure and finally the fully automated build of the required server ready for our development team to begin working. This whole process has no involvement from the internal IT support team," he added.
Roy Illsley, principal analyst for Ovum, argues that this release from Microsoft will align it closer with vCentre, VMware's cloud management tool set, which he said had a lead on Microsoft up until this point.
"When I was looking at management tools last year, VMware had a slight lead on Microsoft in terms of its capabilities and performance, certainly in relation to virtualisation and cloud environments," said Illsley.
"This release from Microsoft is its attempt at making up some of the gap that VMware managed to create. System Centre 2012 puts Microsoft back in the frame of the virtualised private cloud. I think this puts them very close to VMware now," he added.
"However, the trouble is that there are so many products out there now, and putting it together to see what they do, how they do it, where the gaps are, is actually very difficult. That's the problem I have with VMware and Microsoft. They have got lots of offerings out there, doing lots of different things, but my comment to both of them is that it's difficult for people to understand what is doing what."