If IT shops want to prevent users from going to the cloud, they have to bring the cloud to the users.
That was Microsoft's message to customers Tuesday as the Microsoft Management Summit kicked off with a preview of System Center 2012. When IT shops don't provision services to end users fast enough, Microsoft officials said, the users will get what they want from Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud or perhaps from Windows Azure.
But a private cloud model, enabled by new self service capabilities in System Center, can make IT delivery so efficient that users won't need to make an end run around IT, Microsoft said.
There are many pieces to Microsoft's overhaul of its management platform, but the key for the user is a project codenamed "Concero," a self service portal for deploying business applications without having to deal with the underlying physical and virtual infrastructure.
Just as Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud and Windows Azure let anyone get the computing and storage capacity they need, Concero lets business users request resources from their IT shops from a web browser. The users can still access public cloud services like Azure, but they do so in a controlled environment that complies with company policies and regulations.
Demonstrating the new capabilities onstage, product manager Jeremy Winter showed how users can navigate a service catalogue published in an internal IT portal to request additional resources, for example to boost the storage and CPU allocated to a particular application. They can also view their applications, virtual machines and clouds running both in the internal data centre and on Windows Azure and perform tasks like stopping and starting virtual machines. But while fine grained control is available to those who want it, Microsoft said its overall goal is to abstract the complexity away.
"It's not about the virtual machines. It's about the applications that run in them," Winter said.
System Center 2012 is due out later this year, although some pieces are available in beta, such as Virtual Machine Manager. Even though Microsoft argued that Microsoft applications run best on Hyper-V, rather than VMware, the company said System Center 2012 will manage VMware and Xen in addition to its own Hyper-V virtualisation technology.
"We have the only product that offers heterogeneous management across all major hypervisors," said program manager Michael Michael. Virtual Machine Manager 2012 will simplify the process of creating virtual machines from bare metal capacity, using host profiles to standardise the process.
Using application virtualisation, System Center 2012 will separate the operating system from the application, allowing multiple applications to share the same OS image and reducing the number of OS images an IT shop must maintain, Microsoft said.
Concero and Virtual Machine Manager are part of a broader group of offerings within System Center. Once a user makes a request from Concero, an IT manager can respond to that request through a portal that allows selection of logical networks, load balancers, storage, memory, virtual CPUs and anything else needed to meet the request.
Drawing from Microsoft's acquisition of performance monitoring company AVIcode, System Center 2012 will have new tools to help diagnose problems when performance is degraded. Microsoft is also unveiling System Center Advisor, a web portal that provides ongoing assessment of configuration changes and reduces downtime by providing warnings before problems occur. Customers who have already purchased Software Assurance on Windows Server, Exchange and other applications will automatically be licensed to use System Center Advisor, which is now available as a release candidate.